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OPINION | Gyanvapi Mosque: How Shivling was found inside wazukhana (ablution pond)

The District Magistrate of Varanasi, Kaushal Raj Sharma, said, since the ablution pond (wazu khana) already had a fence made of steel angles and netting with three entry points, the local administration had no problems in putting extra efforts while sealing the area. 

Written by: Rajat Sharma @RajatSharmaLive New Delhi Published on: May 17, 2022 16:15 IST
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OPINION | Gyanvapi Mosque: How Shivling was found inside wazukhana (ablution pond)

The recovery of a huge single stone said to be a several centuries-old Shivling, from the ‘wazukhana’ (ablution pond) of Gyanvapi mosque, built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, has not only given a big twist to the ongoing survey but has caused jubilation among the Hindu community, with devotees shouting slogans ‘Har Har Mahadev’ in Varanasi on Monday, which happened to be Buddh Purnima.

Lawyers for Hindu petitioners claimed that the Shivling was found submerged in the water of ‘wazukhana’, and it was covered from four sides by a nine-inch wall. The wall, according to lawyers, was erected around the so-called fountain for the benefit of Muslim devotees who come to the mosque for ‘namaaz’ prayers. But it was not a fountain. The wall was erected to hide the Shivling and then water was poured into the huge cavity. Since nobody had entered the pond for several centuries, the Shivling lay submerged in water. But in the presence of advocate commissioners appointed by a local court, the Shivling was discovered and the entire process was videographed.

When the Shivling was found, the five female petitioners along with their lawyers, and lawyers from Anjuman Intejamia Masjid, along with senior local officials were present at the spot. The Muslim side rejected the theory of the ‘Shivling’ having been found, and claimed that it was a fountain. When the Civil Judge(Senior Division) Ravi Kumar Diwakar was informed about this discovery, he immediately ordered that the entire area be sealed forthwith and nobody should be allowed to go the spot.

On Tuesday, in the presence of a large police force, local Muslims offered ‘namaaz’ inside the mosque peacefully, while the court-appointed commissioners sought two days’ time for submitting the survey report. S. M. Yasin, joint secretary of the Anjuman Intejamia Masjid (AIM), which is one of the respondents in the case, accused plaintiff Rakhi Singh’s lawyer Harishankar Jain of passing off a portion of a fountain inside the pond as the ‘Shivling’. The mosque committee’s counsel Abhay Nath Yadav said, “I am shocked to see that lawyers of plaintiffs are making claims that a Shivling was found inside the Gyanvapi premises, but the fact is that the court-appointed commissioners are yet to submit their report”.

There was jubilation among the Hindu devotees on Monday. Plaintiff Rakhi Singh’s lawyer Harishankar Jain described the discovery of the ‘Shivling’ as “a very important piece of evidence” and pleaded before the court to get the entire area sealed for its safety. He also demanded a ban on the entry of Muslims into the complex, and restrict the number of devotees offering namaaz to 20 at a time. One of the lawyers for the Hindu plaintiffs, Dr. Sohan Lal Arya, said, “Baba mil gaye. Jin khoja tin paiyaan, gahre paani paith..isharon me puri baat samajh lijiye” (We found Lord Shiva. After entering deep in water, we found what we wanted. Please try to understand my message in full)

The District Magistrate of Varanasi, Kaushal Raj Sharma, said, since the ablution pond (wazu khana) already had a fence made of steel angles and netting with three entry points, the local administration had no problems in putting extra efforts while sealing the area. A CRPF watchtower has been set up in the vicinity, he said.

The survey of Gyanvapi Mosque premises was ordered by the local court after five Hindu women plaintiffs sought the right to unhindered daily worship of Goddess Shringar Gauri and other deities along the outer wall of the Gyanvapi complex. Dr Sohan Lal Arya, the lawyer for the Hindu plaintiff, said, “We have got our Baba, for which Nandi (Shiva’s bull) had been waiting”.

On being told that the Muslim side is describing the claim as fictitious, he replied, “Everything is now known. We have got more evidences than what he had expected…Today is a big day for us. The moment the Shivling was found, the entire complex resounded with ‘Har Har Mahadev’. People started dancing….Now we will demand an inquiry commission to probe the western wall which is 75 feet long and 30 feet wide, and the 15 feet high ‘malba’ (debris), which faces Shringar Gauri. We will surely find the broken idols of our gods and goddesses from the 15 feet high debris full of stones.”

When the lawyers’ claim came to light, lots of speculations arose, across the country about what had happened nearly 450 years ago during Aurangzeb’s rule. The claim being made is that a four-foot diameter Shivling has been discovered, but there is no idea at the moment as to how much Shivling has been buried inside the ground.

One thing is certain. A Shivling has been found buried in mud and water right in the middle of the wazu khana (ablution pond). Another member of the survey team, Vishnu Jain said, Muslim devotees who come for ablution here before prayers, must have definitely seen the Shivling submerged in water because the water level occasionally goes down.  Already the court-appointed commissioners have completed nearly 250 GB  of videography.

Here, I want to mention what R. P. Singh, a member of the survey team said. He explained the complete process by which the survey team reached the Shivling.  He said, even the survey team earlier thought it was a fountain, it had no water connection. Secondly, a wall had been erected to hide the foundation.  The Shivling that was found on Monday, is located 83 feet away from the idol of Nandi, facing towards the Shivling, as it normally happens in every Shiva temple.

The survey report, expected to be submitted after two days, will also reveal the evidence that were found in the ‘tehkhana’ (basement). Another lawyer Subhash Nandan Chaturvedi said, that when water was drained from the ablution pound, a wooden cover resembling a door was noticed, but since the survey commissioners had no powers to break open doors, the area was left untouched.

Now, let’s go back to history. The world-famous Kashi Vishwanath temple is older than the ancient Hindu Puranas and scripts. The Skanda Purana and Shiva Purana mention Kashi Vishwanath. Modern historians have nearly 1,000-year-old records, according to which, the original Kashi Vishwanath temple was destroyed in 1194 CE by Mohammed Ghori’s commander Qutbuddin Aibak. The temple was rebuilt by a Gujarat businessman in 1230. Later the temple was destroyed and rebuilt several times.

There are some contradictions among historians about the Gyanvapi mosque. But historians agree that the Maharani of Indore Ahilyabai Holkar got the present Kashi Vishwanath temple built in 1780. The three gold-plated domes of the temple were donated by Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839. Anybody watching the Gyanvapi mosque can say for sure that it was built after demolishing a temple.

That is why none of the Muslim leaders or advocates are saying that it was not a temple. They are banking on the 1991 Places of Religious Worship Act brought during Congress rule, which calls for ensuring the status quo in all religious shrines, except the then disputed Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid complex.

Soon after the Shivling was discovered, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi tweeted: “this is a textbook repeat of December 1949 in Babri Masjid. This order itself changes the religious nature of the masjid. This is a violation of the 1991 Act. This was my apprehension and it has come true. Gyanvapi Masjid was and will remain a masjid till judgment day, Inshallah.” Owaisi repeated the Anjuman Intejamia Masjid’s claim that it was a part of a fountain, and not a Shivling. Jammu & Kashmir PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said, “they are now finding Bhagwan in mosques, that is why they are after our mosques. First, they demolished the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, and now Gyanvapi. Let them give us a list of all mosques which they want to demolish.”

Union Rural Development Minister Giriraj Singh gave an acerbic reaction to these remarks. He said, “it will be better if I do not speak much. If I start speaking, Owaisi and Mehbooba will have nothing to reply to. If temples were demolished to build mosques, naturally Bhagwan will be found inside mosques. Now there is again rule of law and Hindus are getting justice.”

Owaisi and Mehbooba are following their political lines, and these are general remarks. Their allegation is that BJP is deliberating trying to raise disputes over mosques, but if one goes through this specific case about the Gyanvapi mosque, the political arguments appear to be weak. It was the local court’s order to carry out a survey of the Gyanvapi complex, and not the BJP government’s. The verdict will come from the court, and not from the government.

The 1991 Places of Religious Worship Act that Owaisi is referring to relates to all religious structures that existed prior to 1947. There cannot be changes in their nature.

I have to mention two points here. One: From 1947 till 1991, there used to be daily worship of Goddess Shringar Gauri in the Gyanvapi complex, but this was prohibited in 1991. Later, one-day pooja was permitted. From the legal point of view, the post-1947 situation must prevail, that is daily uninterrupted prayer of Goddess Shringar Gauri must be allowed. The petition filed by five Hindu ladies seeks permission for uninterrupted daily prayer of the goddess inside the Gyanvapi complex. 

Two: Owaisi is speaking half-truths as far as this law is concerned. BJP leaders have pointed out that Owaisi failed to mention that there are some exemptions in this Act. One of the exemptions is, that if the structure is more than 100 years old, the structure shall remain out of the purview of the Act. The Shivling found in the Gyanvapi complex is reported to be 450 years old. If it is proved to be correct, then the Gyanvapi complex will remain out of the purview of the 1991 Act. I think, this issue, at the moment, appears to be a fertile ground for political football and nobody can stop it.

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