Explained: The row over two Ganesha idols inside the Qutub Minar complex

The National Museums Authority had demanded that the 'Ulta Ganesh' and 'Ganesha in cage' statues be relocated, as their place at the Qutub Minar premises was 'disrespectful'. The Saket Court in Delhi has now ordered that the idols should not be moved until it delivers its verdict

FP Explainers April 18, 2022 16:24:35 IST
Explained: The row over two Ganesha idols inside the Qutub Minar complex

There are two Ganesha idols called “Ulta Ganesh” and “Ganesha in cage”, which are located in the compound of Qutub Minar, considered to be one of India’s finest monuments. AFP

The Qutub Minar is in the news for all the wrong reasons. A row has broken out over the removal of two Ganesha idols from the 12th century Qutub Minar complex, a World Heritage site and moving them to a more “respectable” place at the National Museum.

The controversy has also reached the judiciary with a Delhi court ordering that no action be taken and that the idols at the complex remain there till the next hearing of the case.

What’s the controversy all about and what does the court have to say on this issue? We take a better look at the incident and provide you with the answers.

Ganesh idols at Qutub Minar

There are two Ganesha idols called “Ulta Ganesh” and “Ganesha in cage”, which are located in the compound of Qutub Minar, considered to be one of India’s finest monuments.

As per the UNESCO website, the surrounding archaeological area contains funerary buildings, notably the magnificent Alai-Darwaza Gate, the masterpiece of Indo-Muslim art (built in 1311), and two mosques, including the Quwwatu’l-Islam, the oldest in northern India, built of materials reused from some 20 Brahman temples.

The “Ulta Ganesh” (upside down) forms part of the south-facing wall of the Quwwatu’l-Islam mosque in the complex. The other idol, enclosed in an iron cage, is close to the ground level and is part of the same mosque.

The controversy over the idols

On 7 April, the Indian Express reported that the National Museums Authority (NMA) had asked the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to remove the two Ganesh idols and find a suitable place for them at the National Museum.

The chairman, BJP leader Tarun Vijay, had reportedly said in a letter that the “placement of the idols” was highly “disrespectful”.

The NMA chairman said he had raised the issue last year too, but no action had been taken.

The NMA then wrote a letter late last month in which Vijay wrote that the idols should be given a “respectable” place at the National Museum, where such antiquities are usually on display.

He confirmed that a letter had been sent to the ASI. “I visited the site several times and realised that the placement of the idols is disrespectful. They come near the feet of the mosque visitors,” he was quoted as telling Indian Express.

“After Independence, we removed the statues of British kings and queens from India Gate, and changed the names of roads to erase marks of colonialism. Now we should work to reverse the cultural genocide that Hindus faced at the hands of Mughal rulers,” Vijay added.

“These idols were taken, apart from those of Jain Tirthankaras and Yamuna, Dashavatar, Navagrahas, after demolishing 27 Jain and Hindu temples built by King Anangpal Tomar… The way these idols have been placed is a mark of contempt for India, and needs correction,” Vijay said.

Court intervenes

Delhi's Saket Court restrained the ASI from removing the idols in an order passed by Additional District Judge Nikhil Chopra.

The orders came after a suit was filed by advocate Hari Shankar Jain, appealing that the court restrain the ASI from removing the idol and placing it in the National Museum or any other property.

“The ASI have no power or jurisdiction to send the idol of Lord Ganesh outside the area of property in suit as suggested by Chairman, NMI,” the suit read, as per an Indian Express report.

Other Qutub Minar controversy

The presence of the Ganesha idols at the Qutub Minar isn’t the only controversy over the UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Vishwa Hindu Parishad raised eyebrows when they claimed that the 73-metre-high structure was a ‘Vishnu Stambh’ before some of its portions was reconstructed by a Muslim ruler.

VHP national spokesperson Vinod Bansal claimed that the historical structure was built on a temple of lord Vishnu constructed during the times of a Hindu ruler.

“When the Muslim ruler came, some of its portions were reconstructed with the materials obtained after demolishing 27 Hindu-Jain temples, and renamed as Quwwatu’l-Islam (Might of Islam),” Bansal claimed, speaking to PTI.

“It was actually a Vishnu Stambh built on a Vishnu temple. They (Muslim rulers) did not build it. Our (Hindu) rulers built it,” he claimed.

With inputs from agencies

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