Varanasi's Gyanvapi Mosque: Survey complete; Shivling found inside well
The Varanasi Gyanvapi Mosque complex's court-ordered videography survey was completed on Monday, a day before the next court hearing. Reportedly, the petitioners' lawyer Vishnu Jain said a Shivling was discovered inside a well, adding he would seek its protection in a civil court. Nearly 65% of the survey was done by Sunday. Moreover, the court-appointed committee earlier reported the discovery of two ancient swastikas.
- The Gyanvapi Mosque issue is on the lines of the Ayodhya dispute, which was resolved with a Supreme Court order in 2019.
- In 1991, several petitioners moved a Varanasi court, contending the mosque was built by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb after demolishing a Hindu temple in 1669.
- They demanded that the mosque be removed and the land be handed over to Hindus.
Advocates Harishankar Jain and Vishnu Jain claimed several areas of the mosque were once part of a Hindu temple complex. They claimed the western wall of the Gyanvapi Mosque complex still bears the scars of the temple's demolition, as evidenced by photographs that will be studied. Three rooms were unlocked on Saturday for the survey, while a fourth one was reportedly opened on Monday.
"The advocate commissioner will submit his report in the court tomorrow which will be prepared by the three commission members today. If the report is not finished on time, we will ask the court for more time," state prosecutor Mahendra Prasad Pandey told NDTV.
To recall, in April 2021, five Delhi-based women sought permission from a Varanasi court for year-long, daily worship of deities Shringar Gauri, Lord Ganesh, Lord Hanuman, and Nandi in the mosque complex. Currently, devotees are allowed to worship Shringar Gauri there only on the fourth day of Chaitra Navratri. Later, in April 2022, the court ordered a survey and videography by the court commissioner.
Back in 1991, lawyer Vijay Shankar Rastogi filed a petition in a Varanasi court as the "next friend" of the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir's presiding deity. Rastogi had argued Maharaja Vikramaditya built a temple 2,050 years ago on the site where the Gyanvapi Mosque stands. Other petitioners claimed Aurangzeb built the mosque in the 17th century by removing a portion of the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir.
The 1991 Gyanvapi case was on hold for several years until the Allahabad High Court suspended the hearing. However, the case resurfaced in 2019 following the Supreme Court's decision in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case. The Allahabad HC's decision was based on the Places of Worship Act, 1991, forbidding any changes to a worship place's religious character as it was on August 15, 1947.
The Supreme Court has consistently upheld the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991, while granting an exception only in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case, stating in the judgment itself that the law would apply in all the other cases.
A week ago, the videographers of the court commissioner's team said they had come across two faded but legible swastikas (sacred Hindu symbols) outside the Gyanvapi Mosque during the survey. To note, the recent survey/videography of the mosque ordered by the Varanasi court is in relation to the petition by the group of Delhi-based women, and not the pleas filed by Rastogi and others.