A Varanasi court has ruled in favour of excavation by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the adjacent, encroaching Gyanvapi Masjid. The ASI is likely to set up a five-member team that will visit the campus soon.
A petition was filed in December 2019 by advocate Vijay Shankar Rastogi on behalf of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar in the court of civil judge. The petitioner requested for a survey of the entire Gyanvapi compound by the ASI. He had filed the petition as the ‘next friend’ of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar. In January 2020, Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee had filed an objection against the petition.
The petitioner had contended that the Kashi Vishwanath temple was built by Maharaja Vikramaditya about 2,050 years ago, but Mughal emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the temple in 1664 and used its remains to construct a mosque, which is known as Gyanvapi masjid, on a portion of the temple land. The petitioner requested the court to issue directions for the removal of the mosque from the temple land and give back its possession to the temple trust.
The first petition was filed in the Varanasi civil court in 1991 on behalf of Swayambhu Jyotirlinga Bhagwan Vishweshwar seeking permission for worship in Gyanvapi.
The petition contended that the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act was not applicable on the suit as the mosque was constructed over a partly demolished temple and many parts of the temple exist even today. In 1998, Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee moved the high court contending that the mandir-masjid dispute could not be adjudicated by a civil court as it was barred by the law. The high court stayed the proceedings in the lower court which had continued for the past 22 years.
In February 2020, the petitioners approached the lower court again with a plea to resume the hearing as the high court had not extended the stay in the past six months.
The Gyanvapi mosque shares a boundary wall with Kashi Vishwanath temple.