Kashi Vishwanath temple: built, destroyed, rebuild, demobilised, captured and claimed
The Kashi Vishwanath is among the 12 jyotirlinga, situated in kashi (Varanasi) is not only a sacred place but also holds a sad history. It is Known as the golden temple of Varanasi,
because of its three domes are made up of pure gold.
It is remarkable to see how this temple has stood the numerous tests of time and stands in all its glory, even after several invasion.
The temple has been mentioned in the skandh purana.
It was completely demolished by Qutb-ud-din Aibak in 1194 CE. While it was rebuilt during the reign of Illtutmish (1211-1266), it was demolished again during the reign of Sikandar Lodhi (1489-1517). It was again rebuild by Raja Man Singh.
But in 1669, the temple was again destroyed because of a firman issued by Emperor Aurangzeb and to ensure it was not to be rebuilt again, he constructed the present “Gyanvapi” Mosque instead.
It is said that when Aurangzeb decided to destroy the temple,
the idol of Lord Shiva was hidden in the Jnana Vapi, a well, in order to protect it from getting destroyed. The well still stands between the temple and the mosque.
In 1742, a Maratha ruler Malhar Holkar made a plan to demolish the mosque & reconstruct the temple again.
However, his plan did not materialise, partially because of intervention by the Nawab of Awadh, who had been given the control of the territory.
Around 1750, the then Maharaja of Jaipur commissioned a survey of the land around the site, with the objective of purchasing land to
rebuild the Kashi Vishwanath temple. However, his plan to rebuild the temple did not materialise.
In 1780, Malhar Rao’s daughter-in-law, Ahilyabai Holkar constructed the present temple adjacent to the mosque as a temporary measure.
Later, In 1853, Ranjit Singh of Punjab donated 880 kg of gold for ornamentation of the temple’s top.
And till today,the temple & the Mosque stand adjacent to one another.
Some claim that the former temple can still be seen in the foundation, columns & rear parts of the mosque.
We Hindus believe that Lord Vishwanath’s self-proclaimed Jyotirlinga is present in the Gyanvapi complex, and wants that complex to be excavated, while Muslims opine that there was no temple on that site. Notably, Hindus filed a suit in 1991 citing 3 major demands:
1. The entire Gyanvapi land to be declared a part of the temple.
2. Other should be evacuated from here and the present structure should be demolished and hand over possession to Hindus.
3. Hindus should be allowed to rebuild the temple in place of the original Shivalinga
On September 23, 1998, the Varanasi district court directed that the religious form of the entire Gyanvapi campus should be decided first.
This means that effort should be made to determine if this place was a temple or mosque on the 15th of August 1947.
Because according to the Places of Worship Act, 1991, the status quo of the 15th August 1947 is maintained on the country’s religious places except for Ayodhya, which was considered an exception to this.
The High Court, however, stayed the district court verdict.
After 20 years, the hearing again started in 2018, but the other side once again took a stay order.
The biggest argument of the Hindu side is based on the walls of the Gyanvapi mosque that differ from the construction of the other walls of the mosque.
According to zee news, Several photographs of the Gyanvapi complex have been submitted before the court as evidence.
Judges of the Varanasi district court wanted to first decide whether there was a temple or a mosque at the disputed site on the day of independence.
The court also believed that Kashi Vishwanath temple has an ancient history and this matter is related to religious sentiments of people, therefore, the dispute should be resolved as soon as possible on the basis of merit.
Notably, there are 3 parties in the case currently going on in the Varanasi district court; the 1st party is the Jyotirlinga Vishveshwara i.e, Lord Shiva himself. The court-appointed advocate Vijay Shankar Rastogi as a friend of Lord Shiva.
The 2nd party is the Sunni Central Waqf Board, while the 3rd party is Anjuman Intejamia Masajid Committee.
The petition, filed by Deen Mohammad, asked the court to declare the entire Gyanvapi complex as the mosque land.
In 1937, the court rejected his claim but allowed Namaz at the disputed site.
During the hearing of this case, the British officers had presented a map of the ancient Vishwanath temple built-in 1585.
According to the 2011 Census, there are currently more than 3 million temples in India. This includes all kinds of temples, small, big, new, and ancient, & of these more than 10,000 temples were damaged. Some of these were completely destroyed, mosques were constructed over them.
What’s interesting is that, according to Syed Shahabuddin, it is a violation of Islamic law as stated in the Hadith, which states it is haram to build on usurped sites .