Ahmedabad: Well-known indophile Dr Koenraad Elst has said the Lord Rama Temple in Ayodhya may have been demolished by Shahabuddin Muhammed Ghori, founder of the Delhi Sultanate, around 1193.
Delivering a talk on “Ayodhya: the Unasked Questions” under the auspices of Bharatiya Vichar Manch (BVM) here on Sunday, he regretted that the Hindus were being asked to give evidence that Lord Rama was born in Ayodhya. He wondered if the Muslims’ belief that the Kaa’ba was built by Adam would ever be questioned similarly.
The indologist and historian from Belgium, Dr Elst, who studied Indian culture and religion at Banaras Hindu University (BHU), has been closely following the Ayodhya case since it re-erupted in the 1980s. He also gave an elaborate account of the holy city’s history and its significance for Indians as a place associated with Lord Rama.
Dr Elst, who did his doctoral research from a Catholic university in Belgium, recounted that Hindu tradition maintained that Ayodhya was founded by Manu. He cited Greek traveler Megasthenes’ estimation of 6,670 BC as the year of Ayodhya’s foundation and emphasized that it was not just the Hindus in the narrow sense of the term who are identified with Rama.
According to him, the first ‘unasked’ question was the Lord’s birthplace. Did Rama live in Ayodhya? “And if you can narrow it down, if he was born at that specific site, we already get a long way, or even if we know he was born somewhere in Ayodhya”.
Secondly, he asked, did Hindus adorn the site with a temple remembering Rama or his birth and go on pilgrimage there, and if so why the temple was not there today; why did it disappear.
“In fact, what would count as a historical proof for some important event, a battle or the like, would be highly suspect in the case of a birthplace.” Citing an example, he said the fact of Alexander’s birth in a royal family is well-known but the exact site of his birth is still not known.
So if the Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and others said that Babar destroyed this temple, meant that they did not think through reason. The Hindu temples were destroyed because of the Muslims’ doctrine of iconoclasm. “In these circumstances, this temple could not have been left standing. So, I think it was already destroyed around 1193. Leftist historian Irfan Habib interpreted archaeological data in such a way that a mosque was standing there”.
In our era, Dr Elst said, despite the impression created outside India that the Ayodhya movement was started by the “Hindu nationalist” BJP, the case was actually reopened by the Rajiv Gandhi government in the 1980s. Two developments, he said, came in the way of the Congress plan to appease both the Hindus and Muslims.
The first was BJP’s confrontational stand which got support from the Hindus. The second was the campaign of the so-called ‘secularists’ to deny the history of India. “A matter of fact was denied and turned into a matter of life and death by the actions of the likes of JNU historians.” He said the BJP actually gradually diluted the issue later as it was controversial but the rank and file went out of control in 1992.
Dr Elst also took pot-shots at the media’s role during that time.
Regarding recent developments in the case, he said it was not based on faith as some so-called experts were talking about, but on solid evidence. “The part I like the most in the Allahabad High Court verdict of 2010 is that the judge questioned the scholars denying history.”