While the full 839-page report is not yet accessible, some operative parts of the ASI report said that parts of a temple were used in the construction of the Islamic place of worship.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) conducted a court-approved scientific survey of the Gyanvapi Masjid in Varanasi, aiming to ascertain whether it was constructed over a pre-existing Hindu temple. Here are the key findings from the ASI’s report:
Existence of a Large Hindu Temple:
The ASI concludes that a “large Hindu temple” existed at the site before the construction of the existing structure (the mosque).
Parts of the temple were reportedly used in the construction of the Gyanvapi Masjid.
Scientific Basis for Conclusions:
The ASI bases its findings on a scientific survey, studying architectural remains, exposed features, artefacts, inscriptions, art, and sculptures.
Observations and scientific study focused on the central chamber, main entrance, pillars, and pilasters of the pre-existing structure.
Reuse of Pillars and Pilasters:
The report claims a “reuse of pillars and pilasters of the pre-existing structure in the existing structure.”
Pillars and pilasters used in the mosque were allegedly “reused with little modifications” for enlargement and the construction of the sahan (courtyard).
Western Wall as Remains of Hindu Temple:
The ASI asserts that the western wall of the mosque is the “remaining part of a pre-existing Hindu temple.”
The wall is described as made of stones, decorated with horizontal mouldings, and formed by remaining parts of the western chamber.
Inscriptions and Estampages:
The ASI recorded 34 inscriptions on both existing and pre-existing structures, taking 32 estampages.
These inscriptions, in various scripts including Devanagari, Grantha, Telugu, and Kannada, were found on stones reused during construction.
Temple Structure Description:
The “temple” is described as having a big central chamber and at least one chamber in each cardinal direction.
The ASI notes that remains of three chambers to the north, south, and west still exist, while the east and further extension couldn’t be physically ascertained.
Decorative Elements and Animal Figures:
The structure used as the main hall of the mosque is said to have thick walls, architectural components, and floral decorations.
Animal figures carved at the lower ends of decorated arches in the pre-existing structure were allegedly mutilated.
Legal Implications and Next Steps:
Saurabh Tiwari, lawyer for one of the Hindu plaintiffs, stated that the ASI findings support their claim of a pre-existing temple.
The next step involves petitioning for a survey of the wazukhana and the concealed garb griha of the old temple.
Criticism and Academic Scrutiny:
Asaduddin Owaisi, Hyderabad MP, criticized the ASI’s conclusions on social media, stating that they wouldn’t stand academic scrutiny.
He argued that the report is based on conjecture and questioned the scientific rigor of the study.
Historical Context and Legal Background:
The ASI survey follows a court order in August 2023, allowing a scientific survey of the Gyanvapi Masjid premises.
The Allahabad high court directed the ASI to submit its report in a sealed cover, emphasizing the national importance of the dispute.
Legal proceedings involve a 1991 suit seeking restoration of a temple at the Gyanvapi Masjid site and a recent suit for year-round access for darshan and pooja.
The ASI’s findings have intensified the ongoing legal and historical discourse surrounding the Gyanvapi Masjid in Varanasi.