Gvanvapi mosque in holy city of Varanasi is 1 of many sites threatened by legal challenges

By Salimah Shivji

As day breaks on the Ganges, a dozen Hindu devotees slowly dip in the river’s holy water and quietly chant. This is Varanasi, the ancient spiritual centre in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state, considered the holiest of cities.

It’s also where a bitter legal dispute over a 17th-century mosque is increasing religious tensions between the city’s Hindus and Muslims. 

“The friction has already been caused,” said Varanasi resident Vijay Dutt Tiwari. “The fight will continue.” 

Gyanvapi mosque, which has stood on the banks of the Ganges for more than 300 years, is the subject of around two dozen legal challenges that assert the structure was built on ruins of a temple devoted to the Hindu god Shiva.

Many of the petitioners want the entire mosque, constructed by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, torn down and replaced with a temple. 

This story was originally published in cbc.ca. Read the full story here.