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The Gyanvapi Mosque : Reclaim it or not

Many of history books, both Indian and western, never mention the fact that from the 8th century onwards, Muslim invaders felt that it was their utmost sacred duty to raze Hindu, Jain, Buddhist temples and bury thei murthis of their Gods and Goddesses, under the steps of the mosques that were built upon the razed temples, so that generations of Muslim worshippers would trample upon them.

There are tens of thousands of mosques particularly in  North India, where you can invariably see, either lying on the ground, or when the Archaeological survey of India has dared to dig (ASI of the most guilty parties, that knew all this, but kept silent) you find Hindu, Buddhist or Jain inscribed  columns, some piece of the murthis or sometimes like in the case of the Gyanvapi complex, a Shivling.


There is undisputed evidence of this: Sitaram Goel who was the first to make an on the ground study of the mosques that were built on these razed temples, and more recently Prafulla Goradia, an ex- Raj Sabha member, published a book called “Hindu Masjids”, where he documented many of the mosques that were built on temples, along with their names and locations as well as photos showing some of the Hindu relics that could still been seen there. Many of us have witnessed them with our own eyes, for instance in the Ktub Minar of Delhi, where not only the famous iron pillar in the centre has Sanskrit Inscriptions, but you can also see on the ground the fragments of Hindu columns that are still there.


The question is: can and should Hindus try to reclaim all these lost temples? It would be near impossible as one would have to rase  so many mosques so as to rebuild the temples upon their ruins, something that is not really in the psyche of most Hindus. Yet there are some places which are highly symbolic and supremely venerated by Hindus since ancient times and SHOULD be reclaimed. One of course is Ayodhya, and that has been done thanks to the pioneer efforts of Mr. Lal Krishna Adjani and Mr. Murli Manohar Joshi, who were so much vilified by the media and the Islamic world. The second is the Somnath Temple ,which was razed 7 times but was rebuilt, mostly thanks to Sardar Patel, against the wishes of Mr. Nehru.

The 3rd of course is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple which was razed in the 17th century on the orders of Emperor Aurangzeb and then rebuilt on the side of the mosque by Ahiliabai Bai Holkar in 1780. I have been to Varanasi with a great guru, who I will not name here, who looked with shame and dismay at the Gyanvapi Mosque – and the cops  guarding it - and said fervently “ the original Kashi Vishvanath temple needs to be rebuilt and this mosque needs to razed as it stands on sacred ground of Hindus”.


We need here to talk about Aurangzeb as he is the central figure in the history of demolished temples. Aurangzeb was not only an extremely pious emperor, practising the harshest and purest Sunni faith but also a very meticulous one, who lived to an advanced age for his time, 80 years old. Aurangzeb destroyed thousands of Hindu temples, amongst them of course Somnath, Kashi Viswiswanth , and also for instance, the Krishna Mathura Temple, upon which he erected a mosque. What is interesting however is that Aurangzeb recorded everyone of his orders that were written in Farsi and upon which he would himself stamp the emperor’s seal. What is more extraordinary even is that all these orders and firmans are PRESERVED, mostly in the Bikaner archives and in Hyderabad.


It is surprising therefore both Indian historians like Romila Thappar or Irfan Habib or western ,such as Audrey Trushke or Christophe Jaffrelot, continue to defend Aurangzeb as a stern but just emperor. Have they not read Aurangzeb’s Firmans, who, on top of destroying temples, forbade Hindus to ride horses, elephants or palanquins, imprisoned them, tortured them (like the son of Shivaji Maharaj, Shambuji, who was tortured for 15 days and then his body cut into small pieces and fed to the dogs) and killed them when rthey efused to convert?

The other culprit of this conspiracy of silence on the “Hindu Majids”, is of course Nehru who felt in 1947 that the extraordinary brutality of Muslim invaders needed to be swept under the carpet. Hence this generation after generation of Indian journalists, writers, historians, intellectuals, who denied the obvious.


 Muslims must come to the acceptance that their ancestors behaved in an extremely violent and brutal manner and that the majority of the mosques in India are built on razed temples because not only is it absolutely 100% true, but this is the original land of Hindus, Buddhist, Jains and Sikhs. No one is asking them to surrender back all these mosques but offering back the Gyanvapi masjid, would generate tremendous goodwill amongst  their Hindu Brothers and sisters and pave the way for a Hindu-Muslim supra national friendship . But the question is : WILL THEY?


François Gautier

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