Ayodhya: Digging Up India’s Holy Places

Anubha Charan describes the arguments surrounding one of the world’s most politically explosive excavations.

Never before in Indian history has a team of archaeologists been under such close scrutiny, or handled such a sensitive assignment, on whose conclusion rests not only the historical documentation of a nation, but also the scripting of its future.

Ayodhya, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, is a site holy to both Hindus and Muslims, and has been a constant source of religious clashes. Now the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under directions of the High Court, is trying to settle the dispute over whether a Hindu temple once existed there.

The disputed site houses the remains of the Babri Masjid, a sixteenth-century mosque built by Mir Baqi, commander to Mughal emperor Babar but destroyed by Hindu fundamentalists in 1992. Hindus believe that the mosque stood on the ruins of an earlier temple that once marked the birthplace of Lord Rama, one of the most revered deities in the Hindu pantheon.

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