Archaeological Survey In The Gyanvapi Mosque UPSC NOTE


Archaeological Survey In The Gyanvapi Mosque

  • The Supreme Court of India directed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to conduct a detailed non-invasive survey of the Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh to determine if the mosque was built atop a temple.

  • Since the investigation is being undertaken inside a built structure, and no excavation is permitted, experts — geophysicists in particular — must depend on non-invasive methods of earth-scanning.

  • The methods routinely used in archaeological prospecting are adapted from those applied in geophysical mapping. They may be active or passive. 

  • Active methods inject energy into the ground and measure the response of the buried target at the surface. 

    • They include seismic and electromagnetic techniques. 

  • Passive methods, such as magnetometry and gravity surveying, simply measure existing physical properties.

  • In both cases, the methods provide an estimate of the ground’s material properties, such as density, electrical resistance, and wave velocity.

  • They are then interpreted in terms of the possible nature and geometry of the target. 

  • In the case of Gyanvapi, the scientists could be looking for the distinct physical properties of subsurface material constituting the structure.

  • Geophysicists use multiple methods and different physical properties of the earth’s materials to arrive at a reasonable characterisation of the target. 

  • ASI will use ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to produce a 3-D model of buried archaeological features.


  • Many earth materials could have the same physical property and generate the same response on the surface, leading to ambiguity in interpretation. 

  • An important aspect of the geophysical survey is to infer physical parameters from the complex and voluminous data acquired. 

  • This requires a good understanding of physical processes and powerful data analyses and modelling programs to generate reliable 3D images.

  • The archaeological object under investigation is made of heterogeneous materials with complex geometry.

  • As the data will always be limited and have measurement errors, it may not be possible to estimate, in a unique and stable manner, the spatial distribution of physical property in the subsurface. 

  • As a result, supplementary information needs to be incorporated. This has the potential to produce meaningless results. 

  • Despite its inability to reconstruct the images of targets in the best possible manner, geophysical tools have a high success rate in resource exploration. 

  • Here, ‘temple versus mosque’ problem is another matter entirely, involving emotional and sentimental issues and with long-term societal and political implications.

  • In such cases, nothing should be left to chance.

  • GPR or any other geophysical method has limited abilities, and its findings must be interpreted within these contours. 

  • During data analysis, interpreting, and decision-making, experts as well as the people need to bear this in mind.



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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Archaeological Survey In The Gyanvapi Mosque UPSC NOTE
Archaeological Survey In The Gyanvapi Mosque UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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