Babri Mosque Uttar Pradesh
The Babri Mosque was a mosque in Ayodhya, a city in the Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh, India, on Ramkot Hill ( “Rama’s fort” ). It was destroyed in 1992 when a political rally developed into a riot involving 150,000 people, despite a commitment to the Indian Supreme Court by the rally organisers that the mosque would not be harmed. More than 2,000 people were killed in ensuing riots in many major cities in India including Mumbai and Delhi.
The mosque was constructed in 1527 by order of Babur, the first Mughal emperor of India, and was named after him. Before the 1940s, the mosque was also called Masjid – i – Janmasthan. The Babri Mosque was one of the largest mosques in Uttar Pradesh, a state in India with some 31 million Muslims. Although there were several older mosques in the surrounding district, including the Hazrat Bal Mosque constructed by the Shariqi kings, the Babri Mosque became the largest, due to the importance of the disputed site. Numerous petitions by Hindus to the courts resulted in Hindu worshippers of Rama gaining access to the site.
The political, historical and socio – religious debate over the history and location of the Babri Mosque and whether a previous temple was demolished or modified to create it, is known as the Ayodhya Debate.
Architecture of the mosque
The rulers of the Sultanate of Delhi and its successors, the Mugal Empire, were great patrons of art and architecture and constructed many fine tombs, mosques and madrasas. These have a distinctive style which bears influences of ‘later Tughlaq’ architecture. Mosques all over India were built in different styles; the most elegant styles developed in areas where indigenous art traditions were strong and local artisans were highly skilled. Thus regional or provincial styles of mosques grew out of local temple or domestic styles, which were conditioned in their turn by climate, terrain, materials, hence the enormous difference between the mosques of Bengal, Kashmir and Gujarat. The Babri Mosque followed the architectural school of Jaunpur.
Babri was an important mosque of a distinct style, preserved mainly in architecture, developed after the Delhi Sultanate was established ( 1192 ). The square Charminar of Hyderabad ( 1591 ) with large arches, arcades, and minarets is typical. This art made extensive use of stone and reflected Indian adaptation to Muslim rule, until Mughals art replaced it in the 17th century, as typified by structures like the Taj Mahal.
The traditional hypostyle plan with an enclosed courtyard, imported from Western Asia was generally associated with the introduction of Islam in new areas, but was abandoned in favor of schemes more suited to local climate and needs. The Babri mosque was a mixture of the local influence and the Western Asian style and examples of this type of mosque are common in India.
The Babri mosque was a large imposing structure with three domes, one central and two secondary. It is surrounded by two high walls, running parallel to each other and enclosing a large central courtyard with a deep well, which was known for its cold and sweet water. On the high entrance of the domed structure are fixed two stone tablets which bear two inscriptions in Persian declaring that this structure was built by one Mir Baqi on the orders of Babur. The walls of the Babri Mosque are made of coarse – grained whitish sandstone blocks, rectangular in shape, while the domes are made of thin and small burnt bricks. Both these structural ingredients are plastered with thick chunam paste mixed with coarse sand.
The Central Courtyard was surrounded by lavishly curved columns superimposed to increase the height of the ceilings. The plan and the architecture followed the Begumpur Friday mosque of Jahanpanah rather than the Mughal style where Hindu masons used their own trabeated structural and decorative traditions. The excellence of their craftsmanship is noticeable in their vegetal scrolls and lotus patterns. These motifs are also present in the Firuyyz Shah Mosque in Firuzabad ( c.1354 ) now in a ruined state, Qila Kuhna Mosque ( c.1540 ), The Darasbari Mosque in the Southern suburb of the walled city of Gaur, and the Jamali Kamili Mosque built by Sher Shah Suri. This was the forerunner of the Indo Islamic style adopted by Akbar.
Babri Mosque acoustic and cooling system
“A whisper from the Babri Masjid Mihrab could be heard clearly at the other end, 200 feet [ 60 m ] away and through the length and breadth of the central court” according to Graham Pickford, architect to Lord William Bentinck ( 1828–1833 ). The mosque’s acoustics were mentioned by him in his book ‘Historic Structures of Oudhe’ where he says “for a 16th century building the deployment and projection of voice from the pulpit is considerably advanced, the unique deployment of sound in this structure will astonish the visitor”.
Modern architects have attributed this intriguing acoustic feature to a large recess in the wall of the Mihrab and several recesses in the surrounding walls which functioned as resonators; this design helped everyone to hear the speaker at the Mihrab. The sandstone used in building the Babri Mosque also had resonant qualities which contributed to the unique acoustics.
The Babri mosque’s Tughluquid style integrated other indigenous design components and techniques, such as air cooling systems disguised as Islamic architectural elements like arches, vaults and domes. In the Babri Masjid a passive environmental control system comprised the high ceiling, domes, and six large grille windows. The system helped keep the interior cool by allowing natural ventilation as well as daylight.
Legend of the Babri Masjid’s miraculous well
The reported medicinal properties of the deep well in the central courtyard have been featured in various news reports such as the BBC report of December 1989 and in various newspapers. The earliest mention of the Babri water well was in a two line reference to the Mosque in the Gazette of Faizabad District 1918 which says “There are no significant historical buildings here, except for various Buddhist shrines. The Babri Mosque is an ancient structure with a well which, both the Hindus and Mussalmans claim, has miraculous properties.”
Ayodhya is a pilgrimage site for Hindus and the annual Ram festival is regularly attended by over 500,000 people of both the Hindu and Muslim faiths, and many devotees came to drink water from the well in the Babri Mosque’s courtyard. It was believed drinking water from this well could cure a range of illnesses. Hindu pilgrims also believed that the Babri water well was the original well in the Ram Temple under the mosque. Ayodhya Muslims believed that the well was a gift from Allah. Local women regularly brought their newborns to drink from the reputedly curative water.
The 125 – foot ( 40m ) deep well was situated in the south – eastern section of the large rectangular courtyard of the Babri Mosque. There was a small Hindu shrine built in 1890 joining the well with a statue of Lord Rama. It was an artesian well and drew water from a considerable distance below the water table. Eleven feet ( 3m ) in radius, the first 30 feet ( 10m ) from ground level were bricked. It drew water from a reservoir trapped in a bed of shale sand and gravel, which would explain the unusually cool temperature of the water. The water contained almost no sodium, giving it a reputation of tasting ‘sweet.’ Accessing the well involved climbing onto a three foot ( 1m ) platform, where the well was covered with planks of thick wood with an unhinged trapdoor. Water was drawn by means of a bucket and long lengths of rope and due to its claimed ‘spiritual properties’ was used only for drinking. Hindus and Muslims in Ayodhya had a profound belief in the miraculous properties of this cold and pure underground water, which was reinforced by abundant local folklore.
The Muslim emperor Babur established his authority over the whole of northern India when he conquered the Rajputana kingdom of Mewar and the Hindu King of Chittodgad, Rana Sangrama Singh, at the Battle of Khanwa. After this victory, his general, Mir Baqshi became governor of the region around Awadh.
Mir Baqshi built the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya naming it after Emperor Babur, after destroying a pre-existing temple of Rama at the site. Although there is no reference to the new mosque in Babur’s diary, the Baburnama, the pages of the relevant period are missing in the diary. The contemporary Tarikh – i – Babari records that Babur’s troops “demolished many Hindu temples at Chanderi”.
According to the judge, the 265 inscriptions found on December 6, 1992 after demolition of the disputed structure, along with other architectural remains, leave no room for doubt that the inscription is written in the script of Devnagri of 11th and 12th century.
All three judges accepted that under the mosque is a Hindu temple. Two of the judges accepted that that temple was specifically demolished.
According to Jain Samata Vahini, a social organization of the Jains, “the only structure that could be found during excavation would be a sixth century Jain temple”.
Sohan Mehta, the General Secretary of Jain Samata Vahini, claims that the demolished disputed structure was actually built on the remnants of an ancient Jain temple, and that the excavation by ASI, ordered by Allahabad High Court to settle the Babri Masjid-Ramjanmabhoomi dispute, would prove it.
Mehta quoted writings of 18th century Jain monks stating Ayodhya was the place where five Jain tirthankars, Rishabhdeo, Ajitnath, Abhinandannath, Sumatinath and Anantnath stayed. The ancient city was among the five biggest centers of Jainism and Buddhism prior to 1527.
The Muslims claim that there is no historical record indicating any destruction, or even the existence of a Hindu Temple at the site when Mir Baqi erected the Masjid in 1528. When Ram idols were allegedly placed in the Mosque illegally on December 23, 1949, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, G. B. Pant, demanding their removal because “a dangerous example is being set there.” The local administrator, Faizabad’s deputy commissioner K. K. Nayar dismissed Nehru’s concerns. While he admitted that the installation of the idols may have been “an illegal act”, Nayar refused to remove them from the mosque claiming that “the depth of feeling behind the movement should not be underestimated.” In the 2010 the High Court verdict that gives two-thirds of the land to Hindu Temple, thousands of pages of the verdict were devoted to quotes from Hindu scriptures. According to Manoj Mitta, “The mischief played with the idols, in a bid to convert a masjid into a mandir, was central to the adjudication of the title suits.”
Muslims and other critics discount as politically motivated the archeological reports that are relied upon by Hindu groups like Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( RSS ), Vishwa Hindu Parishad ( VHP ) and Hindu Munnani to lay claim to the Babri Masjid site. The Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust said that certain evidence from the Archeological Survey of India ( ASI ) rules out a possible Hindu temple rather than provide evidence for one existing before the mosque was erected.
“After Babar had gained a footing in Hindustan by his victory at Panipat in 1526 and had advanced to Agra, the defeated Afghan house of Lodhi still occupied the Central Doab, Oudh, and the eastern districts of the present United Provinces. In 1527, Babar, on his return from Central India, defeated his opponents in Southern Oudh near Kanauj, and passed on through the Province as far as Ayodhya where he built a mosque in 1528, on the site renowned as the birthplace of Rama. The Afghans remained in opposition after the death of Babar in 1530, but were defeated near Lucknow in the following year.”
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