Religious Places

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple Varanasi, in Uttar Pradesh

Written by Sudhir Kumar

It is synonym of Varanasi. The temple popularly known as ‘Golden Temple’ lies in the heart of the city and is surrounded by very narrow lanes. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of the city and houses one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva, Visheshwara or Vishwanath, which has great significance in the spiritual history of India. A visit to this temple by a devotee earns him more blessings than a visit to the rest of the jyotirlingas scattered throughout the country. The temple attracts visitors from India and abroad as well.

The temple was destroyed many times in the history by Afgans, Turks & Mughals. The present gold spiraled temple was rebuilt by Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore, in 1780. Two temple domes are gold plated with one ton of gold donated by Punjab Kesari Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. On 28th January 1983, the administration of the temple has been taken over by the Government of U.P. and is now looked after by a trust and an executive committee.

About Kashi Vishwanath Temple :

Kashi Vishwanath Temple or Kashi Vishwanath Mandir is one of the most renowned temples of Lord Shiva, situated in the holy city of Varanasi (also known as Banaras or Benares), in the Eastern part of Uttar Pradesh state of India. Kashi Vishwanath Temple is also one of the 12 Jyotirlingas Shrines of Lord Shiva. It is said that the benefits gained by the darshan of other Jyotirlingas in various parts of India, goes to the devotee by a single visit to Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The main deity is known as Vishwanatha or Vishweshwara, which means the Ruler of the Universe. Situated on the western bank of the river Ganges, the temple is visited by millions of devotees to get blessings and devout peace. Kashi Vishwanatha Jyotirlinga Temple is sometimes referred as the Golden Temple because of the 15.5m high golden spire which adorns the temple, similar to the Sikh Gurudwara at Amritsar.

Varanasi is also famed for being one of the Shakti Peethas of India. It is said that the left hand of Sati fell at Varanasi. Goddess Annapurna or Visalakshi signifies the Shakti Peetham here.

History of Kashi Vishwanath Temple :

Kashi Vishwanath Temple found its rightful place in Puranas, Hindu religious texts that describe the history of the universe from the moment of its creation, the Hindu philosophy and its gods, heroes and kings. It was destroyed and rebuild many times during its long history but nobody can say for sure when it was built for the first time. It has been recorded that Muhammad Ghori destroyed this temple together with all other temples in Varanasi area during his

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attack in 12th century. The new temple was build right after this, but it was destroyed again by the first Muslim ruler in India, Qutb-ud-din Aibak. After his death in 1210, the temple was built again. In 1351 it was demolished and rebuilt in 1585 thanks to the Minister of Akbar the Great. Aurangzeb added his name on the list of destroyers and he even built a Gyanvapi Mosque on its place in 1669. The mosque is now part of the temple complex. The new temple stands from 1780 and it was constructed by Ahilya Bai Holkar.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple Architecture :

he Kashi Vishwanath Temple Banaras consists of a mandapa and a sanctum, besides many subsidiary shrines. The sanctum has a linga made of black stone and is set into the center of the floor in a square silver altar. On the southern entrance of the temple, there are three temples in a row one behind the other, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Virupakshi Gauri and Avimukta Vinayaka. There are a group of five lingas enclosed in the temple called Nilakantheshvar temple. Shanishchara and Virupaksha temples are seen just above the Avimuka Vinayaka temple. There is another linga called Avimukteshvara which is seen on the right, near the entrance. Some people suggest that original Jyotirlinga at the place is not the Vishwanatha but the Avimukteshvara Jyotirlinga.

There is a well called Gyan-Kupor (the well of Knowledge), located beside the temple. Legend has it that when the Shiva Lingam was removed from the original temple, it was hidden in this well to protect it from Aurangazeb.

Places of Interest:

In the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, India the Jyotirlinga of Shiva, Vishweshwara or Vishwanatha, is preserved. As per Hinduism, even a simple glimpse of the Jyotirlinga is a soul-cleansing experience. It transforms life and directs it on the road of knowledge and devotion. This temple is a symbol of cultural traditions and peak spiritual values. Lord Vishwanath is considered to be the main depository of spiritual truth. There are several places near this city that should be visited. Sarnath is 10 km from Varanasi and is the place where Lord Buddha gave his first sermon after he got enlighten. Chunar which is 40 km away from Varanasi is well known for the Chunar fort. Vindhyachal is nearly 90 km from Varanasi and is considered to be a Shaktipeeth. It is assumed to be the home of Goddess Durga.

Significance of Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga Temple :

Well regarded as the most important place of worship in Hindu religion, Kashi VishwanathTemple is revered by important Hindu saints such as Adi Sankaracharya, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Goswami Tulsidas, Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Gurunanak (Guru Nanak). It is believed that a visit to Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga Temple and a bath in the river Ganga shows the way to Moksha (liberation). Another custom is that one should give up at least one wish, after a pilgrimage to the temple. A visit to the temple at Rameswaram in South India is also included in the pilgrimage. From there, people take the water of Ganga to perform prayer at Kashi and bring back the sand from that temple.

A Belief regarding Kashi Vishwanath :

Kashi (Varanasi) is said to be the city created by Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. As per the mythological legends, Varanasi is the spot, from where the first ‘Jyotirlinga’ emerged from the earth’s crust and flashed towards the heaven. The act was done to announce the final call of supremacy amongst the Hindu Gods by Lord Shiva. In the temple complex, there is a well by the name of Jnana Vapi (the wisdom well), where it is regarded that the original lingam lies hidden.

Shopping:

Silk weaving is the most admired art of Varanasi. So, Banarasi silk sarees are the most favorite item of Indian women. Gold and silver brocades are equally popular. Besides these two items, pieces of brassware, copperware, wooden and clay toys are also much sought items. The hand knotted carpets of Mirzapur, musical instruments, Langda Aam and betel leaf are also well-liked by the crowd.

How to reach:

As it is located on the flat Ganga plains, it has a good infrastructure of roads, public and private buses and road transport to several crucial towns in Uttar Pradesh. By train, Varanasi is connected to Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and other parts of the country. There are two railway stations – the Varanasi Junction and Kashi Junction. Rajdhani Express from Calcutta or Delhi passes through Varanasi. It is also possible to board trains from Mughalsarai, which is 10 km south of Varanasi. The regular flights on Delhi-Agra-Khajuraho-Varanasi route are very well-known. There are daily domestic flights to and from Varanasi to other major Indian cities. Besides state owned Indian Airlines, there are many private air taxi operators that offer their services.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple Daily Schedules and Timings :

Kashi Vishwanath Temple Varanasi opens daily at 2:30 am. Aarati is performed five times, daily. Mangala Aarti is from 3 am to 4 am. Then it is opened for devotees from 4 am to 11 am. From 11.30 am to 12 noon, mid-day Bhog Aarti is done. Again from 12 noon to 7 pm, devotees can worship.

From 7 pm to 8.30 pm, evening Sapta Rishi Aarti is done. After that devotees can visit till 9.00 pm, when Sringar/Bhog Aarti starts. After 9.00 pm, devotees can worship from outside only. Shayan Aarti starts at 10.30 PM and the Kashivishwanath Temple closes at 11 pm.

Location: Vishwanath Gali, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Built by: Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar
Built in: 1780
Dedicated to: Lord Vishwanath (Shiva)

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Sudhir Kumar

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