VARANASI: Vedic chants and the tinkle of prayer bells rang out within the southern cellar of Gyanvapi Masjid for the first time in 30 years early on Thursday, hours after Varanasi district judge Ajaya Krishna Vishvesha allowed a family of priests to resume worship of Shringar Gauri and other Hindu deities in that part of the disputed site.
Besides family members of the plaintiff, Shailendra Kumar Pathak Vyas, and a priest appointed by Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust, the only people present during the post-midnight puja were senior officials of the district administration, police and Vedic scholar Ganeshwar Shastri Dravid.
Elaborate morning rituals, bhog (offering to the deities) and afternoon aarti followed, all of which the Vyas family would regularly perform until the cellar was closed by the then state administration in Dec 1993.
By the time evening aarti began, there was a lengthy queue of devotees outside the basement, eager for a glimpse of the presiding deity through a small window. The administration didn’t allow anyone except members of Shailendra Vyas’s family and the designated priest, Om Prakash Mishra, to enter the cellar.
Admin allows ‘jharokha darshan’ after bhog aarti
In compliance with the district judge’s order, a gate has been installed after creating a passage in the steel barricading of the Gyanvapi mosque,” said Varanasi district magistrate S Rajalingam, appointed receiver of the southern cellar.
Police commissioner Ashok Mutha Jain and divisional commissioner Kaushal Raj Sharma were among the official witnesses to the court-ordered resumption of worship inside the cellar a little after Wednesday midnight. On Dravid’s presence at the inaugural puja, the DM said he was requested to supervise the rituals since the cellar had been opened after three decades. The Vedic scholar oversaw Ram Lalla’s consecration in Ayodhya on January 22.
District judge Vishvesha had given the administration seven days to make arrangements for regular worship of Shringar Gauri and other “visible and invisible” deities in the southern cellar. Officials got cracking around 11pm on Wednesday, shutting gate No 4 of Kashi Vishwanath Dham and deploying a large police contingent there.
Remnants of purported Hindu idols and sculptures found during ASI’s survey of Gyanvapi, all of which were in the DM’s custody, were transferred to the cellar.
Jitendra Nath Vyas, a member of the plaintiff’s family, said, “After cleaning the cellar and its pillars, a yellow cloth was hung along a wall. The idols of Ganesh, Vishnu, Hanuman, Yonipatta Makara (crocodile) and others were placed on a platform to begin the rituals of Ganesh Pujan and Shayan aarti. All rituals took place between 12.30am and 1.15am.”
After bhog aarti on Thursday afternoon, the administration allowed devotees to proceed till the new gate to the cellar for a “jharokha darshan”.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)