LUCKNOW: A few hours after the order of the Varanasi district court, ‘puja’ of deities inside the southern cellar (Vyasji ka Tehkhana) on Gyanvapi mosque premises commenced past Wednesday midnight and continued till 3 am on Thursday morning.
The Puja, which was performed by Kashi Vishwanath temple head priest Om Prakash Mishra under the supervision of Vedic Acharya Ganeshwar Shastri Dravid, commenced with the Aarti of Lord Ganesh and Goddess Lakshmi and concluded with Mangla Aarti on early Thursday morning at 3 am.
While Mishra was appointed by Shree Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust (SKVTT), Acharya Dravid had led the Pran-Pratishtha rituals of Ram Lalla in Ayodhya last month. "Vyas ji's cellar was opened after 31 years for prayers," said Shree Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust president Nagendra Pandey.
He confirmed that the southern cellar on the mosque premises was opened in the presence of district administration and police authorities at around 10.30 pm on Wednesday. Pandey said that it was done in compliance of the Varanasi district court order and the district administration made all the arrangements with great promptness.
Meanwhile, Varanasi District Magistrate S Rajlingam said that everything was done in compliance of the district court's order.
“Acharya Dravid was called to supervise the rituals as the puja was being performed inside the cellar after 30 years,” said the DM. According to official sources, the activity to unlock the cellar by removing the steel grill started on Wednesday night at around 9.30 pm.
As the district administration and police officials reached the Kashi Vishwanath temple, they called the members of the Kashi-Vishwanath temple trust and the barricades laid in front of the statue of Nandi facing the mosque's 'wazukhana' were removed. The priests and the members of Vyas family were let in to perform the puja amid tight security arrangements in the presence of senior administrative and police authorities.
The sources confirmed that besides the images of Gods on the cellar wall, the idols of deities which were in custody of the district administration after being recovered from the cellar during the recently-concluded ASI survey, were kept inside the cellar for the Puja rituals. According to Varanasi Divisional Commissioner Kaushal Raj Sharma, the regular full-fledged puja of the deities inside the cellar would commence in compliance with the district court order from Thursday onwards.
According to Hindu plaintiff's lawyer Vishnu Shankar Jain, the daily puja of the deities inside the cellar would have five aartis, including Mangla Aarti at 3:30 am, Bhog and Aarti at 12 noon, followed by Aprahan Aarti at 4 pm, Sanyankaal (evening) Aarti at 7 pm and the day will conclude with Shayan Aarti 10:30 pm daily.
Notably, Varanasi district court judge Dr AK Vishvesha had passed the order on Wednesday allowing the Vyas family and a priest named by Shree Kashi Vishwanath Temple Trust (SKVTT) Board to perform all the rituals related to the puja of deities inside the Vyasji ka Tehkhana (the southern cellar) on Gyanvapi mosque premises. The court had directed the local administration to make arrangements in the barricaded cellar within seven days for prayers of deities.
The District judge Dr AK Vishvesha had passed the order on his last working day while disposing a plea filed by Shailendra Kumar Pathak Vyas, the head priest of Acharya Ved Vyas Peeth temple, seeking the right to worship Goddess Shringar Gauri, other visible and invisible deities inside the cellar of Gyanvapi mosque as it was being done till 1993. The plea was filed by Pathak on September 25, 2023.
Plaintiff Shailendra Kumar Pathak had claimed that his maternal grandfather, priest Somnath Vyas, used to offer prayers inside the cellar till December 1993. He had claimed in his plea that the ‘puja’ was stopped by the then dispensation headed by former CM Mulayam Singh Yadav, one year after the demolition of Babri masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. However, the defendants disputed the petitioner's claim by saying that there were no idols existed in the cellar so there was no question of prayers being offered there till 1993. The court had posted the matter for next hearing on February 8 when a new district judge will continue the proceedings in the case.