The Gyanvapi complex in Varanasi has long been a subject of intense debate and controversy. The site, which houses both the Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Gyanvapi mosque, has recently become the center of attention due to conflicting claims about its origins and religious significance. In this article, we will delve into the various perspectives surrounding Gyanvapi and explore the latest developments in the ongoing dispute.
The ASI Survey Controversy
The controversy surrounding Gyanvapi took a new turn when a petition was filed in the Supreme Court claiming that the site is neither a mosque nor a temple but a Buddhist monastery. The petitioner, Buddhism Guru Sumit Ratan Bhante, demanded an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) survey to establish the true nature of Gyanvapi. This request was made in response to an earlier order by the Varanasi District Judge, which directed an ASI survey of the site.
Gyanvapi: A Buddhist Perspective
According to Buddhism Guru Sumit Ratan Bhante, Gyanvapi is not just a mosque or a temple, but a Buddhist monastery. Bhante claimed that there are numerous temples in the country that were built by demolishing Buddhist monasteries. He further contended that the Trishul and Swastika symbols found at Gyanvapi are of Buddhist origin. Bhante’s assertion is based on the belief that the Jyotirlinga in Kedarnath, as well as Gyanvapi, are actually Buddhist stupas.
The Call for Restoration
Bhante’s plea goes beyond the dispute over Gyanvapi. He argues that all temples and mosques should be restored to their original form wherever their construction has led to the destruction of Buddhist monasteries. He claims that followers of Buddhism share this sentiment and desire the return of these sacred spaces to the Buddhist community. In line with this, Bhante plans to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) regarding other temples, including Badrinath and Kedarnath, with the aim of restoring them to their purported Buddhist origins.
The Oldest Religion: Buddhism
One of the key points raised by Bhante is the antiquity of Buddhism compared to other religions. He asserts that while Islam and Hinduism emerged around 1500 and 1200 years ago respectively, Buddhism dates back over two and a half thousand years. The guru emphasizes the need to recognize the historical and cultural significance of Buddhism and calls for a comprehensive survey of Buddhist monasteries across the country, with the aim of returning them to the Buddhist community.
The ASI Survey: A Necessity for Justice
The recent decision by the Allahabad High Court to allow the ASI survey of Gyanvapi has further fueled the controversy. The court stated that the survey is essential in the interest of justice, although certain conditions must be met during the process. The ASI survey, which was originally ordered by the Varanasi District Judge, aims to determine if the mosque was built upon a pre-existing temple. This decision has been met with opposition from the Muslim side, who have approached the Supreme Court to challenge the High Court’s ruling.
The Significance of Gyanvapi
Gyanvapi holds immense religious and cultural significance for both Hindus and Muslims. The Kashi Vishwanath temple, believed to be one of the holiest sites for Hindus, is situated within the Gyanvapi complex. Similarly, the Gyanvapi mosque is considered a place of worship and holds deep reverence among the Muslim community. The conflicting claims regarding the origins of this sacred site have given rise to a highly contentious and emotionally charged dispute.
A Tradition of Disunity?
The Gyanvapi controversy has highlighted the growing divide between different religious communities in India. Bhante argues that the tradition of mutual disunity that has emerged in the country is not conducive to a harmonious coexistence. He believes that all religious structures, including Buddhist monasteries, should be surveyed and restored to their original form to promote unity and preserve the cultural heritage of all communities.
The Road Ahead
With the ASI survey set to take place at Gyanvapi, the future of the site remains uncertain. The survey aims to provide clarity regarding the historical and religious significance of the complex. However, it is likely that the dispute over Gyanvapi will continue to be a contentious issue, with various stakeholders advocating for their respective claims. The Supreme Court’s final ruling on the matter will be crucial in determining the fate of this revered site.
The controversy surrounding Gyanvapi has brought to the forefront a complex and deeply emotional dispute. The claims made by Buddhism Guru Sumit Ratan Bhante have added a new dimension to the ongoing debate. As the ASI survey commences and legal battles unfold, the true nature and origins of Gyanvapi will hopefully be revealed. Until then, the dispute over this sacred site serves as a reminder of the need for dialogue, understanding, and the preservation of India’s rich cultural heritage.