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Gyanvapi Mosque case

  • Published
    13th Sep, 2022
Context

The Varanasi District Court recently dismissed the challenge by Anjuman Intezamia Masajid Committee against the civil suits that sought the right to worship Maa Shringar Gauri and other deities within the Gyanvapi mosque premises.

The Case:

  • The court had ordered the inspection in april on a petition by five Hindu women seeking round-the-year access to pray at “a shrine behind the western wall of the mosque complex”.
  • The Anjuman Intezamia moved the Supreme Court, arguing that the proceedings were an attempt to change the religious character of the mosque. 
  • The Places of Worship Act, 1991 bars the conversion of the religious character of a place of worship from how it existed on August 15, 1947.
  • In May, the Supreme Court, underlining the “complexity of the issues involved in the civil suit”, transferred the case to the District Judge.
  • The site is currently opened for Hindu prayers once a year — on the fourth day of the chaitra navratri in April.
  • The petitioners have also sought permission to pray to other “visible and invisible deities within the old temple complex”.

Gyanvapi Mosque:

  • The Gyanvapi Mosque is believed to have been built in 1669 during the reign of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, who ordered the demolition of the existing Vishweshwar temple and its replacement by a mosque. 
  • The plinth of the temple was left untouched, and served as the courtyard of the mosque.
  • The name of the mosque is said to have derived from an adjoining well, the Gyanvapi, or Well of Knowledge.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple:

  • The present Kashi Vishwanath Temple was built in the 18th century by Rani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, immediately to the south of the mosque. 
  • The Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 — which mandates that the nature of all places of worship, except the one in Ayodhya that was then under litigation, shall be maintained as it was on August 15, 1947.

No encroachment of any such place prior to the date can be challenged in courts — applies to the disputed complex in Varanasi.

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