Basant Panchami: Hindus Pray And Muslims Offer Namaz At Disputed Site In Madhya Pradesh

12/02/2016 5:45 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images
DHAR, INDIA - FEBRUARY 11: Heavy police forces deployed at Bhojshala premises on February 11, 2016 in Dhar, India. A communal flare-up is feared in the otherwise peaceful town of Dhar, Madhya Pradesh, on Friday, February 12. The contested site is the Kamal-al-Din congregational mosque of Dhar, protected by the Archaeolgical Survey of India, which allows Muslims to offer jummah or Friday prayers. Hindus are allowed entry in the monument to offer prayers on Tuesdays and conduct a special puja on the occasion of Basant Panchami. This week, however, the Friday prayers coincide with the festival of Basant Panchami. (Photo by Shankar Mourya/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

NEW DELHI -- Instead of quarreling, Hindus and Muslims gave each other the space to pray on the same day at a disputed religious site in Dhar town of Madhya Pradesh, ending communal tensions which were brewing in the days ahead of Basant Panchami.

Hindus prayed inside and outside the "Bhojshala-Kamal Maula Mosque" site on Friday , PTI reported. Around 25 Muslims offered namaz inside the religious site, ANI reported.

While Hindus believe Bhojshala-Kamal Maula Mosque is a temple dedicated to Goddess Sarasvati, Muslims treat the 11th century site, often called 'mini Ayodhya', as a mosque.

Over the past few days, heavy security was deployed around the disputed site to prevent any instance of religious violence. On Thursday, the Rapid Action Force also carried out a flag march in the tense town of Dhar, which is located around 270 kilometers from Bhopal.

During the week, the disputed site doubles up as a temple and mosque, with Hindus performing puja on Tuesday, and Muslims offering namaz on Friday. But trouble started brewing after right-wing Hindu groups insisted on praying at the site for the entire day to mark Basant Panchami, which was to fall on Friday.

The Archaeological Survey of India, which oversees the site, ordered that Hindus will pray at the site from sunrise to noon, and 3:30 pm to sunset, while Muslims will offer namaz between 1 pm and 3 pm, PTI reported.

On its webpage about the site, the ASI states: "It is believed that it was originally a temple of goddess Sarasvati built by Parawara King Bhoja in circa 11th Century AD. The mosque is built using structural members of the temple. The monument also retains some slabs inscribed with Sanskrit and Prakrit literary works. Noted as a great patron of art and literature, Bhoja is said to have established a school, now known as Bhojashala."

Despite the jingoism by right-wing groups in the days ahead of Basant Panchami, the day passed peacefully. These groups claimed to have created history by getting the 'right to pray' at the time reserved for namaz, ANI reported.

This explosive situation wasn't entirely new to Dhar since Basant Panchami was celebrated on Friday in 2003, 2006 and 2013, PTI reported. In 2006, Hindus and Muslims clashed with each other after they couldn't resolve the matter peacefully.

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