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Kashi Vishwanath trust ex-head says Gyanvapi plea for ‘cheap publicity’, idols not where it claims

According to petitioners, ‘Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal’ is on the outer wall of the mosque. However, the priest, citing 2 books on Varanasi’s history, claims idols located elsewhere.

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Varanasi: A former chairman of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust has contradicted claims made by the petitioners in the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque complex dispute about the location of ‘Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal’. 

The petitioners have sought permission for regular worship at ‘Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal’, where idols of the Goddess and other Hindu deities are situated. They say it is located on the outer wall of the Gyanvapi Mosque, and it was on their plea that a civil court ordered a survey of the mosque premises. 

Acharya Ashok Dwivedi, who was chairman of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust — the top management body of the temple — between 2013 and 2019, has claimed that two books about the history of Varanasi say the idols are located elsewhere.

The two books, he said, were Varanasi Vaibhav, written by scholar and chronicler Kubernath Sukul, and Kashi Gaurav by Shivananda Saraswati, a disciple of ‘Dharm Samrat’ Karpatri, a renowned spiritual leader.

“In the book by Sukul, on page 221, the presence of Maa Shringar Gauri has been mentioned (as located) on the ishan side (north-eastern) of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, and inside the Annapurna Temple (within the Kashi Vishwanath Temple Corridor). In another book by Shivananda Sarasvati, the presence of the deity has been mentioned as plot 3/58 in Mohalla Bansphatak (at a distance of over 100 metres from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple),” Dwivedi told ThePrint.

Several changes were made to ancient temples during the construction of the temple corridor, when several deities were also shifted, he said. 

“People are trying to gain cheap publicity by filing such petitions,” Dwivedi further said, adding that a commission should be set up to locate the Maa Shringar Gauri idol.  

Speaking to ThePrint, Jitendra Singh Vishen, head of the Vishwa Vaidik Sanatan Sangh (VVSS), which is among the petitioners in the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi complex case, said their petition is based on a “British-era map”, which also formed the basis of a court case filed in 1936 by three Muslims who had demanded that the land be handed over to the community. 

“If you inspect the premises today, you can find that 90 per cent of the structures are according to the map. Moreover, in the shastras, Lord Ganesha is on the northern side of the Adi Vishweshwar Temple, while Shringar Gauri is on the western side and the southern side has Kartikeya. Many parts in the books may be correct but some questions remain,” he added.

Advocate Anupam Dwivedi, one of the lawyers representing the petitioners, however, said ‘the purpose of the court-ordered survey was to find out the exact location of the deities and admitted that only an examination could determine the correct location. 

The Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi Mosque complex is currently embroiled in a legal dispute. The court-ordered survey was stalled twice last weekend amid objections from the management committee of the mosque. However, on Thursday, the court ruled that it would not change the advocate commissioner appointed to lead the survey team, and turned down the mosque committee’s request in this regard.

Also Read: ‘Now they know how it feels’: Varanasi man plays Hanuman Chalisa on loudspeaker during azaan

The ‘sthal’ & dispute around its location

Maa Shringar Gauri is believed to be a manifestation of Hindu God Shiva’s wife Parvati. A carving of the deity, according to the petitioners’ plea, is located along a platform to the back of the Gyanvapi Mosque, outside the barricading that surrounds it. The public is not allowed to offer prayers here except for twice a year during Navratri.

It is the location of this ‘sthal’ that is being contested by Dwivedi, who claims that worship at the site mentioned in the petition began only after campaigns by Hindutva organisations.

“We and our families have been staying here for the past 800 years but have never heard that there was a Shringar Gauri Sthal at the place where it is being talked about. We only got to know about it when outfits like Shiv Sena and VHP started to offer water to the carvings there (in 2004-2005),” Dwivedi said.

He also claimed that the Gyanvapi Mosque was previously known as ‘Alamgiri Masjid’, adding that this was acknowledged by historian James Princep in his book Benares Illustrated (1833).

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

Also Read: ‘Judicial courtesy & decorum’ — why Allahabad HC stayed survey of Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque


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