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The Gyanvapi mosque is a historical site, one of the few mosques in the city and even a source of controversy all rolled into one. Located north of Dashaswamedh Ghat, near Lalita Ghat along the Ganges in Varanasi, the site at which the mosque stands today originally housed the Vishwanath temple. How it was changed from a temple to a mosque is a stuff of legends.
As the story goes, the infamous Mughal ruler Aurangzeb invaded the region, conquered it and began to establish his complete control over every aspect of the city. Varanasi or Kashi as it was called during those periods, he ordered demolition of several temple and shrines. The chief temple was the original Vishwanath temple, and Aurangzeb after demolishing the sacred shrine constructed the present day Gyanvapi mosque at the very site.
Infuriated by his actions, the local hindu warrior group gathered the support of the Marathas and successfully managed to discharge the Muslim Mughals out of Varanasi. They later constructed a new Vishwanath Temple which exists to this day. The modern Varanasi being free of religion based extremism and in fact known as the hub of various culture and religions witness a peaceful co-existense of both Hindus and Muslims. A large number of devotees gather every day at the mosque to offer their prayers and thanksgivings at the site which now stands as a testimony to Varanasi’s historical and often turbulent past.