ASI Excavated More Questions Than Answers in Ayodhya

Published: 29.08.2003
Updated: 31.01.2011

The Times Of India

Royden D'Souza, TNN, Aug 29, 2003, 02.48am IST


The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) dig at the disputed Ayodhya site just might have succeeded in digging up the Indian equivalent of the 'Shroud of Turin'. The picture emerging from the information in various ASI reports from 1954 - including the one released this week - remains hazy and vague about a key period in Indian history. More importantly, say scholars, the ASI has failed to shed any light on the site's link to Lord Rama, the key issue in the entire political controversy.

According to an archaeologist involved in the 1976 digs at Hanuman Garhi and Sita-ki-Rasoi in Ayodhya headed by Prof B B Lal, all that the ASI report does is establish beyond doubt the presence of a structure beneath the demolished Babri mosque, and push the antiquity of the site back by six centuries. Prof Lal's report, published in the Indian Archaeology Review of 1976-77, dates the antiquity of the site to circa 7th century BC, while the present ASI report says the site dates back to the "middle of the 13th century BC".

Beyond this, the ASI report says absolutely nothing about the dedication of the structure to - or its association with - Lord Rama. Like the 1976 study, the present ASI report indicates that the Northern Black Polished Ware-using people were the first settlers at the site; and both identify the presence of Sunga, Kushan and Gupta periods, with human occupation till 11th century AD.

Importantly, both reports push the antiquity of the site to within 600 years of each other, seven centuries before the Christian era began; and finally, both indicate a subterranean structure dating back to the 11-12 century AD. But that's where the clarity ends and the puzzles start piling up.

According to archaeologists, there existed a 'Dark Age' in Indian history from the end of the Harappa culture up to beginning of 6th century BC. Little was excavated and recorded of this till 1954, when Lal published his findings of an excavation at Hastinapur. The discovery, dating and chronology of the various periods of the excavated site were of key value on three counts.

This was the first well-directed step towards shedding light on the 'Dark Age'; second, this discovery of Hastinapur - the famed capital city of the Kauravas in the Mahabharata - was the first substantial proof providing an archaeological link between the epic and 'actual history'. Third, this excavation placed the antiquity of Hastinapur to around 12th century BC. As Ramayana predates Mahabharata, experts place three centuries between the two and expect sites connected to the Ramayana to date back to around 1500 BC or even earlier.


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