The issue of whether the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi was built on a Shiva temple, or not, is entering its denouement phase in various courts.
A number of questions are being asked: many are legal; more are legalistic; others are technical; and some, as always, are wretchedly political ones pregnant with instigative intent.
At one level, the entire legal ruckus seems slightly mindless and wholly needless, since the three domes of the mosque rest on the intricately sculpted remnant western wall of what is clearly a Hindu temple.
But then, defending the indefensible using word play has long been the preferred modus operandi for some schools of politics.
As a result, the questions are flying thick and fast: Is that linga-shaped object in the mosque’s forecourt a linga or a pillar? Is it old or new? Is it made of concrete or stone?
Will an archaeological survey bring out the truth? Why should a survey be allowed? Is the petition for a survey legally tenable? Why do ‘they’ want a survey? Won’t ‘they’ ever let us live in peace? Ad infinitum.
Separately, the media domain is filled with questions about the questioners.
Heady legal verbiage is distilled with reductionist severity, by self-styled experts blessed with only a passing knowledge of the law, to such an extent, that it makes the concept of ‘dumbing down’ seem intelligent.
It is entirely beside the point that most such efforts either miss the point, get it wrong, or merely muddy the pool further.
Is that judge kosher? Why didn’t this lawyer make that point? What about the imperial firmans ordering the destruction of a temple at that very site? Can’t they be adduced as irrefutable evidence? Or, is it all a sinister majoritarian ploy? Again, ad infinitum.
And then, there is a statue of a seated bull at the northern perimeter of the Vishwanath temple at Kashi, which has been quietly asking a different query ever since the ruckus began some centuries ago. He is Nandi, Shiva’s mount.
According to the legends which made this sacred land, Nandi is the keeper of Shiva’s abode, be it atop Mount Kailash, at Kashi, or any one of the innumerable grihas where a dreadlocked trident-bearer is the resident deity.
Nandi is endowed with great strength, and his job is to keep the peace while his Lord attends to various matters; so strong, in fact, that even Ravana, the invincible Lankan king, had to suffer a humiliating chastisement at Nandi’s hooves, when the royal visitor once threw a petulant fit after being forced to wait for an audience with Shiva at Kailash.
It is a task demanding eternal devotion and great fortitude, for which reason, Nandi is always found seated facing the abode of his master.
But this Nandi of Kashi has not seen peace, and oddly not his Lord, in a long age, for he sits facing away from the jyotirlinga of Vishwanath, gazing at a mosque through tall barricades erected by thoughts alien to this land. That is why his query is different from any other.
It is a moral question: if, by custom, tradition, belief, and history, he has always been posted to watch over Shiva, why have legalistic delays and an otiose intransigence prevented Nandi from resuming his duties for so long? It is a question for the ages.
Our modern questioners would rush to answer, excitedly and volubly, that the delay is on account of a small, but extremely influential section of the Muslim aristocracy, along with the secularist parties, who have turned the issue into a cause celebre for political control of a vote bank, and vital electoral profit.
Perhaps they are right, from a legal or a technical standpoint, but theirs is not a moral answer.
The reason is that an article of faith goes far beyond a judge, a court, a law, or an archaeological survey. It is an issue of morality: is it right to hinder Nandi thus? And the issue will be resolved peaceably, the day that point is answered honestly.
Consequently, it is not a matter of which court will answer Nandi’s query, or about how justly it will be answered, but when, because some questions cannot be avoided.
That is the way of dharma. In the end, the natural order of things is always restored by the truth.
Just as the Yaksha Prashna to Yudhishthira was the question of the Dvapara Yuga, Nandi’s query is the question for this Yuga, and the time for an answer has arrived.
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