«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 ...»
Sadly, information of the mosques is much harder to come by and almost everywhere the mosques are referred to as places where once a temple stood before it was destroyed. Thereby they are often not viewed in their own right. Although almost all mosques are built on top of destroyed Hindu temples, it is interesting that Greaves mentions many mosques that are supposedly made from even older remains, suggesting the Hindu temples might have been built on top of Buddhist Paradoxically, they do value ijtihād, personal interpretations of the Qurān and the Hadiths (SearleChatterjee, 1994, p. 85) temples (Greaves, 1909, pp. 66-76; Singh, 2011, p. 58). The most important mosques are the Great Mosque of Aurangzeb, also known as Gyanvapi mosque (see section 4.3), the Razia mosque, the Alamgiri mosque, and the Dharhara mosque.29 The Alamgir mosque is one of the defining sights at Panchganga Ghat. The accounts I have found of the mosque are somewhat confusing.
Although the mosque is still an impressive structure, it once dominated the view of Banaras more because of its graceful, tall minarets. In 1868, Sherring wrote that the minarets were about hundred and fifty feet, calculated from the floor of the mosque, but had been taller originally. Because their weakness they had been cut with about 50 feet; when one of the minarets collapsed in October 1949, the other was altered Kumar also mentions Arhai, Kangura, Ganj-e-Shahida, Abdul Razzaq Shah, Lat, and Fatman as mosques that are regarded with special pride and Singh suggests Dhai Nim Kangoore, Ganje Shahada, Chaukhambha, Fatman and Abdul Razzaq (Kumar, 1987, p. 270; 1989, p. 167; Singh, 2011, p. 58) For example, http://www.visitinvaranasi.com/alamgir-mosque-varanasi.aspx Although Eck also calls the Gyanvapi mosque “the great mosque of Aurangzeb” she cannot refer to this mosque as it is situated in a different part of the city (Eck, 1983; compare p. 207 with p. 127) to match its height (Desai, 2007, pp. 18-20; Eck, 1983, p. 235; Kumar, 1987, p. 270;
Sherring, 1868, pp. 111-112).
Whereas mosques are places for formal prayers (namāz), many Muslims regularly visit mazārs (shrines). The oldest mazārs are those of the lieutenants and general of Salar Masaud. Every muḥalla has its mazār; most are only known locally, but some are famous throughout the city.32 There is a wide variety in the physical structures of mazārs. Some are in the open sky, others are huge complexes that contain several buildings, and then there others that are small and housed in mosques, courtyards, and homes. Some are covered with a canopy or dome and if possible there are trees to offer shade, platforms to offer a rest place, and water to wash. Besides honouring the saint with a visit, people come to mazārs for ziyārat (Persian equivalent of darshan), to pray, to read the Qurān, or to obtain blessings, good advice or a cure for a mental or physical illness. At the same time, the mazārs serves as a cultural centre, providing a place where people can meet, engage in conversations, have tea, chew pān, and enjoy music; in short, a place where they can engage in Banārsipan (see section 3.3.2) (Kumar, 1987, pp. 266-272; Singh, 2011).
The mazārs are not only visited by Muslims; in his study on five mazārs Singh identified 21-23 per cent Hindu visitors. Hindus also frequently donate to and participate actively in urs (annual death anniversary of the saint) and melās (religious fairs) and thereby strengthen harmonious coexistence between Hindus and Muslims and mutual cohesiveness in the neighbourhood (Singh, 2011, pp. 53, 73-74).
Besides mosques and mazārs, Singh also lists imamchauk (the crossing site for tazia), takiya (burial place); idgah (place for special prayer); and imambara (the burial site for keeping tazia) as Muslim sacred places (Singh, 2011, p. 75).
188.8.131.52 Banaras’ Muslim traditions: the marriage of Ghazi Mian Salar Masaud, popularly known as Ghazi (‘warrior-saint’) Mian, was the nephew of Mahmud of Ghazni who is particularly known for his destructing and plundering behaviour. Ghazi Mian was driven by proselytizing zeal and led Muslim warriors to ‘slay infidels’. When he was 19, on the day he was supposed to marry Johara Bibi, he had to ride out for a battle at Bahraich (about 300 kilometres north to Varanasi). He was finally killed in this battle in 1033. His tomb was rediscovered by the end of the twelfth century (Kumar, 1987, p. 264; Singh, 2011, pp. 54-64; Visuvalingam, 1992;
Visuvalingam & Chalier-Visuvalingam, 2006).
Singh (2011b) contends that there are fourteen mazārs which are more popular and mentions five.
He agrees with Kumar (1987) about Maqdum Shah, Chandan Shahid, and Yaqub Shahid, but adds Ghazi Miyan and Maulwi ji ka Bara. Kumar identifies six mazārs of primary importance. She adds Ambiya Shah, Malang Shah, and Zahir Shahid to the three already Once a year the urs is celebrated, the wedding anniversary of the saint (with God;
i.e., his death anniversary). The grave is washed, his sprinkled with kewra pānī (rose water) and rubbed with sandal paste, the old chādar (cover) is replaced with a new one, and there is halqā (calling out Allah’s name), qurānkhānī (reading from the Qurān), tabarruk (food distribution), fātiha (praying), nāt and qawwālī (religious music). The celebration can be compared to shringārs, annual celebrations at Hindu temples (Kumar, 1987, p. 271; 1989, p. 164). During the urs a wedding procession moves through Jaitpura and Salarpura muḥallas (Visuvalingam & ChalierVisuvalingam, 2006). The vivid celebration is incredibly popular among especially the lower classes and is attended by Muslims and Hindus alike (Raman, 2010, p. 65).
3.3. Hindu-Muslim relations
3.3.1 Communal violence According to Varshney, Varanasi is one of India’s twenty most riot-prone cities (Varshney, 2002, pp. 104-105). The city is also recognized as one of the 25 sensitive and one of the 19 hyper-sensitive areas identified by the Uttar Pradesh state government (e.g., Times of India, 2010b).
The first communal riot in Banaras described in the colonial period occurred in 1809 when Muslims broke down the Lat Bhairava, a pillar which supposedly is the staff of Bhairava, after Hindus had tried to convert a mud shrine into a stone one (Eck, 1983, p. 196; Pandey, 1990, pp. 30-32).33 In his critical analysis on early colonial accounts such as travel journals and books on Banaras Pandey throws light on the development of how the riot was viewed throughout the years and concludes that “even the ‘bare facts’ of the situation were constructed–and constructed out of the prejudices, biases and ‘common sense’ of the writers.” (Pandey, 1990, p. 32, italics in original). The Banaras Gazetteer for example, remarks that the riot was undoubtedly caused by Hindu-Muslim antagonism, although afterwards Hindus and Muslims intermingled as if no incident had happened. Pandey notes that the tendency to think in crude oppositions and stereotypes can be traced back to the early accounts of this riot.
Pandey wonders how it is possible that figures of wounded got inflated from about 28 people killed and 70 wounded to several hundred deaths; that the site shifted from the Lat Bhairava to the Vishwanath temple; that the origin of the riot changed from breaking down the pillar to a clash between Holī and Muharram processions. He breaks down where these changes in several accounts come from (Pandey, 1990, Bhairava is Banaras’ police chief and another name for Shiva pp. 27-57). Pandey notes that according to officials who described the riot, there were no outbreaks in the previous hundred years; in the years directly after Independence, from 1947 to 1966, there were also basically no communal riots (Engineer, 1992, p. 510; Pandey, 2006, p. 26). However, the quarter decade that followed saw at least twelve communal riots (see figure 4).
Figure 4. Communal riots in Varanasi, 1947-2013.
Sources: Ashutosh, 1991 (Nov 1991); Engineer, 1992 (1967; Jun 1972; Oct 1977; Dec 1978; Nov 1985; Feb 1986; Jul 1986; Nov 1991); Engineer, 2001, p. 276 (Apr 2000); Graff, 2013a, p. 14 (Oct 1977); Graff, 20136, p. 14 (Nov 1991); Khan, 1991 (1968; 1972; 1977; 1986; 1989; 1990; 1991); Malik (1989-1990; 1991; 1992); Raman, 2010, p. 141 (1967; 1969; 1972; 1977; 1978; 1985; twice in 1986; twice in 1989; 1991; 2000) Although the riots in the seventies were more of economic nature (there was upward mobility amongst some Muslim weavers who thereby challenged the hegemony), the riots in the nineties were more politically motivated. The main political issues were the Ramjanmabhoomi liberation movement which was started in 1984 and eventually led to the destruction of the Babri mosque on 6-7 December 1992 (see section 1.1) and the implementation of the recommendations in the Mandal Commission report (Khan, 1991, p. 9; Raman, 2010).34 This had led to changes in the social fabric.
Where once Hindus and Muslims had friendly relations and were interwoven like warp and weft, after 1992, one of Raman’s informants alleged, people were scared and did not trust each other anymore (Raman, 2010, pp. 159-160).
In many cases a procession seems to be the instigating event for riots (Engineer, 1992). Sometimes riots come in chains, but it is always restricted to certain areas The Mandal Commission who reported on the status of disadvantaged groups in 1980 based the status of groups (SC, ST, and OBC) on caste. As Islam forbids discriminating between people and Muslims are therefore outside the caste system, the criteria of the Mandal Commission was 1) untouchables converted to non-Indian religions; and 2) occupational communities whose Hindu counterparts are recognized as OBCs, like weavers. It categorized over 80 Muslims groups, fifty per cent of the Muslim population, as backward. There was considerable debate, amongst others amongst Muslim (religious) leaders, whether reservation should be determined for all Muslims or only for backward Muslims, for example based on socio-economic factors (usually these are ajlaf Muslims, those who were converted; ashraf Muslims, those who claim to descent from Arabs, Afghans, or Persians, are usually in higher position and more well-to-do). However, for a long time the Mandal Commission advises for Muslims were not implemented because the government did not want to give minority groups special statuses, as 1) it is incompatible with secularism, 2) lacking a caste system, Muslims did not experience observable social discrimination, and 3) it would undermine national unity (Hasan, 2009, pp. 171-188) and never affects the whole town. However, they have a huge impact on city life, leading to deaths, wounded people, demolishment of property, and looting. Usually it is especially the Muslims who suffer huge losses; in 1991, houses of Muslims were raided and two crore rupees on cash, jewellery, valuables and silk were looted (Raman, 2010, pp. 149-150). Even when there are no riots and the city is under curfew it influences the city, giving people a sense of insecurity and restricting people in their daily activities (Engineer, 2001, p. 276). Yet, Raman shows that during riotous times some Hindus and Muslims continue to be friendly and help each other out. One of her informants told that the neighbours assisted in getting the things needed for a funeral when someone had died, for example by giving flowers that had been offered for prayers (Raman, 2010, p. 149).
3.3.2 Communal harmony The people of Varanasi, Hindus and Muslims alike, are proud to be residents of the city. Banarasis share a common culture and lifestyle which is called Banārsipan (‘Banarsiness’), whether Hindu or Muslim, rickshaw walā, merchant, or aristocracy.
Banārsipan is characterized by words like joie de vivre (mastī), carefreeness (phakkarpan), passion, joy, and intoxication. Because liberation (moksha) comes naturally in Varanasi, people can focus on other goals of life: on material wealth and sensory pleasures.35 Leisure activities in which Banarasis like to engage in are wrestling competitions and working out in akhārā (traditional gyms); gatherings with music and poetry; celebrations such as fairs, festivals and processions; and trips outside to bath, take drugs, or wander around.36 The city is always buzzing with activities and festivals such as folk plays, music concerts, temple festivals, wrestling matches, and processions (Eck, 1983, p. 304; Kumar, 1987, p. 263; 1989, pp. 166-167; 1990, pp.
83-84; 1992, p. 42; Lutgendorf, 2000, p. 24; Parry, 1981, p. 347).