The report of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) submitted to the Ramajanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Bench of the Allahabad High Court, Lucknow, on 22 September and released on 25 September 2003, is an absolutely unprofessional document, full of gross omissions, one-sided presentations of evidence, fraudulent falsifications and motivated inferences. Its only aim is to so ignore and twist the evidence as to make it suit its “conclusions” tailored to support the fictions of the Sangh Parivar about the previous existence of a temple. The following is a list of the ASI’s major acts of omission and commission:
FORGETTING THE BONES
One decisive piece of evidence, which entirely negates the possibility of a temple, is that of animal bones. Bone fragments with cut marks are a sure sign of animals being eaten at the site, and, therefore, rule out a temple existing at the site at the time. The Report in its “Summary of Results” admits that “animal bones have been recovered from various levels of different periods” (Report, p.270). Any serious archaeological report would have tabulated the bones, by periods, levels and trenches, and identified the species of the animals (which in bulk seem to be of sheep and goats). There should, indeed, have been a chapter devoted to animal remains. But despite the statement in its “Summary”, there is no word about the animal bones in the main text. This astonishing omission is patently due to the ASI’s fear of the fatal implications held out by the animal bone evidence for the temple theory.
The glazed ware, often called “Muslim” glazed ware, constitutes an equally definite piece of evidence, which militates against the presence or construction of a temple, since such glazed ware was not at all used in temples. The ware is all-pervasive till much below the level of “Floor No.4”, that is falsely ascribed in the Report to the “huge” structure of a temple allegedly built in the 11th-12th centuries. The Report tells us that the glazed ware sherds only “make their appearance” “in the last phase of the (sic) period VII” (p.270). Here we directly encounter the “Period Fraud” of the Report (see below). On this page (270), Period VII is called “Medieval Sultanate”, dated 12th-16th century A.D. But on
p.40 “Medieval-Sultanate” is the name for Period VI, dated 10th and 11th
centuries. In Chapter V (Pottery), there is no statement made at all to the effect that the glazed ware appears in “the last phase of Period VII” as is asserted in the Summary. Rather, it is there definitely stated that “the pottery of Medieval-Sultanate, Mughal and Late-and-Post Mughal period (Periods VII to IX)... indicates that there is not much difference in pottery wares and shapes” and that “the distinctive pottery of the periods is glazed ware” (p.108). How the “Summary” obtained its “last phase” can only be guessed at: perhaps at some stage it had been conceded that the glazed ware was also found in Period VI (also “Medieval -Sultanate”) and was then prudently put in its “last phase”, because otherwise it would militate against a temple being built in that period. All this gross manipulation has been possible because not a single item of glazed pottery is attributed to its trench and stratum in the select list of 21 (out of hundreds of items actually obtained) items of glazed ware on pages 109-111. Seeing the importance of glazed ware as a factor for elementary dating (pre-or post-Muslim habitation at the site), a tabulation of all recorded glazed-ware sherds according to trench and stratum was essential. That this has been entirely disregarded shows that the glazed-ware evidence being totally incompatible with any temple construction activity in Period VI, could not simply be provided.
Even as the Report stands (going not by its “Summary”, but by the description in the main text, p.108), the presence of Glazed Ware throughout Period VII (Medieval, 12th-16th centuries) rules out what is asserted on page 41, that a “column-based structure” — the alleged 50-pillar temple — was built in this period. How could Muslims have been using glazed ware inside a temple?
THE “PERIOD” FRAUD
The ASI’s Report is so lacking in elementary integrity that it tries to achieve its object by manipulating nomenclature. In Chapter III, “Stratigraphy and Chronology” it has names for Periods VI and VII that are coolly altered in the other Chapters in order simply to transfer inconvenient material of Period VI to Period VII and thus make Period VI levels purely “Hindu”. On pages 30-41, the nomenclature for Periods V, VI and VII is given as follows:
Period V: Post-Gupta-Rajput, 7th to 10th Century
Period VI: Medieval -Sultanate, 11th-12th Century
Period VII: Medieval, 12th-16th Century
Now let us turn to “Summary of Results” (pp.268-9). Here the nomenclature is altered as follows:-
Period V: Post-Gupta-Rajput, 7th-10th century AD
Period VI: Early medieval, 11th-12th century
Period VII: Medieval-Sultanate, 12th-16th century
This transference of “Medieval-Sultanate” from Period VI to Period VII has the advantage of ignoring Islamic-period materials like Glazed ware or lime-mortar bonding by removing them arbitrarily from Period VI levels to those of Period VII so that their actual presence in those levels need not embarrass the ASI in its
placing the construction of a “massive” or “huge” temple in Period VI. The device is nothing but a manipulative fraud.
THE “MASSIVE” FANTASY
While digging up the Babri Masjid, the excavators found four floors were found, numbered, upper to lower, as Nos.1, 2, 3 and 4, Floor No.4 being the lowest and so the oldest. Floor No.3 is linked to the foundation walls of the Babri Masjid — the ASI’s “demolished” or “disputed structure” — built in 1528. Floor No.4 is described by the Report as “a floor of lime mixed with fine clay and brick crush”, i.e. a typically Muslim style surkhi and lime-mortar bonded floor. It is obviously the floor of an earlier mosque (qanati or open mosque or an idgah); and a mihrab and taq were also found in the associated foundation wall (not, of course, mentioned in the ASI’s report). Such a floor, totally Muslim on “stylistic grounds” (a favourite formula in the Report), is turned by the ASI into a temple floor, “over which a column-based structure was built”. (On this latter assertion, see below: “Pillar-less Pillar Bases.”) No single example is offered by the ASI of any temple of pre-Mughal times having such a lime-mortar surkhi floor, though one would think that this is an essential requirement when a purely Muslim structure is being appropriated as a Hindu one. Once this appropriation has occurred (page 41), we are then asked to imagine a “Massive Structure Below the Disputed Structure”, the massive structure being a temple. It is supposed to have stood upon 50 pillars, and by fanciful drawings (Figures 23, 23A and 23B), it has been “reconstructed”. (Though one may still feel that it was hardly “massive” when one compares Figure 23 (showing Babri Masjid before demolition) and Figure 23B (showing the reconstructed temple with 50 imaginary pillars!) Now, according to the ASI’s Report, this massive structure with 46 of its alleged 50 pillars was built in Period VII, the Period of the Delhi Sultans, Sharqi rulers and Lodi Sultans (1206-1526): This attribution of the Grand Temple, to the “Muslim” period is not by choice, but because of the presence of “Muslim” style materials and techniques all through. This, given the Sangh’s view of medieval Indian history, must have been a bitter pill for the ASI’s mentors to accept; and, therefore, there is all the more reason for them to imagine a still earlier structure assignable to an earlier time. Of this structure, however, only four alleged “pillar bases”, with “foundations” below Floor 4, have been found; and it is astonishing that this should be sufficient to ascribe them to 10th -11th century and to assume that they all belong to one structure. That structure is proclaimed as “huge”, extending nearly 50 metres separate the pillar-bases at the extremes. Four “pillar bases” can hardly have held such a long roof; and if any one tried it on them it is not surprising that the result was “short-lived” (p.269). All of this seems a part of the VHP kind of propagandist archaeology than a report from a body called the Archaeological Survey of India.
Before we leave this matter, a small point. The four alleged pillar bases dated to 11th-12th centuries are said “to belong to this level with a brick crush floor”.
Really! Surkhi in Gahadavala times! Any examples, please? None! Now one can see why it had been necessary to call this period (Period V) “Medieval -Sultanate” (p.40) though it is actually pre-Sultanate, being dated 11th-12th century. By clubbing together the Gahadavalas with the Sultanate, the surkhi is sought to be explained; but if so, the “huge” structure too must come to a time after 1206, for, apparently unknown to ASI, the Delhi Sultanate was only established in that year. And so the earlier allegedly “huge” temple too must have been built when the Sultans ruled!
Since the entire basis of the supposed “huge” and “massive” temple-structures preceding the demolished mosque lies in the alleged “pillar bases” it is time to consider what these really are and what they imply.
PILLAR-LESS “PILLAR BASES”
One must first remember that what are said by the ASI to be pillar bases are one or more calcrete stones resting upon brickbats, bonded with mud or just heaped up. In many the calcrete stones are not found at all. As one can see from the descriptive table on pages 56-67 of the Report not a single one of these supposed “pillar bases” has been found in association with any pillar or even a fragment of it; and there are no marks or indentation or hollows on any of the calcrete stones to show that any pillar had rested on them. The ASI Report nowhere attempts to answer the questions (1) why brickbats and not bricks were used at the base, and (2) how mud-bonded brickbats could have possibly withstood the weight of roof-supporting pillars without themselves falling apart.
Despite the claims of these “pillar bases” being in alignment and their being so shown in fancy drawings (Figures 23, 23A and 23B), the Report is curiously chary of giving a detailed grided plan showing each base in relation to a set of others on a scale sufficient for one to check whether their positions are in alignment. This was especially important since there were objections raised that the ASI was ignoring calcrete-topped brickbat heaps where these were not found in appropriate positions and selected only such brickbat heaps as were not too far-off from its imaginary grids.
But the most astonishing thing that the ASI so casually brushes aside relates to the varying levels at which the “pillar-bases” stand. Even if we go by the ASI’s own descriptive table, as many as seven of these 50 “bases” are definitely above Floor 2, and one is level with it. At least six rest on Floor 3, and one rests partly on Floor 3 and 4. Since these are undisputedly floors of the Mosque, how come that so many pillars were erected after they had been laid out --- in order to sustain a temple structure over them! More, as many as nine “pillar bases” are shown as cutting through Floor No.3. So, are we to understand that when the Mosque floor was laid out, the pillar bases were not floored over? It is thus clear that what we have are simply not “pillar bases” at all, but some kind of loosely-bonded brickbat deposits, which continued to be laid right from Floors 4 to Floor 1.
Dr Ashok Dutta of Kolkata University, an archaeologist, who was among those who volunteered to watch the doings of the ASI during the excavations, has given
an explanation for these brick-bat deposits, which offers a clear and elegant explanation. When the surkhi- lime mortar bonded Floor No.4 was being laid out over the mound sometime during the Sultanate period, its builders must have had to level the mound properly. The hollows and depressions then had to be filled by brickbats topped by calcrete stones (often bonded with lime mortar) to fill them and enable the floor to be laid. When in time Floor 4 went out of repair, its holes had similarly to be filled up in order to lay out Floor 3. And so again when Floor 3 decayed, similar deposits of brickbats had to be made to fill the holes in order to lay out Floor 2 (or, indeed, just to have a level surface). This explains why the “pillar bases” appear to “cut through” both Floors 3 and 4, at some places, and at others “cut through” Floor 3 or Floor 4 only. They are mere deposits to fill up holes in the floors. Since such repairs were needed in time all over the floors, these brickbat deposits are widely dispersed. Had not the ASI been so struck by the necessity of finding pillars and “pillar bases” to please its masters, which had to be in a proper alignment, it could have found scattered over the ground not just fifty but perhaps over a hundred or more such deposits of brickbats. A real embarrassment of riches of “pillar bases”, that is — only they are not pillar bases.
THE CIRCULAR ILLUSION
Much is made in the ASI’s Report of the “Circular Shrine” (pages 70-71), again with fanciful figured interpretations of the existing debris (Figs.24 and 24A). Comparisons with circular Shaivite and Vaishnavite shrines (Fig.18) are immediately made. The ASI had no thought, of course, of comparing it with circular walls and buildings of Muslim construction — a very suggestive omission. The surviving wall, even in ASI’s own drawing makes only a quarter of circle, and such shapes are fairly popular in walls of Muslim construction. And then there are Muslim-built domed circular buildings. But even if we forget the curiously one-eyed nature of ASI’s investigations, let us first consider the size of the alleged “shrine”. Though there is no reason to complete the circle as the ASI does, the circular shrine, given the scale of the Plan (Figure 17 in the Report), would have an internal diameter of just160 cms. or barely 5½ feet! Such a small “shrine” can hardly be worth writing home about. It goes without saying that, as admitted by the ASI itself, nothing has been found in the structure that can justify it being called a shrine.
STRAY “TEMPLE” FINDS
No Vaishnavite images have been found. All finds are stray ones or, as with the black schist pillar, visible within it when the Masjid had stood but broken by the Karsevaks (who says they love temple remains!) and buried in the Masjid debris in 1992. Whatever little in stone has come out (as one decorated stone or inscribed slab-used in a wall), like stones with “foliage patterns, amalaka, kapotapadi door jamb with semi-circular pilaster, lotus motif,” (p.271), are in total very few, and all easily explicable as belonging to ruins elsewhere and
brought for re-use. The extremely short list that the ASI is able to compile shows that they did not come from any “massive” temple at the site, but brought randomly from different earlier ruins.
The bias, partisanship and saffronised outlook of the ASI’s Report takes one’s breath away. In almost everything the lack of elementary archaeological controls is manifest. The one-page carbon-date report, without any description of material, strata and comments by the laboratory, is meaningless, and open to much misuse. There has been no thermoluminescence (TL) dating of the pottery; no carbon-dating of the animal or human bones. No care has been exercised in chronology, and Period I “Northern Black Polished Ware” has been pushed back to 1000 BC in the “Summary of Results” (page 268), when even in Chapter II “Stratigraphy and Chronology”, the earlier limit of the period is rightly placed at 6th century B.C. (page 38). The urge is obviously to provide the maximum antiquity to habitation at Ayodhya, however absurd the claim.
Quite obviously saffronization and professional integrity cannot go together. What all well-wishers of Indian Archaeology have to consider is how, with a Report of the calibre we have examined, there can be any credibility left in the Archaeological Survey of India, an organisation that has had such a distinguished past. Today there is no professional head of the ASI; a civil servant, completely subject to the desires of the Government of the day is in charge as Director-General. It cannot be overlooked that the occupant of the office of Director-General was changed almost simultaneously with the High Court’s direction to the ASI to begin the excavations in early March. The signal given thereby was obvious; and the present Report should come as no surprise. Politicians gloating over it are precisely those who have got it written.
National honour was deeply compromised when the Babri Masjid was demolished. Now the good repute of the Archaeological Survey of India has also suffered an irremediable blow. When will the list of Saffronization’s victims end?