India courts hear Hindu-relics-in-mosque pleas

India’s Supreme Court has overturned a lower court’s order banning mass prayers at a 17th-century mosque in northern India after a survey team said it found relics of the Hindu god Shiva and other Hindu symbols there.

In an interim order on Tuesday, the top court said Muslim prayers at the Gyanvapi Mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi should not be disturbed, while the area where Hindu religious relics were said to be found should be protected.

The top court will next hear the matter on Thursday.

The Supreme Court order came a day after a Varanasi court ruled that a portion of Gyanvapi Mosque, said to be built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1669, be sealed after lawyers representing Hindu plaintiffs claimed a Shivling, a relic of Hindu the god Shiva, was found in the mosque’s ablution water tank.

The Varanasi court had ordered a video survey of the complex last month after five Hindu women sought permission to perform religious rituals in a part of the mosque, claiming a Hindu temple once stood on the site.

Many Hindus hold the view that the Mughals demolished many Hindu temples to construct mosques.

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