Varanasi: Hindu devotees started praying at a cellar in the basement of Varanasi’s Gyanvapi mosque from Wednesday midnight following a Varanasi district court order to unseal the premises. Around 30 years back, after the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the then UP Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, had ordered this cellar to be sealed up.
“Hindu side allowed to offer prayers… district administration will have to make arrangements in seven days. Everyone will have the right to pray there,” Vishnu Shankar Jain, a lawyer for the Hindu side, told the media.
Hindu devotees reached the mosque late night to pray in the cellar, which is popularly known as ‘Vyas ka tehkhana’. Security was heightened in the area to prevent any untoward incident.
The Gyanvapi mosque has four cellars in its basement. One of them was in the possession of a family of priests that used to live there. Somnath Vyas, a member of Vyas family, offered prayers in the cellar before it was sealed in 1993.
The Varanasi court on Wednesday asked the district administration to ensure that prayers can be held inside the cellar within a week.
The Gyanvapi mosque committee has said they would be challenging the court’s order in Allahabad High Court.
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is its recent survey report of the Gyanvapi premises concluded that a large Hindu temple existed on the site before the mosque was built.