Gyanvapi Mosque: Allahabad High Court Rejects Muslim Party’s Petition; Puja Resumes on January 31st

The Allahabad High Court, on February 26, has ruled that Hindu worship will continue in the basement of the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. This decision comes after the Varanasi District Court had earlier granted Hindus the right to perform worship in the Vyas basement. Following this, on the night of January 31, worship had commenced in the basement. The Muslim side, represented by the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, had filed a petition in the High Court seeking a ban on Hindu worship in the basement, arguing that the basement belonged to them for a long time. 

A part of the Gyanvapi Mosque, including the basement area, had been under the possession of the District Magistrate and was being maintained under the administration along with the District Magistrate. Worship in the basement will now be stopped immediately. Justice Rohit Ranjan Agarwal had reserved the decision on the issue of worship in the basement after hearing arguments from both Hindu and Muslim sides on February 15.

After the order of Varanasi court, worship started in Vyasji's basement

Dispute Over Worship Rights at Gyanvapi Mosque

On the night of January 31, the basement (dining area) of Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi was opened, and Hindu worship rituals commenced. The Varanasi court had granted the Vishesh basement area to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad family for performing worship. However, the Muslim side filed a special petition in the Supreme Court demanding a ban on worship. The Supreme Court refused immediate intervention and advised the Muslim side to contact the High Court first.

According to Mumtaz Ahmed, the lawyer representing the Anjuman arrangement, the basement area is part of the Gyanvapi Mosque and is owned by the Waqf Board, hence worship cannot be allowed. After the decision, the Muslim side’s lawyer, Merajuddin, stated that this decision is not acceptable. On the other hand, Shailendra Vyas, a traditional priest from the Vyas family, had filed a petition seeking permission to worship and had started worship in the basement.

Objections have been raised about worshiping in the Gnanavapi Masjid, the lower part of which is in the Vyas basement.

Resumption of Worship at Vishesh basement in Gyanvapi Mosque After 31 Years

On February 1, the Varanasi District Court granted permission for Hindu worship to resume at the Vishesh basement in the Gyanvapi Mosque. Worship in the basement had been prohibited since 1993, making this decision a significant milestone after 31 years. The court emphasized that the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust Board must finalize the appointment of the priest, and the District Magistrate should arrange for necessary facilities for worship within seven days.

The worship of the established deity in the basement started immediately after the Varanasi court’s order, around 11:00 PM, and the Mangala Aarti was completed by 3:30 AM the next morning. However, the sudden initiation of worship led to overcrowding and disorderliness. On the following day, a large number of devotees rushed to Gyanvapi Mosque as early as dawn, causing congestion. They managed to have darshan from a distance of 20 feet, behind barricades.

Handing Over of Responsibilities to DM on January 17

On January 17, prior to the events of January 24, the court had entrusted the responsibility of the basement to the District Magistrate (DM). Following the court’s order, the DM had taken possession of the key to the basement from the Muslim side. Seven days after the DM’s presence, on January 24, the basement’s doors were unlocked. 

The Varanasi court’s directive highlighted that the Vyas family had been performing worship in the basement since the time of the British. Recently, Shailendra Kumar Vyas from the Vyas family also submitted a fresh application. As per the court’s orders, only the Vyas family has been granted permission to conduct worship in the basement of the Gyanvapi Mosque.

Nandiji is seated in the corridor complex in front of the Gnanavapi basement.

Lineage of the Vyas Family Since 1551

Advocate Pandit Sudhir Tripathi has disclosed that the Vyas family tree (sajra) in Varanasi dates back to 1551. It includes prominent figures such as Shatanand Vyas (1551), Sukhdev Vyas (1669), Shivanath Vyas (1734), Vishwanath Vyas (1800), Shambhunath Vyas (1839), Rukmini Devi (1842), Mahadev Vyas (1854), Kalika Vyas (1874), Rayaanand (1874), Lakshmi Vyas (1838-1905), and Baijnath Vyas (1930), who had no sons.

Therefore, the lineage was carried forward by his daughter, Rajkumari. Her sons, Somanath Vyas, Chandra Vyas, Kedarnath Vyas, and Rajnath Vyas, continued this lineage. On February 28, 2020, Somanath Vyas passed away. His daughter Usha Rani’s son is Shailendra Kumar Vyas, who filed the application.

A total of five idols including Lord Shiva, Hanumanji and Ganesha are worshiped in the basement of Vyasa.

ASI Report Reveals Discoveries in the Complex

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) publicly announced its report on January 25th. According to this report, within the complex, statues of Lord Vishnu, Ganesha, and Shiva Linga have been discovered. The report mentions 34 inscriptions that indicate the overall structure of the temple complex. Additionally, a stone slab named ‘Mahamukti Mandap’ has been found inside the mosque complex.

The report further details that at the site of Gyanvapi, there once stood a significant Hindu temple. During the 17th century, under Aurangzeb’s reign, the temple was demolished and a mosque was constructed in its place. Several alterations were made in different sections, and the original structure was concealed with plaster and lime. The ASI’s report, containing 839 pages, outlines the key locations within the complex.

Niyati Rao

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