A wazukhana is described as an ablution pond where worshippers wash themselves before praying at the mosque. At Varanasi’s Gyanvapi Mosque, this has become the topic of debate with the videography survey reporting the presence of a Shivling while Muslims are saying it is a fountain

Muslim devotees perform wazu before praying at a mosque. Image used for representational purposes/AFP

The controversy over the Gyanvapi Mosque refuses to die down. As the Supreme Court continues its hearing in the matter, it will come up at 3 pm today, much has been said about the presence of a ‘Shivling’ in the wazukhana of the mosque in Varanasi.

A videography survey of the masjid, as ordered by the Varanasi court, had revealed that there was a ‘Shivling’ along with symbols of a ‘Trishul’ or trident, lotus engravings and ancient Hindi carvings.

The presence of the ‘Shivling’ was confirmed on 17 May with advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain, representing the Hindu side, saying to ANI then: “During the survey exercise yesterday (Monday, 16 May), we found a well-like structure in the middle of the wazukhana. We requested the Commissioner to reduce the water level at the wazukhana. When the water was reduced, we reached the well-like structure and found a big Shivling. The Shivling has a diameter of around four metres and a height of around three feet. I believe it is deeper inside the ground.”

However, the Anjuman Intezamiya Masjid Committee, which manages the mosque, denied the presence of a ‘Shivling’ and said that the structure was, in fact, a fountain.

Anjuman Intezamiya Masjid Committee joint secretary Syed Mohammad Yasin was quoted as saying that all mosques built during the Mughal era had fountains at the wazukhana.

The claim was reiterated by All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen’s Asaduddin Owaisi, who said that the structure was a ‘fountain and not a Shivling’.

Jain had countered the claims of it being a fountain, “We understand the difference between fountain and Shivling. If it is a fountain then it would have a different system. It is a Shivling.”

While the debate rages on the structure being a ‘Shivling or a fountain’, we take a look at what exactly is a wazukhana and the role it plays in a mosque.

Wazukhana explained

In Islam, there’s a rule that prayers and namaz can be offered only after performing Wuzu — a ritualistic ablution, in which one cleans oneself properly before worship. The devotee is expected to clean his/her hands, feet, mouth, arms etc, before they offer their prayers.

For this purpose, a wazukhana is present in mosques. A wazukhana is an ablution pond where worshippers wash themselves before praying at the mosque.

According to India Today, wazukhana in historical mosques were constructed as there were no proper water pipelines in those days.

It allows for numerous devotees to wash themselves before they offer namaz.

An India Today recent report surveyed other historical mosques across the country and found the presence of wazukhanas at these religious sites. For instance, the Jamia Mosque in Srinagar has a pond with a fountain in the middle which is used for ablution purpose.

Similarly, the Fatehpuri Masjid in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk has a wazukhana in its front yard.

Similar practices in other religions

The exercise of cleaning oneself before performing prayers is not restricted only to Islam. Even Hindus, Sikhs and Zoroastrians believe in cleaning their hands, feet and head before offering their prayers.

In gurudwaras, devotees are expected to wash one’s feet and cover their head before entering the premises. Moreover, the Golden Temple in Amritsar also has a water tank, called the amritsarovar, where devotees take a dip.

Hindu devotees are also required to follow certain norms to pay obeisance at a Hindu shrine. All Hindu temples have a place where one is required to remove his or her shoes and has to clean his hands before he or she enters the temple.

Zoroastrian devotees also have their own version where they are supposed to wash all the open parts of the body before tying the sacred thread (kusti) at a fire temple (agyiary).

With inputs from agencies

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