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A court in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, today ordered that a pond within the Gyanvapi Masjid complex be sealed after Hindu petitioners claimed that a "Shivling" was discovered in it during the filming of the compound.

The court-ordered three-day videography assessment of the Gyanvapi Masjid complex completed Thursday, a day before the next hearing, amid heavy security and restrictions.

Water was emptied from the pond this morning, and a "Shivling" was discovered, according to Subhash Nandan Chaturvedi, the lawyer for a group of Hindu women seeking year-round access to pray at the shrine behind the mosque.

The petitioners asked the court to seal the pond, which is used for Islamic "Wuzu" or purifying ceremonies. The court approved the plea and ordered the Varanasi District Magistrate to keep the pond closed for the time being.

The court further stated that the District Magistrate, the police chief, and a top CRPF officer would ensure that no one entered the restricted area.

When the Varanasi District Magistrate, Kaushal Raj Sharma, talked to the media earlier, he did not corroborate reports of a "shivling" being discovered within the mosque compound.

"Any member of the commission refused to reveal any information on the survey of the Gyanvapi mosque. The information concerning the survey is kept by the court. Yesterday, one member was suspended from the panel for a few minutes before being reinstated "Mr Sharma told media about it.

The historic Kashi Vishwanath temple is next to the Gyanvapi mosque. The court has been petitioned to allow daily prayers before idols on the temple's outer walls, as well as other "visible and invisible deities within the historic temple compound," according to the five women petitioners.