December 20, 2006

Sacred land

    You ask, did not the Muslims destroy a temple that was there? I shall quote the words of a Sufi singer from Sindh, Allan Fakir, who on a visit to Delhi a few years ago had said:

      Yes, Babar must have come to Ayodhya, he must have stumbled on a ruined structure and asked what it was. He must have been told that it is the birthplace of Ram and Lakshman – 'then it is pavitra bhoomi (sacred land). There should be ibaadat (worship) in such a place. Prayers and devotion. Raise a mosque here'. And thus a Babri Masjid must have come to be.

    -- Farzana Versey, The Legacy of Babri Masjid.
In all humility and seriousness, here's a suggestion for you. Would you ask yourself, dispassionately, if this explanation of a 500 year-old event is any less believable than the explanation that says a barbaric Babar tore down a temple? Is it more believable?

Your thoughts, as always, welcome. I'll respond to any civil ones.


Postscript: Someone (as always, you know who you are) writes to ask, history and explanations apart, what do you think should be done on that spot in Ayodhya?

One time I wrote about what I thought of that was in March 2002: Memories of resolution and resolve (see especially the paragraph that begins "Now I hardly believe..." and after).

What the hell, here are the lines I mean:
    [Build there] an institution of such enduring significance, such all-round appeal, filling such a deeply felt need, that nobody, but nobody, can argue with it.

    You may have your own ideas on what fits that description. For me, what fits best is a large hospital, staffed with the finest doctors, offering clean, simple and excellent care at a cost that will make it affordable to even the poorest people in the area. And in fact, it must care first for the poor. ... I am talking about a hospital that will be a model to the country. That's the kind of enduring significance I mean.
What better tribute to fellow humans who have died in this endless dispute, to the ideals of every religion, to the gods themselves?


Jai_Choorakkot said...

---> did not the Muslims destroy a temple that was there?

I ask, should this be relevant? What if it were possible to prove this was a temple that was destroyed x00 years ago.

How far back can we go? Perhaps some other structure stood there prior to RJ.

I have long believed that the fair solution to RJBM is to rebuild BM as a Masjid and hand it back.

Recent events like prophet-cartoon violence, "reaction to somebody attacking muslims somewhere" violence etc. have shaken this belief a little but then the Hindutva type are behaving no better and that cancels this out.


Jai_Choorakkot said...

BTW Dilip, thanks for the link to countercurrents and this writing. Good site.


Anonymous said...

Without going into the historic details, which is always inconclusive to prove anything, I think the only solution to this problem is if Hindu or Muslim community on its own come out and say that the other can build a mosque or temple.

Looking at the relative importance of the site, for Hindus it is the so called birth place of Rama (this is again cannot be proved), but for the Muslims, it isn’t a holy shrine or an important one, the most acceptable solution would be for the Muslims to come out and say you can build a temple.

If someone had demolished the holy shrine of Mecca and constructed a temple on it, I would have expected the same thing from Hindus to give up the temple (hypothetical, what else is not?).

But the problem is, does any single person or committee represents Hindu community or Muslim community as whole in this country? Can someone make a decision for the communities? The answer is no and until we find a solution for that, the Ayodhya issue will linger around for a long time to come.

Having said this, for me, temple or masjid does not matter, belief is within you and not outside, as long as people realise this, we may not have any problems.

Anonymous said...

How many Hindu Temples are there in Mecca? How many in the Vatican City? In Jerusalem? Why is it ok for them to forbid/raze any other religion's sacred homes in their sacred places, but not Hindus? Why are Hindus not allowed to have their way in the one/two/three places that they consider holy? Can you prove conclusively that any of the other prophet's/saints messengers of God actually visited those cities? No? But they're allowed to have their beliefs respected?

Second, what proof is there that Babar burned down temples and put temples up in their place? This is the proof

I do believe that this lovely monument has a little inscription on it which says "Death to all Hindus" or some such peace-loving poetry. You do know what it is made of, right? When you attempt to discredit that which is already fact, you do nothing more than infuriate a certain section of people and provoke a backlash. Once upon a time, Hindus weren't militant. Apologists like yourself only help breed more fundamentalism.

Transmogrifier said...

It is believable... as any other statement can be. There is no harm in believing anything you want to believe, whether it is true (or at least closer to the truth) or not is another question.

I personally believe that there should be NOTHING built at the site of the (ertwhile) temple/mosque. It's what people "believe" that has got us into this mess. Let the emptiness remind us how empty all these conflicting beliefs are.

BTW I don't think that being PC with history is the way to go. I wonder why the pious Babur didn't think of reconstructing the ruined temple so that there would be a place for ibaadat for the idol worshipers. Especially when the majority of his subjects were Hindus...that would have made him super popular wouldn't it? I believe it was because he was not interested in building temples. All available evidence points to that. BTW I wonder what ruins were there in other places of ibaadat like Kashi and Mathura that inspired building of mosques for ibaadat there.

I would LOVE to "believe" that Babur, Akbar and even Aurangzeb were messengers of peace and prophets of harmony. Indeed they themselves did believe that they were spreading the religion of peace. However; and contradicting what I would like to believe; is the truth which is all these messages of peace were delivered at the end of the sword.

The truth should be stated as it is. Does stating the truth automatically make me a Bajrang Dal fundie? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

> what proof is there that Babar burned down
> temples and put temples up in their place?
> This is the proof (Qutab Minnar)

What does Qutab Minnar have to do with *Babar*? If Iltutmis broke temple to build minaret in 1300s, therefore Babar also did same thing in 1500s?

Dilip D'Souza said...

I personally believe that there should be NOTHING built at the site of the (ertwhile) temple/mosque.

I couldn't agree more, Tmogrifier. That will be the slap in the face that both "sides" who have given us this murderous mess deserve.

But what's PC about what Allan Fakir said? It's just another way of interpreting historical events: much as Nikos Kazantzakis ("Last Temptation of Christ") and Robert Graves ("King Jesus") have attempted alternate interpretations of Christ's life. (In fact, both those accounts are more believable to me than the biblical versions of his life).

Like you, I don't believe Babar was interested in building temples. But I think it is at least plausible that he was interested in respecting a place of any worship. (Which is a statement I would not be able to make about Aurangzeb, for example).

Half a millenium later, it should be at least conceivable that we look back at these events with some perspective and objectivity, in an attempt to find a way forward.

Transmogrifier said...

Dilip, alternative interpretations are fine. But I would rather keep them far away from history. I mean there are no means available to us to gauge what Babur was thinking when he decided to build a mosque. So any opinion regarding that is a matter of belief.

In my opinion history should be limited to what can be objectively determined from available evidence.

Alternative explanations are not history, they are something akin to historical fiction. E.g. there is the case of the textbooks in California. There are many people who would like to believe in an interpretation of history that says "Hinduism was the paragon of acceptance and harmony." But c'mon... there is simply no evidence to support it. And therefore I would be really wary if such an explanation were to take root and be believed as "history".

I agree that we should be able to view these events with some perspective. But alternative explanations only cloud the perspective in my opinion.

My perspective is this: History teaches us that in the days of Babur, the vanquished lost their sacred sites. But it also teaches us that such destructive acts sow seed of hatred which bear fruits for half a millenium. So lets not be like Babur. Sadly by razing the mosque, fundies have shown that they can't do better than Babur.

Anonymous said...

It is a dangerous and slippery slope to correct historical wrongs, my question to you Dileep, this line of thinking not worrying about historical wrongs should not it flow into all modes of life?

Anonymous said...

To clarify I agree that there should not be anything maybe an orphanage or an old age home in the contested site. Going by interpretations of history isnt history full of interpretations of the people in power or people who won, isnt history a long list of interesting anecdotes viewed from one persons point of view?

Ajitkumar Wagle said...

wxmgjxmvjthsaIt is not very important to know whether Babar was very devotional or barbaric or whether he had built mosque over temple or otherwise. That is history of the past and should better stay buried..What earthly good is going to come out of digging the grave.
But when you try yo dig the history, the outcome is the chain of violence and destruction what India has witnessed till today.

Anonymous said...

lagta hei ki hujoor ko nawaabi shauk hei... tabhi tau aisa likh rahe hein.. i feel shamed ki BITS Pilani ka koi banda itna 'selective' ho sakta hei

Anil P said...

Depending on which side of the fence you are, I suppose history is a pain one must either inflict, or feel in order to make sense of one's identity.

Two truths can, and often does, make for a third truth.

Jai_Choorakkot said...

Re. the tailpiece:

I do agree that some kind of reconciliation structure: hospital/ orphanage would be more useful at that site than either a temple / mosque but that means letting the violent guys "win". They get away with the mosque being destroyed.

It would be OK if the overwhelming majority of Muslims agree to this.

And none of that should get in the way of the perpetrators being punished - "scaling back from a temple to a hospital" should not be used to bargain for that.


Dilip D'Souza said...

But alternative explanations only cloud the perspective in my opinion.

Tmog, we'll have to do the usual -- agree to disagree on this one.

I welcome alternative explanations, because they serve to round out context and perspective for me. Going back to "Last Temptation of Christ", I think it helps me understand history better if I think of Jesus as having escaped death on the cross and lived out a life with Mary M as his wife -- than if I need to assume he rose into the grey sky.

And if there's even a suggestion that Babar was respectful of other religions, perhaps we can learn from that view of Babar rather than the view of him as a barbaric tyrant.

Hari, I would love to live without worrying about what happened in the past. But people do feel some historical wrongs, regardless. Must a society take into account every such historical wrong? That's the question to ask.

Jai_Choorakkot said...

--> But people do feel some historical wrongs, regardless. Must a society take into account every such historical wrong?

Balancing one good blog with another is an excellent idea. Silly old me didnt realize where this was going until I read my 2nd fave blog.

Even so I gave DDS the benefit of doubt until he came out with this above. Thanks for the clarification Dilip.

"Which wrong is wronger than the others?"

At this level I am incentivized to say any wrong that has "MY" predecessors at the suffering end is REALLY wrong and needs to be redressed.

Wrongs that have been done to "others"?
incl. any ideology I do not subscribe to, well they really need to be acid-tested and proven valid before any correction is done. I may come up with alternative versions that I find more believable and challenge them.


Anonymous said...

> Even so I gave DDS the benefit of doubt
> until he came out with this above. Thanks
> for the clarification Dilip.

dcubed, for the benefit of we less learnd guys, can u kindly pls tell us what is being said by Jai_Choorakkoot in da comment above?

can u pls write simply, jai? wot u are trying to say, man?

Jai_Choorakkot said...

Sorry for any lack of clarity. I had copied this in my prev. comment:

--> But people do feel some historical wrongs, regardless. Must a society take into account every such historical wrong?

"That ppl do feel SOME historical wrongs, regardless" was a clarification IMO, esp in the context of discussions ongoing at the comment space on

that has attempted a response to Dilip. Take the 2 together. The discussions there are farther down the road.

Should have cleared this up in my previous comment.


Dilip D'Souza said...

... the context of discussions ongoing at the comment space on

Thanks for pointer. Don't read that space. Don't plan to.

Jai_Choorakkot said...

... Don't read that space. Don't plan to. ...

A pity Dilip, but I respect your wishes. In defence of Confused, he was essentially at the same point as my first comment, ie. calling for the reconstruction of babri masjid - further in fact,

"even Babar is not responsible even if he had destroyed a temple, since that was the done thing in those days". (not exact quote)

The extrapolation into reservation debate is happening in comment space, essentially by others.

I am under no illusions that the 2 of you agree on stuff, but if you ever want serious dialogue of the kind you were attempting at sanweb, I think that is a much better place.

As always of course, its your prerogative.


hari said...

Rather than justifying historical wrongs isnt it better to make sure the same type of "wrongs" are not repeated in the present and future, which do you think is really important Dileep?

Dilip D'Souza said...

even Babar is not responsible even if he had destroyed a temple, since that was the done thing in those days.

I can't agree with this. In an Orissa village called Keradagarh, it appears to be the done thing to deny lower-caste villagers entry to a temple, and now to "cleanse" the temple after some lower-caste villagers did enter it following a court order. Done thing or no, it is still repugnant and those "cleansers" should be held responsible.

There are plenty of other examples.

Hari, I'm not justifying any wrongs. I am very interested in measures that will keep them from being repeated. But I think such measures have to take into account wrongs done.

Transmogrifier said...

Dilip, agreeing to disagree is a good idea. I guess there is a bit of semantics going on here. When I say history I would like to restrict its meaning to things that can be verified my multiplicity of evidence.

In those terms, history would have to stop at Jesus's death at the cross. An alternative explanations such as the last temptation are speculations (no matter how useful they are). Perhaps someday some gnostic or unknown gospels may indeed bring them under "history".

BTW, your last comment sounds a bit confusing. You agree that Babur is not responsible because breaking temples was the "done thing". How come then you want to hold the cleansers responsible in Kedargarh when cleaning the temple after the dalits was a "done thing" there.

Babur breaking the temple in his time was not "out of the ordinary". The "cleansers denying entry to dalits too was not "out of ordinary" a 100 years ago maybe. Perhaps to both of these people Jesus would have said, "forgive them their sins O'Lord, for they know not what they are doing".

But in today's context the "cleansers" are immoral and illegal. So also are those who would like to emulate Babur.

BTW, I think no one today can inherit blame or glory on behalf of Babur or any other historical figure for that matter. But so also no one should "inherit" blame for wrongs done to Dalits by their forefathers (unless they themselves are discriminating).

Dilip D'Souza said...

history would have to stop at Jesus's death at the cross.

But it's right there that there's contention! As far as I can tell he didn't die on the cross, he was taken down. Bible says he then was resurrected after three days. I can't take this as "history". Kazantzakis' alternate explanation, even if just a theory, is much more plausible to me.

Anyway, I understand your point.

You agree that Babur is not responsible because breaking temples was the "done thing".

No, if you go look I've said "I can't agree with this."

It's true that nobody today should be held responsible for sins committed centuries ago. But people can't be absolved of responsibility solely because what they did was the "done thing in those days."

Jai_Choorakkot said...

...."done thing"....

exact quote is: "thats how people behaved those days" but I think I was close enough.

I guess the emphasis is on "those days". I dont think anybody is contending, on either blog, that breaking places of worship or oppressing some category of people was RIGHT, even in "those days"... let alone now. The Keradagarh incident will stand unviersally condemned.

Whether the descendants are to be held responsible/penalized, even when they are not indulging in any such activity, seems to be the crux.

This has taken a really interesting turn. Thanks to Tmog and you for a really good conversation, long time since this blog has seen one.

I ve taken up too much commentspace here already... bye for this thread.


hari said...


sorry I mistyped i didnt mean "justifying" rather correcting historical wrongs.

Anonymous said...

Archealogical proofs will not give clear idea as it can go both ways.So its a never ending story.

pednekar shambhavi said...

Its a neverending story

Anonymous said...

While you do mental gymnastics on Ayodhya, I train my sights on the mosques in the vicinity of other Hindu holy sites.

Joke of the century: Jesus, son of 'Virgin' Mary. LMAO!

Anonymous said...

Sidhusaaheb said...

A library, perhaps, or an institution of higher learning could be other options.

Believe me, however, a hospital is the first thought that came to my mind also!


Anonymous said...

The whole issue can be summed up as Hindu insecurity. The world over, the Hindu watches Islam and Christianity duke it over. No one's paying him any attention. He made but one mistake. He failed to spread his seed and carry his message. For isn't his God as plausible as the next man's?

Now he fears losing a piece of land to call his own. A domain to lord over. Where HIS KIND can prosper. His anger is a cover for his impotence. Hinduism has been confined to the realms of the irrelevant, somewhere it has been for a significant part of modern history, and I predict for a most of the history yet unwritten.

Ayodhya is but a distraction from the rot that his religion is gripped by. Allow him the illusion of power. His end will be easier.

Anonymous said...


This is in response to what Allan Fakir said and the question you ask after quoting him.....What he said is like saying...

The guys who blew up the trains on 11/7/06 did so because someone told this this the mode of commute for millions of Mumbaikar's. Then they thought these trains don't look good. They are old, lets blow them up so that govt will bring in some new trains :)

or the people attempting blow up Varanasi temple - they might have tried to do so because the temple was old. And again they might have thought lets turn this into ruins and then again some Babar will come and build a mosque there saying its such a great place, lets build another mosque there.
What say you?