People will be surprised to find that the VHP has been unable to cite any ancient Sanskrit text in support of its claim that there has been an ancient Hindu belief in Ram Janamsthan at Ayodhya. Surely if there were such a strong belief, there would have been numerous Vaishbavite texts exhorting worshippers to visit the spot. The absence of any such reference makes it very dubious that the belief in Rama Janamsthan is of such respectable antiquity as is being made out. It is even doubtful if it is earlier than the late 18th century, as we shall see here.
The only Sanskrit text the VHP experts have produced in support of claims (1) and (2) is the Skanda Purana. They refer to the Ayodhya-mahatmya, that is, the merits of visiting Ayodhya given in Skanda Purana. We have used the printed version of the Skanda Purana (Kashemarian edn., Bombay, 1910) and two other versions found in Manuscripts in Vrindavan Reswarch Institute, Vrindaban, and the Bodleian Library, Oxford. These texts are of recent origin and the insertion of interpolations in the Ayodhya mahatmya section of the printed Skanda Purana seems to have continued at least till the 18th century. The internal contents of the Skanda Purana including the mention of Vidyapati, who passed away in the first half of the 16th century, show that the core of this Purana itself was not compiled until earlier than the 16th century. Ayodhya-mahatmya given n the printed version has not been compiled by one hand. For example, the course of the description of the tirathas [pilgrimage] in general is interrupted and all of a sudden the glorification of Ayodhya starts. In the case of Ayodhya itself the virtues of visiting and bathing in the Sarayu river are not given at one place, but at two places; in between the contexts have nothing to do with the Sarayu. We also find that in the description of the trithas, Visishta replaces Agastya as the narrator, and then again the narration is taken over by Agastya. This shows obvious interpolation. The description of Janamsthan occurs in the last chapter of the Ayodhya- mahamtya (Verses 18-25), and is clearly a later addition. It is easier to make insertions at the end of texts.
In spite of these various inconsistencies, even if we accept the location of the birthplace of Rama as given in Ayodhya-mahatmya, it does not tally with the site of the Baburi Masjid. Two terms are used for the birthplace of Rama, Janamsthan and Janambhumi. Even if we take the two to be identical, the Ayodhya-mahatmya information about the location of the birthplace does not take us to the Baburi Masjid site. Both the Vrindaban and Bodleian versions of the Mahatmya mention the compass directions and distance from a few states. According to verses 21.24 the birthplace is located 500 dhanus (910 meters) westward of Laumash and 1009 dhanus (1835 meters) eastward of Vighneshvara. According to local Hindu belief Laumash or the place of Lomash is identical with the present Rinamochana Ghat. On this basis the Rama Janambhumi should be located somewhere west, in the vicinity of the Bhahmakunda close to the bed of the Sarayu. Further according to the Mahatmya Rinamochana Ghat, or the place of Lomash, lies 700 dhanus (1274 meters) northeast of Brahmakunda. Both the direction and the distance have been found to be approximately correct by us. It is further stated that the Janamsthana lies northeast of Vighnesh. According to local tradition the place of Vighnesh is marked by a pillar, which lies southwest of Rinamochana Ghat. This again excludes the Baburi Masjid site and places the birthplace somewhere between Rinamochana and Bharmakunda on the bank of the Saraya. Thus, according to Hindu belief as given in the Ayodhya Mahatmya of the Skanda Purana, the birth place of Rama cannot be located on the site where the Baburi Masjid stands. It is argued by experts of the VHP that the location of Rama Janambhumi is given on the basis of solar directions and cannot be determined through the use of campus. But even if we take solar directions into account the Janambhumi of the Skanda Purana cannot be located on the site of the Baburi Masjid.
The various versions of the Ayodhya-Mahatmya seem to have been prepared towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th; even as late as that the birthplace was not considered to be important. It is significant that the Janamsthan is not mentioned even one in any itineracy of pilgrimage given in the Mahatmya.
The description of the tirthas in Ayodhya as given in the Ayodhya Mahatmya sow that the Svargadvara tirtha was far more important in the eyes of the compilers of the pilgrimage section than the Janambhumi. Svargadvara is believed to be the place where Rama left for heaven and is considered sacred because of that reason. The Skanda Purana speaks of two Svargadvara tirthas in Ayodhya.
Whatever might be its real location there is no doubt that in Hindu belief it was far more meritorious to visit this place than other local places of pilgrimage. The earliest mention of this tirtha appears in a Gahandavala inscription of the 11th century, which speaks of the land grant made by king at the confluence of Sarayu and Ghaghara. This grant speaks of the worship of Vasudeva at the confluence site but not of any temple (D.C.Sirkar, Select Inscriptions, Volume II,PP.276-77, lines 20-23). It appears that the sanctity attached to the place of Rama's death was of greater importance in earlier times. It is significant that the Ayodhya-Mahtmya of the printed version of the Skanda Purana devotes one hundred verses to the description of the Svargadvara which is made to identical with Gopratara thirtha (b.112-211) and gives only eight verses to the description of the Janamsthana (10.18-25).
No place Ayodhya in associated with Rama's birth either in the 11th century or even six centuries after. When a place is associated with his birth possibly in the late 18 th century its location given in the various Mahatmyas does not tally with the present Baburi Masjid. It. Therefore, seems quite erroneous to hold that according to old Hindu belief the Rama Janambhumi temple was situated at the same site as is now occupied by the Baburi Masjid."