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Is the much hyped "discovery" at Gyanvapi a 'shivling' or just a fountain?

Is the much hyped discovery at Gyanvapi a shivling or just a fountain?

LUCKNOW: The ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies may be busy raising the pitch on the latest development at the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, by proclaiming that the survey carried out at the site had eventually led to the "discovery" of a 'shivling'.

What was however being systematically drowned in the din is the counterargument that what was described as a 'shivling' is nothing other than an old fountain in the water body that was created for routine 'wazu' – the ritual of washing hands before offering 'namaz'.

Even as court commissioner Ajay Misra did not file his survey report today and has sought more time to complete the task, his lieutenants and others backing him in his mission to brand the mosque as a temple have been giving a twist to the whole issue. Word has already been spread across the globe that the petitioners have achieved their ultimate goal of fishing out a 'Shivling' from the precincts of the 350-year-old mosque, built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the late 17th century after the demolition of an ancient Shiva temple.

To top it all, even UP's deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya, who has his roots in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) went to town declaring," truth cannot be hidden for long and today on Budh Purnima, Lord Shiva has appeared where we were looking for him." He went on to add, "Satya saamne aa gaya hai kyunki Satya hi Shiv hai ; Baba Vishwanath ki jai ; Har-Har Mahadev".

What is being systematically ignored that the existing Kashi-Vishwanath Temple at Varanasi was built by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar much after the downfall of the Mughal empire in the mid-18th century? She was in full command and if she was in a position to also take over that portion of the mosque where today's Hindutva brigade is claiming existence of the original 'Jyotirling' that was supposedly installed when the ancient temple was originally built.

Today's torch-bearers of Hindutva were obviously negating or undermining the capability and commitment of Ahilyabai Holkar to identify and reclaim the most integral part of the original temple. Obviously, she also did not attach any significance to what is being today propagated as 'Jyotirling' or the 'Nandi' and 'Shringar Gauri' - that was now being hyped as an integral part of the original Kashi-Vishwanath temple.

Abhay Yadav, who is the legal counsel for the Gyanvapi Mosque management committee, is strongly of the view that the BJP-RSS combine are clearly trying to fool millions of Hindus by misrepresenting facts, "only to further the party's politics of communal divide." According to him, "water tanks or pools (often termed as 'hauz' in Arabic) are usually part and parcel of most old mosques to facilitate the mandatory 'wazu' ; and many old mosques also have fountains to add to the aesthetics."

To buttress his argument, he also points out, "there is a clear-cut hole in this fountain which is embedded in the 'hauz' – and that also goes to show that it cannot be a 'shivling' as no 'shivling' has a hole, which is obviously meant for spraying water out of a fountain."

A Varanasi based veteran journalist Rajnath Tiwari, who is a former president of Kashi Patrakar Sangh, also believes that what was being projected by the team of BJP-RSS lawyers as the "discovery" of a 'Shivling' is nothing other than a fountain. "My home is in the vicinity of the Kashi-Vishwanath temple-Gyanvapi Mosque and I have spent my childhood in and out of the complex where the two places of worship have co-existed for centuries", he told this scribe. "It was only in the past 30-35 years since the hype of the Ayodhya movement that this place has been caged in iron barricades, bringing an end to the free access that was earlier available to both shrines", he lamented.

Another local journalist Himanshu Sharma, who has been witness to the various events in and around these shrines points out, "whether it is a 'shivling' or fountain is for the courts to decide, but let me tell you that I have yet to see any 'Shivling' on the first floor of any temple. This one that these people are claiming to as 'Shivling' happens to be on the first floor of the Gyanvapi mosque."

Furthermore, it was rightly argued that the idea behind describing the "find" as a "discovery", is to give the impression that the petitioners have fished out something that was hidden. But that is not the case. Anyone including this scribe, who has been a witness to the precincts of the Gyanvapi mosque, knows that the 'hauz' has always been open to public view.

Significantly, even the figure of 'nandi' has been a part of the mosque premises for 350 years, much like the motif of 'Shringar Gauri' that was always clearly visible on the rear wall of the mosque. Yet, those representing the temple were busy projecting all these as some kind of relic dug out of history by them now.

The local court that ordered a survey inside the mosque, on the plea of lawyer Hari Shankar Jain, pleading for the temple, also promptly ordered the sealing of the 'wazu-khana' on Monday. The judge flatly ignored the argument of the Mosque management committee advocate Abhay Yadav that it was premature to seal the place when the survey report was yet to be submitted before the court.

"The judge of the lower court refused to listen to my plea and ordered sealing of the 'wazu-khana' in gross violations of the principles of natural justice and equity", said Yadav. "Even earlier, the judge rejected my argument that it was not judicious to even entertain the plea for the survey as it would amount to a violation of the Places of Worship Act 1991, whereby the status quo of all religious places of worship (except Ayodhya) was to be maintained as on the day of independence –August 15, 1947", he pointed out. "That law enacted by the national parliament remains the law of the land until it is over-ruled by some new enactment", he emphasized.

Considering the majority that the BJP enjoys in the national parliament today, it is surely within their means to legislate a new law to do away with the 1991 enactment and acquire the now disputed mosque at Varanasi. But apparently, political expediency propels them into adopting the current course. Building hype by raising a bogey, based on falsehood or half-truth, can make it convenient to whip up religious passions which could conveniently translate into votes and fulfil the larger objectives of the ruling political class. So what if all this deepens the communal divide that has already brought things to such a dangerous pass?

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