In what could be a turning point in the Ayodhya dispute, the Archaeological Survey of India has reported to the high court that its excavations found distinctive features of a 10th century temple beneath the Babri Mosque site.
The Sunni Central Waqf Board, however, termed the report as 'vague and self-contradictory'.
The 574-page ASI report consisting of written opinions and maps and drawings was opened before the full Lucknow bench of the Allahabad high court on Monday morning.
The report said there was archaeological evidence of a massive structure just below the disputed structure and evidence of continuity in structural activities from the 10th century onwards up to the construction of the disputed structure (Babri Mosque).
Among the excavation yields it mentioned were stone and decorated bricks, mutilated sculpture of divine couple, carved architectural members including foliage patterns, amalaka, kapotapali, doorjamb with semi-circular shrine pilaster, broken octagonal shaft of black schist pillar, lotus motif, circular shrine having pranjala (watershute) in the north and 50 pillar bases in association with a huge structure.
The archaeological evidence and other discoveries from the site were indicative of remains that are distinctive features found associated with the temples of north India, the ASI report said.
The ASI report said there is sufficient proof of existence of a massive and monumental structure having a minimum dimension of 50x30 metres in north-south and east-west directions respectively just below the disputed structure.
In course of present excavations nearly 50 pillar bases with brickbat foundation below calcrete blocks topped by sandstone blocks were found, the report said.
It said the pillar bases exposed during the present excavation in the northern and southern areas also give an idea of the length of the massive wall of earlier construction with which they are associated and which might have been originally around 60 metres.
The centre of the main chamber of the disputed structure falls just over the central point of the length of the massive wall of the preceding period which could not be excavated due to presence of Ram Lala at the spot in the make-shift structure, the ASI report said.
In a significant observation the report said towards east of this central point, a circular depression with projection on the west, cut into the large sized brick pavement, signifying the place where some important object was placed.
The ASI report, however, said various structures exposed right from the Sunga to Gupta period do not speak either about their nature or functional utility as no evidence has come to approbate them.
The report said during and after the Gupta period up to late and post-Mughal period the regular habitational deposits disappear in the concerned levels and the structural phases are associated with either structural debris or filling material taken out from the adjoining area to level the ground for construction purpose.
As a result of this much of the earlier material in the form of pottery, terracottas and other objects of preceding periods, particularly of Kushan period, are found in the deposits of later periods mixed along with contemporary material, it said.
The area below the disputed site thus remained a place for public use for a long time till the Mughal period when the disputed structure was built which was confined to a limited area and the population settled around it as evidenced by the increase in contemporary archaeological material including pottery, the ASI said in its report.
It went on to state that this observation was further attested by the conspicuous absence of habitational structures such as house-complexes, soakage pits, soakage jars, ring wells, drains, wells, hearths, kilns or furnaces.
The report said the human activity at the site dates back to 13th century BC on the basis of the scientific dating method providing the only archaeological evidence of such an early date of the occupation of the site.
The ASI report said the northern black polished ware using people were the first to occupy the disputed site at Ayodhya in the first millennium BC although no structural activities were encountered in the limited area probed.
A round signet with legend in Asokan Brahmi is another important find of this level, it said.
The report said the Sunga period (second-first century BC) comes next in order of the cultural occupation at the site followed by the Kushan period.
The report said during the early medieval period (11-12th century AD) a huge structure of nearly 50 metres north-south orientation was constructed which seems to have been short lived as only four of the 50 pillar bases exposed during the excavation belonged to this level with a brick crush floor
On the remains of the above structure was constructed a massive structure with at least three structural phases and three successive floors attached with it, it said.
The architectural members of the earlier short-lived massive structure with stencil-cut foliage pattern and other decorative motifs were reused in the construction of the monumental structure which has a huge pillared hall different from residential structures providing sufficient evidence of construction of public usages which remained under existence for a long time during the period, the report said.
The report concluded that it was over the top of this construction during the early 16th century that the disputed structure was constructed directly resting over it.