In an apparent bid to defuse the rising Hindu sense of hurt at the unofficial disclosure of images from the Gyanvapi videography, the head priest of Kashi Karvat Mandir, which is located behind the Aurangzeb-built Gyanvapi Masjid, has said that the structure found inside the mosque may be a fountain and not a Shiva Linga, but the priest, Ganesh Shankar Upadhyay, also qualified the statement by saying that he had been observing the structure for the last 50 years and he never saw it operational.
The claim has turned the debate over Kashi Vishwanath Mandir versus Gyanvapi Masjid more confusing after Muslims claimed that the structure found inside the mosque was a fountain and the Hindu side claims it is a Shivling. The Gyanvapi survey report has been submitted to the Varanasi civil court that had ordered the exercise while it is yet to make a decision.
Upadhyay said, “The structure might look like a Shivling to many, but according to our information, it is a fountain. We have seen this fountain since childhood. It has been almost 50 years now.” The priest said he had observed the structure very closely several times and interacted with the workers and maulvis (Islamic clerics) of the mosque. He said the structure had been there for a long time and he questioned people at the mosque several times out of curiosity.
Taking the claims of those interested in preserving Gyanvapi Masjid at their face value, the priest said Muslims inside the mosque had explained to him about the shape of the structure but he never saw it operating. “On being questioned about the fountain, the workers or maulvis of the mosque said that the fountain was from the Mughal era. In the video being circulated showcasing a few cleaning staff, the shot has been taken from the top angle. Hence, the structure looks like a Shivling,” the priest said.
Dealing with the issue of Nandi, Shiva’s vahana, who is supposed to always face his lord but in Kashi he does not, the priest said, “It is the bitter truth that there used to be a temple. Mughals demolished it to build the mosque. Remnants of the temple can still be found towards the mosque’s end.”
About the discovery of a ‘basement’ of the Gyanvapi structure, Upadhyay said, “The part that is being called a basement does not exist because the mosque is located on the first floor and the extra visible pillars are remnants of the temple.”
Upadhyay made his political motive clear when he said about people performing ablution at the wuzukhanah where the structure was found, the priest said, “People claim that the followers of Islam clean themselves at the wuzukhanah, but it is not true. They collect water from the wuzukhanah and go out for wuzu.”
Editor’s note: While the structure, the image of which went viral, may or may not be the Shiva Linga that disappeared when the army of Mughal king Aurangzeb attacked Kashi Vishwanath Mandir in 1669, that wuzu is not performed at the wuzukhanah appears to be a desperate defence that does not sound credible at all.