Babri Masjid issue the biggest blot on India’s claim of religious harmony

on Thursday, August 1, 2013

Babri Masjid or Babri Mosque is a name that still makes the jaws of a Hindu and Muslim stiff, when they discuss it. India, which is known for its harmony across the world, got a big blot of black ink on its white image 20 years ago when the religious structure was demolished to dust. Babri Masjid is a thing of the past but is very much present as a talking point in political debates and will remain so perhaps for centuries.

Riots between regional communities are not unusual in India but what the countrymen witnessed after the Babri demolition is something incomparable to all other communal disturbances that have claimed lives of many. The tragic treatment to Babri Masjid, without a doubt, is a thing that rekindles the pain inside every Muslim, who is a resident of India since it was done to convey the message that the country is not for them. For a Muslim hailing from the neighboring Pakistan, Babri Masjid is an attraction, certainly in a negative sense.

The biggest point of tragedy about Babri Masjid is that it will remain in history for its sad end. But while talking about this historic mosque, one should put light on several other issues surrounding it. Interestingly, the mosque was situated in an ancient Indian city that holds immense importance in Hindu mythology. Ayodhya, the land of great Hindu legend Ram is where Babri Masjid had been the place of worshipping for Muslims for several centuries. Another interesting fact about Babri Masjid is that, it is a specimen of the architectural excellence of the Mughal era; which is still appreciated for its various activities. The establishment of Babri Masjid dates back to 1527 when Babur, the first Mughal emperor ordered its construction on Ramkot Hill. The word ‘Ramkot’ in English means the fort of Ram.

Till 1940, the mosque was called Masjid-i-Janmasthan, which means the ‘The Mosque of Birthplace’ and was renamed after the great Mughal emperor afterwards. The architecture of Babri Masjid is a specimen of the Jaunpur school, which was an important category of the ‘later Tughlaq’ style of architecture. Babri Masjid had a distinct style since its architectural pattern was a blend of local style and traditional Western Asian style. Use of stone in construction of the mosque is a symbol of Indian adaptation of the Muslim art, which was in use until the Mughals replaced it. The premises of the mosque had an enclosed courtyard, which is an influence of Western Asian style of Muslim architecture.

Babri Masjid was established after emperor Babur conquered the Rajputana, which was under the rule of Hindu King Rana Sangrama Singh at that time. After Babur’s victory over Singh in the Battle of Khanwa, his General Mir Baqshi was promoted as the Governor of areas Awadh and its surroundings, and it was Mir Baqshi who built the mosque. Hindus have been claiming since then that a temple of Ram, which existed there, was destroyed to facilitate the construction of the mosque but no mention of that action is found in Babunama, the diary of emperor Babur.

A unique feature of Babri Masjid was its acoustic system. Graham Pickford, the architect of Lord William Bentink era, had mentioned that a whisper at one end of the mosque could be heard clearly on the other end, though the distance between the two is around 200 feet. In his book ‘Historic Structures of Oudhe’, Pickford had mentioned the deployment and projection of voice from the pulpit of Babri Masjid as ‘considerably advanced’, in terms of standard of 16th century buildings. Modern architects also have appreciated this extraordinary acoustic feature of Babri Masjid and have mentioned that the sandstone used for construction of the mosque was of a higher standard.

Another great feature of the Mughal age mosque was the use of indigenous techniques. The cooling system developed by the unique positioning of the arches, vaults and domes are the biggest example. Records say that the mosque had a passive environmental control system with large grille windows, domes and high ceiling, which facilitated keeping the interior of the mosque cool by allowing ventilation. It is a matter of great pity and grief, that such a structure, which could have stood today as a great specimen of architectural wonders of the Mughal era was reduced to dust and its unique features now survive only on texts in books and documents.

The dark day came on December 6, 1992, when a rally of 15000 people, termed as ‘karsevaks’, surrounded the structure and put an unified effort to convert it into dust. History will mention the act as an attempt by Hindu karsevaks to reclaim the land, which they consider as Ram Janmabhoomi (birthplace of Ram), but for Muslims in the country, Pakistan and across the world, it would remain the biggest attack on their religious faith.

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