The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court relied heavily on the ASI report in its verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, says Dr AK Mishra, one of the three observer-archaeologists appointed by the high court for their vigil during the excavation by ASI at the disputed site in Ayodhya.
The report clearly indicated the presence of a huge pre-existing structure beneath the working floor of the demolished structure, Dr Mishra told HT.
Dr Mishra is also dean, Faculty of Arts and professor of Archaeology at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Avadh University, Faizabad.
The High Court ordered the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on March 5, 2003 to conduct an excavation at the disputed site to confirm the third issue “whether there was any temple/structure which was demolished and mosque was constructed on the disputed site”? ASI conducted its excavation from March 12, 2003 to August 7, 2003 under the direction of Hari Manjhi and B.R. Hari of the ASI, New Delhi, with a team of 21 archaeologists of the ASI of different religions.
The High Court appointed a panel of observers, including two additional district judges of Faizabad HS Dubey and MA Siddiqui, to maintain judicial transparency and three archaeologists — Prof RC Thakaran of Delhi University, Dr Jaya Menon of MS University (Baroda) and Prof AK Mishra of Dr RML Avadh University (Faizabad) — to have a close vigil on the excavation work which was carried out with the help of about 130 labourers,
having an equal ratio of Muslims and Hindus.
This excavation abided by the guidelines of the Ground Penetrating Radar Survey (GPRS) report, submitted to the High Court on February 17, 2003. It concluded that a variety of anomalies, ranging from 0.5 to 5.5 meters in depth, could be associated with ancient and contemporaneous structures such as pillars, foundation walls, slab-flooring extending in a large area of disputed structure.
By the orders of the court, the GPRS was carried out from December 30, 2002 to January 17, 2003 on a total area of 3900 sq metres, comprising 132 trenches of the disputed structure.
The actual archaeological digging by ASI was focused to verify 184 anomalies indicated by the GPR survey.
“The ASI excavated 90 trenches (each of 4 x 4 metres) in the disputed area of Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid located between latitude 26º 47’ 43.6” to 26º 47’ 45.0” N and Longitude 82º 11’ 31.1” to 82º 11’ 39.9” E and around within the 50-feet limit. Out of 90 trenches, 10 were in the area of the makeshift structure, 21 in the north, 17 in the east, 23 in the south and 19 in the west to the centrally located makeshift structure,” said Prof Mishra.
He added that among 184 anomalies, 39 of them were confirmed during excavation at the specified depth in location, where they were shown in the GPRS report. Out of that, 22 pillar bases were confirmed by the excavations.
The most significant finding of the ASI is that during and after Kushan Period (100-300AD) there were large-scale structural activities of non-residential nature (means religious) up to the present level of the disputed site.
A 10.84-metre thick continuous cultural deposit was excavated, chronologically ranging from circa 1000 BC to 1700 AD.
This excavation confirmed the antiquity of Ayodhya, at least 400 years before the birth of Buddha by three radiocarbon dates from trench No. G-7.
This trench was situated north of the makeshift structure. This indicates that the excavated site of Ayodhya had a very strong religious affinity, which was confirmed by the material culture obtained from excavations.
The structure found underneath the working floor of the disputed structure had no ring-well, hearth, drain, sewer, latrine pit, kitchen, or granary. But, it contained 50 pillar bases, four floors and 28 walls of different time, in different depth as remains of a non-residential religious structure.
Among the 50 pillar bases excavated, 12 were completely exposed, 35 were partially exposed and three were traced in the section of baulk.
These pillar bases are in a proper alignment in front of the east-west oriented wall No. 16, which was attached with floor No. 2 and most of them are resting on floor No. 4. In archaeological practice, it is impossible to create any structure in a section of an exposed trench.
A radiocarbon date is reported between floor 2 and 3 of the 900-1300AD in trench ZH-1, which scientifically confirmed that floor No. 2 was not made after 1300 AD, and not before 900 AD, while floor no. 3 was made in between 900 AD and 1300 AD. This evidence confirms that floor No. 2, 3 and 4 and their attached pillar bases were chronologically much earlier then the floor 1 of the disputed structure of 1528 AD. Thus, it is clear from the excavation that floor No. 4, which supports the foundation of pillar bases,
was a floor of a temple or non-Islamic religious structure.
Among the 28 excavated walls, wall Nos. 1-15 are either contemporary to the floor of 1500 AD or post 1500 AD, but the remaining 12 walls (wall No. 16-28) are prior to 1500 AD (because they were present underneath the floor of 1500AD) and goes back to the Shunga-Kushan period (100BC-300AD).
A 50-metre long and 1.77 meter thick east-west oriented wall (i.e. wall No. 16) was excavated behind the makeshift structure, attached to a floor of 1200 AD in which pillar bases were excavated. Another wall (wall No. 17) having the same direction and length (50 meter east-west) was also excavated below wall No. 16.
It means wall no. 17 is earlier to the wall No. 16. When wall No. 17 was not in use, it served as a foundation of wall No.16.
A circular shrine having north-oriented pranala (water chute) to drain out the water, obviously after the abhisheka of the deity, was excavated between trench E-8 and F-8 of post Gupta Period (circa 700AD). It was also a very important finding of the ASI excavation at Ayodhya.
All pranala in India are oriented towards north where the Himalayas are situated, which is traditionally believed to be the residence of Lord Shiva.
“So, the present excavation of Ayodhya confirms at least three different temple structures present underneath the disputed structure. The structure of temple 1 belongs to the cultural sequence of period VIII of the excavation of 8th century AD to the early medieval period; structure of temple 2 was of period XI of the 9th century AD, while the structure of temple 3 is of the 12th century AD in which foundation of the walls of the disputed structure were laid after cutting its floor and pillar bases,” said Prof Mishra.