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Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque Matter


The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in its scientific survey report on the Gyanvapi mosque complex has concluded that “there existed a Hindu temple prior to the construction of the existing structure” at the site.


GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque Matter: Unraveling the Legal History
  2. Key Findings from the ASI Report on Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque: Unveiling Historical Insights
  3. Key Takeaways from the ASI Report on Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque: Navigating Complex Realities

Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque Matter: Unraveling the Legal History

Origin of the Legal Tussle:
  • Dates back to a 1991 petition filed in Varanasi district court, seeking the restoration of Gyanvapi land to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.
  • Alleges that the mosque was constructed under Aurangzeb’s orders, involving the destruction of a part of the temple in the 16th century.
Revival of the Case:
  • In 2019, a petition was filed after the Supreme Court’s Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute verdict.
  • Varanasi district court directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct a scientific survey, leading to a series of legal actions.
Interruption by Allahabad High Court:
  • In 2021, Allahabad High Court halted proceedings in the Varanasi court, citing the Places of Worship Act 1991.
  • The Act prevents changes in the religious character of a place of worship as of August 15, 1947.
Recent Developments – ASI Survey:
  • In July 2023, Varanasi district court tasked the ASI to conduct a scientific survey of the mosque.
  • The objective was to ascertain if the mosque was constructed over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple.
  • The Supreme Court temporarily paused the survey, which was eventually initiated by the ASI in August 2023.

Key Findings from the ASI Report on Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque: Unveiling Historical Insights

Destruction Under Aurangzeb’s Reign:

  • The pre-existing structure, likely a Hindu temple, was likely destroyed during the 17th century, under Aurangzeb’s rule.

Aurangzeb’s Inscription:

  • An engraved loose stone recorded the mosque’s construction during Aurangzeb’s reign, specifically between 1676 and 1677.

Historical Documentation:

  • Maasir-i-Alamgiri (1947) by Sir Jadunath Sarkar supports the destruction of the pre-existing structure, following Aurangzeb’s orders to demolish schools and temples.

Demolition of Vishwanath Temple:

  • Aurangzeb’s officers reportedly demolished the Vishwanath temple at Kashi on September 2, 1669.

Multilingual Inscriptions:

  • A total of 34 inscriptions found during the survey, in Devanagari, Grantha, Telugu, and Kannada scripts.

Deities’ Names and Significance:

  • Inscriptions revealed names of deities like Janardhana (Vishnu), Rudra (Shiva), and “Umesvara.”
  • Significance attached to terms like Maha-muktimandapa mentioned in three inscriptions.

Mutilation of Vyala Figures:

  • Vyala figures, Hindu mythological creatures, mutilated for reuse, along with floral designs, indicating repurposing of the pre-existing temple.

Integration of Central Chamber:

  • The central chamber and main entrance of the pre-existing temple are part of the current structure.
  • The central chamber now serves as the central hall, while the original entrance is blocked.

Architectural Decorations:

  • Original entrance adorned with carvings of animals, birds, and an ornamental torana (gateway).

Sculptural Remains and Cellars:

  • Sculptures of Hindu deities and architectural members found in cellars, providing evidence of a large Hindu temple.

Reuse of Pillars:

  • Pillars from the pre-existing temple repurposed to create cellars in the eastern part of the platform.

Ongoing Legal Battle:

  • The report adds significant historical depth to the ongoing legal dispute surrounding the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque case.

Key Takeaways from the ASI Report on Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque: Navigating Complex Realities

Complicated Legal Battle:

  • The Gyanvapi Masjid case remains entangled in a complex legal battle with profound historical and religious implications.

Transparency through ASI Report:

  • The Varanasi court’s decision to disclose the ASI report is a significant move toward transparency in addressing the longstanding dispute.

Opposition’s Silence:

  • The Opposition has maintained silence on the matter, indicating a cautious approach or a strategic wait-and-watch stance.

RSS and BJP’s Approach:

  • The RSS and BJP expressed no urgency in delving into the issue, preferring to let the courts lead the way in resolving the matter.

Comparisons with Ayodhya Ram Temple Issue:

  • An RSS functionary highlighted the mobilizational aspect of the Ayodhya Ram temple issue in the 1980s, positioning it as a means to address concerns and reach out to the public.

Evolution of Societal Awareness:

  • Unlike the past, where society was less attuned to cultural concerns, the current scenario sees society actively embracing these concerns collectively.

Cultural Concerns in Mainstream Discourse:

  • Cultural concerns, once taken up by the Sangh as mobilizational issues, have now become collective concerns embedded in mainstream societal discourse.

-Source: Indian Express

February 2024