Sunday, October 24, 2010

Summary of ASI Report on Ayodhya excavations

[Below is reproduced the "Summary of Results" of the Archaeological Survey of India report on the Ayodhya excavations. This is contained in Volume 18 (pages 4299 to 4305) of Justice Sudhir Agarwal's judgment in the Allahabad High Court case on the Ayodhya dispute]

"Summary of Results":

"Excavation at the disputed site of Rama

Janmabhumi - Babri Masjid was carried out by the

Archaeological Survey of India from 12 March 2003 to 7

August 2003. During this period, as per the directions of

the Hon'ble High Court, Lucknow, 82 trenches were

excavated to verify the anomalies mentioned in the report

of the Ground Penetrating Radar Survey which was

conducted at the site prior to taking up the excavations. A

total number of 82 trenches along with some of their baulks

were checked for anomalies and anomaly alignments. The

anomalies were confirmed in the trenches in the form of

pillar bases, structures, floors and foundation though no

such remains were noticed in some of them at the stipulated

depths and spots. Besides the 82 trenches, a few more

making a total of 90 finally were also excavated keeping in

view the objective fixed by the Hon'ble High Court to

confirm the structures.

The results of the excavation are summarized as here


The northern Black Polished Ware (NBPW) using

people were the first to occupy the disputed site at

Ayodhya. During the first millennium B.C. although no

structural activities were encountered in the limited area

probed, the material culture is represented by terracotta

figurines of female deities showing archaic features, beads

of terracotta and glass, wheels and fragments of votive

tanks etc. The ceramic industry has the collection of

NBPW, the main diagnostic trait of the period besides the

grey, black slipped and red wares. A round signet with

legend in Asokan Brahmi is another important find of this

level. On the basis of material equipment and 14 C dates,

this period may be assigned to circa 1000 B.C. to 300 B.C.

The Sunga horizon (second-first century B.C.) comes

next in the order of the cultural occupation at the site. The

typical terracotta mother goddess, human and animal

figurines, beads, hairpin, engraver etc. represent the

cultural matrix of this level. The pottery collection includes

black slipped, red and grey wares etc. The stone and brick

structure found from this level mark the beginning of the

structural activity at the site.

The Kushan period (first to third century A.D.)

followed the Sunga occupation. Terracotta human and

animal figurines, fragments of votive tanks, beads,

antimony rod, hair pin, bangle fragments and ceramic

industry comprising red ware represent the typical Kushan

occupation at the site. Another important feature of this

period is the creation of large sized structures as witnesses

by the massive structure running into twenty-two courses.

The advent of Guptas (fourth to sixth century A.D.)

did not bring any qualitative change in building activity

although the period is known for its Classical artistic

elements. However, this aspect is represented by the typical

terracotta figurines and a copper coin with the legend Sri

Chandra (Gupta) and illustrative potsherds.

During the Post-Gupta-Rajput period (seventh to

tenth century A.D.), too the site has witnessed structural

activity mainly constructed of burnt bricks. However,

among the exposed structures, there stands a circular brick

shrine which speaks of its functional utility for the first

time. To recapitulate quickly, exteriorly on plan, it is

circular whereas internally squarish with an entrance from

the east. Though the structure is damaged, the northern

wall still retains a provision for pranala, i.e., waterchute

which is a distinct feature of contemporary temples already

known from the Ganga-Yamuna plain.

Subsequently, during the early medieval period

(eleventh - twelfth century A.D.) a huge structure, nearly 50

m in north-south orientation was constructed which seems

to have been short lived, as only four of the fifty pillar

bases exposed during the excavation belong to this level

with a brick crush floor. On the remains of the above

structure was constructed a massive structure with at least

three structural phases and three successive floors attached

with it. The architectural members of the earlier short lived

massive structure with stencil cut foliage pattern. And other

decorative motifs were reused in the construction of the

monumental structure having a huge pillared hall (or two

halls) which is different from residential structures,

providing sufficient evidence of a construction of public

usage which remained under existence for a long time

during the period VII (Medieval-Sultanate level - twelfth to

sixteenth century A.D.) It was over the top of this

construction during the early sixteenth century, the

disputed structure was constructed directly resting over it.

There is sufficient proof of existence of a massive and

monumental structure having a minimum dimension of

50x30 m in north-south and east-west directions

respectively just below the disputed structure. In course of

present excavations nearly 50 pillar bases with brick bat

foundation, below calcrete blocks topped by sandstone

blocks were found. The pillar bases exposed during the

present excavation in northern and southern areas also

give an idea of the length of the massive wall of the earlier

construction with which they are associated and which

might have been originally around 60 m (of which the 50 m

length is available at present). The centre of the central

chamber of the disputed structure falls just over the central

point of the length of the massive wall of the preceding

period which could not be excavated due to presence of

Ram Lala at the spot in the make-shift structure. This area

is roughly 15x15 m on the raised platform. Towards east of

this central point a circular depression with projection on

the west, cut into the large sized brick pavement, signify the

place where some important object was placed. Terracotta

lamps from the various trenches and found in a group in

the levels of Periods VII in trench G2 are associated with

the structural phase.

In the last phase of the period VII glazed ware sherds

make their appearance and continue in the succeeding

levels of the next periods where they are accompanied by

glazed tiles which were probably used in the original

construction of the disputed structure. Similarly is the case

of celadon and porcelain sherds recovered in a very less

quantity they come from the secondary context. Animal

bones have been recovered from various levels of different

periods, but skeletal remains noticed in the trenches in

northern and southern areas belong to the Period IX as the

grave pits have been found cut into the deposition coeval

with the late disputed structures and are sealed by the top


It is worthwhile to observe that the various structures

exposed right from the Sunga to Gupta period do not speak

either about their nature or functional utility as no

evidence has come to approbate them. Another noteworthy

feature is that it was only during and after Period IV

(Gupta level) onwards upto Period IX (late and post

Mughal level) that the regular habitational deposits

disappear in the concerned levels and the structural phases

are associated with either structural debris or filling

material taken out from the adjoining area to the level the

ground for construction purpose. As a result of which much

of the earlier material in the form of pottery, terracottas

and other objects of preceding periods, particularly of

Period I (NBPW level) and Period III (Kushan level) are

found in the deposits of later periods mixed along with

their contemporary material. The area below the disputed

site thus, remained a place for public use for a long time

till the Period VIII (Mughal level) when the disputed

structure was built which was confined to a limited area

and population settled around it as evidenced by the

increase in contemporary archaeological material

including pottery. The same is further attested by the

conspicuous absence of habitational structures such as

house-complexes, soakage pits, soakage jars, ring wells,

drains, wells, hearths, kilns or furnaces etc. from Period IV

(Gupta level) onwards and in particular from Period VI

(Early Medieval-Rajput level) and Period VII (Medieval-

Sultanate level).

The site has also proved to be significant for taking

back its antiquarian remains for the first time to the middle

of the thirteenth century B.C. (1250±130 B.C.) on the

analogy of the C14 dates. The lowest deposit above the

natural soil represents the NBPW period and therefore the

earliest remains may belong to the thirteenth century B.C.

which is confirmed by two more consistent C14 dates from

the NBPW level (Period I), viz. (910±100 B.C.) These dates

are from trench G7. Four more dates from the upper

deposit though showing presence of NPBW and associated

pottery are determined by Radio-Carbon dating as 780±80

B.C., 530±70 B.C. And 320±80 B.C.. In the light of the

above dates in association with the Northern Black

Polished Ware (NBPW) which is generally accepted to be

between circa 600 B.C. to 300 B.C. it can be pushed back

to circa 1000 B.C. and even if a solitary date, three

centuries earlier is not associated with NBPW, the human

activity at the site dates back to circa thirteenth century

B.C. on the basis of the scientific dating method providing

the only archaeological evidence of such an early date of

the occupation of the site.

The Hon'ble High Court, in order to get sufficient

archaeological evidence on the issue involved "whether

there was any temple/structure which was demolished and

mosque was constructed on the disputed site "as stated on

page 1 and further on p.5 of their order dated 5 march

2003, had given directions to the Archaeological Survey of

India to excavate at the disputed site where the GPR

Survey has suggested evidence of anomalies which could

be structure, pillars, foundation walls, slab flooring etc.

which could be confirmed by excavation. Now, viewing in

totality and taking into account the archaeological

evidence of a massive structure just below the disputed

structure and evidence of continuity in structural phases

from the tenth century onwards upto the construction of the

disputed structure alongwith the yield of stone and

decorated bricks as well as mutilated sculpture of divine

couple and carved architectural members including foliage

patterns, amalaka, kapotapali doorjamb with semi-circular

pilaster, broken octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus

motif, circular shrine having pranala (waterchute) in the

north, fifty pillar bases in association of the huge structure,

are indicative of remains which are distinctive features

found associated with the temples of north India."


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