The Ayodhya Story: Dream of 500 Years Now Becomes a Reality

By Kapil Sharma


With all the recent excitement and celebration around the subject of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya, it is easy to forget the history and significance of the event.

Ayodhya holds immense religious and historical significance for Hindus. It is believed to be the birthplace of Lord Rama, the seventh avatar of the Hindu deity Vishnu. The city’s cultural identity is deeply intertwined with its history and religious significance. Ayodhya has been mentioned in ancient texts like the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Puranas, making it a significant pilgrimage site for Hindus. The city was the capital of the ancient Kosala Kingdom and is believed to have been a prosperous and harmonious kingdom under the rule of King Dasharatha.

Origin of the conflict (1528-1859)

The Babri Masjid was built in 1528 during the Mughal era by Mir Baqi (possibly Baqi Tashqandi), who was said to be a commander in the court of the Mughal emperor Babur. The mosque was named after Babur, hence the name Babri Masjid. The exact location of Babur at the time of the construction of the mosque is not clearly documented. However, it is known that Babur was the first Mughal emperor of India, and he had several conquests across the region.

The Hindu belief is that the Mughals demolished the Hindu shrine to construct the Babri Masjid.

Conflict of Beliefs

The belief is that the Hindu Shrine that was demolished to build the Babri Masjid was the birthplace of Lord Ram. The Ramayana, a Hindu epic whose earliest portions date back to 1st millennium BCE, states that the capital of Rama was Ayodhya. Hindus believe that the site of the Babri Masjid was the birthplace of Lord Rama and that a temple dedicated to him once stood there.

The opposing view is a bit divided. Some did not believe that Babri Masjid was built after demolishing the Ram Temple, some questioned if the Ram Temple (or Babri Masjid thereafter) was exactly at the location of the birthplace of Lord Ram, and to further those claims, some have said that said Ram was born in present-day Haryana, Afghanistan, or Baluchistan.

There is also the widely held view on the Hindu side that the medieval age was a period of subjugation so removing symbols of the subjugation and atrocities is an anti-colonial act for them. In a way, bringing a temple back to its rightful status and ownership after it was demolished wrongly is a righteous deed, and an act of correcting the ills of the past. This has striking parallels to the recent removal of statues of slave-owners in the West as a symbol of a post-racial era.

The Evidence and Counter Evidence

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) conducted the first excavation drive on the site in 1976-77 and found many terracotta sculptures depicting human beings and animals, a characteristic of a temple, not a mosque. They also found 12 pillars of the mosque that were made from the remains of a temple, and pitchers found in the remains indicated that they were symbols of a temple. Moreover, an inscription from the 12th century mentioning a temple to Lord Rama was found on a pillar at the site. KK Muhammed, the former Director (North) of the ASI, who was part of the first excavation drive conducted in 1976-77 submitted the report to the court, that said that the evidence clearly indicated that a grand temple once stood at the site.

There is also evidence of the location from the scriptures. The Skanda Purana was written between the 8th and 9th centuries AD. Its Book 2 (Vaishnava Khanda) Section 8 (Ayodhyā-māhātmya) Chapter 10 (Pilgrimage to Ayodhyā) mentions in Shloka 18-19:

तस्मात्स्थानत ऐशाने रामजन्म प्रवर्त्तते ।
जन्मस्थानमिदं प्रोक्तं मोक्षादिफलसाधनम् ॥ १८ ॥

विघ्नेश्वरात्पूर्वभागे वासिष्ठादुत्तरे तथा ।
लौमशात्पश्चिमे भागे जन्मस्थानं ततः स्मृतम् ॥ १९ ॥

“To the north-east of that spot is the place of the birth of Rāma. This holy spot of the birth is, it is said, the means of achieving salvation etc. It is said that the place of birth is situated to the east of Vighneśvara, to the north of Vāsiṣṭha and to the west of Laumaśa.”

In addition, there are written records, from travelers in that era, that prove that in the 16th, 17 and 18th centuries, Hindus continued to worship around the (then) Babri Masjid, including performing the parikrama of the Masjid itself.

The documents from the Mughal rule and British rule continue to refer to the Masjid as Masjid-e-Janmsthan.

The musical chairs of the occupation of the structure

The structure was loosely controlled by the Mutawalli of the Faizabad (as Ayodhya was known then) when in 1858, 25 Nihang Sikhs, lead by Baba Fakir Singh Khalsa entered the premises of the structure, and occupied it, started performing pooja, and wrote Ram on the walls. The Mutawalli objected and lodged an FIR with the Thanedar of Oudh, signing himself as the Mutawalli of Masjid-e-Janmsthan.  While the Thanedar of Oudh came down and reprimanded the Sikhs for occupying the structure, they did not vacate.

In 1883 the Mahant Raghubar Das started constructing a chabutara around the Masjid, but that was objected to, and the case went to court. An understanding was reached between the Hindu and Muslim community that allowed the the outer area between the structure and the boundary wall was given to the Hindus for their prayers where Ram Chabutara and Sita Rasoi were constructed.

In 1949, Shri Ram lala’s Vigraha (idols) were brought inside the structure, and led to another dispute that was so intense, that Jawahar Lal Nehru asked the CM of UP, Gobind Ballabh Pant to get the vigrahas out of the site. Pant ordered the District Magistrate, Mr. KKK Nair to do so, who refused, saying this would lead to unnecessary massacre. As a result, the structure was locked for the next 40 years. In 1989, the locks were opened for the religious Hindus to go in and pray to Ram lala. In 1992, a massive crowd of Kar Sevaks gathered at the place resulted in deconstruction of the structure, which also lead to the widespread riots in the country.

After that, the case remained in courts for decades. Allahabad High Court came up with a judgment in 2010, asking the area to be divided into three equal parts for the parties involved – one-third to Nirmohi Akhara, one-third to Sunni Waqf Board and one-third to Ram Lalla Virajman, but that was rejected by the Muslim party. The case then went to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court Verdict

Initially, in March 2017 the Supreme Court suggested an out-of-court settlement and that the stakeholders must hold talks and find a solution amicably as the matter is extremely sensitive; but the case could not be solved by this process. The mediation attempts that followed also failed.

Eventually the five-judge Constitution Bench comprising of CJI Ranjan Gogoi, Justice SA Bobde, Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice S Abdul Nazeer heard the case.

While the court accepted the ASI findings that there was a temple identified by the ASI dates to the 12th century – about four centuries before the first Mughal emperor Babur came to India from Central Asia. However, the Supreme Court of India, in its verdict on the Ayodhya dispute, did not uphold the claim that Babri Masjid was built by demolishing a temple. “No evidence is available to explain what transpired in the course of the intervening period of nearly four centuries,” writes the Supreme Court.

As a result, medieval history played only one part in the Supreme Court’s judgment. “A finding of title cannot be based in law on the archaeological findings which have been arrived at by ASI,” ruled the court. Instead, “title to the land must be decided on settled legal principles and applying evidentiary standards which govern a civil trial.” Eventually, the court decided the case not only by relying on whether a temple was demolished but also by which side had possession of the Babri Masjid.

The final verdict where the title was awarded to Shri Ram Virajman and an alternate site in Ayodhya for construction of a mosque was granted to the Sunni Waqf Board, was delivered on November 9, 2019.

The stunning unity after the verdict

While there was widespread disappointment in the Muslim side, largely they accepted the verdict and moved forward. The main group of Muslim litigants said that they would honor the judgement of the Supreme Court and will not appeal against it. Most Muslims accept this and have moved on, and that is great news for a display of unity and peace between the two largest communities after such a contentious divide.

The Debt of Gratitude

The Hindu community also owes a debt of gratitude to the Sikh community for initiating the occupation of the Masjid in 1858. Indeed, the descendants of Nihang Singh Khalsa have been overjoyed with the verdict and are running a month-long langar (community meal) near the Ram Mandir.

Another debt that hasn’t been paid is to KKK Nair, who decided to rather forego his role and position as the District Magistrate in 1949 when Jawaharlal Nehru and G P Pant ordered the vigrahas of Ram lala removed from the site, rather than cause massacre and bloodshed.

The Celebration

The Hindu community is naturally ecstatic to have found the revival of one of the most revered places of their faith. Ma Sita is believed to be born in Janakpur, in the modern-day Nepal. Nepal has not only contributed the holy Shaligram rocks for carving out the vigrahas (idols) for Ram lala but a convoy from Nepal is heading to India with gifts to celebrate the occasion.

Here at Shri Sita Ram Foundation in Houston, we’re celebrating the day of faith and celebration by partnering with other temples and organizations in the area, and welcoming Ram lala back in Ayodhya, and our hearts:

Hindu Worship Society: 20th and 21st Jan 2024. Ramayana Path.

Shiv Sanatan Mandir. 19th to 21st Jan 2024. Shriram Maha yagna, Ramlila, Sundar Kand and Purnahuti.

Hindus of Greater Houston. Program at GSH on 21st Jan 3-5:30 pm.

Shri Sita Ram Foundation. Program on 27th Jan.