Gyanvapi Masjid built on temple, says ASI

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India Tomorrow

NEW DELHI—The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is reported to have concluded that a temple existed at the site of the 17th century Gyanvapi Masjid of Varanasi. The report was submitted to the Varanasi district court on January 25, 2024.

Varanasi district judge Dr. Ajaya Krishna Vishvesha had asked ASI on July 21 last year to do a scientific survey of the Gyanvapi Masjid premises and determine whether the Masjid was built over a pre-existing structure. Reportedly 34 ‘proofs’ have been produced to claim that there was a temple at that site.

According to a report in The Indian Express, the Hindu litigants claimed that the masjid was built on the site of the original Kashi Vishwanath temple after its destruction in the 17th century. Counsel for the plaintiffs, Vishnu Shankar Jain claimed that the ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey by the ASI confirmed the existence of a Hindu temple in its 839-page report. It is reported that 22 pages consist of conclusions.

The ASI had submitted its report to the court last month in a sealed cover. The copy of the ASI report was handed over to the Hindu and Muslim litigants on Thursday.

Reportedly, the ASI report said that through the study of architectural remains, exposed features and artefacts, inscriptions, art and sculptures, it can be said that there existed a Hindu temple before the construction of the existing structure.

It is claimed that the alleged temple had a big central chamber and at least one chamber to the north, south, east and west. It is claimed that the remains of the three chambers still exist.

The ASI report talks about the Arabic-Persian inscription found inside a room and claims that a pre-existing structure appears to have been destroyed in the 17th century, during the reign of Aurangzeb. It also claims that a part of the old structure was modified and reused in the existing structure.

The ASI report is said to have argued that the western wall of the Masjid is a remaining part of a Hindu temple. It based its argument on the reported findings of “existing architectural remains, decorated mouldings on the walls, a large decorated entrance gate, a small entrance with a mutilated image, birds and animals carved for decoration.”

In support of its claim, the ASI report said that pillars from earlier temples were reused while making cellars in the eastern part of the platform. It also said that the sculptures of Hindu deities and carved architectural members were found buried under the dumped soil.

The ASI also reported to have said that during the survey, several inscriptions were noticed on the existing and pre-existing structures. A total of 34 inscriptions were recorded during the present survey and 32 estampages were taken.

Reportedly, the inscriptions are in Devanagari, Grantha, Telugu and Kannada scripts. It was claimed that the inscriptions on the stones of the pre-existing Hindu temples had been re-used during the construction and repair of the existing structure.

The ASI survey suggested that the alleged reuse of earlier inscriptions in the structure is a sign that the earlier structures were destroyed.

The survey also mentioned the names of three deities such as Janardhana, Rudra, and Umesvara reportedly found in the inscriptions.

The survey also claimed that for the enlargement of the mosque and the construction of the courtyard, parts of the pre-existing temple including pillars and pilasters were reused with little modifications.

Mohammad Raees, counsel for the Gyanvapi Masjid, said that they would comment on the report after studying it. He said further steps would be chalked out after extensive study of the report.

According to some media reports, the plaintiffs said that earlier in the court commission report “Wazukhana was proved to be a Shivling” and now signs of the temple have been established. They demanded that the Masjid Intezamiya Committee should voluntarily hand over the site to the temple party.

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