Varanasi: A “lotus”, a “niche for keeping a diya”, a “sheshnaag (six-faced snake)” image, and “four idol carvings with a hue of vermillion” — these are some of the observations purportedly listed in a survey report on the Gyanvapi mosque complex submitted before a Varanasi court by former court commissioner Ajay Mishra.
He was removed from his post earlier this week after allegations of leaking evidence from his survey of a portion of the Gyanvapi mosque complex.
The purported document, which is written in Hindi and is in possession of ThePrint, also makes note of slabs of stone present in a heap of malba (rubble) between the masjid’s western wall and the inside of the barricading. These contained carvings that seemed to be in “continuation” with stones at the ‘Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal’ on the outer wall of the mosque, it says.
Speaking to ThePrint, Ajay Mishra confirmed that the purported report is indeed what he filed after conducting a court-ordered survey on 6-7 May along the outer western wall of the Gyanvapi masjid and the platforms along it.
The wall is currently visible to onlookers but regular darshan is not allowed here, except for the fourth day of Chaitra Navratri every year.
This outer wall is referred to as the ‘Maa Shringar Gauri Sthal’, and is where a group of women petitioners is demanding the right to perform regular pooja, darshan, and other rituals, along with other sites in the complex where “visible and invisible deities” are believed to be present.
It was on their plea that a civil court ordered the survey of the mosque premises.
The findings listed in the purported report are similar to accounts of some local priests who say the flagstone outside the western wall contains carvings of the Goddess Shringar Gauri and other deities.
The report of the rest of the survey, conducted over three days from 13-16 May, was submitted in the court of civil judge senior division Thursday. However, the court set Monday as the next date since the Supreme Court had stayed the proceedings of the lower court till it hears the matter.
Meanwhile, the “findings” of the purported full report went viral Thursday. Attributed to the survey team, including special court commissioner Vikas Singh and assistant commissioner Ajay Pratap Singh, this document describes the controversial “Shivling” (an icon of the Hindu deity Shiva) reportedly found in the mosque premises.
This Tuesday, the Supreme Court ordered the district magistrate of Varanasi to protect this area, but without preventing Muslims from offering namaz.
In the ancient city of Varanasi, the Kashi Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi mosque complex has been the subject of renewed scrutiny after the petition in April.
A three-domed structure in faded white, the mosque stands within a 20-ft high barricade incorporating a wall of a portion of the old Vishweshwar temple on its west. Some historians believe that the temple has seen many iterations over the centuries, and that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb demolished it to build the Gyanvapi mosque in the 17th century.
Also Read: Aibak, Akbar, Aurangzeb—the Gyanvapi divide & why a controversial mosque has a Sanskrit name
‘Rubble of old temple’
The purported survey report by Ajay Mishra details “rubble of an old temple… upon which artwork of different gods and goddesses was found at a corner in the north to west direction of the outer wall”. On another flagstone “a lotus symbol was found”, the document says.
In a passage purportedly describing the video survey that was done on 6 May, the document says:
“At a platform of roadstone-cement at the north-west corner, new construction can be seen. Videography was conducted for all the images and platform. An image of a sheshnaag on the flagstone in the middle was seen, which was videographed. An image of vermillion hue was seen at the flagstone… [four] images of gods were seen at the flagstone… which have been coloured with vermillion.
“The fourth image, which is visible outside the idol, has a coating of vermillion which was videographed. Moving further, a triangular niche for keeping diya was found, where flowers had been kept,” it states.
The document also mentions that some slabs of stone and mud towards the inner side of the platform “prima facie seem to be remains of a portion of a big building”.
A “heap of rubble” between the barricading and the western wall of the masjid, the document adds, contains stone carvings “similar to the images carved upon the western wall.”
The 6 May survey was wrapped up at sunset, the purported report says. It adds that the next day’s survey work started only at 3.45pm after a long wait for the mosque’s management panel, the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid committee, which has opposed the petition.
“I asked the petitioners and their lawyers whether the images on the door frame-type flagstone is the claimed site of Shringar Gauri or not. They said that it was the remains of the door frame where they are offering prayers considering it as a symbol of Shringar Gauri because ‘entry inside the main temple is barred’,” the document attributed to Ajay Mishra says.
It further claims that the survey had to be stopped when the team tried to enter the barricading due to lack of clarity from three of the defendants, namely the UP government, the district magistrate, and the commissioner of police.
“Special court commissioner Vishal Singh entered inside and my survey was limited to outside wall. My survey report is limited to the western wall which will easily be visible to naked eye,” the document says.
Survey’s reported ‘Shivling findings’ disputed
According to the petitioners’ lawyers, the “full report” of the survey indicates the presence of a Shivling in the Gyanvapi mosque’s wazukhana, a place where devotees wash their hands, feet and face before heading to the designated area for prayers.
The purported report says that the survey team saw a 3-ft-deep pool of water “in which hundreds of fish could be seen”. Also reportedly observed were 30 taps for ritual ablutions and a 2.5-ft-high black structure with a “cut white stone” on the top.
This structure has been described as a Shivling by the petitioners’ lawyers, while the counsel for the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid have claimed that it is a “fountain”.
The purported report mentions, however, that the mosque committee’s lawyer “expressed inability” to operate the “fountain”. Further, there was supposedly no space for putting a pipe inside it for a fountain, apart from a 63-cm-deep hole.
“This black stone structure is the Shivling. When the commissioner and our side asked the lawyers from the Intezamia committee to show how the fountain functioned, they were unable to operate it. The findings are correct,” Sunil Tripathi, one of the lawyers of the petitioners, told ThePrint.
Abhay Nath Yadav, lawyer for the Anjuman Intezamia Masjid Committee, however, told ThePrint that the claims of the petitioners’ lawyers were inaccurate, and no one should declare that the structure is a Shivling before all evidence is gathered from both sides.
“The report submitted by the commissioner is not a gospel of truth and no one can call the structure a Shivling till evidence is collected from both sides and tested for their factuality. The structure mentioned has a hole of about 64cm in the centre,” he said.
Yadav claimed that a hole “has never been reported in any of the Puranic Shivlings, including the Jyotirlingas”.
“Moreover, the claim that a white stone is joined atop the black structure is false. I was present there for an hour and they are clearly one structure and not two different stones,” he told ThePrint.
Other “findings” in the purported report include the presence of conical structures under the three domes of the mosque. These, the petitioners have claimed, were structures of the old temple over which the mosque’s domes were built.
Other details in the document include the presence of images of “bells”, “flowers”, and “kalash (a vessel used for rituals)” on pillars. On the disputed western wall of the Vishweshwar temple, the imagery included Hindu iconography such as a “trishul”, “swastika” and “elephant”, the purported survey report says.
(Edited by Asavari Singh)
Also Read: Decoding the Kashi Vishwanath-Gyanvapi dispute, and why Varanasi court has ordered ASI survey