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ASI team begins scientific survey of Gyanvapi mosque; report due on August 4

A team from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) started a scientific survey of Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque on Monday. This survey is because the mosque management committee filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the Varanasi district court’s order allowing the inspection.

The aim of the surveyors is to determine if the mosque was built on top of an ancient Hindu temple.

The survey began at 7 am and will extend to all areas except the sealed “wuzu khana” where a structure that Hindu litigants claimed to be a ‘Shivling’ – a relic of Lord Shiva — was found during an earlier survey in 2022. The ASI has to submit the report to the district court by August 4.

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The inspection is being carried out following an order by the Varanasi district court on Friday. The order was passed based on a plea by four women worshippers who claim the Gyanvapi mosque was built after razing an ancient Hindu temple and that a scientific study is needed to bring out the full facts.

While passing the order, the court held that “the scientific investigation is necessary for the true facts to come out.”

The same petitioners had filed the 2021 petition in the Gyanvapi matter, asking for year-long access to the “Shringar Gauri” shrine inside the mosque.

Orders for ASI

Subhash Nandan Chaturvedi, who also represents the Hindu side in the Gyanvapi case, claimed the court’s decision is a turning point in the case. “Our application for the ASI survey has been accepted. It is a turning point in the case,” he said.

The Supreme Court had deferred the “scientific survey”, this year in May including carbon dating, of the “Shivling” that was said to have been found at the Gyanvapi mosque complex during a videographic survey conducted last year.

The top court’s order had come days after Allahabad High Court directed the Archaeological Survey of India to conduct a scientific survey of the structure that Hindu petitioners claimed is a “Shivling”. The Gyanvapi mosque authorities had said the structure is part of a fountain in the “wuzu khana”, where people perform ablutions before offering namaz.

Last year in September, the Varanasi district judge dismissed a challenge by the mosque committee that argued that the case by the women has no legal standing.

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