«ESTHER WAPSTRA Thesis submitted for MA degree Supervisors: Dr. Laurens G. H. Bakker Prof. Paul J. C. L. van der Velde 30 August 2013 COMMUNAL HARMONY ...»
Another factor that binds people as well as a source of good relations is the GangaJamuni tahzīb or sanskrītī (both meaning culture; the former in Urdu, the latter in Hindi). The Ganga-Jamuni tahzīb is the composite culture that has emerged over the centuries in response to the encounter of Indian with Islamic culture. The concept includes two aspects: the material and immaterial culture as well as the social culture. Because Hindus and Muslims have coexisted and lived together for centuries there is a “constant interplay and overlap between Islamicate and Indic worldviews [i.e., the ‘non-religious’ aspects of Islamic and Indian culture] [which] may be at least as pervasive as the Muslim-Hindu conflicts...” (Gilmartin & Lawrence, 2000, p.
See footnote 25 Kumar remarks that the activities that define Banārsipan are restricted to men: “women do not visit akhārās, they do not go on outdoor trips, they do not participate in weekly or fortnightly singing, they do not participate in processions or organise public pujas, and they certainly do not wander around, drinking tea on outdoor benches or eating by the wayside.” (Kumar, 1992, p. 42) 2).37 The hybrid culture (Indo-Persian, Indo-Islamic, or Hindustani culture) with mixed Persian, Central Asian, and Indian elements and is most clearly reflected in the Bhakti and Sufi movements as well as in architecture, art, music, dance, language, literature, and later film (Gilmartin & Lawrence, 2000; Mohammadad, 2007, pp. 415Raman mentions an article whose writer looks back on the days when poets would recite Urdu poems and held friendly contests. She remarks that this is an emblematic expression of Gangā-Yamunī tahzīb. Not only the performance of the art in itself, but also the pleasant responses from the audience and the social interactions at large. When people talk about the Gangā-Yamunī tahzīb, they usually mean the social culture which is characterized by fluidity between social categories, relations based on good faith, and the feeling of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood (Raman, 2010, p. 260).
In her article about the response following the bomb blasts at the Sankat Mochan temple and Varanasi Cantonment railway station on 7 March 2006 Williams found out that it was precisely this Gangā-Yamunī tahzīb informants pointed to as explanation for the balanced response and lack of chaos and violence. However, this alone cannot account for the situation, as the Gangā-Yamunī tahzīb was not much different from years in which riots did break out. Williams shows that, despite the absence of the Senior Superintendent of Police and the District Magistrate and despite police being on the spot only after twenty minutes, most people concerned responded very adequately. Especially powerful were the actions of the mahant (chief priest) of the Sankat Mochan temple and one of the leaders of the Gyanvapi mosque, the former resuming activities quickly and thereby establishing an aura of calmness and the latter appealing to Muslim shop holders to join Hindus in the bandh (closure) and by issuing a fatwa against terrorism in Islam. Moreover, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Christian religious leaders joined efforts to convey the message of unity and brotherhood and madrasas introduced classes to foster patriotism amongst the students. In general, people in Banaras responded calmly and brotherly, protesting side by side and shunning the spread of rumours. Local politicians and former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi paid visits to show their sympathies. Lastly, the media covered the harmonious response of Varanasi after the bomb blasts extensively (Williams, 2007). It seems a the elements to start a riot mentioned by Brass (2003) were suppressed adequately (see section 7.2).
Interestingly, the Indian influences on Islamic culture started before the Islamic conquests in the Indian subcontinent when in 8th century pandits were invited to Baghdad to teach mathematics, medicine, astronomy and metaphysics and from then on numerous Indian works were translated into Persian and Arabic (Sheik Ali, B. (2008). Indian impact on Islamic culture. In: R. M. Abhyanka (Ed.), West Asia and the region. Defining India's role (pp. 225-235). New Delhi, India: Academic Foundation) This shows that although Varanasi is known as a riot-prone city, there are elements contributing to the general harmony amongst its residents during non-riotous times and it also has the potential to ward off chaos and violence and thereby suppress the institutionalized riot system, if there is any.38 However, although there seem to be elements promoting peaceful intra-communal relationships and people doing an effort to maintain harmony in times of tension, it is too soon to assume there is an institutionalized peace system.39 According to Brass, in North Indian cities where riots persist institutionalized riot systems exist “in which known persons and groups occupy specific roles in the rehearsal for and production of communal riots” (Brass, 2003, p. 32) Varshney states that “In peaceful cities... an institutionalized peace system exists. When organizations such as trade unions, associations of businessmen, traders, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and at least some cadre-based political parties (different from the one that have an interest in communal polarizations) are communally integrated, countervailing forces are created. Associations that would suffer losses from a communal split fire for their turf, making not only their members aware of the dangers of communal violence but also the public at large. Local administrations are far more effective in such circumstances. Civic organizations, for all practical purposes, become the eyes and ears of the administration... In the end, polarizing politicians either don’t succeed or eventually stop trying to divide communities by provoking and fomenting communal violence.” (Varshney, 1993, p. 11)
4. The Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque The Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque are located in one complex to which I will refer as ‘sacred complex’. This chapter describes the area in which this complex is located; what the location physically looks like and what kind of people live and work in it. Because it is very dominant in the area, some information is given about the security of the situation. The second and third sections describe the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque; unfortunately the physical appearance of the temple and the way of worshipping in it is described in much more detail than the physical appearance of and worship taking place in the mosque, because women are not allowed in the latter. Also, much less information is available on the mosque.
4.1 The area of the sacred complex40
The Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque are located in an area known as Chowk-Godowlia which is enclosed by the Chowk-Godowlia road on the west, the Dashashvamedh road on the south and Dashashvamedh and Mani Karnika Ghat on the Ganges on the east. Within these borders there is a myriad of small alleys where rickshaws cannot enter; they bring visitors of the Vishwanath temple close to the entrance gate of the Vishwanath Gali where pandās wait them up to serve as spiritual guide. It is the busiest road, leading up its main entrance. To enter this road one has to go through a gate with conical shapes on top; a text on the gate reads ‘ ’ (‘Shri Kashi Vishwanath’). On its left side is a small booth for the many security guards who guard the entrance.
The alleys (galīs) of about 2 meters wide have shops on both sides. Similar shops are grouped together: at the beginning of the Vishwanath Gali there are bangle shops, then shops that sell mukhwas (an after dinner digestive spice mixture), towards the end of the alley people sell the wooden toys Banaras is famous for, a bit further still are shops with big scales and trays of khoya (solid milk) covered with cloth, and around the corner there are several shops selling foodstuffs like rice, flour, and lentils. The walls of the shops are often brightly coloured: pink, purple, bright blue, yellow, or red-orange. Most shops are attended by men. There are three sorts of shops: shops where one can actually enter, like clothes shops, bangles shops and sweets shops; shops that are inside but too small to enter, like the tailor and shops that sell paraphernalia for worship (e.g., small brass figurines of Shiva, mālās (rosaries), and holders for ārtī (light offers)); and shops that are located outside and break up by the end of the day, like flower walās, The information in this section is largely based on personal observations pān walās en chāī walās. Furthermore, there are houses, two schools, internet cafés, restaurants, and public toilets.
In many places in the area there are parked scooters and horns can often be heard when people try to make their way through the narrow, crowded streets. People saunter through the streets, sometimes stopping at a shop. At the entrance of the sacred complex halfway the Vishwanath Gali people stand shoulder to shoulder in the queue to visit the temple.41 Before entering the temple people are searched, but as women are searched by female security guards and men by male security guards there are two separate lines. The row of women is somewhat longer than the row of men (see Figure 5). Most women wear sārīs, in many colours, although many younger ladies wear suits (salwār kamīz). Men usually wear ‘Western’ clothes.
Although most people leaves their shoes in one of the shops close to the temple where they also buy little pots or cups of milk and flowers, there are quite a few people, especially older people and sometimes groups, who walk barefoot through the streets around the sacred complex (see Figure 6).
Near the end of the Vishwanath Gali there is another entrance to the sacred complex. This is the only entrance open to Muslims visiting the Gyanvapi mosque.
Muslim men are often easily discernible because of their kurta (long shirt for men), which reaches up to the knee and is usually in a light colour, sometimes with a pattern, their white or light-coloured pair of pants or skirt (dhotī), and their marked headdress. Some of the Muslim ladies in Varanasi wear salwār kamīz and blend seamlessly in with the Hindu ladies; others are easily recognizable because of the black niqāb they are wearing.42 Although they can be found in the street near Madanpura, in the alleys around the sacred complex there are pretty much no women in niqāb.
Besides pilgrims, children in school uniform and some non-Indian tourists walk through the streets. Beggars are standing in strategic places. Because the alleys close to the mosque are leading up to Manikarnika Ghat, the main burning ghāt, frequently pall-bearers come by with the body of a deceased which heavily decorated with shiny red, orange, purple, and gold cloths, meanwhile loudly shouting ‘Rām nām satya hai’ (‘The name of God is truth’). A man dressed in orange is carrying a wicker basket filled with marigolds and walks by all the shops. He puts some red powder on his finger and presses it the forehead of a shopkeeper, then repeats it with white powder. He also gives a spoonful of water in his right hand. It is from Annapurna, he The sacred complex is an enclosed (and highly secured) complex in which the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque are located, as well as some other temples like the Annapurna temple A niqāb is a dress that conceals everything apart from the eyes; few women also wear a veil to conceal their eyes.
Figure 5. Women waiting in the queue to be frisked before entering the sacred complex from the north (the entrance for visitors of both Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque).
Photo taken on 20 January 2012, 13.00 Figure 6. Women walking barefoot through the alleys around the sacred complex. Photo taken on 20 January 2012, 12.30 says. He goes by the shopkeepers because they do not have the time to go to the temple themselves.
Some parts of the alley are covered, either with a piece of plastic cloth fixed to either side of the alley or there is corrugated roofing; once in a while a loud noise comes from above when monkeys jump on the corrugated roofing. Furthermore, also roam the alleys and the street is also shared by cows, eating from the dumped flowers.
The streets are paved with big square stones. The road is sagged and irregular due to many broken. Apparently, there are cables under the ground; in some places the upper layer of stones or asphalt is so bad the cables show. The streets in the area are very dirty. Yet, there seems to be a constant mixture of water, mud, pee, poo, flowers, plastic chāī cups, earthen chāī pots, and leaves used as plates or cups for food. Often the ground is very indicative about what has happened; for instance when there are many chāī cups, one knows there was a chāī shop. The gullies are cleaned once a day, or twice a day during peak moments, there are over 200 sanitary workers are active in the area, and sweeping, collection and transportation of garbage costs about Rs 99,000 per month (Times of India, 2009a, 2012f).
4.1.1 Security The area is so heavily protected that it is likened to a fort (Times of India, 2010a).
The area around the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque is divided in a ‘red zone’ and a ‘yellow zone’. The red zone is the most sensitive area or ‘inner cordon’ and the yellow zone the ‘outer cordon’. But it is unclear to me whether the red zone is only within the sacred complex of also directly around it; and the yellow zone the zone directly around the sacred complex or a somewhat wider area. The red zone is managed by the CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) while the yellow zone is in the hands of the PAC (Provincial Armed Constabulary) and civil police, the latter of which are responsible for frisking and crowd regulation (Times of India, 2011a, 2011c, 2012b).