Nov 22, 2007

JAIN TEMPLE IN FATEHPUR SIKRI

By Nikhat Kazmi

Did Akbar build Fathepur Sikri over a temple? According to the recent excavations by the Archaeological Survey of India, the heritage city not only rests over a temple, but the state of the idols excavated also point towards mutilation and defacement. According to D.V. Sharma, superintending archaeologist, ASI ``the fracture marks on the statues proves they were defaced by chisels and hammers and there is evidence of a demolition of a temple.''

Presenting the findings of his excavations in an illustrated talkhere on Tuesday, Sharma showed slides of the remains of a temple under Bir Chhabili Tila, a mound near the monument along with the existence of a water palace under the Anup Talao, within the premises of the monument. The ASI team which began its excavation since December has discovered mutilated Jaina images, including the remains of a temple with rubber masonry and mud mortar walls measuring 1.35 metres in width.

More important is the discovery of an idol of Goddess Sarasvati withan inscription on its pedestal. According to Sharma, the sculpture,in a standing tribhanga posture, was fixed on a pedestal and was found damaged at its foot, placed with its face downwards near a wall. ``The circumstantial evidence, supported by the marks near the foot suggest that the believers tried to uproot and remove the sculpture in advance,'' says Sharma. The inscription dates back to1010 A.D. and this statute ``in Jaisalmeri stone is quite unlike theusual murtis of Saraswati which are generally cast in marble,'' heexplains.

Beneath the Anup Talao, the team has also found a huge jar, 12 feethigh and 8 feet wide. ``We have named it Ganga Sagar, because it was used for storing Ganga water, during Akbar's time too,'' says Sharma.Matching the dramatic tenor of the ASI excavations was the reaction that followed the talk. Satish Grover, Professor School of Architecture and Planning wanted to know if the ASI had any policy on``ripping apart'' ancient monuments which were part of the national heritage. ``We all know that India is a rich and ancient country, built on layers and layers of civilisation. There could be a temple beneath the Taj Mahal too. Will the ASI dig that up too?'' he queried.

Sharma however insisted, the effort was not to destroy the present heritage but only to find out the truth. ``We are here to correct the interpretation of palaces and monuments, not to rip apart monuments,'' he elucidated. But the fact thet the matter had already become politicised was evident, when the Chairman of the Indian Archaeological Society, S P Gupta, circulated a paper on the excavations which concludes: ``There is ample proof of (a) the destruction of the Jain temple, (b) the sculptures being vandalised without exception. There is no evidence of Hindu vandalism at thesite. What is the other language of this destruction if not`demolishing temples' by the Muslims.''

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