Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque Matter: ASI Report says Temple Existed at the Site of Gyanvapi Mosque


03:08 PM

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Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque Matter: ASI Report says Temple Existed at the Site of Gyanvapi Mosque Blog Image

What’s in Today’s Article?

  • Why in News?
  • Background of the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque Matter
  • Key Highlights of the ASI Report
  • Key Takeaways from the ASI Report

Why in News?

  • 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.

Background of the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque Matter

  • How did it all begin?
    • 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.
    • The claim was that the mosque was constructed under the orders of Aurangzeb, who allegedly tore down a part of the temple in the 16th century.
  • Case revived:
    • In 2019, a petition was filed (in Varanasi district court) after the SC's Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute verdict.
    • The court directed the ASI to conduct a scientific survey, sparking a series of legal actions and reactions.
    • For example, in 2021, the Allahabad HC put a halt to proceedings in the Varanasi court, emphasising 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 update:
    • The ASI was tasked by the Varanasi district court in July 2023 to conduct a scientific survey of the mosque and ascertain if it was “constructed over a pre-existing structure of a Hindu temple”.
    • This faced a temporary pause from the SC and the ASI initiated the survey in August 2023.

Key Highlights of the ASI Report

  • The pre-existing structure was probably destroyed in the 17th century, during the reign of Aurangzeb.
    • A loose stone with an inscription engraved on it recorded the construction of the mosque during the reign of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb between the years 1676 and 1677.
    • According to Maasir-i-Alamgiri (1947) by Sir Jadunath Sarkar, the pre-existing structure was destroyed after Aurangzeb issued orders to the governors of all provinces to demolish the schools and temples of the infidels.
    • According to the Emperor’s command his officers had demolished the temple of Vishwanath at Kashi on September 2, 1669.
  • Inscriptions in Devanagari, Grantha, Telugu and Kannada scripts with names of deities found.
    • During the survey, a total of 34 inscriptions were recorded.
    • These are inscriptions on the stones of the pre-existing Hindu temples, which have been re-used during the construction/ repair of the existing structure.
    • The report added that names of deities like Janardhana (another name of Vishnu), Rudra (another name of Shiva), and “Umesvara” were found in the inscriptions.
    • Terms such as Maha-muktimandapa (while mukti means freedom, mandapa means platform) mentioned in three inscriptions are of great significance.
  • Parts of the pre-existing temple were mutilated for reuse.
    • Vyala(a Hindu mythological creature) figures carved on either side of the lotus medallion were mutilated for reuse, and the area between the corners decorated with floral design after the stone mass was removed.
  • The central chamber and main entrance of the pre-existing structure are part of the existing structure.
    • According to the report, the pre-existing temple had one big central chamber and at least one chamber to the north, south, east, and west respectively.
    • The central chamber now forms the central hall of the existing structure.
    • Meanwhile, the main entrance to the central chamber which was from the west is now blocked by stone masonry.
    • The entrance used to be decorated with carvings of animals and birds and an ornamental torana (a gateway).
  • Sculptural remains in cellars indicate that there existed a large Hindu temple.
    • The report noted that pillars from the pre-existing temple were reused to make cellars in the eastern part of the platform to accommodate a large number of people for prayers.
    • Moreover, sculptures of Hindu deities and carved architectural members were found under the dumped soil in one of the cellars.

Key Takeaways from the ASI Report

  • The Gyanvapi Masjid case continues to unfold as a complicated legal battle with deep historical and religious implications.
  • The recent decision by the Varanasi court to disclose the ASI report is a significant step toward transparency in resolving this long-standing dispute.
  • While the Opposition maintained silence on the matter, the RSS and BJP indicated they were in no hurry to get into the issue and would wait for courts to take the lead on the matter.
  • According to an RSS functionary, the Sangh had to take up the Ayodhya Ram temple issue in the 1980s as a mobilisational issue so as to reach out to people and get our concerns into the mainstream debate.
    • At that time, society was not alive to these concerns, like it is today. Now, it is society that has taken up all these cultural concerns as collective concerns.

Q1) What does Torana represent in Buddhism?

The word Toran originates from the Sanskrit word ‘Torana’ which means to pass. Toran is the name of a sacred gateway in Buddhist architecture.

Q2) What is the Maasir-i-Alamgiri?

Maasir-i-Alamgiri is an account of Emperor Aurangzeb’s (1620-1707) reign. It was composed after the death of the emperor by Saqi Musta'd Khan at the behest of Inayetullah Khan Kashmiri, the emperor's last secretary.

Source: ASI report says temple existed at the site of Gyanvapi mosque: 5 key takeaways | IE | ET