REPORTS & ESSAYS
The Babri Masjid: Its Inscriptions and Date of Construction
December 6, 2017
1.1. Mr Justice Sudhir Agarwal aims in his judgement to prove that the Babri Masjid was built not during the reign of Babar, in 1528, but only under Aurangzeb (d. 1707), at any rate not very much before Fr Joseph Tieffenthaler visited Ayodhya between 1740 and 1765 (paras 1645 and 1682). So the memory of the mosque being built over the “demolished” fortress “called Ramcot” (Tieffenthaler’s words) was yet fresh in the Hindu mind (cf para 1658) and that should be taken as evidence for its being built after demolishing a temple marking Lord Ram’s birthplace. Furthermore, Tieffenthaler, a little known traveller but called by the learned judge “an intellectual giant and linguistic wizard” (para 1591), did not refer to any inscriptions on the mosque; and this means, in the eyes of Justice Agarwal, that these inscriptions were not then in existence, this being the reason, in his opinion, that Tieffenthaler could not decide between the two traditions, as to whether Babar or Aurangzeb had built the mosque (paras 1591 and 4388).
This means, according to the judge, that the so-called inscriptions were put up only after Tieffenthaler’s visit though before Francis Buchanan’s visit to Ayodhya in 1810-11, since he obtained the copy of an “inscription on its walls” that declared it to have been built by Babar. Thus, in Justice Agarwal’s view, all the inscriptions so far presented to the public are later forgeries, made between, say 1760 and 1810, despite their texts having been accepted as genuine by Fuhrer, AS Beveridge, the Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965, and practically every historian and epigraphist dealing with them till now. The contents themselves cannot be confirmed, the judge goes on to hold, because Mir Baqi, the commandant, presented as the actual builder, cannot be identified with anyone mentioned in the Baburnama (see below under Section C: Mir Baqi). In reaching the conclusion over the late construction of the Babri Masjid, Justice Sudhir Agarwal does not appear to address other matters relating to the date of the building such as its architectural design and technique of construction. But let us first take up his arguments one by one.
A. Tieffenthaler and the mosque inscriptions
1.2. As to the significance of Tieffenthaler’s not mentioning the inscriptions, it needs stressing that in history negative inferences of this kind are hardly ever given credence. One famous example is of that other famous “intellectual giant and linguistic wizard”, Marco Polo’s failure to mention the hugely ancient Great Wall of China. If Justice Sudhir Agarwal is ever asked to decide when the Great Wall was built, he should immediately say, after Marco Polo’s travels i.e. after 1300 AD! This shows the risks involved in Justice Agarwal’s approach to history. Tieffenthaler merely recorded the tradition that either Aurangzeb or Babar built the mosque; why should he have gone and tested it by trying to decipher the mosque inscriptions?
Moreover, the Persian inscriptions were written in ornate tughra-influenced nastaliq and so are hard to read for any non-epigraphist, however conversant with Persian. Tieffenthaler’s account of Allahabad suba has been published in translation by SN Sinha, The Mid-Gangetic Region in the Eighteenth Century, Allahabad/ Delhi, 1976, and we can see there that he gives scant notice, if any, of inscriptions found on buildings. Does it mean that the Mughal period inscriptions at Allahabad and other cities not mentioned by him did not exist before his time? The kind of inference Justice Agarwal draws from just stressing one passage of a work shows how risky it is not to look at the nature of the work one is examining. Unlike Tieffenthaler, it was a part of the requirements of Buchanan’s survey that he should record antiquarian remains. This he has done in respect of all the districts of Bihar and Bengal, as well as Gorakhpur, that he surveyed, as one may see if one examines not only Montgomery Martin’s abridgement of Buchanan’s district-wise reports but also the reports themselves, those relating to Bihar districts having been published practically in full by the government of Bihar and Orissa in British times.
B. The texts of the Masjid inscriptions
1.3. Having disposed of the Tieffenthaler red herring, let us now look at Justice Agarwal’s objections to the genuineness of the mosque inscriptions (cf para 1484 et seq). He uses harsh words to dismiss the evidence brought out in the official publication of the Archaeological Survey of India, the Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965, where the Babri Masjid inscriptions are given in text and translation on pages 58-62, with a plate facing page 59. This was part of an article (posthumous) by Maulvi M. Ashraf Husain, entitled ‘Inscriptions by Emperor Babur’, the volume being edited by Dr ZA Desai, the then superintendent, Persian and Arabic Inscriptions, ASI, and a great authority among India’s Arabic and Persian epigraphists. Let us see how Justice Agarwal castigates them:
“We are extremely perturbed by the manner in which Ashraf Husain/ Desai have tried to give an impeccable authority to the texts of the alleged inscriptions which they claim to have existed on the disputed building though [they] repeatedly said that the original text has disappeared. The fallacy and complete misrepresentation on the part of author is writ large from a bare reading of the write-up. We are really at pains(!) to find that such blatant fallacious kind of material has been allowed to be published in a book under the authority of ASI, Government of India, without caring about its accuracy, correctness and genuineness of the subject” (para 1463).
In Justice Agarwal’s view, all the inscriptions on the Babri Masjid so far presented to the public are later forgeries, made between, say 1760 and 1810, despite their texts having been accepted as genuine by practically every historian and epigraphist dealing with them till now
One must respectfully state that this is not a fair view of Ashraf Husain’s article nor a justifiable criticism of the government of India, for reasons that we shall give below.
1.4. Ashraf Husain says clearly that the main four-line inscription (the top containing the invocation and the remaining three containing eight Persian couplets), placed on the central entrance of the mosque, had not disappeared but was seen by him, and in Plate VII (c), opposite page 59, he has reproduced a photograph of the inscription from which one can check his decipherment (and, of course, translation). This inscription remained in position on the entrance until December 6, 1992 when the kar sevakscarried out their act of demolition. If this does not exist now, it is only owing to that “abominable” act (Justice Agarwal’s own characterisation of it, para 4527, which Justice Agarwal seems most of the time to ignore entirely). Two photographs (see Plates 1 and 2) show the inscription above the entrance before the demolition so that Justice Agarwal’s assertion stands easily disproved.
1.5. Justice Agarwal also here overlooks the fact that about 90 years before the Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965, both the gate and the pulpit inscriptions of the Babri Masjid had been mentioned in theGazetteer of the Province of Oudh, edited by WC Benett, issued as an official publication in 1877-78, Vol. I, pp. 6-7. “In two places in the Babri Mosque”, it says, “the year in which it was built, 935 H., corresponding with 1528 AD, is carved in stone along with inscriptions dedicated to the glory of the Emperor.” It will be noticed that this is much older than Fuhrer’s reading of the inscriptions but is quietly ignored in Justice Agarwal’s summary of the reports on the inscriptions (para 1650). Benett’s statement is confirmed in HR Nevill’s Fyzabad District Gazetteer, with Preface dated 1905 (volume reprinted, 1920). On page 179 we are told: “The Mosque has two inscriptions, one on the outside and the other on the pulpit and bear the date 935 Hijri. Of the authenticity of the inscriptions there can be no doubt.”
1.6. Thus two official reports clearly say that the inscriptions on the entrance and the pulpit gave the date 935 Hijri (=1528 AD) and that they belonged to the reign of Babar. One of them goes on to attest their undoubted authenticity.
1.7. The only disappearance that is mentioned in Ashraf Husain’s article is with regard to the inscription(s) on the pulpit. The supposition that there were two pulpit inscriptions came about because of the confusion created by Fuhrer’s misreading of the single pulpit inscription and his extracting out of it the impossible date 930 H (=1523 AD), a year when Babar was not in possession of his Indian dominions (the battle of Panipat took place in 1526). On Fuhrer’s mistranscription and so mistranslation of the pulpit inscription, which led Ashraf Husain to suppose that there were two pulpit inscriptions, not one, see Note 1.1, annexed to this paper.
Ashraf Husain naturally thought that the pulpit inscription seen by Fuhrer was different from the one everyone else had read on the pulpit. (We have just seen that Benett and Nevill both note that the pulpit inscription too gave the date of the mosque’s construction as AH 935 = AD 1528). Moreover, when Mrs AS Beveridge, the translator of Babar’s memoirs (published in 1921), received from the deputy commissioner of Fyzabad copies of texts of the two mosque inscriptions, one on the pulpit, the other on the outside, the inscriptions were still in situ (as she tells us; Baburnama, tr. AS Beveridge, Vol. II, Appendix IV, pp. lxxvii-lxxix); and the two texts reproduced by her fully accord with those given by Ashraf Husain, the pulpit one entirely and the one on the entrance in respect of the first three couplets read by Mrs Beveridge’s informants who could not decipher the further couplets, while Ashraf Husain has been able to read all of them.
Justice Agarwal should have asked himself whether there has been any long ancient or old inscription written in unfamiliar characters (like Ashoka’s edicts or Samudragupta’s Allahabad inscription), the words or clauses of which have not been differently read by epigraphists during the last 150 years. Should they then be regarded as forgeries though on all essential points they agree, as is the case with the Babri Masjid inscriptions? Why should, then, Justice Agarwal tax Ashraf Husain and Desai for not giving the genuine text of the pulpit inscription(s) when their reading is manifestly the most accurate and complete of all? Justice Agarwal’s accusations against Dr Ziyaud-Din Desai, the chief epigraphist, ASI, of changing the meaning of its text (para 1654) is entirely uncalled for.
1.8. Justice Agarwal resorts to the most strained reasoning for justifying his censures. Ashraf Husain says that though the pulpit inscription was destroyed in the riot of 1934, he was able to obtain an “inked rubbing” or estampage from Mr Sayyid Badrul Hasan of Fyzabad. Mr Justice Agarwal declares his agreement with the opposing (“Hindu”) party that no such person existed! No proof of such a claim is offered. Nor does Justice Agarwal apparently know that estampages are preferable to transcripts because they reproduce the original shape of letters – essential from a palaeographic point of view. Justice Agarwal holds that Ashraf Husain should have preferred a transcript to the estampage (para 1467).
It will be seen from Plate XVII (b), opposite page 59, of the Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965, under discussion, that its writing again is tughra-influenced nastaliq like that of the entrance inscription at Plate XVII (c). This would not have been clear if Ashraf Husain had merely reproduced a hand-transcribed text such as the one published by Beveridge or the copy presumably made by Maulvi M. Shuaib for the ASI, Northern Circle, in 1906-07. Ashraf Husain duly cited the Annual Report of the Office of the Archaeological Surveyor, Northern Circle, Agra, for 1906-07, which, if Justice Agarwal had any doubts about the matter, the bench could have called for from the government of India just as it had directed the government of India to provide a translation of the extract from Tieffenthaler. In any case, our photographs show that the original inscription actually stood over the entrance before 1992 and the photographed text accords with the plate published by Ashraf Husain. Its mode of tughra-influenced nastaliq also proclaims its early Mughal date.
C. Mir Baqi
1.9. It is difficult to understand why Justice Agarwal is willing only to consider as preferable the reports about two inscriptions in the mosque (one of these must be the faulty one substituted in the pulpit for the original destroyed in 1934, reported by Ashraf Husain), which were obtained by a court in 1946. One of these inscriptions was quoted as saying that “by the order of Shah Babar, Amir Mir Baki built the resting place of angles (sic) in 923 AH i.e. 1516-17” – i.e. 10 years before Babar’s victory at Panipat! The other inscription (presumably the entrance one) was so read as to tell us that “Mir Baki of Isphahan in 935 AH i.e. 1528-29 AD” (sentence left incomplete in the judgement) (para 1481). Justice Agarwal insists on the reading “Isfahani” for the correct reading “Asaf-i sani”, as deciphered in theEpigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965, and then by so doing he cannot find ‘Mir Baqi Isfahani’ or ‘Mir Baqi’, exactly with that name, in Babar’s memoirs (paras 1477 and 1583). And this helps him to consider Mir Baqi as non-existent or unidentifiable (para 1477) and the inscriptions as forgeries. It may be mentioned in clarification that ‘Mir’ here is a mere abbreviation of amir (noble) and that ‘Isfahani’ is a misreading of Asaf-i sani, the second asaf (grand vizier of Solomon).
1.10. It is strange that Justice Agarwal did not accord due consideration to the following two entries in the Baburnama, which alone are sufficient to show that Baqi was a historical personage and actually Babar’s commandant of Awadh (Ayodhya). Being Babar’s subordinate, Babar naturally does not call him amir or mir, since it was not a part of his name, as in some other cases where the word Mir occurs in personal names referred to by Babar. The passages concerned occur in Eiji Mano’s edition of original Turki, Kyoto, 1995, on pp. 605-6; Abdur Rahim Khankhanan’s Persian translation; in Beveridge’s English translation, II, pp. 684-85; and in WM Thackston’s English translation of the Baburnama, New York, 1996, pp. 443-444.
The entries make it clear that while Babar was on a campaign crossing the Gomti and then the Ganga, ‘Baqi Tashkandi’ joined his camp, coming with “the Awadh (Ayodhya) troops” (‘Awad chariki’), on June 13, 1529. On June 20, ‘Baqi Shaghawal’ was given leave to return along with his Awadh troops (Awad chariki). These references (see Note 1.2, annexed to this paper, for full quotes) make it clear that (1) Baqi was the commandant of troops at Awadh (Ayodhya), so that here the Babri Masjid inscriptions stand confirmed; and (2) he was a native of Tashkant and bore the official title of Shaghawal, so that contrary to Justice Agarwal’s argument (para 1477), Baqi Tashkandi and Baqi Shaghawal refer to the same person. The ‘shaghawal’ (Persian, sazawal) used to be an official of rank who could not be impeded when fulfilling royal orders by anyone, howsoever high. (Justice Agarwal admits that an explanation of shaghawal as an officer was offered by Professor Shireen Moosvi, an expert witness before the bench (para 1365), but the justice obviously paid little heed to this).
1.11. It is thus clear from the above that Justice Sudhir Agarwal’s line of reasoning is based on untenable assumptions. If, according to him, Babar was not concerned with the construction of the Babri Masjid, one wonders why the learned judge should hold forth at such length on his weaknesses of character as a believing Muslim. We are told by the justice that Babar was “a completely Islamic person and (so?) lacked tolerance to the idol worshippers” (para 1563); and in (para 1570) he goes on to censure not only Babar but also the historians who have written appreciatively about him. Finally, we have the following judgement on medieval Indian history as a whole:
“Another surprising aspect was that the Indian subcontinent was under the attack/ invasion by outsiders for almost a thousand or more years in the past and had been continuously looted by them. Massive wealth continuously was driven off from the Country” (para 1611).
This sentence suggests a rather one-sided view of the history of medieval India. Was India before the British ever governed from outside of it, from a place to which wealth could be continuously transferred? Whoever looted, whether sultans or rajas, lived within India.
D. Mosque dateable by style and technique
1.12. Suppose the inscriptions in the Babri Masjid did not exist, could one then declare that it could have been built in Aurangzeb’s time, as Mr Justice Agarwal concludes (paras 1601 and 1645)? What Justice Agarwal does not seem to have taken into consideration is the fact that there was considerable change in the styles of architecture, including mosque architecture, between the times of Babar and Aurangzeb; and it can easily be established, by the style and technique employed in a building, whether it was built in the pre-Mughal or early Mughal times or later. The Babri Masjid is recognisably built in the Sharqi style of architecture (seen noticeably at Jaunpur) with the characteristic form given to the propylon. The domes, though large, are flattish and heavy. This style became obsolete soon after; and well before Aurangzeb’s time, light (even bulbous) domes with free-standing minarets became the hallmark of a mosque. (See Note 1.3, contributed by Dr S. Ali Nadeem Rezavi, annexed to this paper.) It is impossible to conceive that a mosque built in Aurangzeb’s time or later would have had the design or exhibit the building technique of the Babri Masjid. All this is fatal to Justice Sudhir Agarwal’s attempted late dating of the monument.
E. The evidence from the ASI’s report that the justice overlooked
1.13. Justice Agarwal has high praise for the team of ASI officials, their conduct of excavations and their report in which he reposes full trust (see Paper III). One would therefore assume that anything stated in this report should obtain his approval.
1.14. In the report in Chapter VIII, under the caption “Arabic Inscription (sic)”, on pages 205-6, there are described two Arabic inscriptions on slabs, both taken, so we are told, from “debris lying above the topmost floor of the disputed structure”, the ASI’s euphemism for the Babri Masjid. One contains parts of verses from the Koran and the other, the single word “Allah”. In the case of both it is stated that they are written “in relief Naskh style (of calligraphy) of early sixteenth century AD”.
1.15. Now, how could these inscriptions, assigned by the ASI to the early 16th century (so of around 1528, the date of construction of the Babri Masjid), come to be there if the mosque was constructed not in 1528 AD, during Babar’s time, but in the reign of Aurangzeb, 1659-1707 AD, some 150 or more years later? To rephrase a question Justice Agarwal has asked of others: What motive could Messrs Manjhi and Mani have had in revealing the above inscriptions that so cruelly puncture the bubble of a convenient speculation?
1.16. There is the further matter of a carbon date. We do not have the same trust in the ASI’s report that Justice Agarwal reposes; and by its depth (47cm) it seems certain that in Trench G6 the charcoal sample that was sent for carbon dating was below Floor 2, not above it. However, for the present let us quote the ASI’s report’s commentary on it (p. 54):
“The C-14 date from the contemporary deposit of the foundation of the disputed structure [Babri Masjid] is 450± 110 BP (1500±110 AD) which is quite consistent, as determined from the charcoal sample from trench 6G.”
This means that the construction of the Babri Masjid cannot be later than AD 1600 and should normally be placed much closer to AD 1500. So where, if the ASI’s word is sacrosanct, does it leave the attribution of the alleged destruction of the Ram temple and foundation of the Masjid to the hand of Aurangzeb who ruled from 1659 to 1707?
The ASI’s report on this carbon date is quoted by Justice Agarwal himself in para 3924 of his judgement but apparently its implications escaped his notice or he simply failed to read what had been transcribed at his direction.
1.17. It may be mentioned, finally, that the authors of the ASI report directly date the foundation of the Babri Masjid to the “early sixteenth century” (Report, p. 270); since Justice Agarwal would not allow any “objections against ASI” (para 3989), why should this finding be rejected?
No consciousness among Babri Masjid builders of having demolished a temple at the site.
1.18. The attack of the ‘Hindu’ parties on the genuineness of the Babri Masjid inscriptions – never doubted until the present litigation, nor by any historian or epigraphist till the current day – has this advantageous consequence for them, that they become absolved from considering the implications of the texts of the two inscriptions, the gateway inscription being fairly long. Ifa temple had been demolished for the glory of Islam and the religious merit of the builders, would they not have first of all proclaimed the fact in these inscriptions? Given the alleged circumstances, it seems extraordinarily unnatural that they should have lamentably failed so to do. There is the example of the Qubbatul Islam (vulg. Quwwatul Islam) mosque at Qutb-Delhi, where a well-known inscription proclaims such a fact (see YD Sharma, Delhi and its Neighbourhood, ASI publication, Delhi, 1974/1990, p. 52). Why then should the builders of the Babri Masjid have been so silent and withdrawing about their act of temple demolition? Clearly, the answer must be that they were not aware that they had destroyed any temple either because they had built the mosque on vacant land or, as from the archaeological excavations, as we learn now (see Paper III), the land was already under an idgah or qanati mosque along with some open ground.
No theory of the construction of the Babri Masjid can be acceptable to any impartial person unless this vital piece of evidence in the form of the Masjid inscriptions is given due importance.
Note on Fuhrer’s texts and translations of the Babri Masjid inscriptions in his The Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur, Calcutta, 1889, pages 67-68
1.1.1. Fuhrer’s transcriptions and translations of the two inscriptions in Persian (forming his Nos. XLI and XLII) are obviously full of errors and wrong conclusions have been drawn from them by him.
1.1.2. Fuhrer himself says of his Inscription No. XLI, “written in Persian poetry”, that “the letters of this inscription have been mixed together by the copyist” – i.e. by his copyist and not the original scribe. In the very second hemistich the initial words ba-shane kih ba, as read by the Fuhrer copyist, show his illiteracy in reading Persian verse. This cannot now be corrected even by reading basane kih ba, in the manner suggested in the Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965 (henceforth referred to as EI (AP), 1965), p. 60, or by the latter’s editor’s suggestion, bina-i kih ba. This is because the word ba (with) under all these constructions remains absolutely meaningless. EI (AP), 1965’s own first inscription from the Babri Masjid (on p. 59) shows that ba could only be used if the edifice was meeting something, like gardun (sky). In Fuhrer’s version the edifice is marching towards the sky not meeting ‘with’ the sky! Similarly, the third hemistich in Fuhrer’s reading is wrong, since it reads bina karda-i in khana-i paidar, which has one syllable extra. Compare the third hemistich in the above-mentioned EI (AP), 1965’s first inscription: Bina karda in mahbit-i qudsiyan ra, which by the use of the terminal word ra avoids the izafat after karda.
The above comparisons with EI (AP), 1965’s first inscription bring one to the irresistible conclusion that Fuhrer’s reading of the six hemistiches is not only extensively wrong but that the inscription he was reading is really identical with EI (AP), 1965’s own first inscription. It is curious that the EI (AP), 1965’s editor missed the fact that both inscriptions, supposed to be distinct ones, occupied the same position in the mosque: the one read by Fuhrer is said to be “on the mimbar, right-hand side of the masjid” while Inscription No.1 of the EI (AP), 1965 is said to have been “built into the southern side of the pulpit of the mosque”. In other words, we have here the same mimbar or pulpit inscription. This is also confirmed by the fact that both the Gazetteer of the Province of Oudh, 1877-78, and Nevill’s Fyzabad District Gazetteer, 1905, have spoken only of two Persian inscriptions at the mosque. It may be seen that the EI (AP), 1965’s pulpit inscription gives the date in the chronogram “buwad khair baqi” (giving the value 935 (AH) = AD 1528; which is missed by Fuhrer).
1.1.3. One can see how Fuhrer’s copyist created a very erroneous text of the pulpit inscription. Having read some words correctly, while totally at a loss with others, he sought to make up a rhyming text as best he could. Having wrongly read ki adlash as khadiv-i jahan he read inan (at the end of the second hemistich), forgetting that with the word ba, which he had correctly read, this was inadmissible. He was totally floored by mahbit-i qudsiyan ra in the third hemistich and inserted the mundane words khana-i paidar instead, forgetting that the izafat this would require after the word karda would make it violate the rhyme. He could not make anything of the word Baqi at the end of the fourth hemistich and so put in khan after it, to rhyme with inan, his misreading of the terminal word of the second hemistich.
1.1.4. A similar string of errors abounds in Fuhrer’s copyist’s reading of the gate inscription, written, like the pulpit one, in the now archaic tughra-influenced style of writing. This is given as Plate XVII (c) in EI (AP), 1965, opposite p. 59. Here Fuhrer’s copyist gave up on the first hemistich and in the second read kunad (‘does’) for kih and then read qalam instead of alamand tried to make up some sense by reading jawidani instead of lamakani. He gave up on the third to sixth hemistiches but his reading of the seventh and eighth hemistiches is not only wrong but ungrammatical, since the sentence remains incomplete without the necessary verb (from chunan shahinshah to misal-i shadmani). In the EI (AP), 1965’s version not only are the words correctly read but the verb dar girifta is duly supplied. The Fuhrer reading of the tenth hemistich (ki khaqan-i daulat o faghfur-i sani) is absurd because no noble, however great (mir-i muazzam), could be declared an emperor (khaqan, faghfur). The correct reading is given in EI (AP), 1965, page 61: ki namash Mir Baqi Asaf-i sani meaning: “whose name is Mir Baqi, a second Asaf (minister to King Solomon)”. Even the hemistich containing the date is wrongly read by Fuhrer: ki nuhsad si (930) buwad Hijarat bi-dani. The word ‘Hijri’ (though generally regarded as superfluous, like ‘AD’ today), not‘Hijarat’, is used for the Hijri date. Not only is the use of Hijarat here a piece of illiteracy but its position after buwad is ungrammatical. The correct reading is given in EI (AP), 1965: ki nuhsad si panj (935) buwad nishani. In other words, the date is 935 AH, not 930.
1.1.5. The erroneous readings of Fuhrer’s copyist are obvious from the very fact that his date 930 corresponds to 1523 AD while both the inscriptions as read by (or for) Fuhrer himself give the name of Babar as the ruling king. Fuhrer’s consequential statement (p. 67) that “Babar’s masjid at Ayodhya was built in AH 930 or AD 1523 by Mir Khan” is absurd, since Babar did not even occupy Delhi until 1526. We have already shown that “Mir Khan” is a patent misreading by Fuhrer’s copyist for “Mir Baqi”.
1.1.6. Here it may be mentioned that much earlier than Fuhrer, the dates were correctly read in these two inscriptions in the mosque. The Gazetteer of the Province of Oudh, edited by WC Benett and published in 1877-78, in Vol. I, at pages 6-7, states in its entry on Ayodhya in its paragraph on ‘Babar’s mosque’:
“In two places in the Babari mosque, the year in which it was built, 935 H., corresponding with 1528 AD is carved in stone along with inscriptions dedicated to the glory of the Emperor” (italics ours).
This statement was wrongly and vainly contested by Fuhrer (The Sharqi Architecture of Jaunpur, p. 68, note 1) – mainly because of his own copyist’s misreadings.
1.1.7. Nor was Fuhrer’s version of the inscriptions accepted by any official source after the publication of his work in 1889. In HR Nevill’s Fyzabad District Gazetteer, Preface dated 1905 (reprinted, 1920), p. 179, it is clearly stated, under the entry on Ajodhya, in respect of the Babri Masjid:
It may be mentioned that the authors of the ASI report directly date the foundation of the Babri Masjid to the “early sixteenth century” (ASI Report, p. 270). Since Justice Agarwal would not allow any “objections against ASI” (para 3989 of his judgement), why should this finding be rejected?
“The mosque has two inscriptions, one on the outside and the other on the pulpit; both are in Persian and bear the date 935 Hijri. Of the authenticity of the inscriptions there can be no doubt…” (Annexure 2) (italics ours).
The details in this statement show that the information is not borrowed from the earlier Oudh Gazetteer but is based on independent scrutiny.
1.1.8. It may further be observed that Mrs AS Beveridge, writing in 1921 in her translation of Babar’s memoirs, by and large correctly read the text of the pulpit inscription (as in EI (AP), 1965) and partly read (correctly) the other inscription (AS Beveridge, Baburnama, II, pp. lxxvii-lxxix). She too was informed only of the existence of two (not three) Persian inscriptions in the mosque.
1.1.9. (1) There were only two Persian inscriptions in the mosque, one on the pulpit, the other on the outside.
(2) As recorded by the Oudh Gazetteer, 1877-78, both of these contained the date 935 (AH = 1528 AD).
(3) Fuhrer’s copyist misread the texts of both the inscriptions in 1889, being obviously unfamiliar with its stylised nastaliq writing. The text of the pulpit inscription was correctly read by Mrs Beveridge (1921) and by the editor of these inscriptions in Epigraphia Indica, Arabic and Persian Supplement, 1965, from an estampage. Fuhrer’s reading ‘Mir Khan’ is an obvious error for ‘Mir Baqi’ in the pulpit inscription. He also misread the verse in the other inscription, which actually gave the date as 935, not 930, the one read by Fuhrer.
(4) Fuhrer’s conclusion that ‘Babar’s mosque’ was constructed in 930 (AD 1523) by one Mir Khan is absurd, since Babar was not in possession of this area in 1523 (he won the battle of Panipat only in 1526). Since the name ‘Mir Khan’ is the product of a copyist’s misreading, it is needless to say that no person bearing this name is mentioned among Babar’s nobles in any historical source.
Two references to Mir Baqi, builder of the Babri Masjid, in Babar’s memoirs
1.2.1 (1) Eiji Mano’s edition of Baburnama, Kyoto, 1995, pp. 605-6:
Page 605: Maqam boldi Baqi Tashkandi Awad chariki bila aushaul…
Page 606: Namaz-i digar Baqi Shaghawal bila Awad chariki ka rukhsat bir yaldi.
(1A) Abdur Rahim Khankhanan’s Persian version, British Museum MS Or. 3714:
Folio 517b: Baqi Tashkandi ba lashkar-i Awadh haman roz amda mulazimat kard.
Folio 518a: namaz-i digar Baqi Shaghawal ra ba lashkar-i Awad rukhsat dada shud.
(2) AS Beveridge’s translation of Baburnama, Vol. II, p. 684:
Page 684: (June 13 ): Today, Baqi Tashkindi came in with the army of Aud (Ayodhya) and waited on me.
Page 685 (June 20) …At the Other Prayer of the same day, leave was given to Baqi and the army of Aud (Ayodhya).
Note: By a slip, Mrs Beveridge omits to write ‘Baqi the shaghawal’ instead of Baqi in the same passage.
(3) WM Thackston’s translation of Baburnama, pp. 443-444:
Page 443: Baqi Tashkandi came with the Oudh army that day to pay homage.
Page 444: That afternoon Baqi Shiqavul and the Oudh army were dismissed.
Note: ‘Oude’, or ‘Oudh’, represented the name ‘Awadh’ which, in popular and Indo-Persian use, was a variant of Ayodhya. Compare Tulsidas’s ‘Awadhpuri’ for Ayodhya.
Design and building techniques of the Babri Masjid, Ayodhya
Contributed by S. Ali Nadeem Rezavi
1.3.1. The basic plan of the Babri Masjid is reminiscent of the Tughlaq, Lodi and Sharqi architectural traditions. It consists of a western liwan (prayer chamber) divided into aisles and a central nave. All the three are single-bayed, fronted with arched openings and covered with domes. The nave is comparatively larger than the flanking aisles. To the east is a small courtyard which at some later stage was further enlarged with the placement of an outer screen and a gateway.
1.3.2. The whole structure, as was common in the Tughlaq and Lodi periods, was built of rubble stone masonry overlaid with a thick veneer of lime plaster. As visible from a photograph of the western wall of the mosque, rubble stones alternated with layers of calcrete and sandstone blocks. Similar type of construction is witnessed in other 13th to 15th century structures located in and near Ayodhya. An example can be given of the two very large ‘graves’ of the ‘prophets’ – one near the palace of the raja of Ayodhya and the other at the old cemetery on the outskirts of Ayodhya, and the medieval monuments around them.
1.3.3. The nave of the western liwan is fronted with a high propylon, reminiscent of the architecture of the Sharqi period.
1.3.4. The propylon is provided with a trabeated opening covered with a drooping eave resting on heavy stone brackets. The sides of the pylon are decorated with heavy stone projected balconies and a series of niches in the form of arch-and-panel articulation with floral medallions embossed within.
1.3.5. The arches employed throughout the structure are pointed arches which were generally preferred during the period before the establishment of the Mughal mode of architecture under Akbar. The Mughals, from the period of Akbar onwards, preferred the four-centred Iranian arch which, due to its profuse use, came to be known as the ‘Mughal Arch’.
1.3.6. The domes of the Babri Masjid were typical ‘Lodi-style’ domes, raised with the help of stalactite pendentives (as against squinches), resting on octagonal heavy necks and topped with inverted lotus crestings. The domes of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya were similar to the domes of the ‘Moth ki Masjid’ in Delhi, constructed during the reign of Sikandar Lodi (1498-1517) by his prime minister, Miyan Bhuwa.
1.3.7. From the period of Akbar onwards, the style of mosque architecture drastically changed: Now the preferred style was the mosque having a centrally located courtyard surrounded on all sides by the riwaqs (cloisters) and the liwan. The cusped arches, baluster columns and other intricate decorative features were also added.
1.3.8. By Shahjahan’s time a further innovation took place – the minaret started emerging as a part of the mosque complex and by the period of Aurangzeb it became almost an essential feature.
1.3.9. The mosques built under Aurangzeb and later Mughals were of a totally different kind as compared to the plan and elevation of the Babri Masjid. Almost all of them incorporate architectural features developed and used by the architects of Shahjahan. Thus nearly all of them have bulbous domes (a fair number of which were ribbed and of marble) resting on constricted necks; the preferred arch type was that of the multifoliated cusped arches and tall domineering two or four minarets – almost all the mosques from this period onwards had the minarets as an essential architectural feature. Examples can be given of such imperial mosques as the Badshahi mosque at Lahore, the Jami Masjid and the Idgah mosque of Mathura, the Gyanvapi and the Jami mosques of Varanasi as well as the Jami Masjid of Muhammad Shah at Aligarh.
Archived from Communalism Combat, February 2011 Year 17 No.154, Section II, Paper II: Historical Evidence versus Hysterical Invention.
Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.