Archaeologists find Hindu temple under Indian mosque rubble

Indian archaeologists have found a medieval Hindu temple under the remains of an Islamic shrine that was razed by Hindus in 1992 sparking deadly nationwide riots, a report unveiled in court showed.

Muslim leaders immediately vowed to challenge the study, which described a 10th century temple with Hindu carvings, that was found under the rubble of the Babri mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya.

More than a decade ago thousands of Hindu zealots pulled down the 16th century mosque saying it was built after a temple to their mythological warrior god Ram was destroyed.

The act sparked off nationwide Hindu-Muslims riots that left 2,000 people dead and became a key issue in the electoral campaign of the Hindu nationalist BJP party, which now heads the coalition government.

The dispute over the site is now in the hands of the courts which ordered the report by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

Monday’s release of the sensitive document was followed almost immediately by two car bomb blasts that killed at least 44 people and injured 100 in India’s financial capital Bombay. It was not known if there was any connection.

A summary of the report, released by the court, said there was “archaeological evidence of a massive structure just below the disputed structure (the mosque) and evidence of continuity in structural phases from the 10th century onwards up to the construction of the disputed structure.”

In the report, archaeologists said they found decorated bricks as well as a “mutilated sculpture of a divine couple”, a circular shrine with a waterchute and 50 pillar bases with temple-style carvings including lotus motifs.

The lotus is a symbol associated with the Hindu religion, while waterchutes are seen usually only in Hindu temples.

These were “indicative of remains which are distinctive features found associated with the temples of the north,” said the report.

ASI, a government body which cares for historical monuments, Friday handed over the sealed report on its excavations to the Lucknow High Court, which Monday held a closed-door hearing to study the findings.

Mohammad Shameem, one of the top lawyers representing the Muslims in the high-profile case, told AFP that people should not jump to conclusions about the mosque being positioned over a temple.

“Whatever structures have been found are located at least 150 feet (45 metres) away from the disputed site,” Shameem told reporters after coming out of the hearing.

“It would be wrong to jump to conclusions.”

Meanwhile, Zafaryab Jilani, convenor of the All India Babri Masjid Action Committee, a Muslim group that is a plaintiff in the case, said the ASI report was “vague and self-contradictory and prepared under political pressure.”

“We have sought a month’s time to go through the report after which we will file our objections,” said Jilani, who also attended Monday’s court hearing.

The court said it would grant both parties six weeks to file their objections to the findings of the ASI report.

ASI has declined to disclose the report’s contents but others say it runs to 574 pages and contains substantial visual evidence.

The dig at India’s most sensitive religious site began on March 12 and was supposed to be finished in a month, but the court granted ASI several extensions.

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AFP, France
Aug. 26, 2003

Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday August 27, 2003.
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