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What the Gyanvapi dispute is all about

The Gyanvapi issue was revived after several Hindu women sought court's permission to conduct daily prayers of the idols at the outer wall of the mosque. A court later ordered a videographic survey of the complex.

POLITICS  |   4-minute read  |   17-05-2022

The 'mandir-masjid' debate at the Gyanvapi Mosque in Varanasi was reignited after the Hindu side claimed that the court-mandated survey team found a ‘Shivling’ inside the complex on May 16. 

A court in Varanasi has banned large Muslim prayer gatherings in the mosque. The judge ruled that Islamic gatherings there should be limited to 20 people.

The Gyanvapi Mosque, adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, is facing a legal battle. Several petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court, Allahabad high court and a Varanasi court alleging that the mosque was built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb by demolishing the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in the 16th century.

A court in Varanasi had directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to probe the structure of the Gyanvapi Mosque which led to the survey team finding relics of Hindu symbols there.

We take a look at what exactly the Gyanvapi issue is all about.




The current controversy started when five Hindu women sought to routinely worship Shringar Gauri and other idols within the Gyanvapi Mosque complex.

A Varanasi court ordered a videographed survey of the Gyanvapi complex and the report of the survey was initially ordered to be submitted by May 10. However, a delay was caused after the order was challenged by the Muslim side. The survey report was later decided to be submitted to the court by 17th May.

A petition was filed in 1991 in a Varanasi court where the petitioners, local priests, sought permission to worship in the Gyanvapi Mosque area. 

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple-Gyanvapi Mosque dispute was raised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) during the campaign for the Ram Mandir construction in Ayodhya along with the Krishna Janmabhoomi-Shahi Idgah Masjid in Mathura. They claimed that all the three mosques were built after demolishing the Hindu temples. 


The Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Trust had filed a suit in 1991 claiming that a temple was constructed by Maharaja Vikramaditya more than 2,000 years ago on the site, where the mosque had been later erected. Alleging that the temple was demolished by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1664 and a mosque was constructed on a part of the land with the remains of the razed place of worship> The trust sought removal of the Gyanvapi Masjid from the site and possession of the entire piece of land, reported PTI.

The mosque management committee (Anjuman Intezamiya Masajid) moved the court challenging orders passed by Additional Districts Judge, Varanasi, in 1997 and 1998 whereby its application challenging a civil suit filed by the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Trust had been turned down. 

In its application before ADJ Varanasi, the Anjuman Intazamia Masjid had contended that a "Mandir-Masjid dispute" could not be adjudicated by a civil court as it was "barred by law" and demanded that the trust's petition be dismissed at the outset. However, the lower court dismissed the application.


A Varanasi-based lawyer, Vijay Shankar Rastogi, filed a petition in a district court in 2019 claiming illegality in the construction of the Gyanvapi Mosque and sought an examination of the area by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

The Varanasi court in April 2021 directed the ASI to carry out the survey and submit its report. However, the Muslim side contested the petition and also opposed the court’s order for survey of the mosque, reported India Today.

The matter then reached the Allahabad HC which ordered an interim stay on the direction to the ASI for conducting the survey. The HC, in its order, said that as per the Places of Worship Act, 1991, the law prohibits any change in the religious character of a place of worship from as it existed on August 15, 1947.

In March 2021, a Supreme Court bench headed by then Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde agreed to examine the validity of the Places of Worship Act.


The survey was concluded on May 16 and the Hindu side in the matter has claimed that a ‘Shivling’ was found inside a reservoir on the mosque complex. The Muslim side has dismissed the claim and said it was only a fountain.

The report of the three-day survey was supposed to be submitted to a Varanasi court on Tuesday. The Muslim side has filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the proceedings and an order to not make the survey and its report public.

The mosque committee’s plea argued that the fresh suits filed in 2021 citing the "Right to Worship" were "barred by The Places of Worship Act, 1991," and were an attempt to revive the dispute which had been put to rest by this law, reported India Today.

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