Gyanvapi Mosque Case: A 31-year-old matter regarding a 16th-century controversy | Jagran Explainer

Gyanvapi Mosque Case: The Gyanvapi mosque is adjacent to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple and has been a subject a controversy. Hindu groups allege that the mosque was built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb after demolishing structures of the Kashi Vishwanath temple in the 16th century.

By Aalok Sensharma
Updated: Mon, 16 May 2022 11:46 AM IST
Minute Read
Gyanvapi Mosque Case: A 31-year-old matter regarding a 16th-century controversy | Jagran Explainer
Gyanvapi mosque case was revived in 2019 after the historic Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi verdict by the Supreme Court/ File Image

Varanasi | Jagran News Desk: The court-mandated videography survey of the Gyanvapi mosque complex - which began on Saturday amid tight security - has been completed, said officials on Monday, adding that details of the survey were not disclosed.

"We spoke with all stakeholders and reached a consensus that it's important to follow court's order. We also cleared people's misconceptions, worked on confidence building. The 3-day survey has ended. We thank the people of Kashi for their cooperation," Varanasi CP Satish Ganesh was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.

The Gyanvapi mosque is adjacent to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple and has been a subject a controversy. Hindu groups - who have filed multiple pleas in the Supreme Court, Allahabad High Court and Varanasi Court - allege that the mosque was built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb after demolishing structures of the Kashi Vishwanath temple in the 16th century.

How did it all start?

The controversy first started in 1991 after some local priests claimed that Aurangzeb has demolisted some parts of the Kashi Vishwanath temple - originally constructed by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Malwa kingdom - to built the mosque. The priests also sought permission to worship in the Gyanvapi complex, claiming idols of Hindu Gods are present there.

However, the matter remained dormant and the hearing was suspended by the Allahabad High Court.

What do historians suggest?

Some historians differ from the claims of the Hindu groups. They claim that the Gyanvapi mosque and the Kashi Vishwanath temple were built by Mughal emperor Akbar in a bid to spread awarness about his Din-e-Ilahi religious system. However, some historians support claims that Aurangzeb demolished parts of the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

"My understanding is that the Gyanvapi masjid was indeed built during Aurangzeb's reign. The masjid incorporates the old Viswanath temple structure -- destroyed on Aurangzeb's orders -- as its qibla wall. While the mosque dates back to Aurangzeb's period, we do not know who built it," wrote historian Audrey Truschke in her book Aurangzeb: The Man and the Myth.

"The Gyanvapi masjid still stands today in Benares with part of the ruined temple's wall incorporated into the building. This reuse may have been a religiously clothed statement about the dire consequences of opposing the Mughal authority," Truschke added.

How the matter was revived?

The matter was revived after the historic verdict of the Supreme Court in 2019 in connection with the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute. That year, a petition was filed in the Allahabad High Court that sought a survey of the Gyanvapi masjid by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI).

In 2021, another petition was filed by Delhi-based women, who sought a permission to worship Hindu deities, whose idols are said to be located on the walls of the mosque. They also sought instructions that idols of Hindu Gods should not be damaged.

Then in April 2022, Varanasi District Civil Court (Senior Division) judge Ravi Kumar Diwakar ordered a survey and videography by the advocate commissioner at the mosque complex. Diwakar also turned down a plea by the mosque committee to replace Ajay Kumar Mishra, who was appointed advocate commissioner by him to survey the Gyanvapi-Gauri Shringar complex.

He also appointed two more advocates to help the commissioner with the survey and said it should be completed by Tuesday.

The Muslim groups moved the Supreme Court against the survey later, but were left disappointed after the top court refused to grant an interim order of status quo on the survey. The court, however, agreed to consider listing the plea of a Muslim party against the survey of the Gyanvapi premises.

The Muslim side has been referring to the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 and its section 4 which bars filing of any suit or initiating any other legal proceeding for a conversion of the religious character of any place of worship, as existing on August 15, 1947.

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