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Check Minorities commission or close Archaeological Survey

Check Minorities commission or close Archaeological Survey

Author: Prafull Goradia
Publication: Organiser
Date: November 25, 2001

It is not widely realised that just one. 19th century archaeologist, Lt Gen Sir Alexander Cunningham has left behind records sufficient to fill 23 hard bound volumes recently published by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). This quantum of records are a miniscule part of the survey treasure available with the ASI. Hardly any of this literature is referred to in the books of Indian. history that I happen to have read. Yet, the self-styled secular historians have the audacity to protest that there is no need to fill the gaps. Any attempt to rectify matters, is alleged to be saffronisation.

Let me share with you my experience of how the ASI has been misguided since Independence. It has not only been neglected but the work has been perverted by vested interests. Thus, one of the Mountains of historical information has been deliberately stifled.

Had the two constables of Reserve Police not been asleep on June 29, 2000, I would have been denied the privilege of seeing an archaeological treasure of my homeland. For about twenty minutes, I was able to walk around the Rudramahalaya complex at Siddhpur in the Mehsana district of Gujarat. I was also able to take a minute off to have the darshan of a Shivling in the premises. I could not go much further because one of the constables woke up and politely told me to leave the precinct as he had strict instructions from the government not to allow anyone to enter the Rudramahalaya.

Siddhpur is to departed mothers what Gaya is for dead fathers. In fact, it is called Matrigaya where a Hindu could wish to offer shraddh to the soul of his mother. Bindu Sarovar is where the ceremony is performed. Equally dear is Siddhpur especially to Gujaratis, as the city is named after Gujarat's most famous monarch who ruled medieval times. After he attained siddhi or success as the most powerful king of northwest India, if not the whole sub-continent, he attained the title of Siddhraj. His name was Jaisinh Solanki (1094 to 1143 AD).

On the intervention of the National Minorities Commission since 1983, the Archaeological Survey of India has been prevented from carrying on any excavations in or around the Rudramahalaya complex once existed the tallest temple in Gujarat. From its top were available glimpses of Patan, the capital of the ancient kings of Gujarat, some 25 kms away. From the top was were also believed to be visible some temple mashaals in Ahmedabad when the capital was shifted there by Ahmed Shah in the 15th century. That is 112 kms away. Even today the ruins demonstrate the finery of the sculpture.

Human faces have been mutilated. The tablet displayed at the spot by the Archaeological Survey says the following:

This is the grandest and the most impressive conception of a temple dedicated to Siva associated with Siddharaj who ruled in the 12th century AD though tradition accords its construction to Mularaj during the 10th century AD.

Only a few fragments of the mighty shrine now survive. With its adjacent shrines possibly eleven part of which converted into Jami Masjid later in the Mughal period, it must have formed part of a grand composition dedicated to the Ekadasha Rudras...

The Jami Masjid mentioned above is a modest affair. Its gate is so small that not more than two persons can enter at the same time. On its top are two minarets less than 3 feet tall. As one crosses the gate, there are four small temple sancti, one on the left and three on the right. It is clear that the sancti had been walled up and converted into a mehraab for the prayer space. Beyond this is the square tank from ancient times which was also used by those who came for ibadat. Yet beyond, stand a few handsome pillars and carvings that have survived from ancient times.

According to a neighbour, no prayers take place except that the odd Hindu drops in for darshan of the only surviving shivling in one of the four sancti. The brick walls of the other three sancti have also been removed although there are only platforms without the idols.

The National Minorities Commission has influenced the governments, both at Delhi and at Gandhinagar, into freezing the excavation work that was begun by the Archaeological Survey in 1979. The details are available across 38 pages in the Commission's own fourth annual report dated 1983.

The improvement of the environments of the masjid was first conceived in 1959 in response to a complaint repeatedly made by the local Muslims that the Archaeological Survey has been neglecting the repair and upkeep of the masjid. Yet, after 1983, the Commission has not only ensured that the work be forzen but also that all the excavations recently made should be covered up. And this has been done despite what came out. A stone nandi bull, in its mutilated condition, I was able to see. The rest of the relics were covered up. These included a Shivling from the northern side of the complex and an idol carving from the southern cubicle. The details are given on pages 135 and 136 of the Commission's fourth annual report. Evidently, the list proved so embarrassing to the Muslims that their leaders were anxious to bury the discoveries.

According to the report, Begam Aysha, MLA, played a leading part in this cover up operation. Shri K.T. Satarawala, the then Adviser to the Governor of Gujarat, also played a yeoman's role by providing a detailed report on the subject. The Muslim appellants were able to push the Archaeological Survey about, is best quoted from the fourth annual report itself.

"Shri A. S. Quereshi, Advocate, for the (Muslim) Trustees issued a notice dated the February 6, 1980, to the Superintendent, Archaeological Department asking the Department to build the compound walls as per the compromise and to cover up the temple remains. The Superintendent, Archaeological Department. explained in person the importance of the discoveries made and the need for revision of compromise in the interest of preserving the precious cultural heritage of the country."

"As Shri Quereshi wanted to visit the site along with Superintendent, Archaeological Department, he went to Sidhpur on the March 8, 1980. At first, he agreed to the preservation but later he insisted on closing the trenches in his very presence that day. The Superintendent, Archaeological Department, ordered closure of the trenches and construction of compound wall and both the works were started in his presence."

The west and the north are at present streets with common people living in small houses beyond. On the eastern side there is space with no vested interest. That leaves the southern side of the current part of the complex. There is situated the Dawoodi masjid and attached to it is a fairly large area which houses the masjid complex including the quarters of the people who work in the institution. Dawoodi Bohras are the most influential community of Siddhpur and, evidently, their leadership is worried about the consequences of any excavation. Go back to what is written on the tablet displayed by the Archaeological Survey and quoted above. It talks about eleven shrines for Ekadasha Rudras. At the very most, four of the shrines are visible today as described above. Where are the remaining seven?

Evidently, the fear is that they are below the complex that today houses the Dawoodi masjid.

Should the work of the Archaeological Survey be allowed to be halted by the intervention of the National Minorities Commission? Should a national commission work at the behest of a narrow local vested interest? Or, should not the government rein in the Commission from undertaking such obstructionist activity? If there is legitimacy to such activity, would it not be logical that the Archaeological Survey of India be wound up? Which, of course, would imply that we have lost interest in a search for our civilisational heritage. As most Indians are cremated, it is difficult for them to turn in their grave. But certainly Lord George Nathaniel Curzon, who founded the Archaeological Survey and redeemed the Taj Mahal, would turn in his grave. After all, from Cairo he bought, with his own money, two lamps that hang near the sepulchres of Shah Jehan and Mumtaz Mahal.

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