Associated Press, Apr. 1, 2003
V.J. BANDOPADHAYA, Associated Press
LUCKNOW, India – Archaeologists have uncovered a broken pillar with a carving of a lotus flower at the site of a destroyed 16th-century mosque claimed by both Hindus and Muslims, a government official said Tuesday.
The significance of the discovery was still unclear, but officials hope it will eventually help settle the impassioned debate about what was originally built on the site.
“The finding of a pillar and a multilayered flooring suggests there exists a permanent structure beneath the soil,” said R.M. Srivastava, the senior government administrator in the northern town of Ayodhya, where the site is located.
“At this point we can only say that remains of a permanent structure lay buried in the soil. It could be anything – a temple, a mosque or even a kitchen structure.”
The 16th-century Babri Mosque at the site was demolished by Hindu hard-liners in 1992, provoking nationwide riots that killed more than 2,000 people. Hindus claim the site in Ayodhya, 345 miles east of New Delhi, was the birthplace of their chief god, Rama, and that a Hindu temple was on the site before the mosque.
They want to build a new temple in Rama’s honor. Muslims say there is no proof a temple was ever there.
The meaning of the lotus image on the pillar also was unknown. The lotus is a common motif in ancient Indian architecture and does not denote a particular religion. It could have been simply decorative, as well.
The Allahabad High Court in Lucknow, the capital of northern Uttar Pradesh state, is sorting through evidence in the dispute. Earlier this month, the court asked government archaeologists to report within a month whether ruins of an ancient Hindu structure lie beneath the site of the demolished mosque.