Location of Vishwanath Temple, Kashi
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. Vishwanath Temple, Kashi 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 Vishwanath Temple, Kashi
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.
In the end, both accepted the supremacy of Shiva and worshiped him. Satisfied, Shiva reduced the pillar to a small Shivalingam, which was the linga symbol of the Lord and this was the Jyotirlinga, the first Shivalingam. In Varanasi, it is the lingam Adi Vishweshwara that has been at the center of Shiva worship in the city. This is the reason why Kashi alled Avimukteshwar, the city that never leaves its chief deity. Varanasi is also Shiva’s favorite city and as his earthly home, it called Anandavan, his garden of happiness. Geographically, the city situated on three hills on the banks of the Ganges and hence it said that it stands on the three heads of the trident of Shiva.
History of Vishwanath Temple, Kashi
Historically, ancient Kashi mentioned in most of the old texts from Puranas to Mahabharata. Originally Varanasi was the capital of the state of Kashi. The king of Kashi was an important warrior in the battle of Kurukshetra. Later it was part of the kingdom of Kashi-Kosal. Over the years the two names merged and to the pilgrims, the city is more known as Kashi.
Varanasi was already thriving when Gautam Buddha visited here in the 5th century BC. After attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, Buddha went to Kashi in search of five companions. He found them in a mango orchard at Rishipattan on the outskirts of the city and gave his first sermon there. Rishipattan is today’s Sarnath. When Buddha came to Kashi it was a great center of learning and he is said to have met many scholars there. Historians speculate that ancient Kashi may have been a place where many sages had ashrams, where students came to study under these teachers.
As the greatest place of pilgrimage for Hindus, Varanasi faced attacks of invasion and plunder in the medieval period. The story of its temples is once again that of destruction, resurrection, and destruction. Architecturally, none of the temples in Varanasi have a history that predates the medieval period, while the city itself dates back to the time of the early Aryans. Both Sarnath and Kashi were devastated by the armies of Mahmud Ghazni, Qutbuddin Aibak, Razia Sultan, Sharqi Sultans of Jaunpur, and the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.
Very often a mosque was built on the site of the temple using temple materials. After these invasions, Sarnath never rose again but Kashi built its temples several times.
There were periods of respite like during the reign of Akbar when Raja Man Singh of Amber built the Bindu Madhav temple and the Man Singh and Mansarowar ghats and Raja Todar Mal helped in the rebuilding of the Vishwanath Temple, Kashi.
Then during the reign of Shahjahan, when his son, the liberal philosopher Dara Shikoh was the governor of the city, scholars and artists were patronized. But Dara did not become king, his brother Aurangzeb did and the Vishwanath Temple, Kashi was once again razed to the ground and a mosque was built in its place.
Man Singh’s fabulous Bindu Madhav temple said to have been the largest temple of the time vanished and the Alamgir mosque now looms at the site. Most of the ghats and temples of present-day Varanasi are the gift of Maratha kings who rose after the decline of Mughal power in the 18th century. Queen Ahilyabai of Indore once again built the main shrine of Shiva, the Vishwanath temple, and today this temple is at the heart of the pilgrimage to Varanasi.
It situated at one end of the labyrinthine lane of Vishwanath Gali. The site is of great antiquity and sanctity as it is one of the sites where the Jyotirlinga pierced the earth. Many temples like Adi Vishweshwar, Avimukteshwar, and Omkareshwar are mentioned in the old texts. The present temple was built in 1775. Queen Ahilyabai retrieved the old Shivalingam which was thrown into a well by Aurangzeb after destroying the first temple.
The Vishwanath Temple, Kashi
Vishwanath Temple, Kashi a small temple compared to the generously proportioned temples of the south with large courtyards and many mandapas. It stands in a narrow street between shops and houses and very few architectural elements can be easily seen. For example, one has to climb the upper floors of the adjoining houses to see the summit. The increasing influx of pilgrims also makes it difficult to study the carvings and the symbols within the temple usually covered with flowers. Presently, a new look has been given by the administration of this lane as well as the temple and it emerged with a smart look recently.
Dedicated to Shiva as the Lord of the universe, it built in the northern Nagara style with several peaks that rise to a height of 15 meters. In the 19th century, the original copper spire covered in gold by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab using 800 kg of the precious metal. This given the temple its modern name, Golden Temple. Nahbat Khana, a music gallery above the main entrance, donated by British Governor General Warren Hastings. Every morning the owner of the sanctum awakened by the melodious playing of the shehnai.
The sanctum sanctorum placed at one end of the marble pavilion. Around the sanctum sanctorum, there are temples of other deities like Vishnu, Gauri, and Ganesha. The figure of a Nandi bull, Shiva’s vehicle stands in front of the gate of the sanctum. The sanctum has exquisitely carved silver doors and one of the largest bells hanging from the ceiling donated by the King of Nepal. The black stone Shivling placed on a silver snake coil, which has become a crown shaped like a snake’s hood. The lingam placed in a silver-plated recess on the floor and covered with flowers and belpatra leaves.
Building of Gyan Vapi Mosque
The mosque which built by Aurangzeb on the site of the earlier Vishwanath Temple, Kashi of Todarmal, stands behind the present temple. Next to it the well of Gyan Vapi. An ornamental stone screen built around the well by Rani Baij Ba of Gwalior in the 18th century. It said that when Aurangzeb’s forces attacked the Vishwanath Temple, Kashi, the Shivling thrown into the well and later Ahilya Bai saved it and installed it in the new temple. Since the material of the destroyed temple used to build the mosque, it is a strange mix of Hindu motifs and Islamic architectural designs. One of the walls of the mosque and two pillars still show carvings of the old temple.
How to Reach Vishwanath Temple, Kashi
There is a direct daily flight connection between Varanasi and New Delhi. It also connects Varanasi to Delhi, Agra, Khajuraho, Calcutta, Mumbai, Lucknow, Gaya, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bhubaneshwar, etc.
Varanasi is an important and major rail junction. The city served by trains from all metros and major cities across the country. New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Gwalior, Meerut, Indore, Guwahati, Allahabad, Lucknow, Dehradun, etc. The city has direct rail connections with almost all big cities.
Some of the important road distances are Agra 565 Km., Allahabad 128 Km., Bhopal 791 Km., Bodh Gaya 240 Km., Kanpur 330 Km., Khajuraho 405 Km., Lucknow 286 Km., Patna 246 Km., Sarnath 10 Km. Lumbini (Nepal) 386 km, Kushi Nagar 250 km. (via Gorakhpur).
You May Also Read: