Gyanvapi Mosque Under Massive Security Cover As Hindus Start Puja At Cellar, Devotee Says 'Saw Nandi'

Hindu devotees have reportedly already started praying at the cellar in the basement of Gyanvapi mosque after a Varanasi court on Wednesday gave nod

Varanasi: Security personnel stand guard at the Gyanvapi mosque on Wednesday, Jan 31 | Photo: PTI

Security has been tightened at the contentious Gyanvapi mosque complex in Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi, where court granted permission to Hindus to offer prayers (puja) in the 'Vyas Ka Tekhana' on Wednesday, in a major a development in the legal battle over the masjid adjacent to the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

Hindu devotees started praying at the cellar from 3 am on Thursday in the basement of Gyanvapi mosque, while an 'aarti' also took place. Members of Hindu outfit Rashtriya Hindu Dal, meanwhile, were seen pasting the 'mandir' (temple) word on a signage near the mosque.

A devotee who offered prayers said they "saw Nandi bull" (the sacred bull of the Hindu god Shiva).

While the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) welcomed the Varanasi court order, Muslim side counsel Mumtaz Ahmed said they will challenge it in the high court. The judge has said the plaintiffs can submit their objections before the court on February 8.

The court on Wednesday directed the local administration to make arrangements within seven days for prayers in the cellar. This will involve "proper arrangements" with metal barricades at the complex.

"We saw the Nandi bull. We have been waiting since yesterday to offer prayers. The temple should be built. We are very happy after offering prayers," one of the devotees who came outside the complex after offering prayers told news agency ANI.

Barricades To Be Removed To Make Way For Hindus

Hindu side counsel Madan Mohan Yadav had on Wednesday said that the barricades before the Nandi statue facing the mosque's 'wazukhana' will be removed to make way for the Hindus to pray.

The Varanasi court order, by judge AK Vishvesha, came day after an Archeological Survey of India (ASI) report on the mosque complex was made public.

Jitendra Nath Vyas, a member of the Vyas family, who has been allowed to offer prayers inside Gyanvapi mosque, said "We are very happy that we have got the permission to resume puja there. At the time of the puja (yesterday), 5 priests of the (Kashi Vishwanath) temple trust, members of the Vyas family, Varanasi DM and Commissioner were present there."

The ASI survey, ordered by the same court, in connection with a related case, suggested that the mosque was constructed during Aurangzeb's rule over the remains of a Hindu temple.

Wednesday's order was delivered on the plea of Shailendra Kumar Pathak who claimed that his maternal grandfather, priest Somnath Vyas, offered prayers till December 1993, advocate Yadav said.

He said the puja was stopped during the tenure of chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav after the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was demolished on December 6, 1992.