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«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 ...»

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5.3.2 Consequences of security for tourists However, the increase in security led to a number of consequences for both tourists and people living or working around Godowlia. The most salient effects on tourism are the fact that it is prohibited to bring certain items to the temple, the unwelcoming and unfriendly atmosphere for tourists, and fewer visits to the temple.

The astrologer, Mr. Narendra Iyengar, mentions that it is not possible to take any possessions to the temple. No mobile or camera, not even coconuts.113 This leads to problems for tourists who are not familiar with the location and are easily lost in the myriad of alleys and shrines. Although there are lockers at the four entrances of the sacred complex, it might happen that pilgrims do not know where they have put their belongings and have difficulties finding them back. He is not the only one who is concerned about tourists. Mr. Yoginder Anzaari is hurt by the situation and imagines how tourists might come to Varanasi, excited to perform important rituals and only at the spot realize how difficult the situation is and how many problems they have to face. One of the problems Mr. Anees Abdul Khan mentions is that the mosque is taken into the custody of the Central Government and therefore tourists always have to bring a foreigner visa with them when visiting the Gyanvapi mosque.114 If someone leaves his or her passport in the hotel, he or she cannot enter.115 One of the implications of these difficulties is that, according to some interviewees, fewer visitors will be attracted to the sacred complex. Mr. Narendra Iyengar tells “However freely we have been in the temple or in the mosque for the last more than one decade before, that freely you cannot visit these both religious places [now].

Understand? So many checkings.”.116 He expresses exactly what Mrs. Kavita Bhardwaj and Mr. Irfan Malik also feel. The astrologer continues to state that people who go to a religious and spiritual place to pay obeisance to their god want peace.

The problems people face when going to the temple has a negative influence on their mental state, interfering with the sacredness people search. That is why, he Coconuts are used in worship, specifically in the Purnā-Kumbhā. The Purnā-Kumbhā is a vase filled with water and topped with some arranged leaves and a coconut; the vase symbolizing the mother goddess and the coconut prosperity. It is typically offered at auspicious moments like marriage or birth The mosque and temple were taken over by the government in 1983 (Times of India, 2009b) Interestingly, when I visited the temple for the second time I was allowed to enter without having my passport with me. Telling them my passport number was sufficient Interview with Mr. Narendra Iyengar, Dashashvamedh, 11 January 2012 holds, people nowadays visit other temples. People used to come to the Vishwanath temple “all the time” before the introduction of this tight security system. He probably refers to locals. Pilgrims still come from far and wide to visit the Vishwanath temple, but as pointed out earlier, many interviewees say that that Banarasis stopped going to the Vishwanath temple (see section 5.3.3). In 1979 Vidyarthi also observed that locals prefer to visit other temples because the area around the sacred complex is the domain of greedy pandās and thugs (Vidyarthi, 1979).

Mrs. Ama, the French lady, observes that many Indian people are in a better financial situation and there are more facilities on trains. So it is easier to be a pilgrim nowadays (see also section 5.2.3). On the other hand, the middle class seems to be more interesting in “having money and having a good life” and “they don’t want those religious lifestyle”.117 Therefore, according to Mrs. Ama, “it can go both ways.” (i.e., the amount of visitors can increase or decrease). Mr. Mukesh Gupta and Mr. Yoginder Anzaari in fact claim that the amount of visitors increase throughout the years. They seem to be right. The accessibility of pilgrimage sites and the economic situation of people have improved (S. Singh, 2009, p. 95; Veer, 1994, p. 122). Moreover, there appear to be differences between ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ pilgrims in terms of for example length of stay and comfort of accommodation.

‘Modern’ middle-class travellers are more likely to combine religious obligations with sightseeing and are differently engaged in rites and activities (S. Singh, 2009, p. 96).

Also, the amounts of tourists in Varanasi has increased from 33,57,000 to an estimated 44,95,000 in 2010.118 The donations in the Vishwanath temple tripled in the last four years, from Rs 21,969,647 in 2009 to Rs 62,575,339 in 2012 (Sree Kashi Vishvanath Mandir Trust, 2009, 2012), indicating that the amount of pilgrims in the same period has probably not declined.

5.3.3 Consequences of security for locals Most locals also feel the consequences of the tight security. Many interviewees mentioned the lack of freedom as an important restriction due to the current security system. The guesthouse owner relates how people moved used to move freely and carefree in and out of Godowlia before the Ayodhya issue. She dislikes the restrictions on worship of Hindus and Muslims in the name of security. Like many locals, the retired mason indicates how he used to visit the area frequently, but stopped due to all the difficulties. He reasons that when he goes to the mosque he takes a bath in advance, but his ablution is nullified when he is searched by security (Interview with Mrs. Ama, Shivala ghat, 10 February 2012 Indiastat (2010). Important tourist spots and number of tourists visiting them in Varanasi district (Uttar Pradesh) (2006 to 2010). Retrieved via personal email contact with Indiastat guards. Although it is possible to do wuzū (mandatory ritual ablution before prayer) in the mosque, he finds this impracticable because of his traditional clothes.





The astrologer indicates that because of all the checking around Godowlia, just like most local people he has stopped going to the Vishwanath temple. He correctly holds that at important festivals local people would rather visit other Shiva temples than the Vishwanath temple in order to avoid the difficulties (Times of India, 2013b).

Especially during festivals like Mahā Shivrātrī and Shrāvan the temple is packed with devotees and sometimes people have to wait in line for as much as 10 hours, causing people to become impatient and irritated.119 He touches upon another point too, which is the pass system around Godowlia. Local residents and people who have their business in the area carry identity cards, allowing them to enter and leave the area freely and theoretically ensuring them not to be harassed by the security guards. It leads to resentment amongst locals when they feel harassed by security guards despite having an identity card. The guesthouse owner recalls an incident earlier that day when a person was beaten by a policeman despite being a passholder (see for example Times of India, 2011d).

The behaviour of security personnel is despised. Interviewees state that “common visitors are treated like terrorists”, they are “pushing and bothering visitors”, and “people should not be tortured in the name of security”.120 A sārī polisher whom I interviewed in his home with his daughter, Mr. Yoginder Anzaari, perilously expresses his feelings: “the police have captured that entire area, Muslim people are not going there, shopkeepers too have been crying! Even I am afraid when I visit that area that some police man can arrest me for no reason and then my reputation would be ruined forever.”.121 Interestingly, his daughter is less affected by the situation and says she does go out despite the fact that Muslim girls are often not allowed to go outside by themselves. She indicates that she thinks different from her family members, holding that she is just walking and has no reason to fear anything.

So the relationship between security guards and people seems to be quite cold. Yet, the picture the security guards draw is more positive than that of local residents or people whose work is in the surroundings of the sacred complex. They describe that people were suspicious and negative at first, but gradually started realizing the Mahā Shivrātrī is the big night of Shiva during which his marriage with Parvati is celebrated;

Shrāvan is the most auspicious month for worshipping Shiva Interviews with Mrs. Kavita Bhardwaj, Dashashvamedh, 10 December 2011 & Mr. Shekhar Mallah, Khalispura, 16 January 2012 & Mr. Anees Abdul Khan, Peelee Kothee, 25 January 2012 Interview with Mr. Yoginder Anzaari & Mrs. Noura Anzaari, Khalispura, 1 February 2012; ; the polishing of sārīs is a process in which the sārī is starched in order to stiffen the fabric purpose of the security guards and then things became more normal and acceptable.

Both contend that the relationship between security personnel and locals is good nowadays and people are cooperative. One of them said they are always making efforts to remain mutual harmony between people and not to interrupt and make people unhappy. “Sometimes few people misbehave with us but if that is avoidable then we ignore [it] generally... Since this is a religious place visitors [who] come here having feelings of humbleness.”.122 Briefly, we could state that there is a discourse of the ‘foolproof security’ and ‘fortification’ of the sacred complex of the Vishwanath temple and the Gyanvapi mosque, although in reality the security does not seem to function as it is intended.

The tightening of security was brought about after the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya and its main purpose is to protect the sacred complex from terrorist attacks. To most interviewees this is a justified cause, although many interviewees experience negative side effects such as the lack of freedom and insensitivity from security guards. Other consequences mentioned are the prohibition to bring certain items to the temple, the unwelcoming and unfriendly atmosphere for tourists, and therefore fewer visits. In fact, locals indeed prefer other Shiva temples during the big Hindu festivals, but tourists keep visiting the Vishwanath temple in increasingly bigger numbers.

5.4 Conclusions

The sacred complex which houses the Gyanvapi mosque and several temples, the most important of which is the Vishwanath temple, is extremely heavily secured.

Many measures have been taken to guarantee the security, such as the prohibition to take certain items to the sacred complex, such as cameras and phones as well as items for worship. The sacred complex is monitored 24 hours a day using watchtowers and CCTV, and all kinds of modern technologies are used to manage the situation. In addition, various local, state, and national security forces are employed to guarantee the safety. Many changes towards a fortified area were made after Babri mosque was demolished in Ayodhya.

Despite the fact that increasingly larger amounts of people visit the temple, all pilgrims who visit Varanasi pay the Vishwanath temple a visit, and the indication of residents of Varanasi that the temple is very important for them, the latter hardly ever visit the temple due to these security arrangements. People who live or work in Interview with Mr. Sudeep Pandey, Dashashvamedh, 11 December 2011 the area already have to deal with this atmosphere in their daily lives without visiting the sacred complex. In their daily lives they are restricted because of the security regulations, they find the area unfriendly and hostile, and they sometimes come across insensitive behaviour from security guards.

It appears that after the VHP claimed the three temples of Kashi, Ayodhya, and Mathura and underscored their significance for Hinduism (Times of India, 2003b), the importance of the temple has increased. The claim for the importance of the specific spot of the Vishwanath temple (or rather, the Gyanvapi mosque) is quite curious given its history. In chapter 4 we reviewed that the temple was first built in another place, destroyed, and subsequently built on the place of the Gyanvapi mosque. It seems to make sense that the idea that Kashi is upheld on Shiva’s trident is connected to the original place of the Vishwanath temple, given its location on the middle of three hills. If this is true, practical logic would maintain that Shiva’s trident is not underneath the current Vishwanath temple, but underneath Razia’s mosque.

Unless Shiva has relocated his trident from one place to the other. In the same vein, one could sensibly argue that the place where Shiva’s linga pierced the earth ‘in the beginning of time’ is connected to the place where the Vishwanath temple was built, unless the Vishwanath temple was originally built some distance from this jyotirlinga and later rebuilt on the place where this linga pierced the earth. The question arises to what extent the Vishwanath temple is of symbolic value.

A very interesting finding of this research is the importance of the Gyanvapi mosque for Muslims. As for all Muslims worldwide, Masjid al-Haram, the mosque that houses the Kāba, is the most important religious structure for Banarasi Muslims. However, at the same time they indicate that the Gyanvapi mosque is as important to them as Hindus indicate the Vishwanath temple is to them. This invalidates one of the arguments used to claim that the mosque should move to another location to make place for a bigger temple: the idea that the mosque is not very important for Muslims.

Another remarkable finding is the attitude of Banarasi Muslims towards the coexistence of the Vishwanath temple and Gyanvapi mosque. The data shows they are much more positive about the co-existence of temple and mosque than Hindus. They view the co-existence of the temple and mosque much more in terms of harmony and much less in terms of conflict, their tolerance for as well as acceptance of the situation is much higher, and the temple is slightly less important to them than the mosque. An explanation for the more positive appraisal of the situation by Muslims that comes to mind is their status as minority group. Muslims have to deal with many negative stereotypes (see sections 6.1.2 and 6.5) which threaten their social identity.



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