Varanasi court orders ASI survey of Gyanvapi mosque

The barricaded ‘wazukhana’, where a structure claimed by Hindu litigants to be a ‘shivling’ exists, will not be part of the survey.

Updated - July 21, 2023 11:59 pm IST

Published - July 21, 2023 04:52 pm IST - Varanasi

A file photo of the Gyanvapi mosque (at left) and the Kashi Viswanath temple in Varanasi.

A file photo of the Gyanvapi mosque (at left) and the Kashi Viswanath temple in Varanasi. | Photo Credit: AP

A court here on Friday directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct a scientific survey of the Gyanvapi mosque located next to the Kashi Vishwanath temple here.

The wazukhana – a small pool inside the mosque where Hindu litigants claim that a shivling exists – will not be part of the survey, in the wake of an earlier Supreme Court order to protect the area.

A throng of people outside the court received the news with slogans of Har Har Mahadev. The order by the court of A.K. Vishvesh upheld the petition of a group of Hindus seeking a survey to determine if the Mughal-era mosque was built at the site of an earlier Hindu temple.

The court fixed August 4 as the next date of hearing, according to government counsel Rajesh Mishra.

The court had reserved its order after hearing both Hindu and Muslim sides on July 14. The petition filed by the Hindu group had sought a direction to the ASI to survey the complex.

‘It may damage mosque’

The mosque management's counsel, Mohammed Tauhid Khan, said it will challenge the order. "It is not acceptable and we will move a higher court against it. This survey could cause damage to the mosque," he said.

The Muslim side filed its objection to the Hindu group's petition in May.

Vishnu Shankar Jain, counsel for the Hindu side, had earlier argued that the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque dispute can be resolved only by an archaeological investigation of the entire mosque complex. He had said that the situation would become clear after examining the three domes of the Gyanvapi complex, the western wall and the entire complex.

After an Allahabad High Court order, the Varanasi district court on May 16 agreed to hear a plea for an ASI survey.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had ordered protection of the area around the claimed shivling, found when a local court ordered a video survey of the complex. Following the order, the wazukhana was sealed.

The mosque management has maintained that the structure was part of a water fountain at the wazukhana where devotees performed ablutions before offering namaz.

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