H By Dr S.P. Gupta
From the seventh to tenth century, Nalanda used lime mortar in the ratio of 3:2 (lime + sand). Jars with dried up mortar and a cell used as cistern to make the mortar have been found at Nalanda. At Karvan, Vadodara district, Gujarat, two kinds of lime mortar were used in the Gupta buildings-one with a higher content of lime and the other, lower. At Bhitari, Gazipur district, in Uttar Pradesh, the lime and sand ratio in the mortar was 6:1. The red colour of the mortar and plaster has been due to the use of ferruginous kankar in the making of lime. Lime motar and surkhi with lime were used at Bangarh also during the Gupta period. It was used extensively in temple construction of Naranath in Kashmir, and Purana Qila, Delhi-both belonging to eighth to the ninth century. In the tenth-century temple of Lingraj at Bhubaneswar, lime mortar was used extensively. Lime mortar was also used in the Kanchipuram temple in the South and in the Arthuna temple of Rajasthan. At Sarnath it was used during the rule of the Ghadaval dynasty (eleventh to twelfth century ad) in temples. Samples of lime mortar from Kausambi and Bhitari have been examined by Dr B.B. Lal, Prakash and Rawat, Sanaullah and others, and published by A. Ghosh, H.C. Bhardwaj and others in An Encyclopaedia of Indian Archaeology, New Delhi, 1989.
Therefore, more than a thousand years before the advent of the Sultans of Delhi, the Hindus had used the lime (chunam) mortar on a large scale in their constructions. Lime mortar was of two kinds-both rough and fine, the former being used for bonding bricks and stones, and the latter for plastering walls and floors. It has been in use for the last 5,000 years in India from the north to the south and from east to the west. It is, therefore, not at all correct to say that the lime mortar was introduced in India by the Sultans of Delhi. It is nothing but pure and simple falsehood.
On use of the so-called ´Muslim´ glazed ware in India: Sultanate or pre-Sultanate; and found in India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and other countries of West Asia from eighth century ad onwards.
The third objection raised by Habib is “the finding of medieval (´Muslim´) glazed ware beneath all the floors levels, including the floors attributed to the temples by the Archaeological Survey of India in its Report.”
The fact of the matter is that glazed ware was produced in India, first during the Harappan times at Harappa and Mohenjodaro in the third millennium bc. The glazed ware of greenish blue colour was used in India during the Kushan period (first to third century ad) at Mathura. At Shah-ji-ki-Dheri, the Buddhist structures used even glazed tiles. At a Buddhist shrine near Dal Lake in Srinagar, the courtyard is paved with tiles of different colours. So was the facade of this structure. Hiuen T´sang had seen many places in northern India where coloured tiles were used on the roof. The pre-Sultanate glazed pottery is found in Gaur and Pandua in Bengal. The turquoise blue and polychrome glazed wares, i.e. potteries used in everyday life, including those that have in addition incised pictures of lotus petals, birds, etc. on them, were used throughout the western coast of India in the wake of the so-called ´Arab trade´, from the eighth century ad, i.e. at least 400 to 300 years before the coming of the Delhi Sultans. Glazed wares, it is common knowledge, were produced in Iran during the pre-Islamic period, under the Sassanian rule. It is indeed called ´Sassanian glazed ware´. The Muslims when they came to Iran adopted it. In any case, the so-called Muslim glazed wares are found at the hinterland sites also, where they had reached through the northern trade routes, the uttarapath. In my own excavations conducted at Sanjan, an early Parsi site, dated ninth to tenth centuries, near Mumbai, revealed these in profusion and in a vast variety, and I published them in Puratattva No. 32 (2002-2003), History Today, Volume 3 (2002) and Journal of the Indian Ocean Archaeology, No. 1, 2004. Does the presence of these wares in later periods prove that these wares were introduced in India by the Sultans of Delhi? It is, therefore, clear that the presence of the so-called medieval glazed wares at the Ramjanmabhoomi site will neither shift the dates of the temples from the tenth century to the thirteenth century nor will it prove the non-existence of the temples at the site during the pre-sixteenth century period.
It must also be noted that there is nothing like ´Muslim glazed ware´ and ´Hindu glazed ware´; glazing found on burnt earthen pots and pans was primarily a technique which was adopted by many people in India and West Asia from very early times as noted above. What is, however, sometimes called ´medieval´ or ´Muslim´ glazed ware is the one which was produced in Iraq, Iran, Syria, etc. in West Asia from the eighth to ninth centuries, at sites like Basra in Iraq, and Siraf and Nishapur in Iran but taken to many parts of the world by the Arab traders. This ware is also called ´South Mesopotamian Islamic turquoise grey ware´, sometimes even ´Hib´ ware and ´Sassanian-Islamic blue glazed pottery´ by scholars like R.E. Mason and A. Rougeulle. Ian Glover has also written long articles on these ´Muslim´ glazed wares. A.V. Sedo has written a whole book on this subject. The so-called ´Muslim glazed ware´ has also been found at Mantai in Sri Lanka, which has been mentioned by J. Carswell and M. Prickett in Ancient Ceylon, No. 5, 1984. They have found it at 25 sites in India also.
Therefore, it is not at all correct to say that the so-called ´Muslim´ glazed ware came to India with the Sultanate. It had a long history in India as in many other countries in the east: up to China and Japan, belonging to the pre-Sultanate times. Irfan Habib could not be more wrong.
Imagining pre-Babri Sultanate period qanati mosque at Ramjanmabhoomi! Do the structural remains prove it at all?
The other point relates to the discovery of a ´massive structure´ of a temple ´below the disputed structure´, mentioned in the Report. In this context Habib observes that this wall must have belonged to a ´mosque´, a pre-Mughal mosque, of the Sultanate period. Thus, in order to counter the evidence of the existence of two temple complexes at the site, the one belonging to the tenth century ad, as proved by the ASI Report, Habib has concocted the theory of ´two mosques´, one built after the other (first during the Delhi Sultanate period to which the ´massive wall´, according to him, belonged, and the second in the early sixteenth century, 1528-29 ad by Babur), although, in the absence of any solid evidence in his favour, he took recourse to utter falsehood to the extent of charging the Archaeological Survey of India with even removing, destroying and manipulating the evidence, such as ´ignoring´ the mihrab in the qanati mosque, creating pillar-bases where there were none and calling the Islamic tomb a Hindu shrine. We wish all these charges were true!
The falsehood of qanati mosque: He observes, “It is obvious from the presence of lime mortar and attached walls that the fourth floor, the lowest floor, belongs to Sultanate period (i.e. ad 1206 to ad 1526). A mihrab having been found in an attached wall (ignored in the Report), it is certain that it belongs to a pre-Mughal open (qanati) mosque or idgah.”
In other words, there is a wall attached to the ´massive wall´ of the twelfth century temple which is being projected by Habib as a qanati mosque. What a great discovery indeed! Just a simple ´attached wall´ to the main wall, meaning a secondary wall, being interpreted as qanati mosque. And for this purpose he even goes to the extent of imagining the existence of a mihrab in this wall, which simply does not exist; the charge of ´ignoring´ it in the Report is absolutely baseless, biased and falsehood since in the process of actual excavations as well as in writing of this Report, there were at least four Muslim archaeologists present but not one of them recorded it. There was neither a qanati mosque here nor a mihrab in any wall, ´attached´ or ´independent´. It is all imaginning things which never existed at the site. Neither does the ASI Report support it nor do the actual remains of structures at the site, on which in any case the Report in based. It is not supported by even the Muslim traditional accounts, written or oral, contemporary or later. Who built the qanati mosque? When exactly was it built? What are its details? A qanati mosque should have several mihrabs, and in odd numbers. One alone, if it was at all there, will not do.
It is in fact just a fabricated story and nothing else. There is only the lower portion of a recessed niche of rectangular shape. There is no arch here (Vol. II of the Report, Plate XLIX, 49).
(The writer is a renowned archaeologist and former Director of Allahabad National Museum)-
(To be concluded)