The Madhya Pradesh High Court on Monday directed the Archaeological Survey of India to carry out a scientific survey of the Bhojshala temple-Kamal Maula mosque complex in Dhar district, PTI reported.

The 11th-century building, protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, is claimed by both Hindus and Muslims. While the Hindus consider the Bhojshala to be a temple dedicated to the deity Vagdevi (Saraswati), for the Muslim community, it is a mosque.

Under an arrangement made by the Archaeological Survey of India on April 7, 2003, Hindus perform prayers on the premises on Tuesdays and Muslims offer namaz in the complex on Fridays.

The direction came on a plea by a group called the Hindu Front for Justice, who have claimed that the mosque was constructed after “destroying” Hindu temples centuries ago.

On Monday, a bench of Justices Sushrut Arvind Dharmadhikari and Devnarayan Mishra said that a comprehensive report of the survey, prepared by a five-member expert committee, should be submitted within six weeks.

“Complete scientific investigation, survey and excavation, through the adoption of latest methods, techniques and modes of GPR-GPS [ground penetrating radar and global positioning system] survey of the site in question constituting the disputed Bhojshala Temple-cum-Kamal Maula Mosque complex, as also the entire 50 m of peripheral ring area surrounding/constituting the circular periphery from the boundary of the complex be conducted,” said the bench.

It also ordered the Archaeological Survey of India to adopt the “carbon dating method for ascertaining the age, life of various structures both above and beneath the ground; permanent, movable and immovable structures both beneath as well as above the ground, constituting the walls, pillars, floors, surfaces, upper top and sanctum sanctorum of the entire complex”.

The High Court has also said that “efforts should be made” to include the contesting parties in the case in the expert panel.

Dhar city’s head cleric Waqar Sadiq has said that the Kamal Maula mosque committee will challenge the High Court direction in the Supreme Court.

The case

In the past, if Hindu festivals such as Basant Panchami fell on Friday, the Hindus were allowed to pray at the premises from dawn to noon and then again from 3.30 pm to dusk, according to The Print. The Muslims offered namaz between 1 pm and 3 pm on such days.

In May 2022, the Hindu Front for Justice filed a public interest litigation against the Archaeological Survey of India’s 2003 arrangement. The group has argued that the Kamal Maula mosque was constructed during the reign of Alauddin Khilji between the 13th century and the 14th century by “destroying and dismantling ancient structures of previously constructed Hindu temples”, reported The Indian Express.

The group has also said in the petition that a survey by the Archaeological Survey of India is a statutory duty, which should have been done at the inspection stage when the “mystery and confusion” about the true character of the structure arose.