Gyanvapi Mosque and ASI Investigation

Gyanvapi Mosque and ASI Investigation


In a recent development, the Gyanvapi mosque complex underwent examination by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), revealing the discovery of 55 stone sculptures, including Hindu Deity idols. The ASI report indicates that a temple, seemingly demolished in the 17th century under Aurangzeb’s rule, had some of its components altered and repurposed in the present structure.


GS-01 (Culture)

Points of Contention:

  • The roots of this controversy trace back to 1991 when local priests sought permission to worship in the Gyanvapi complex, alleging that the mosque stands on a razed portion of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
  • The issue resurfaced when petitioners insisted on an archaeological survey of the Gyanvapi complex.
  • In response to the plea, the Varanasi district court, prompted by four Hindu women, mandated the ASI survey in 2023.
  • The Allahabad High Court subsequently endorsed the ASI’s authority to carry out the survey as directed by the Varanasi District Judge.

Key highlights from the ASI report:

  • ASI performed an extensive non-invasive survey of the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi to ascertain whether the mosque was constructed over a preexisting temple.
    • Non-invasive techniques are employed when exploring the interior of a constructed edifice without allowing any excavation.
  • It included the discovery of broken idols within the Gyanvapi mosque complex, featuring fragments of Hindu Deity statues like Hanuman, Ganesha, and Nandi, along with various damaged sculptures of Shiva linga, Vishnu, Ganesha, Krishna, and Hanuman.
  • The survey revealed several yonipattas, the base of a shivling, and an incomplete shiv linga.
  • The report also details 32 inscriptions in Devanagari, Grantha, Telugu, and Kannada scripts, indicating a reuse of stone inscriptions from a preexisting Hindu temple.
  • Marks like the swastika and trident were found on the structure.
  • Additionally, the excavation unearthed coins, a Persian-inscribed sandstone slab, and various artifacts, shedding light on the historical events, including the temple’s demolition during Aurangzeb’s reign in the 17th century.

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI):

  • The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is a government agency focused on archaeological research and cultural monument preservation, established in 1861 under the Ministry of Culture.
  • It oversees more than 3650 ancient monuments, archaeological sites, and significant national remains.
  • Founded by Alexander Cunningham in 1861, the ASI traces its roots to the Asiatic Society, established in 1784, which laid the foundation for archaeological research in India.
  • Cunningham, the first Director-General, conducted extensive surveys and excavations of Buddhist monuments, facing financial challenges leading to a temporary suspension between 1865 and 1871.
  • Revived as a separate department in 1871, the ASI saw Alexander Cunningham’s successor, James Burgess, and faced a funding crisis known as the “Buck crisis” from 1888 to 1898.
  • The ASI’s restoration in 1902, under Lord Curzon, emphasized the conservation of ancient monuments, marking a crucial phase in its history.
  • The agency’s mandate includes excavation, surveys, and documentation of heritage sites, contributing significantly to the understanding and preservation of India’s archaeological treasures.