Harsimran Kaur On  Apr 25, 2024, In Book Review, Waiting for Shiva By Vikram Sampath– Non-Fiction

Rating: 5/5

Religion is prescriptive. Religiosity is ambivalent, wiring a predominated consanguinity to be judgmental.   If the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had given less meat to his obscured incongruity and not used his religiosity as a casus belli, Guru Tegh Bahadur, the ninth guru of the Sikhs would not have been beheaded. Likewise, the four sons of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru of the Sikhs, would have been spared to be dishonored.

‘Waiting for Shiva—Unearthing the Truth of Kashi’s Gyanvapi’ by Vikram Sampath is not only the voice of the oppressed and the righteous but a squall trapped in the harangued voice that calls for justice. Their fight is not against religion but a battle to ward off iconoclasm and unruly desiccation that proffers insanity to a sense of survival. If Guru Gobind Singh, in contemplation, found faith to be a sine qua non to live with integrity, then the towering off the ‘Kashi Vishwanath Temple’ is a coup de grace.

Then the ignorant ask, “What is faith”? The wise say its conscious leveling up to a symbolic ritual of finding answers to uncertainties, albeit in certainty to be honorable in the court of God.      

Centuries back, a demolition, an insidious attempt to crunch the knuckles of one’s faith finds itself surrounded by polemics today. The ruins of ‘Kashi Vishwanath Temple’ to the west side of the ‘Gyanvapi Mosque’ have come in cropper, finding the Muslim community po-faced to the poppycock, and the Hindus jubilant in the Trans of finding ‘Shiva’.  The country today is bedeviled by claims of ‘whose temple or mosque is it anyways’? As a secular India, how do we tackle the whataboutery will definitely reveal if we are fighting smoke & shadows or are trying to bend in the wind or making the wind propel to trigger an enfilade of puritanical shots.

What are we trying to make evident?

  • Were depredations inflicted by the diabolical Aurangzeb and preceding Mughal regime a zeitgeist? The violable attacks on temples—did it all come as a proscriptive malign of another’s faith or bound by a salutary need to be crowned of a pyrrhic victory?
  • Is structural faith different from meditative faith? The ineluctable importance of ‘Linga’ in Hindu faith is beyond an ‘organ’ of the deity ‘Shiva’. To me, its Shiva embarking on a carnivalesque where conscious meets spiritual orgasm. But, when matters of faith indulge in extrapolation, and an unnecessary orbit of sepulchral tones vibrate in hubris frequency, we fail to understand the marker of a faith guarded & then destroyed.
  • Can two religious identities run parallel without suffocating itself to an impasse? The inviolable ground holding the spirit of ‘Kashi Vishwanath Temple’ and the profound structure of ‘Gyanvapi Mosque’ sings an arpeggio of ‘faith’ finding reasons for its existence in rodomontade and rancor. The dismissal of ‘Hindu identity’ runs a soliloquy of the comeuppance Muslims deserve.

The discreditable incursions of ‘Ghori’, ‘Ghazni’ and ‘Aurangzeb’ still play a staccato of ‘belonging’ that Muslims are hesitant to give up, thereby creating a Hindu parietal.

Vikram Sampath conscientiously lays down the road map of the first desecration of the ‘Kashi Vishwanath Temple’, later upholded and re-constructed by the erudite scholar Narayan Bhatta. The deleterious tribe of Aurangzeb then annihilated the esteem structure in 1669 to build the ‘Gyanvapi Mosque’.  One saw, subsequently, British courts intervening to settle dispute but procrastination led to an undeniable animosity between the communities. Encapsulating the disarray and the disgruntlements in dribs & drabs, the book is a meticulous restoration of facts that the intellect is ready to embrace but the religious flagellum fears the desideratum.

The book beautifully expresses the impulse of poet Chandrabhan when Aurangzeb asks him about his penultimate view of constructing a Mosque over the Temple ruins.

“Oh! Sheikh, see the wondrous greatness of my temple is that it became the house of (your) God only after its downfall.”

But, unfortunately today, who is paying for these outlandish esoteric rebuttals?

The ‘Shiva Linga’ discovered by the Archeological survey team on May 16th, 2022 opened a catharsis of denouncements of Hindus all these years. They cannot bear now to be away from the ‘spirit’ and the ‘soul’ of their capricious deity ‘Shiva’.

Muslims, on their part, have binded stories to keep the atavistic pride intact. But the politicking and pontification of the government on various mosques standing over ruined marbles has made the entire community to grim their own juice. If the judiciary intervention leads to another apocalypse like the ‘Babri Masjid conflict’, secularism will cry a pendulous fright of tears.

‘Kashi’ where death meets salvation has been fractured by the greedy avalanche of false pride. Whose is it anyways; Muslims or Hindus?

Does the book ponder on answers? It’s a presentation of facts but somewhere in the theology of Vikram’s writing, one smells the intrinsic paranoia of the Hindus to get scores settled for the insolence battered in the heuristic dough of the Muslim invaders.


The book travels ineluctably through the Hindu-Muslim psyche; how every temple sabotaged saw a mosque sticking out as an abject abomination?

If Hindus fought the abnegation, why is it now seen as a plastered secularism by many?

The battle of ‘Gyanvapi’ continues; Muslims tired of a secular effrontery and Hindus eager to put Shiva back to where it belongs. Unputdownable & reflective….

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