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ASI Investigation Into Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque Conflict

According to the temple side, Aurangzeb demolished a part of the Kashi Vishwanath temple and constructed the Gyanvapi Masjid mosque in 1669

Declaring that the subject of conflict has a strong historical connection, and in response to the petition filed by Vijay Shankar Rastogi, the Varanasi court, on Thursday ordered The Archaeological Survey of India to survey the Gyanvapi Mosque Complex, which is built next to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The Archaeological Survey of India will investigate if the religious arrangement at the current and contested location is a superimposed modification or extension, or if there is systemic duplication of some sort.

In 2019, a local advocate, Vijay Shankar Rastogi had appealed the restitution of the property containing the Gyanvapi Mosque. He said, in 1664, Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb demolished a portion of the 2000-year-old Kashi Vishwanath Temple in order to establish the Gyanvyapi Mosque.

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The court has ordered the Director-General of ASI to create a five-member group of expert archaeologists, two of whom should ideally be members of the minority group.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Varanasi is one of the oldest and holiest cities in India. The temple pictured is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, one of the best-known temples in India. Wikimedia Commons

History:

Quabuddin Albak was the first to attack the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the 11th century. The attack demolished the temple’s peak. However, the puja ceremony persisted there even after that. King Todermal reconstructed the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in 1585. The temple was totally destroyed on Aurangzeb’s orders in 1669, and a mosque was constructed in its place. Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar constructed a new temple adjacent to the Gyanvapi mosque in 1780, which is now known as Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The Gyanvapi Mosque and the Kashi Vishwanath Temple now share a boundary wall.

Let’s take a look at the timeline of events around the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi mosque land issue:

First Petition: The first petition in the case was filed in 1991 in Varanasi civil court by Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar, who requested permission to worship in the Gyanvapi complex. Since it is claimed that Lord Vishwanath’s self-proclaimed Jyotirling is housed in the Gyanvapi Mosque.

Second Petition: The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee petitioned the Allahabad High Court in 1998, claiming that the mandir-masjid (temple-mosque) land conflict can not be resolved by a civil court because it was prohibited by statute. The lower court hearings, which had been ongoing for the past 22 years, were stayed by the high court.

Third Petition: Applicant Rastogi had filed a plea in the interest of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar in December 2019 in Varanasi region court, requesting an archeological overview of the whole Gyanvapi mosque complex. However, in January 2020 he faced stiff resistance from the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee.

Fourth Petition: In February 2020 the applicant again moved toward the lower court with an appeal, mentioning that the hearing is resumed because the Allahabad High Court had not prolonged the stay any further.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Gyanvapi Mosque. Wikimedia Commons

According to the temple side, Aurangzeb demolished a part of the Kashi Vishwanath temple and constructed the Gyanvapi Masjid mosque in 1669. The petitioner argues that the Gyanvapi complex contains the self-proclaimed Jyotirling of Lord Vishwanath in Kashi.

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According to the defense, there was no temple there, and the mosque has stood on the site since its inception.

Currently, the district court of Varanasi has ordered the Archaeological Survey of India to conduct a survey of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque complex. The court has additionally ordered the Uttar Pradesh government to bear the expense of the survey.

By: Khushi Bisht

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