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Varanasi court allows ‘puja’ in Gyanvapi mosque cellar

Varanasi court allows ‘puja’ in Gyanvapi mosque cellar

The Gyanvapi mosque complex. PTI



Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

New Delhi, January 31

A Varanasi court on Wednesday granted a Hindu priest the right to worship deities in the Gyanvapi mosque cellar (‘Tahakhana’) where all religious rites, rituals and practices were stopped in 1993, months after the demolition of the Babri mosque on December 6, 1992.

Varanasi District Judge AK Vishvesha directed the District Magistrate to make arrangements in seven days to facilitate ‘puja’ and ‘raag-bhog’ to be offered to the deities kept in the cellar by priest Shailendra Kumar Pathak. The court also directed the District Magistrate to install iron bars around the deities in the cellar to facilitate ‘puja’ by the priest suggested by the Kashi Vishwanath Trust, which manages the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, standing adjacent to the mosque that the Hindu side claimed was constructed after demolishing a pre-existing temple.

Contending that his maternal grandfather—priest Somnath Vyas—used to perform prayers at the cellar till 1993 when it was closed by the government authorities, Pathak had sought the right to worship the deities kept there. The barricades before the ‘Nandi’ statue in front of ‘wazu khana’ in the mosque complex were likely to be removed to make way for the priest to perform puja, Hindu side’s counsel Vishnu Shankar Jain told The Tribune from Varanasi. The ‘puja’ at the cellar was stopped during Mulayam Singh Yadav’s rule in 1993, Jain added. The Muslim side had opposed the priest’s plea, saying the cellar was part of the Gyanvapi mosque complex. The Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) welcomed the Varanasi court’s decision to allow a priest to worship deities in the Gyanvapi mosque cellar, saying the judgment had filled the hearts of Hindus with joy even as the BJP refrained from commenting on the development, terming it a sub-judice matter.

“Today, a court in Kashi has given a very important decision filling the hearts of every Hindu with joy,” VHP president Alok Kumar said, congratulating the Hindu society. “We are glad that the court said that the petitioner and Kashi Vishwanath can together appoint a pujari to ensure conduct of regular ‘puja-archana’ there. This has happened after 31 years… We hope that after this, the court’s verdict on the Gyanvapi case will also come soon. We are confident that the decision will come in favour of Hindus based on evidence and facts,” said Kumar.

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