Many Western scholars believed that both the epics Ramayan and Mahabharat were myth and not reality. However, the recent archaeological explorations and excavations have proved that both the epics occurred. They have played an important role in shaping Indian culture as a backbone of Indian society. The immortal value of Hindutva has been evolved through these epics. Both the epics have been authenticated by solid evidence both literally and archaeologically.
In the realm of archeology, Ayodhya has remained an epicentre of Hindu awakening throughout the centuries. The dynamics of Hindutva remain as an inspiring ethos and values of Indian culture throughout South East Asia and Indian subcontinent as well. Ramayan has remained as a vehicle of the process of Indianisation throughout South East Asia and Indian subcontinent as well. The archaeological records reveal that constant and continuous history is available regarding the various events and episodes that occurred in the Ramayan age. Britain’s Alexander Cunningham in 1862-63 first opened research windows regarding Ayodhya remains. He was successful in identifying Ayodhya with Sha-chi mentioned in Fa-Hien’s writings. He was Director of ASI and conducted first survey of Ayodhya.
Cunningham also traced interesting ancient structures in Ayodhya. He also recorded so many existing temples. By quoting so many stories, he noted that the glorious city of Ayodhya might have been deserted after the Battle of Brihadbala. In the year 1889-91, ASI conducted another survey of Ayodhya under the leadership of Alois Anton Fuhrer, who was able to notice mamy debris. The said material might have been used for the construction of Faizabad city. He witnessed pre-ancient mounds known as Maniparvat and Kuber Parvat as well as Sugriv Parvat. Fuhrer’s observations were more rational and objective.
Avadh Kishore Narayan of Banaras Hindu University conducted the first excavation in Ayodhya in 1969-70. He discovered a Jain terracotta figure. From 1975 to 1985, Ramayan sites were discovered which led to awakening of Hindu culture. Professor BB Lal, regarded as father of Ramayan archaeology in India, conducted a detailed survey of Ayodhya remains to through light on some new facts. The team of archaeologists led by prof. B.B.Lal who must be credited contributing interesting to develop interesintimg archaeological evidences and theories. He was was also director general of ASI . During 1968 to 1972 professor Bibi Lal completed a project on Ramayana archaeology from 1975 to 1976 he was able to five important Ramayana sites. Hi conducted excavations on these sites. Such as Ayodhya, Bhardwaj Ashram and Nandigram and chitrkut, Shri rangaverapura. This was a strong achievement which prepareed a background for Ayodhya excavation. Jain remains were also found in this excavation.
The major contribution of Professor BB Lal was his search of Hindu remains on the pillars of the disputed structure then known as Babri mosque. In 1990 an epoch making article appeared regarding Hindu remains of columned temples under the so-called mosque. His inspiring lectures all over the country propagated the fact that was evidence of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. In 2008, BB Lal published a book titled Rama his Historicity Mandir and Setu: Evidence of Literature, Archaeology and Other Stories, which was a turning point in Indian archaeology and culture. In 2003, Allahabad High Court Prof Bibi Lal submitted a seven page preliminary report on behalf of ASI and drew attention to the discovery of pillar bases in the south of the mosque structure in Ayodhya.
The ICHR volume published in 1989 throws light on Ramayan’s archaeology. In his book, Prof Lal had pointed out that under the Babri Masjid there existed 12 stone pillars which carried not only typical Hindu motifs but also figures of Hindu deities. He found evidence that the findings were not an integral part of the masjid. In professor BB Lal’s team of experts there was scholar archaeologist KK Mohammad, who wrote the book An Indian I Am. He criticiced Left historians for misleading the Muslim community. In July 1992, an eight member archaeological team was appointed which included formal ASI directors YD Sharma, KM Shrivastav. It visited Ramkot Hills to evaluate and examine the findings. These included Hindu sculptures of Bhagwan Vishnu. The inner boundary of the disputed structure was studied and it was pointed out that it might have belonged to an earlier temple. Kushana and Gupta remains like Vaishnava deities were also found. In 1992, Vishnu Hari inscription was found, which was an outstanding discovery. During the demolition of Babri mosque in December 1992, inscriptions on the stones were found. The inscription in Devanagari script and Sanskrit language was a strong evidence of the existence of 11th- 12th century Ram Mandir. It was examined by world class epigraphist and a Sanskrit scholar professor Ajay Mitra Shastri, who was an expert in Sanskrit language. The careful study of the inscription proved that it was composed in fluent Sanskrit verses which elaborately described the glory of Bhagwan Vishnu. Lines 17 and 19 described ideals of Bhagwan Vishnu.
The Turning Point
In the year 2003, an excavation at Ayodhya was conducted by ASI following directions of the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court in Uttar Pradesh. A team of 131 labourers including 52 Muslims worked in the excavations. In August 2003, ASI handed over a voluminous report to the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court. The excavation was conducted from May 22 to June 6, 2003. This excavation report finally proved that the evidence pointed out about the existence of Ram Mandir. Thee was strong evidence to prove that it was the birthplace of Bhagwan Shri Ram. In October 2010, the Allahabad High Court bench consisting of three judges provided a final verdict of 8,000 pages to prove that the disputed structure was a temple and the court accepted the evidence and ordered 5 acres of land be allotted for the construction of Ram Mandir in the area.
Bhagwan Ram, during his 14 years exile, had entered South India, after crossing Godavari river. He also crossed Maharashtra and reached Shri Lanka in search of Sita. More than 500 archaeological sites have been recorded which were visited by Shri Ram. There is a story that Saint Agastya also met Shri Ram at three Ashram on the bank of river Godavari. There are many interesting archaeological sites in South India. As Prof BB Lal conducted archaeological explorations in North India, there is also a need to conduct extensive explorations in South India, then only Ramayan archaeology will be completed. There is a need to document Ramayan sites in South East Asia, Shri Lanka and Nepal. The project of Ramayan archaeology can be completed in future course of time.
Study of entire archaeological explorations and excavations related to Shri Ramchandra reveal that though there are ample evidence to understand the events in Ramayan yet there is a need to conduct more indepth explorations. Evidences reveal Ramayan sites in North as well as in South India. It has remained a uniting force for national integration. The NASA satellite photographs have proved the construction of Ram Setu. This has further supported Ramayan archeology. There is a need to conduct more scientific systematic explorations and excavations to understand Ramayan archaeology for the bright future of Bharat.