A worker stands on a temple rooftop adjacent to the Gyanvapi Mosque in the northern city of Varanasi. Image Credit: REUTERS file

VARANASI: An Indian court on Wednesday permitted Hindu worshippers to pray inside Gyanvapi mosque in the city of Varanasi.

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The mosque was built in the 17th century by the Mughal empire in a city where Hindu faithful from across the country cremate their loved ones by the Ganges river.

The court in Varanasi ruled that Hindu worshippers — who believe the mosque replaced a destroyed temple to the deity Shiva — could pray in the building’s basement.

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Its verdict ordered district authorities to “make proper arrangements within the next seven days” to facilitate worshippers.

The decision is the latest in a long-running legal saga over Gyanvapi’s future.

This month, India’s official archaeological agency said a survey of the site appeared to corroborate the belief that it was originally home to a temple, according to local news reports.

Last week, Modi presided over a grand inauguration ceremony in the nearby city of Ayodhya for a Hindu temple built on grounds once home to the centuries-old Babri mosque.

The prime minister described last week’s opening of the temple as “the advent of a new era”.