The recent visit of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to Ayodhya to lay the foundation stone for the sanctum sanctorum of the Ram Temple, has once again kindled the online buzz about Ayodhya. It is in this context that several users shared a video of an ‘unboxing’ of what appears to be an ancient scroll, claiming to show a Buddhist relic that was recently discovered from the site. However, Newschecker has found this claim to be false.
Users claimed that the video showed ‘Tamrapatra’ or copper plate, that were used for documentation in the past, and claimed that the find highlighted the Buddhist legacy of Ayodhya.
Links to such posts can be found here, here, here and here.
The Buddhist-Ayodhya Link
British army officer and archaeologist Sir Alexander Cunningham was the first to survey Ayodhya in 1862-63. His intention was to relocate Buddhist sites and to establish the Buddhist antecedents of Ayodhya. He also concluded that the cities of Visakha, Saketa (a centre of Buddhism) and Ayodhya were the same.
The Department of Ancient Indian History, Culture and Archaeology, Banaras Hindu University led-by Professor A. K. Narain, conducted an excavation at Ayodhya during 1969-70. The excavation unearthed certain objects but there was no mention of any copper plate or scroll being found during the dig.
Reportedly, The writings of Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang, who visited between 629 and 645 AD, record 3,000 monks and 100 monasteries in Ayodhya alone. Land-levelling work for the Ram temple in Ayodhya has revealed artefacts on-site too.
In 2020, Congress leader Udit Raj had demanded analysis of the recovered items by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), claiming that the ancient artefacts found during the land levelling work at Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya on Thursday proved that it was a Buddha Sthal (Buddhist pilgrimage site).
In addition, Buddhist monks had staged a fast unto death in Ayodhya on claiming that the Ram Janmabhoomi area was a Buddhist site and should be handed over to UNESCO for excavation. The monks demanded the construction work of Ram temple be stopped immediately and UNESCO should take over excavation work at the site.
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To verify the authenticity of the claim, Newschecker began by conducting Google reverse image search on the keyframes of the viral video which led by to several Twitter posts from 2020, confirming that the video showing “copper plate from excavation in Ayodhya” is not recent, but has been in circulation on social media platforms at least from the past two years.
One such tweets by user @ramesh_gogi, dated June 8, 2020, carried a clearer version of the viral video with the caption, “While digging for the construction of Sri Ram Lalla Mandir at Sri Ram Janmabhoomi at Ayodhya, a Time Capsule was discovered showing the details of original temple.” An archived version of the same can be found here.
On carefully inspecting the video, Newschecker found that several symbols seen on the metal container related to Jewish iconography. The symbol of an open palm with a star imprint, was found to be a Hamsa -a hand shaped amulet used for protection by both Jewish and Muslim communities. The Hamsa is usually shaped in the form of a symmetrical hand, with thumbs on both sides, not anatomically accurate.
The scroll also featured an image of a candle, which was identified to be a Menorah– a seven-branched candelabra which is considered to be one of the oldest symbols of the Jewish faith and is used in Jewish Temples.
Several symbols related to Jewish culture can be seen on the scroll as well. On analysing the video, one can see symbols typical to Jewish iconography, including a Menorah, two lions, and a Star of David. We were unable to identify the script on the document.
On further research, we found a clearer version of the viral video uploaded on YouTube by user ‘SRIRAM PRABHU KUMAR’ on March 19, 2022 with the caption, ‘500 B.C | Original book of Esther found in Iran with a pure Golden Literature.’ Using Google Lens tool, Newschecker translated a few letters that were written on the scroll to conclude that the language of the text seen in the scroll was ‘Hebrew’ -a language often associated with the Jews.
To verify if the scroll was indeed the ‘Original book of Esther found in Iran with a pure Golden Literature’ as claimed in the YouTube video, we conducted a keyword search for ‘Esther Original Book Iran’ and found an article by The USA Today, dated April 26, 2022, which termed the claim to be false.
As per the report, a professor of Hebrew Bible and Semitic languages at University of California, Los Angeles, William Schniedewind said, “The vowel markings on the (scroll in the video) weren’t even invented until at least the seventh century A.D.” Schniedewind said in an email. That was hundreds of years after the book of Esther was written.
However, we were independently unable to verify the same.
The viral video does not show a copper plate or scroll belonging to the Buddhist period that was recovered during excavation or land levelling in Ayodhya.
Result: False Context/False
Website Of Jewish Virtual Library
Report By The USA Today, dated April 26, 2022
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