Sealed cellars, hidden origin: Why what's beneath Gyanvapi sparks intrigue

1 month ago 27

The Allahabad High Court has decided that Hindu prayers will continue in the southern cellar of the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, dismissing a challenge to the recently instated practice. The verdict comes amidst a backdrop of historical and religious intrigue, as recent findings by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) reveal the complex's deep-rooted past.

The controversy centres around "Vyas Ji Ka Tehkhana", a cellar where Shailendra Kumar Pathak, citing lineage and tradition, sought permission to resume Hindu worship practices halted since December 1993. The mosque's management contested these claims, denying the existence of idols or prior worship within the cellar.

However, the court's decision was influenced by the ASI's report, which suggested the mosque, and indeed the entire Gyanvapi complex, sits atop an ancient Hindu temple foundation.


The ASI's use of ground-penetrating radar technology unveiled not just one but ten cellars beneath the mosque's structure.

There are five chambers each in the northern and southern halves of the mosque’s basement. Eight of these cellars were sealed and filled with soil and cannot be opened.

Two of the cellars are accessible at present, of which one is the Vyas Ji Ka Tehkhana. The survey also identified a well adjacent to the Vyas Tehkhana in the third chamber.


The Hindu side believes these sealed cellars hold the key to the past, potentially containing Hindu idols and artefacts from an ancient temple. They have advocated further archaeological exploration to uncover the truth.

Calls for further archaeological exploration of the mosque’s basement have been met with caution by the Muslim side, citing concerns about the potential impact of such excavations on the existing structure. The advocate for the Gyanvapi Masjid committee expressed fears that any disturbance could jeopardise the mosque's integrity.


While the Allahabad High Court decision allows Hindu prayers in the southern cellar, the fate of the other nine cellars and the well is uncertain. The Hindu side's petition for an ASI survey of the "wazukhana", a place for ablutions, which they claim houses a shivling, awaits court judgment.

Amidst legal battles and archaeological revelations, it remains to be seen whether these hidden chambers hold the keys to the complex’s contested origins. For now, the mystery of what lies beneath the Gyanvapi mosque endures.

Published By:

Devika Bhattacharya

Published On:

Feb 27, 2024