Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Varanasi is the city of thousand temples. The main temple in Varanasi is the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the presiding deity of Varanasi. Situated amidst the crowded lanes of Varanasi, the temple of Vishwanatha can be approached from a lane called Vishwanatha lane. Inside the courtyard is the temple of Vishwanatha surrounded by many subsidiary shrines. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple enshrines the Jyotirlinga of Shiva, Vishweshwara or Vishwanatha. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple attracts visitors not only from India but as well as from abroad.
It is believed that the Jyotirlinga in the Kashi Vishwanath Temple goes back to the time of the epics.
According to a legend, the Lord Shiva manifested himself in the from of a lingam at 12 holy cities in
India, Varanasi being one of them. These lingams were known as
Jyotirlingams. The city was
destroyed in 1193 by Mohammed Ghori and nearly 600 years later ended with the plunder of
Banaras by Warren Hastings. Due to all these happenings, the temple was rebuilt a number of
times. The original temple was located across the road. This temple was destroyed in 1669 by the
Emperor Aurangzeb who built the Gyanvapi Mosque on this place. The traces of the old temple can
be seen behind the mosque. Aurangzeb built the Gaynvapi Mosque by using columns from the
original temple razed by him. Even today the western wall of the mosque show the minarets
towering 71 metres above the Ganges of a temple which had very intricate and fine artwork on it.
Both the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the Gyanvapi mosque are adjacent to each other. When the
temple was destroyed by the
Aurangzeb, the original Jyotirlinga was removed and hidden in a well
by a priest. The present temple was constructed by Rani Analya Bai
Holkar, the ruler of Indore, in
1776. In 1835, at the instance of the Sikh ruler of Lahore, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the temple
Shikhara was gilded with gold leaf. Gold plating was done on its 15.5 meter high spire. One ton of
gold donated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh has been used in the gold plating of the spire. Due to its
Gold Shikhara this temple is also known as the Golden Temple. This temple was renovated by
Maharani Khaneti, wife of Sudarshan Shah in 1857. Various great saints like the Adi
Shankaracharya, Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Swami
Vivekanand, Goswami Tulsidas, Maharshi
Dayanand Saraswati, Gurunanak and several other spiritual personalities have visited this temple.
About the Temple
There is a well called Jnana Vapi i.e. wisdom well which
is located to the north of the main temple. As one
enters the temple from the southern side then on the
left side there are three temples in a row one behind
the other, Vishnu Temple, Virupakshi Gauri Temple
and Avimukta Vinayaka Temple. A cluster of five lingas
enclosed in a temple is called Nilakantheshvar temple.
To the right just near the entrance is the temple
enshrining a linga called
Avimukteshvara. There is a
controversy regarding the original Jyotirlinga at the
place, which suggests that not the Vishwanatha but the
Avimukteshvara is the original
Jyotirlinga. Just above
the Avimukteshvara Vinayaka are temples of
Virupaksha. Near the Kashi
Vishwanath Temple is a well known as the Gyan Kapur
Kuan (well of knowledge). The Vishwanatha temple consists of a mandapa and a
sanctum. Inside the sanctum a linga is set into the
center of the floor in a square silver altar. The Linga is
of black stone. This Linga is about 60 cm. high and has
90 Cm. Circumference. Though the interior of the
temple is not large and elaborate it presents the
peaceful atmosphere ideal for worship.
Close to this shrine is a temple of Sanischar (Saturn) where
offerings are made to appease the deity in times of trouble,
and the Annapurna Temple dedicated to the goddess of
anna or grain.
The five Aaratis of Mahadev is very famous. At this time
Shiva is decorated with leaves shaded under huge cobra.
Thousands of people came at this particular time to visit the
decorated Vishwanath. It is the belief of the people of
Banaras that Baba Vishwanath is responsible for the
happiness and sadness of the lives of the people of Banaras.
New Vishwanath Temple
The New Vishwanath Temple is located in the campus of the Benaras Hindu University. As a replica
of the original temple, this temple was built by the
Birlas, the industrialist family. The temple is open
to people of all religions and creeds.