India's top court Monday suspended a ruling that divided between Hindus and Muslims a holy site in northern India that had been the cause of deadly riots.

Lawyers representing Hindu and Muslim groups said the Supreme Court suspended a September ruling by a lower court that the site of the Babri Mosque should be split, with the Muslim community getting control of one-third and two Hindu groups splitting the remainder.

Muslims revere the compound as the former site of the 16th century Babri Mosque, while Hindus say it is the birthplace of their god Rama and contend a temple to him stood on the site before the mosque.

The top court's ruling came as lawyers for both communities appealed the September verdict. It's unclear when the Supreme Court will issue its own verdict on the matter.

The dispute over the 64-acre (25-hectare) religious site in the city of Ayodhya, 350 miles (550 kilometers) east of New Delhi, has been one of India's most contentious issues.

In 1992, while the legal case lingered, tens of thousands of Hindu extremists ripped apart the mosque with spades, crowbars and their bare hands as security forces watched. A small tented shrine to Rama now stands on the site.

The demolition sparked nationwide riots that killed 2,000 people.