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How Gyanvapi mosque was built atop Vishveshwar temple in Varanasi.

Evidence through maps: How Gyanvapi mosque was built atop Vishveshwar temple.

19th century English author James Prinsep had illustrated the history of the Gyanvapi mosque and the old Vishveshwar temple. Prinsep’s book “Benares Illustration” reveals surprising facts on the basis of lithography.

Tejshree Purandare in India Today.

OriginalAs the debate over the Gyanvapi mosque-Shringar Gauri complex continues in the courts, some new and old facts have come to the fore. 19th century English author James Prinsep, during his stint as illustrator and traveller, decoded the present Gyanvapi mosque way back in 1831 as he travelled across the length and breadth of the city of Varanasi.

Prinsep, in his book ‘Benares Illustrated, A Series of Drawings’, discussed the architecture of the old Vishveshwar temple, the present Gyanvapi mosque and how Mughals under Aurangzeb converted the original structure into a capacious masjid to establish their religious hegemony.

The technique he used for this was lithography.

WHAT IS LITHOGRAPHY?

James Prinsep used lithography techniques to present information with evidence. Since paintings and artifacts were not used at that time, he used lithography to engrave every scene on paper.

To understand lithography, India Today TV spoke to renowned lithography expert Bobby Kohli. Kohli explains that lithography is a printing technique that is widely used around the world. Most books, newspapers and magazines are made using lithography. It is fast, efficient, cheap and relatively easy.

The first step in lithography is creating a plate with the image to be printed. If the image is in black and white, only one plate is needed, as the plate can only be inked with black ink. Colour images are produced using a four-colour separation process, with four separate plates for cyan, magenta, yellow and key (black) inks. When plates are printed, the colours visually blend together, forming a colour image.

Kohli explains that although there are many types of lithography, Prinsep used metal lithography in his book. He explains that for metal lithography, metal plates are used. An encryption is made on metal, the remainder process is the same as in normal lithography.

OLD TEMPLE OF VISHVESHWAR

Talking about Gyanvapi mosque in his book, James Prinsep said the view was taken from the south-west corner of what was then called as Jumma Musjid or the principal mosque of the city.

He illustrated that the dome and minaret surmounting the “Hindoo walls” were the work of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, and the tombs were of the same date.

Prinsep wrote that Muslims (Mughals), in their zeal for the triumph of their own religion, discovered a method of converting the original structure into a capacious masjid, without destroying above one half of its walls — so that not only the ground plan, but the entire architectural elevation, may still be traced out. A specimen of the order has been lithographed to show the proportions of the different moldings.

In his work, Prinsep wrote about his findings: “Part of one of the Hindoo domes also remains: it is not formed on the principle of the arch, but by the successive protrusion of the courses of stone, and by cutting off the angles laterally, so as to change the square into a polygot, and thence gradually into a circle; the under edges of the courses are neatly worked up into rosettes and pannels, and present a not inelegant appearance.”

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In his book, Prinsep categorically pointed out that due to a power struggle between the Mughals under Aurangzeb and rulers of Kashi, the Hindu temples were ordered to be destroyed. “The bigotry of Aurungzeb did not allow many vestiges of this more ancient style to remain. In 1660, for some trifling resistance to the imposition of a capitation tax, he took occasion to demolish the principal Shiwalas, and constructed Masjids or mosques with the same materials and upon the same foundations, leaving portions of the ancient walls exposed here and there, as evidences of the indignity to which the Hindoo religion had been subjected.”

Historian and researcher Dinesh Kapoor says, “Mughal emperor Aurangazeb in 1669 destroyed the temple of Vishveshwar on which the mosque was built and still remain as it is. He further says that three domes are built over the two Shiva Mandaps and the central Mahadeo Shrine which existed in the center before.”

VISHVESHWAR TEMPLE PLAN

In his book, James Prinsep explained the plan of Vishveshwar temple through a map. In the plan, it can be seen that the Shivling is placed in the sanctum. The temple had an entry from all four sides. The north-south linear axis had two small porches (Shiva Mandap) for the visitors. In the longitudinal east-west axis were the entrance halls surrounded by ‘dwarapalas’ (gatekeepers) in the center. At the corners, four small cenotaphs for the deities Tarakeswara, Mankeshwar, Bhairon – the forms of Shiva — his son Ganesha were placed. Thus, the plan was based on a 3×3 grid with the presiding deity in the center.

Lithography expert Bobby Kohli told India Today TV that the images in Prinsep’s book are all made by lithography. “These litho arts are absolutely correct. It seems to have been made in the 19th century. The nature of the art shows that these are the ones made in the 19th century. The image that depicts old temple of Vishveshwar is made by the metal lithography. It has minute details of the old stone in the disturbed structure,” he said.

Notably, there are two lines in the scheme which demarcates the present occupation of the temple by the mosque. If one looks at the present mosque built by demolishing a part of the temple in relation to this plan, it can be seen that the three domes are built on top of the two Shiva mandapas and the central Mahadeva shrine, which was there.

“The map is made by using metal lithography where metal plate was used with greasy litho crayon or a greasy black ink to make it,” Kohli said.

MYSTERY OF NANDI AND SHIVLING AND EVIDENCE OF HINDU SYMBOL

Historian Dinesh Kapoor says that James Prinsep had written that there are many such evidences on the wall of the building which are related to Hindu culture.

The Kashi Vishwanath temple was rebuilt in 1776 by Ahilyabai Holkar – the Maratha queen of Malwa. Historian Dinesh Kapoor said Nandi’s picture is from the same temple.

Prinsep in his book wrote, “The darkly shaded part shows the figure and foundation of the principal dewul: the fainter, those of the outer dewulee. The whole must have formed, when complete, a picturesque group of 9 spires around a central pyramid. The heights diminishing from the centre towards the corners in the proportions of sixteen, eight, and six as seen by the ground plan.”

Dinesh Kapoor said, “The dotted line in the semi upper part of the map shows the present day occupation made by the Masjid on the temple.”

Studying about the elevation of Hindu temples, Prinsep wrote, “… Architecture like every other branch of arts among the Hindus is an hereditary occupation. The head masons or rajmistries employed in the construction of temples and edifices of a super description have generally in their position a number of plans and elevations. These plans along with a variety of designs for mouldings, scrolls, let’s work supply material for all modern buildings of the pure or Hindu taste but many builders have ventured to engraft the Muslim style upon the letter and your skill-fully combined the mixture has a good effect, frequent examples of it have occur in the following sketches; the present temple is however essentially Hindu.”

After analysing the image, Dinesh Kapoor said, ”The elevation of a Hindu temple drawn here fairly depicts the then Vishveshwara Temple.” He highlights the fact that, “Prinsep in his Litho art has also sketched a Nandi in extreme right of the temple which resembles the present Nandi. The history says that the extreme right of the temple was destructed by the Muslims and the Extreme right where Nandi is worshipped was left as it is.”

MADHORAY MOSQUE

Among other Shivalas and temples destroyed by Aurangzeb, one such was Madhoray Mosque. Prinsep illustrates, “The Madhoray Musjid (Mosque) was erected by Aurungzeb on the site and with the materials of the temple of Bindh Madho or Vishnu”.

The temple of Bindh Madho or Vishnu as described by Tavernier, was located on the ground from Punchgunga to Ram Ghat, including within its walls the temples of Ram and Mungula Gouree, and numerous houses of the priesthood.

Prinsep wrote that the mosque and minarets around the Madhoray mosque built as a method of perpetuating the insult most offensive to their habits and feelings, by carrying his minarets to such a height as to overlook the privacy of their houses, the upper apartments and terraced roofs of which are always tenanted by the females of the family. The mosque has little architectural beauty to boast about, but the minars have been deservedly admired for their simplicity and boldness of execution.

Prinsep also quoted two of the travellers and illustrators of the Tavernier and Heber era, who travelled to Varanasi at different times and compared their findings. “Amongst others of less note, the descriptions of Tavernier and Heber will long continue to he read with interest;— the former, as a lively picture of Benares in 1608, before the prostration of its temples by Aurungzebe, and while there yet remained some vestiges of the splendor of its idolatries; the latter, as introducing the reader, in the amiable prelate’s agreeable and instructive manner, to Benares, as it appeared to him on his visit in 1825,” Prinsep said.

Read also: Gyanvapi Mosque Row-  A Look at Legal Journey of Case. (from News18)

Read also: Fragmented Deity, Temple Debris & Hindu Motifs Find Mention in Sacked Gyanvapi Surveyor’s Report. (from News18)

Courtesy: India Today, Aajtak and News18.

One comment on “How Gyanvapi mosque was built atop Vishveshwar temple in Varanasi.

  1. Pingback: How Gyanvapi mosque was once constructed atop Vishveshwar temple in Varanasi.

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