Members of a Hindu priests’ family began the rituals of puja on Wednesday in the basement of Gyanvapi mosque. The move comes after the court granted permission to worship in the previously sealed cellar, named ‘Vyas Ka Tekhana’ on Wednesday.
The Varanasi court had directed the Receiver District Magistrate “…to hand over the basement situated on the south side of the building situated at Settlement Plot No. 9130, Thana Chowk, District Varanasi, which is the suit property, to the plaintiff and the priest named by the Kashi Vishwanath Trust Board. Worship, Raga-Bhog, idols located in the basement should be done and for this purpose, iron fences etc. should be erected within 7 days.”
Just hours after the court’s order, top police and administration officials reached Vishwanath Dham and the barricading was removed at around midnight. Puja-aarti was performed in the basement of the Gyanvapi mosque here on Wednesday night following court orders, president of the Kashi Vishwanath temple trust Nagendra Pandey said.
“It was necessary to follow the court’s orders, so the district administration made all the arrangements with great promptness,” Pandey reportedly added. The officials earlier held a meeting regarding the implementation of the order given by District Judge A K Vishvesh regarding the arrangements for worship in the basement.
Moreover, in view of the puja, the security of the premises has been increased — heavy personnel have been deployed “to prevent any untoward incident”.
The order was delivered on the plea of Shailendra Kumar Pathak in September last year claiming that his maternal grandfather, priest Somnath Vyas, offered prayers till December 1993, and demanded permission to worship and that Vyasji’s basement be handed over to the District Magistrate.
He said the puja was stopped during the tenure of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav who sealed it allegedly “without any legal authority”, shortly after the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992.
Many ancient sculptures and other materials of religious importance related to the worship of Hindu religion are present in that basement. It is important to worship the idols present in the basement regularly, the plaintiff added.
In response to this, the Muslim’s side disputed the petitioner’s version saying no idols existed in the cellar so there was no question of prayers being offered there till 1993. It is wrong to say that the people of Vyas family were in possession of the basement. The basement is in the possession of the Masjid Committee (Anjuman Intejamia Masjid Committee), they added.
However, after the Varanasi court granted permission for the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to carry out a survey in the complex of Gyanvapi mosque (except ‘wuzukhana’ sealed by the Supreme Court), located adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Hindu side counsel Advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain contended that debris from statues of Hindu gods had been found during the survey. As per the reports, the court concluded that a large Hindu temple existed on the site before the mosque was built.
The ‘Mangala Aarti’ took place early on Thursday, after the members of the Kashi-Vishwanath Trust were called and the barricades before the Nandi statue facing the mosque’s ‘wazukhana’ were removed at around 9.30 pm on Wednesday, as per the official sources in the district administration.
Meanwhile, members of Rashtriya Hindu Dal, a Hindu outfit, were seen pasting the ‘mandir’ (temple) label on the ‘masjid’ (mosque) on a directions signage near the mosque.
Taking to X, Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav criticized the Yogi Adityanath government in the state pointing out that the haste displayed by the BJP in following the court orders is an attempt to prevent any legal recourse.
Four Hindu women have now moved the Supreme Court, seeking the excavation and scientific survey of a section that had been sealed by a court order.
On the other hand, Mumtaz Ahmed, who represented the Muslim side said, “The district judge today gave its final verdict by giving the right of worship to Hindus. We will now go to the High Court against this decision.”