Ayodhya has occupied the centre stage of politics for the last 30 years and has decided the fate of successive governments. But enough archaeological evidence exists to prove that a standing temple was destroyed and its material was reused to build a mosque on the temple site in Ayodhya.
The inscription on the Babri Masjid stated: “By the command of the Emperor Babur, whose justice is an edifice reaching up to the very height of the heavens, the good hearted Mir Baqi built the alighting place of angels. Bawad [Buwad] khair baqi (may this goodness last forever).”
Through an application dated 30 November 1858 filed before the District Collector of Faizabad by one Muhammad Asghar, the Khatib and Mu’azzin of Babri Masjid, a prayer was made to initiate legal proceedings against “Bairagiyan-i-Janmasthan”.
The Babri mosque has always been called “masjid-i-Janmasthan” and the courtyard near the arch and pulpit within the boundary of the mosque was called “muqam Janmasthan ka”. The Bairagis had a raised platform in the courtyard, which the applicant wanted to be removed. He mentioned that the place of theJanmasthan had been lying unkept, in disorder (parishan) for hundreds of years and that the Hindus performed worship there (“Maqam Janmasthan ka sad-habaras se parishan para rahta tha. Ahl-i hanud puja karte thhey”).
The Hadiqah-i-shuhada was written by one Mirza Jan, an eye witness as well as active participant in the Jihad led by Amir Ali Amethwi during Wajid Ali Shah’s regime in 1855 for the capture of Hanuman Garhi (a few hundred yards from Babri Masjid) from the Hindus. Mirza states that “Wherever they found magnificent temples of the Hindus ever since the establishment of Sayyad Salar Mas’ud Ghazi’s rule, the Muslim rulers in India built mosques, monasteries and inns, appointed mu’azzins, teachers, and store-stewards, spread Islam vigorously, and vanquished the Kafirs. Likewise, they cleared up Faizabad and Avadh too from the filth of reprobation (infidelity) because it was a great centre of worship and capital of Rama’s father. Where there stood the great temple (of Rama janmasthan), there they built a big mosque, and where there was a small mandap (pavilion), there they erected a camp mosque (masjid-i mukhtasar-i qanati). The Janmasthan temple is the principal place of Rama’s incarnation, adjacent to which is the Sita ki Rasoi. Hence, what a lofty mosque was built there by king Babar in 923 A.H. (1528 A.D.), under the patronage Musa Ashiqan! The mosque is still known far and wide as the sita ki Rasoi mosque and that temple is extent by its side (aur pahlu mein wah dair baqi hai).”
It must be borne in mind that Mirza Jan claims to write all this on the basis of older records (Kulub-i sabiqah) and other contemporary accounts.
Another source is Mrraqqah-i-Khusrawi otherwise known as Tarikh-i-Avadh, by Shaikh Azamat Ali Kakorawi Nami (1811-1893) who happened to be an eye witness to much that happened during Wajid Ali Shah regime. Kakorawi Nami writes:
“According to old records, it has been a rule with the Muslim rulers first to built mosques, monasteries and inns, spread Islam, and put (a stop to) non-Islamic practices, wherever they found prominence (of kufr). Accordingly even as they cleared up Mathura, Brindraban, etc. from the rubbish of non-Islamic practices, the Babri mosque was built up in 923 (?) A.H. under the patronage of Sayyid Musa Ashiqan in the Janmasthan temple (butkhane Janmasthan mein) in Faizabad-Avadh, which was the great place of (worship) and capital of Rama’s father. Among the Hindus it was known as Sita ki Rasoi”.
The Fasanah-i-Ibrat by the early Urdu novelist, Mirza Rajab Ali Beg Surur (1787-1867) says that “a great mosque was built on the spot where Sita ki Rasoi is situated. During the regime of Babur, the Hindus had no guts to be a match for the Muslims. The mosque was built in 923 (?) A.H. under the patronage of Sayyid Mir Ashiqan… Aurangzeb built a mosque on the Hanuman Garhi… The Bairagis effaced the mosque and erected a temple at its place. Then idols began to be worshipped openly in the Babri mosque where the Sita ki Rasoi is situated.”
Not only by Muslims, but narratives by travellers also exists in English and other European languages. The story of the destruction of the temple is narrated in British records of the region. (See P. Carnegy, Historical Sketch of Tahsil Fyzabad, Zillah Fyzabad, Lucknow, 1870; H.R. Nevill, Faizabad District Gazetteer, Allahabad, 1905)”.
Joseph Tiefenthaler was a Jesuit priest, toured the Oudh region extensively between 1776 and 1771. This is what Tiefenthaler has to say about the temple-mosque dispute:
“The emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the fortress called Ram kot, and built at the same place a Mohammedan temple with three domes. Others say that it has been built by Babar. One can see fourteen columns made of black stone five spans in height which occupy the site of the fortress, twelve of these columns now support the inner arcades of the mosques, two of the twelve are placed at the tomb of a Moor. It is said that these columns rather the pieces of columns which have engravings by craftsmen, have been brought from Lanka or Selendip island which Europeans call Ceylon, by Hanuman the king of monkeys.”
Thus, it can be seen that the dispute was there right from the day a temple was destroyed and a mosque was built on it in Ayodhya in the 16th century.
The author is a Founder Director of Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management and formerly a Distinguished Fellow at Vivekananda International Foundation.