Even as the ongoing debate on Kashi Vishwanath Mandir-Gyanvapi Masjid in Varanasi is raging nationwide, the Union Ministry of Culture has asked the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct excavation and iconography of idols at the Qutb Minar complex. Idols of Hindu deities have been found in the complex while a former ASI employee has made a claim that the monument was built by Raja Vikramaditya, a Hindu king.
A controversy erupted after ASI’s ex-regional director Dharamveer Sharma claimed that the Qutb Minar was constructed by Raja Vikramaditya and not by Qutb al Din Aibak, to study the direction of the sun. The Union Ministry of Culture has asked the ASI to submit its excavation report within a given timeframe.
The excavation may start in the south of the minaret at a distance of 15 m from the mosque. The secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Govind Mohan, approved the decision during a site visit with officials on Saturday, 21 May.
Mohan visited the site with three historians, four ASI officers and researchers. The ASI officials informed the secretary that the excavation work at the Qutb Minar complex had not been done since 1991.
Earlier, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) spokesman Vinod Bansal had claimed, albeit without strong evidence, that Qutb Minar was actually ‘Vishnu Stambh’ and that the structure was built with materials obtained after demolishing 27 Hindu-Jain temples. Historically, only the second part of his assertion is true.
Several Hindu groups staged protests, chanted Hanuman Chalisa and demanded the renaming of Qutb Minar to Vishnu Stambh after a 1,200-year-old Narasimha idol, Ganesha and Krishna idols were found inside the Qutb Minar complex.
Other than the Qutb Minar complex, the land on which the Lal Kot Fort stood before the structure made by Aibak came up and Anangtal in Mehrauli will be subjected to excavations and archaeological studies.