Located in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India, the Gyanvapi Mosque was built by Aurangzeb in 1669 upon demolition of an older Shiva Temple. The most intriguing aspect of this mosque is that it was built from the ruins of the destroyed temple. In fact, the mosque is named after Gyan Vapi (Well of Knowledge), which was used for drawing water for the fountain in front of the temple.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is alleged to have been demolished by several invaders and rebuilt multiple times during the period of Mughal domination in Varanasi. It is believed that Qutb al-Din Aibak uprooted the temple for the first time in 1193/1194 CE, after defeating Raja Jayachandra. He then allegedly constructed the Razia Mosque in its place.
It wasn’t until the reign of liberal Mughal Emperor Akbar, in the 1500s, that the reconstruction of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple started. Todar Mal, a minister of Akbar in conjunction with Narayana Bhatta, a prominent Brahmin scholar of Varanasi rebuilt the Kashi Vishwanath in 1585. However, the temple was again turned into ruins by Aurangzeb in 1669. And on the ruins of the temple, the present day Gyanvapi Mosque stands which was probably constructed by Aurangzeb.
Over a century later, in 1777, Ahilyabai Holkar, Queen of Indore, sponsored the rebuilding of the Vishwanath Temple beside the Gyanvapi Mosque and this is the temple where pilgrims pay homage to Lord Shiva today.
The Civil Suit and the timeline of events
For years, Hindus have believed that the mosque in question was built over the Vishwanath Temple and several petitions have also been filed.
Firstly, in 1991, a plea was filed in a court in which the petitioners and local priests sought permission to worship in the Gyanvapi Mosque complex in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
In 1998, The Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, which oversees Gyanvapi, petitioned Allahabad High Court, saying that the dispute could not be settled in a civil court citing Section 4 of the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991. The civil court’s proceedings were placed on hold by the High Court.
The case remained pending for over 22 years.
In 2019, the case was revived as Vijay Shankar Rastogi, a lawyer, filed another plea seeking an archaeological survey of the mosque-complex.
In March 2021, a Supreme Court bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India, S.A. Bobde, agreed to examine the validity of the Places of Worship Act, 1991.
In April 2021, the Varanasi court ordered the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct a survey of the site and submit a report to the court. Both the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board and the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, which manages the Gyanvapi Mosque, contested the petition and opposed the survey at the premises.
On April 8, 2021, the Allahabad High Court, citing the Places of Worship Act, 1991, stayed the ASI survey.
On April 18, 2021, five women filed a petition in Varanasi court seeking the order to worship the deities inside the old temple complex, which they said had been converted into a mosque.
On 9 September 2021, the High Court ruled against the plaintiffs and their request was indefinitely stayed.
What’s happening in 2022
In 2022, Varanasi’s civil court ordered a survey of the disputed Gyanvapi mosque following several petitions that Hindu deities and objects were housed within. A court-appointed committee was asked to conduct a survey, which was videotaped.
On May 16, thousands of Hindus gathered outside Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi to demand the demolition of the structure as a court-mandated survey revealed evidence of a temple once existing where the mosque currently stands.
According to the reports, during the survey, a Shivling was discovered in the premises of the mosque. And the court has duly ordered that portion of the mosque to be sealed. A petition filed by Muslim representatives later challenged the court-ordered survey, which the Supreme Court refused to hear.
The hearing of the Gyanvapi mosque case is currently underway in Varanasi Court. Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee has also filed an Order 7 Rule 11 application seeking rejection of the plaint filed by Hindu women on the grounds that it violates the Places of Worship Act.
Stay tuned. NewsAura Media will keep you updated on all the latest developments in the case.