The current controversy is not the first one for the Gyanvapi mosque. The masjid has been a center of debate since 1991. Here are some interesting facts about Gyanvapi Masjid and its history.
History of Gyanvapi mosque case
The Gyanvapi mosque is adjacent to the iconic Kashi Vishwanath temple and has been the subject of controversy. Hindu groups allege that the mosque was built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb after demolishing the structures of the Kashi Vishwanath temple in the 16th century.
The full-scale controversy first started in 1991 after some local priests claimed that Aurangzeb has demolished some parts of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, originally constructed by Maharaja Vikramaditya. The priests also sought permission to worship in the Gyanvapi complex, claiming idols of Hindu Gods are present there. The Gyanvapi Mosque is located in Banaras, Uttar Pradesh, India.
The Vyas family
Later in 1991, the Vyas family (Engaged in taking one legal action after another with the Gyanvapi mosque administration since 1880 for the control of the Gyanvapi compound) had filed a case demanding the handover of the Gyanvapi mosque structure to Hindus, claiming that except for the upper structure, where namaz is offered and the domes, the entire structure still stands on the Lord Visheshwar temple.
A plea was filed through advocate Vijay Shankar Rastogi on behalf of the Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar, the main deity of the temple, also claiming that a temple was constructed by Maharaja Vikramaditya about 2,050 years ago at the spot.
“My ancestors not only contested different cases with the mosque authorities since 1880 but also filed the first petition in the Varanasi civil court in 1991, seeking permission for worship at Gyanvapi. said, Shailendra Kumar Pathak ‘Vyasji’, the successor of the Vyas family.
Though the Vyas family now does not live in the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi complex anymore, one of four basements of the mosque is still under its guardianship.
About the basement under the control of the Vyas family, Vyasji said, “This ‘tehkhana’ (basement) is in the southern part of the Gyanvapi mosque located in front of the face of Nandi (in Kashi Vishwanath Dham). We used to call this portion ‘garbhgriha’ (sanctum sanctorum) of the old Visheshwar temple. Goddess Shringar Gauri’s idol was worshipped there till December 5, 1992, a day before Babri Masjid demolition.”
“Since December 6, 1992, the routine worship was halted there. The basement was under the possession of our family and we were allowed to use it to keep articles related to Ramayan recitals like wooden poles, ‘kanats’ etc. The recital used to take place twice every year in Magh and Kartik. The Vyas family was allowed to offer prayer at Shringar Gauri on the fourth day of Chaitra Navratri,” Vyasji told TOI.
Coming to the case, after years of judicial fight, the matter remained stagnant and the Allahabad High Court suspended the hearing. The Gyanvapi mosque-Kashi Vishwanath Temple matter continued to remain pending for 22 years.
How the matter was revived?
Then in December 2019, a month after the Supreme Court announced its judgment over the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi row, VS Rastogi filed a petition on behalf of the same Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar seeking an archaeological survey of the Gyanvapi mosque complex.
The Varanasi court ordered the ASI to perform a survey of the mosque on 8 April 2021. But, the Sunni Waqf Board challenged the order and made the Court halt the archaeological survey of the Gyanvapi complex.
In 2021, another petition was filed by Delhi-based women, who desired permission to worship Hindu deities, whose idols are said to be located on the walls of the mosque. They also sought instructions that idols of Hindu Gods should not be damaged.
Then in April 2022, Varanasi District Civil Court (Senior Division) judge Ravi Kumar Diwakar ordered a survey and videography by the advocate commissioner at the mosque complex. Also, the judge turned down an appeal by the mosque committee to replace Ajay Kumar Mishra, who was appointed advocate commissioner by him to survey the Gyanvapi-Gauri Shringar complex.
With this, the Muslim groups moved the Supreme Court against the survey but were left disappointed after the top court rejected to grant an interim order of status quo on the survey. The court, however, agreed to consider listing the plea of a Muslim party against the survey of the Gyanvapi premises.