Varanasi court allows Hindus to perform puja in southern cellar of Gyanvapi mosque

This decision follows earlier directives from the Varanasi district court, which appointed the district magistrate as the receiver and mandated the preservation of the cellar without any alterations.

In a recent ruling, a Varanasi district court granted permission to the Hindu community to conduct prayers in the southern cellar of the Gyanvapi mosque. The court instructed the Varanasi district magistrate to facilitate arrangements for the pooja, to be conducted by the Hindu side and a poojari nominated by the Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust.

This decision follows earlier directives from the Varanasi district court, which appointed the district magistrate as the receiver and mandated the preservation of the cellar without any alterations. Additional district magistrate Prakash Chandra oversaw the formalities as the district administration took custody of the cellar.

Vishnu Shankar Jain, the lawyer representing the Hindu side, announced that puja would begin within seven days, with all individuals granted the right to participate. The Gyanvapi mosque’s basement comprises four ‘tahkhanas’ or cellars, one of which remains under the possession of the Vyas family, who previously resided in the area. The Vyas family petitioned for access to the cellar to resume pooja rituals, asserting their hereditary right as priests.

However, the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, representing the Muslim side, intends to challenge the court’s decision in a higher court. Akhlaque Ahmad, the committee’s counsel, expressed disagreement with the ruling, arguing that since the cellar is part of the Gyanvapi mosque, worship activities should not be permitted.

The district court’s ruling coincided with a petition filed by four Hindu women in the Supreme Court, urging for excavation and a scientific survey of a sealed section within the mosque premises. This request stemmed from an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report indicating the existence of a large Hindu temple predating the mosque’s construction.

The dispute revolves around a structure within the mosque premises, with Hindus claiming it to be a Shivlingam, while the Muslim side rejects this assertion, regarding it as part of a ritual ablution tank. The petition filed in the Supreme Court sought ASI intervention to investigate the nature of the disputed structure without causing any damage, aiming to ascertain its true historical significance.

 The upcoming hearing on February 8 will likely provide further clarity on the legal proceedings and the future direction of the dispute resolution process.