For the pilgrim, Varanasi is Kashi, the “Luminous One”, a city lit up with the light of Lord Shiva. It is one of the oldest surviving cities in the world and the highest Hindu pilgrimage center. It is a pilgrimage of such great purity that visiting Varanasi gives you the same benefits as visiting all the seven most important places of pilgrimage, Saptapuri. Kashi Viswanath Dham stands on the banks of the Ganges and pilgrims believe that bathing in the river and then praying in temples promises salvation. It is the supreme salvation when your sins forgiven and you freed from the endless cycle of birth and death. It is the celestial combination of Lord Shiva, the Ganges River, and the ancient city that makes Varanasi so important.
Varanasi (Kashi) is Shiva’s favorite earthly home and the city flows only in praise of this volatile and gentle God. It is the site of a Jyotirlinga. The Jyotirlingas said to be self-manifested, they manifest themselves and not made by human hand. There are twelve Jyotirlingas, the most important of them being the one at Kedarnath in the Himalayas.
Mythological Story of Kashi Viswanath Dham
The myth of the Jyotirlinga begins with a dispute between the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva as to who was the supreme deity. As a last resort, they asked the Vedas and sacred texts to declare Shiva as supreme. Brahma as the oldest deity and Vishnu as the protector were not ready to accept it. Shiva became very angry and transformed himself into a bright pillar of light, the Jyotirlinga. It was an endless pillar that pierced Hades, Heaven, and Earth. To find the ends of this pillar of light, Vishnu transformed himself into a bird, Garuda, to fly in the sky and Brahma became a boar and dug deep into the earth, but he could not find the two ends of the light.