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Guide to the "Hum Sab Ayodhya" exhibit panels on the Ayodhya region and destruction of the mosque, Uttar Pradesh, India, and related protest posters, after 1993-2000

Summary

Collection consists of 37 large paper sheets bearing reduced-size reproductions of 83 panels that formed a 1993 exhibit narrating the history, culture, and customs of the Aydhoya region in India, now part of the state of Uttar Pradesh. It was organized by the curator Ram Rahman and SAHMAT (Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust), a New Delhi-based collective of Indian artists, writers, and activists against communalism and violent extremism. Also includes 47 posters protesting extremist violence, created by the same organization. The exhibit illustrates the origins of the Babri Masjid mosque complex and its destruction by Hindu extremists in December 1992. The black-and-white and color reproductions, most without captions, include 16th century paintings; regional maps; plans and large color photographs of the mosque complex; details of sculptures, scripts, and reliefs; reproductions of English accounts; and photographs of area inhabitants as well as individuals associated with regional politics. There are also several texts in Hindi. The sheets measure approximately 28 1/4 x 38 1/4 inches. Posters are sized approximately 17 x 21 3/4 inches. Detailed information on the original 1993 exhibit and its historical context is found in a 2012 publication on the exhibit, available in the Duke Libraries.

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.11630
Title
"Hum Sab Ayodhya" exhibit panels on the Ayodhya region and destruction of the mosque, and related protest posters, Uttar Pradesh, India
Date
after 1993-2000
Extent
3.5 Linear Feet, 3 oversize folders; 1 box
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Language
Materials in English and Hindi.

Collection Overview

Content Description

Collection consists of 37 oversize paper sheets bearing reduced-size reproductions of 83 wall panels relating to the exhibit "Hum Sab Ayodhya" ("We are all Ayodhya") on the history and culture of the Ayodhya region and mosque, Uttar Pradesh, India. Also includes 47 protest posters relating to right-wing extremism and violence.

The exhibit, organized by the curator Ram Rahman and Sahmat (Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, a Delhi-based collective of Indian artists and writers against communalism), explored the complex history, geography, and cultural life of Ayodhya, or Saket, presently located in the district of Faizabad, in the State of Uttar Pradesh, India. It focused specifically on the Babri Masjid mosque complex, built in the 16th century and an important religious site for India's Muslims, as well as a site for clashes between Hindu and Muslim communities.

The exhibit was mounted in New Delhi shortly after the destruction of the Babri Masjid by Hindu extremists in December 1992, and there was fierce controversy over its content.

The black-and-white and color exhibit sheets feature 16th century illustrations; large color and black-and-white photographs of the mosque complex; photographs of its inscriptions, reliefs, and sculptures; images of deities; maps of the region; photographs of individuals connected with regional politics and activism; and 20th century photographic portraits of local Ayodhya peoples.

Exhibit texts include reproductions of several 19th century English accounts regarding the region's politics and geography, explanatory texts in Hindi, and an introductory title panel, also in Hindi. The sheets measure approximately 28 1/4 x 38 1/4 inches. The original sequence of the individual panels is indicated by numbers marked on the backs of the sheets.

Detailed information on the exhibit and its historical context is found in a 2012 publication on the exhibit, available in the Duke Libraries.

The collection also includes a group of 47 posters created by the SAHMAT collective from the late 1990s, protesting right-wing extremist violence in India directed at secular, cultural, and religious groups. Many refer to specific acts of violence or political and cultural intimidation. Posters include text in Hindi and English, graphic design elements, photographs, eyewitness quotations, slogans, and artwork.

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How to Cite

[Identification of item], "Hum Sab Ayodhya" exhibit panels on the Ayodhya region and mosque, Uttar Pradesh, India, and related protest posters, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Exhibit panel reproductions
(11 Sheets, Approximately 28 1/4 x 38 1/4 inches)
Oversize-folder 1
Exhibit panel reproductions
(14 Sheets, Approximately 28 1/4 x 40 1/4 inches)
Oversize-folder 2
Exhibit panel reproductions
(12 Sheets, Approximately 28 1/4 x 38 1/4 inches)
Oversize-folder 3
Supplementary materials: SAHMAT protest posters, 1997-2000
(47 items, 1 box)

This collection of protest posters was produced in the late 1990s by the SAHMAT collective, that also sponsored and curated the "Hum Sab Adoyhya" exhibit. The group is a collective of artists, activists, and writers who are dedicated to promoting freedom of expression and combating any form of right-wing extremism that has targeted secular and religious groups in India.

Posters typically measure between 11 7/8 x 21 and 17 x 21 3/4 inches and feature text in Hindi and English, as well as colorful graphic design elements, photographs, eyewitness quotes, caricatures, and political cartoons. Frequent subjects include references to specific acts of violence or political and cultural intimidation. Most are in color.

Most of the designs are typical of ephemeral protest posters with slogans and illustrations; there are also several more elegant exhibit-quality compositions featuring artwork and photography by Indian artists. Some posters feature a small corner logo commemorating the 50th anniversary of Indian independence.

Box 1
 

Historical Note

The exhibit panels and the related group of protest posters all refer more broadly to the political, religious, and cultural conflicts in India that have continued into the 21st century.

The exhibit from which the reproduction sheets in this collection were derived was titled Hum Sab Ayodhya ("We are all Ayodhya"), and was organized in August 1993 by SAHMAT (Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust), a collective of Indian artists and writers against communalism and extremist violence, formed in 1989 and based in New Delhi.

The exhibit was mounted simultaneously in twelve cities in India to protest the 1992 destruction of a large and important mosque in the Ayodhya region. It explored the history, geography, and cultural life of the people of Ayodhya. Ayodhya, also known as Saket, is presently located in the district of Faizabad, in the State of Uttar Pradesh, India; it is believed to be the birth place of the Hindu deity Rama, and the setting of the epic Ramayana.

The Ayodhya region became a focal point for disputes and violent clashes between Hindu extremists and Muslims over the Babri Masjid, a large mosque built in the 16th century by the Mughal emperor Babur. Hindus claimed the mosque was built by demolishing a Hindu temple dedicated to Rama. The mosque was eventually destroyed by a coalition of Hindu extremist groups in December 1992.

The original exhibit included a reproduction of a 4-page text titled "Ram Katha" (the legend of the Hindu deity Rama), written by a controversial Indian historian, Romila Thapar, which offended the Hindu right, and led to a fierce debate in the Indian Parliament to ban the exhibit. This text is not present in the collection. The exhibit was seized by the Delhi police, but was later cleared by the court in response to a legal challenge by the organizers of the exhibit.

More broadly, the exhibit panels and the related group of protest posters refer to the political, religious, and cultural conflicts in India that have continued into the 21st century.

Related Material

The exhibit catalog, Hum Sab Ayodhya, published in digital format by Issuu, Inc. in December 2012, on the 20th anniversary of the destruction of the Babri Masjid. Available online.

Muktnaad; Hum Sab Ayodhya: a selection of reports, editorials, discussions, comments from the press. Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust, New Delhi, 1994. A compendium of commentary on the exhibit and related cultural programs. Available through the Duke University Libraries catalog.


Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.

Provenance

The "Hum Sab Ayodhya" exhibit panels on the Ayodhya region and mosque, Uttar Pradesh, India and related protest posters were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a transfer in 2015.

Processing Information

Processed and encoded by Paula Jeannet, June 2018 and June 2019.

Accession(s) described in this finding aid: 2015-0146.

Other Notes

The exhibit sheets are thin, very large, and need careful handling. They have some tears on the edges. Please contact the Rubenstein Library in advance before coming to use this collection.