‘The Archaeology of Ramayana Project’ was conceptualised by Prof B.B. Lal in 1975 when he was at the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. Thereafter, K.V. Soundarajan and this author, on behalf of the Archaeological Survey of India, from 1976-84, jointly excavated at Ayodhya (the capital of Rama); Sringaverapura (where Rama crossed the Ganga); Bharadwaj Ashram (where he sojourned for a while); Nandigram (from where Bharata ruled the kingdom), Chitrakuta (where Rama stayed for a pretty long period), and Pariar (where Lakshmana left Sita at the behest of his elder brother Rama).
As per the order of the High Court, a ground penetration radar survey was undertaken and the then Archaeological Survey of India was asked in 2002-03 to further excavate the Ram Janmabhoomi area under Hari Manjhi and B.R. Mani. Eighty-two trenches were laid out below the demolished Babri Masjid and adjoining the earlier excavations. These new trenches were also meant to verify the anomalies noticed in Ground Penetrating Radar Survey. The cultural sequence started from pre-NBPW (Northern Black Polished Ware) to late and post-Mughal level. But 14C (carbon-dating) dates supplied by the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow, have pushed back the antiquity of lowest levels somewhere to c. 1500 BCE. The discovery of rows of 50 pillar bases and other remains of architectural parts of a temple confirms the existence of a massive structure which shows the distinctive features of a temple of north India.
The Indian traditions and mythological stories are reflected in the Puranas and the epics. F.E. Pargiter, H.C. Raychaudhuri and P.L. Bhargava provided sequential history on Indian chronology. The historians and archaeologists while dealing with traditions have correlated many historical sites with one or other Puranic dynasties but missed the identity of the authors. The concerns of archaeologist B.P. Sinha about the impact of archaeology on the epics, especially the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, were to know whether they were myths or based on real events. He concluded that the “Mahabharata and archaeology have very much concurred with each other. Archaeology and traditions in case of the Ramayana may not play hide and seek for long”. Serious attempts were also made earlier and data was compiled in 1973 by H.D. Sankalia in Ramayana: Myth and Reality and in 1976 in Mahabharata: Myth and Reality by S.P. Gupta and K.S. Ramachandran.
Ayodhya is situated on the right bank of the Saryu river in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh. The ancient mound of Ayodhya covers about a square km of area. Over there excavations were carried out in 1975, 1976-77 and 1979-80, altogether at fourteen different spots, digging over 100 trenches of 10×10 sqm. These are located along the river on the western and northern peripheries, in the heart of the settlement, as well as on the eastern and southern sides, and include many of the traditional spots, such as the Janmabhoomi area, Hanuman Garhi, Sita ki Rasoi, Nala-Tila, Kausilya Ghat, etc.
The Banaras Hindu University also did some work nearly a decade ago at this site. The excavation revealed a fairly compact and working sequence for the antiquity of the place from its first settlement over the natural soil. This began with the use of the well-known ‘Northern Black Polished Ware’, in all its shades. At the lowest levels, alongside the NBPW, were also found a few shades of grey ware, painted with fugitive bands in black pigment along the rim or obliquely on the exterior. With this inception, the occupational phases of the mound appear to have continued up to circa third century CE, represented by several structural phases.
In the earlier stages, the houses were of wattle-anddaub or mud, followed by those of baked bricks. In the Janmabhoomi area, a massive wall of bricks was observed across the sector obliquely, which may perhaps be identified as a fortification wall. Immediately below this massive wall, mud-brick structures were found. In the upper levels of this phase, which may perhaps be called the post-rampart phase, extending from circa third century BCE to the first century CE, terracotta ring-wells were noted. The fortification wall appears to have had a fairly deep ditch, almost like a moat, just on its exterior, which was partly cut into the natural clay overlying the fluviatile sand bed. The other site, near Hanuman Garhi, yielded a good number of structures of the Northern Black Polished Ware and later periods, ringwells of more than one type, including the typical wells using wedge-shaped bricks, well-known during the later part of the Northern Black Polished Ware period.
While pursuing further Janmabhoomi trench the backside slope of structure assembled with demolished structural members and to the western side of this trench in the extended area the extension of pillar bases were noticed in 1976-77. The excavation yielded a rich crop of antiquities, among which about half a dozen seals, about seventy coins and over a hundred terracotta figurines deserve special mention. The most noteworthy among them are a terracotta sealing of king Vasudeva of the second century BCE, a coin of Muladeva of the same period, and a grey terracotta figurine of a person (Jaina Kevalin) with bald head, distended ear-lobes and in ‘kayotsarga’ pose. The last-mentioned object came from levels ascribable to circa fourth century BCE and is perhaps the earliest ‘Jaina’ figure of this kind so far found in India. After the early historic deposits, there is a break in occupation, with considerable debris and pit formations before the site was again occupied around the 11th century CE. Later medieval brick-and-kankar lime-floors were also noticed along with broken parts of temple remains.
The antiquity of Ayodhya, thus, on the basis of these excavations, is ascribable to the early seventh century BCE. Under renewed excavation in 2002-03, 82 trenches were laid out adjoining the earlier excavations in the Janmabhoomi area. The new archaeological evidence from Ayodhya noticed in 2003 and the comparative stratigraphy of the excavated sites which revealed pre-NBPW deposit has strengthened the Hindu myths and belief that the story of Rama and Ayodhya is earlier than the story of Krishna and Mahabharata and Hastinapur. The C14 dates obtained from this level put Ayodhya somewhere between c.1600-1250 BCE.
The critical evidence which became most contentious issue was of temple remains found under the mosque “as revealed by rows of fifty pillar bases and other remains of architectural parts of the temple”. Moreover the demolished parts of the temple were utilised even in the construction of mosque, as outlined by Justice Khan. The six pillar bases of a temple found in the earlier excavations by B.B. Lal (1976-77) are the part of 50 pillar bases. This evidence has put to rest that a temple was there right beneath the Babri Masjid.
In India, no monumental structure fell unless broken/demolished or natural calamity. The demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 or demolition of the Ram temple by Babur’s army after 1526 were not the part of this judicial verdict. One must understand the subject before giving any sweeping remarks. For example, an independent historian explaining that the ASI report is far from foolproof or inscription found in debris, may have been planted whereas a prominent media personality says that the findings of the ASI were incomplete at best and at worst, misleading. The role played by independent experts, historians and archaeologists, who appeared on behalf of the Sunni Waqf Board to support its claim, has come in for criticism by the Allahabad High Court, as one can see how the HC exposed experts espousing masjid cause. To the court’s astonishment, someone who wrote signed articles and issued pamphlets, found themselves withering under scrutiny and the judge said they were displaying an “ostrich-like-attitude” to facts.
To quote the High Court remarks, on the statement of one of the experts, who said that one couldn’t say that though I had made a statement but I am not responsible for its authenticity since it is not based on my study or research but what I have learnt from what others have uttered. Another expert admitted before the High Court that she prepared a report on the Babri dispute after reading newspaper reports and on the basis of discussions with medieval history experts in her department. Independent experts even crossed the limits of imagination by alleging that pillar bases at the excavated site had been planted’. The above narrative uncovers the fallacy surrounding the Babri mosque dispute and Ram Janmabhoomi, a legal battle started in 1885.
Actually being objective about the past, I would like to mention that Arnold Toynbee, a world known historian was invited to deliver Dr Maulana Azad Memorial lecture in 1960 where he quoted that Warsaw was taken over by Russian’s (1914-15) and they constructed an Eastern Orthodox Christian cathedral to remind them that the Russians were the rulers. In 1918 when Poland took over, it demolished this church.
I would not like to blame them for what happened, but I will appreciate that the Government of India took no action regarding the mosques erected by Aurangzeb after demolishing the temples at Mathura and Varanasi. The decision to take the legal recourse was a wise move and it helped find a way to correct a historical mistake without aggrieving any community and faith.
The author is former joint director general, Archaeological Survey of India, and general secretary, the Indian Archaeological Society, Delhi.
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Viruses may have ‘eyes and ears’ on us
New research suggests that viruses are using information from their environment to ‘decide’ when to sit tight inside their hosts and when to multiply and burst out, killing the host cell. Right now, viruses are exploiting the ability to monitor their environment to their benefit. But in the future, “we could exploit it to their detriment,” said one of the authors.
A virus’s ability to sense its environment, including elements produced by its host, adds “another layer of complexity to the viral-host interaction,” says Ivan Erill, professor of biological sciences and senior author of the new paper.
Right now, viruses are exploiting that ability to their benefit. But in the future, he says, “we could exploit it to their detriment.”
The new study focused on bacteriophages—viruses that infect bacteria, often referred to simply as “phages.”
The phages in the study can only infect their hosts when the bacterial cells have special appendages, called pili and flagella, that help the bacteria move and mate.
The bacteria produce a protein called CtrA that controls when they generate these appendages.
The new paper shows that many appendage-dependent phages have patterns in their DNA where the CtrA protein can attach, called binding sites.
Erill says that a phage having a binding site for a protein produced by its host is unusual.
Even more surprising, Erill and the paper’s first author, Elia Mascolo, a Ph.D. student in Erill’s lab, found through detailed genomic analysis that these binding sites were not unique to a single phage, or even a single group of phages.
Many different types of phages had CtrA binding sites, but they all required their hosts to have pili and/or flagella to infect them. It couldn’t be a coincidence, they decided.
NAVRATRI 2022: All about the 9-day Auspicious festival
The 9-day-long festival of Shardiya Navratri, dedicated to Maa Durga and her nine avatars, began on Monday, marking the first day of the festivity (Kalash or Ghatsthapna). The festival is celebrated with great fervour all across the country by Hindus.
It is intended for the worship of Maa Durga and her nine avatars, known as Navdurga. Navratri means ‘nine nights’ in Sanskrit. Hindus observe a total of four Navratris throughout the year. Only two of them, Chaitra Navaratri and Shardiya Navaratri, saw widespread celebrations, as they coincided with the beginnings of the seasons.
From Ashwin Shukla Paksha’s Navami until the Pratipada, Shardiya Navratri is observed. While the holiday is celebrated with great fanfare across the nation, distinct traditions are more commonly practised in different states.
This year, Navratri will last nine days, starting on 26 September and concluding on 5 October.
The festival of Navratri honours the defeat of the demonic Mahishasura and the triumph of good over evil. Because of Mahishasura’s unwavering devotion to him, Lord Brahma bestows the gift of immortality upon him at the beginning of the narrative.
The blessing did, however, come with one stipulation: only a woman would be able to overcome him. The demon began terrorising people on Earth because he didn’t think any woman would be strong enough to overcome him. The gods were unable to halt him.
Since Mahishasura was to be demolished, Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu, and Lord Shiva pooled their efforts to create the goddess Durga. They gave her a number of weapons. Ten days passed during Maa Durga and Mahishasura’s conflict. However, Maa Durga was able to overcome him when he at last transformed into a buffalo.
During the nine-day Navratri festival, devotees worship Maa Durga’s nine incarnations in order to obtain her blessings. There is a goddess manifestation linked with each day of Navratri. During these nine days, people maintain ritualistic fasts, recite shlokas dedicated to each goddess, wear new clothing, offer bhog, and clean their homes. In their prayers, they ask the goddess for her favour in order to have prosperous, joyous, and fulfilled lives.
Ramlila is organised extensively during Navratri in North India, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. During the Ramlila, the tale of Lord Ram’s triumph over Ravana is acted out. The effigies of King Ravana are burned on Dussehra to commemorate the triumph of good over evil.
In fact, on the tenth day of Navratri, also known as Vijayadashami, a large procession is organised during which clay figurines of Maa Durga are ceremoniously submerged in a river, sea, or ocean. Popular places to do this practice include West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, and Bihar. The most significant day for Maa Durga’s worship is thought to be the day of Durga Visarjan.
Numerous dances, including Garba and Dandiya Raas, are performed during the nine-day festival. While Dandiya Raas involves dancing with dandiya sticks to the beat of the music, Garba is a traditional dance in which participants clap their hands and move in a circle while making rhythmic gestures.
In India, Navratri is celebrated in a wide range of ways. Ramlila, a celebration in which scenes from the Ramayana are performed, is organised in North India, mainly in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh. The burning of King Ravana’s effigies marks the conclusion of the story on Vijaya dashami.
After shooting at Russian school, six people, gunman dead
A shooter killed six people and injured 20 others in a school in the central Russian city of Izhevsk on Monday morning.
According to the Udmurtia branch of the interior ministry, the shooter killed himself. According to the Russian official, the school has been closed and the surrounding area has been fenced off.
Alexander Brechalov, the governor of the Udmurtia region, of which Izhevsk is the capital, stated in a video message that the as-yet unidentified shooter entered the school and killed a guard and some of the students present. Children among the victims and wounded, according to Brechalov.
(More details are awaited.)
Malayalam filmmaker Ashokan dies at 60
Raman Ashok Kumar, also known as Malayalam filmmaker Ashokan died on Sunday (Sep 25). He was 60. Recently returned from Singapore, he passed away while receiving medical care in Kochi, Kerala, at a private hospital.
Ashokan, a Varkala native, began his career in film as filmmaker Sasi Kumar’s assistant. After roughly 25 years of working as an assistant director, Ashokan released his first picture, “Varnam,” in 1989. The ensemble cast of the critically acclaimed movie “Varnam” included Jayaram, Suresh Gopi, Ranjini, Thilakan, Meena, Jagathy Sreekumar, Parvathy, and Mukesh. He collaborated with director Thaha to co-direct the Suresh Gopi and Parvathy-starring film “Saandaram” a year later, in 1990.
He teamed up once more with Thaha in 1991 to co-direct the slapstick comedy “Mookkilla Rajyathu,” which starred Mukesh, Thilakan, Jagathy Sreekumar, Siddique, and Vinaya Prasad. The movie “Mookkilla Rajyathu” earned positive reviews and became hit. After that, Ashokan directed “Aacharyan” in 1993, starring Thilakan, Suresh Gopi, and Sreenivasan, and the movie also succeeded in attracting viewers. After that, according to reports, Ashokan relocated to Singapore and concentrated on business, but he never lost his love for movies. The telefilm he later directed, “Kaanappurangal,” earned him the Kerala State Award for best telefilm.
The filmmaker’s funeral will take place on Tuesday at his Varkala home. Ashokan is survived by his wife Seetha and their daughter Abhirami.
PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi wish Manmohan Singh on his 90th birthday
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday sent Dr. Manmohan Singh his birthday wishes on his 90th birthday, wishing him a long and healthy life.
“Birthday greetings to former PM Dr Manmohan Singh Ji. Praying for his long and healthy life,” tweeted PM Modi.
Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the Congress, sent Dr. Singh birthday greetings as well.
Wishing one of India’s finest statesmen, Dr Manmohan Singh ji a very happy birthday. His humility, dedication and contribution to India’s development, have few parallels. He is an inspiration to me, and to crores of other Indians. I pray for his good health and happiness,” tweeted the Wayanad MP.
Before the partition, Singh was born on September 26, 1932, in the Punjabi village of Gah. He studied at Oxford, Cambridge, and Punjab University.
Today marks the 90th birthday of Dr. Singh, who served as prime minister for two consecutive terms (from 2004 to 2014). He is a well-known economist who is credited with enacting significant reforms in the 1990s.
PM Modi conveys condolences to families of those killed in Kullu accident
Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives when a tourist vehicle crashed into a ravine in the Kullu area of Himachal Pradesh on Monday. According to PM Modi, who described the tragedy as “very sad,” “all possible care is being provided to the injured.”
“The incident of a tourist vehicle falling into a ditch in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh is very sad. I express my deepest condolences to the families of those who have lost their loved ones in this accident. Along with this, all possible help is being provided to the injured. I wish him a speedy recovery,” he wrote on Twitter.
After a tourist vehicle crashed into a gorge near Kullu, at least seven visitors perished and about ten others were injured. Around 8:30 p.m., the collision happened on National Highway 305. Ashutosh Garg, the deputy commissioner of the Kullu district, reported that there were 17 passengers total in the vehicle, including the driver.
“As per the initial report, there were 17 people travelling in the vehicle including the driver. Police, home guards, and local administration teams have reached the spot. Some of them are feared dead and the priority is to save the lives and rescue the injured”. Garg said.
Five of the total injured people have been sent to the Kullu Zonal Hospital, and another five are receiving treatment at a nearby hospital in Banjar, according to the police.
According to local BJP MLA Surender Shourie, those involved in the accident were from a number of different states, including Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, and Haryana. The victims’ identities are now being determined. At 12:45 a.m. on Monday, Shourie streamed a video on Facebook informing users of the incident.
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