Gyanvapi: What is the history and timeline?


Varanasi court greenlights ASI report revelation in the ongoing temple-mosque dispute. ASI’s findings, submitted on December 18, expose the historical debate over the Gyanvapi Mosque’s origin near the Kashi Vishwanath temple. From a 1991 petition to recent judicial pauses, this legal saga reflects deep-rooted complexities.

Gyanvapi complex

A local Varanasi Court has granted permission to Hindus to conduct prayers inside the Gyanvapi mosque. Confirming the order, Hindu side advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain said that everyone will be entitled to perform puja, with the district administration required to make necessary arrangements within a week. Additionally, the Hindu side has filed a plea in the Supreme Court to unseal the ‘wazukhana’ area within the Gyanvapi complex, based on the Archaeological Survey of India‘s survey results. The ‘wazukhana’ had been sealed in 2022 as per a Supreme Court directive.

Earlier, the court gave the green light to unveil the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report on the Gyanvapi Masjid case. The ASI survey report has confirmed the existence of a pre-existing Hindu temple at the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi. Here is all you should know about the Gyanwapi case:

ASI Report Disclosed

On December 18, the ASI handed over its survey findings on the Gyanvapi mosque complex to the Varanasi district court. This move came after the completion of cleaning work in the Wazukhana area, as directed by the Supreme Court, marking a crucial step in the legal journey surrounding the mosque.

The Gyanvapi Mosque Background

The Gyanvapi Mosque has been at the center of debates, with some believing it was built on the remains of the Kashi Vishwanath temple. Various petitions in different courts, including the Supreme Court, Allahabad High Court, and Varanasi district court, have addressed different angles of this dispute.

How It All Began

The legal tussle dates back to a 1991 petition filed in Varanasi, seeking the restoration of Gyanvapiland 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, lawyer Vijay Shankar Rastogi filed a petition after the Supreme Court’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.

Judiciary steps In

The case saw various court interventions, including stays, extensions, and challenges to different orders. The Allahabad High Court, in 2021, put a halt to proceedings in the Varanasi court, emphasizing the Places of Worship Act, 1991, preventing changes in the religious character of a place of worship as of August 15, 1947.

Recent Update

The Varanasi court’s recent call for a “scientific investigation” by the ASI, involving ground-penetrating radar surveys and excavation, faced a temporary pause from the Supreme Court. The ASI initiated the survey in August 2023, with several extensions granted for the final 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 longstanding dispute.

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( Originally published on Jan 26, 2024 )


Roy Walsh

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