Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is located in Vishwanath Gali of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh in India. The Temple stands on the western bank of the holy river Ganga, and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, or Jyotirlingams, the holiest of Shiva Temples. The main deity is known by the names Shri Vishwanath and Vishweshwara (IAST: Vishveshvara) literally meaning Lord of the Universe. Varanasi city was called Kushi in ancient times, and hence the temple is popularly called Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The etymology of the name Vishveshvara is Vishva: Universe, Ishvara: lord, one who has dominion.
The Temple has been referred to in Hindu scriptures for a very long time as a central part of worship in the Shaiva Philosophy. It has been destroyed and re-constructed a number of times in history. The last structure was demolished by Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal emperor who constructed the Gyanvapi Mosque on its site. The current structure was built on an adjacent site by the Maratha ruler, Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780.
Since 1983, the temple has been managed by the government of Uttar Pradesh. During the religious occasion of Shivratri, Kashi Naresh (King of Kashi) is the chief officiating priest.
The temple is mentioned in the Puranas including the Kashi Khanda (section) of Skanda Purana. The original Vishwanath temple was destroyed by army of Aibak in 1194 CE, when he defeated the Raja of Kannauj as a commander of Mohammad Ghori. The temple was rebuilt by a Gujarati merchant during the reign of Delhi's Sultan Iltutmish (1211–1266 CE). It was demolished again during the rule of either Hussain Shah Sharqi (1447–1458) or Sikandar Lodhi (1489–1517). Raja Man Singh built the temple during Mughal emperor Akbar's rule, but some Hindus boycotted it as he had let the Mughals marry within his family. Raja Todar Mal further re-built the temple with Akbar's funding at its original site in 1585.
In 1669 CE, Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the temple and built the Gyanvapi Mosque in its place. The remains of the erstwhile temple can be seen in the foundation, the columns and at the rear part of the mosque.
In 1742, the Maratha ruler Malhar Rao Holkar made a plan to demolish the mosque and reconstruct Vishweshwar temple at the site. However, his plan did not materialize, partially because of intervention by the Nawab of Awadh, who was given the control of the territory. Around 1750, the Maharaja of Jaipur commissioned a survey of the land around the site, with the objective of purchasing land to rebuild the Kashi Vishwanath temple. However, his plan to rebuild the temple did not materialize either. In 1780, Malhar Rao's daughter-in-law Ahilyabai Holkar constructed the present temple adjacent to the mosque. In 1828, Baiza Bai, widow of the Maratha ruler Daulat Rao Scindhia of Gwalior State, built a low-roofed colonnade with over 40 pillars in the Gyan Vapi precinct. During 1833–1840 CE, the boundary of Gyanvapi Well, the ghats and other nearby temples were constructed. Many noble families from various ancestral kingdoms of the Indian subcontinent and their prior establishments make generous contributions for the operations of the temple. A 7-foot high stone statue of Nandi bull, gifted by the Rana Bahadur Shah of Nepal sometime between 1800 to 1804, it lies to the east of the colonnade. In 1835, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire, donated 1 tonne of gold for plating the temple's dome. In 1841, Raghuji Bhonsle III of Nagpur donated silver to the temple.
The temple was managed by a hereditary group of pandas or mahants. After the death of Mahant Devi Dutt, a dispute arose among his successors. In 1900, his brother-in-law Pandit Visheshwar Dayal Tewari filed a lawsuit, which resulted in him being declared the head priest.
As per the Shiva Purana, once Brahma (the Hindu God of creation) and Vishnu (the Hindu God of Preservation) had an argument about who was supreme. To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. to determine who was mightier Vishnu took the form of Varaha and sought out the bottom while Brahma took the form of a swan to fly to the pillar's top. Brahma out of arrogance lied that he had found out the end, offering a katuki flower as witness. Vishnu modestly confessed to being unable to find the bottom. Shiva then took the form of the wrathful Bhairava, cut off Brahma's lying fifth head, and cursed Brahma that he would not be worshipped. Vishnu for his honesty would be worshiped as equal to Shiva with his own temples for all eternity. The jyotirlinga is an ancient axis mundi symbol representing the supreme formless (nirguna) reality at the core of creation, out of which the form (saguna) of Shiva appears. The jyothirlinga shrines, thus are places where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light. There are 64 forms of Shiva, not to be confused with Jyotirlingas. Each of the twelve jyotirlinga sites take the name of the presiding deity - each considered different manifestation of Shiva. At all these sites, the primary image is lingam representing the beginningless and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva. The twelve jyothirlinga are Somnath in Gujarat, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnath in Himalayas, Bhimashankar in Maharashtra, Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Triambakeshwar in Maharashtra, Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga, Deogarh in Deoghar, Jharkhand, Nageswar at Dwarka in Gujarat, Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharashtra.
The Manikarnika Ghat on the banks of Ganges near to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is considered as a Shakti Peetha, a revered place of worship for the Shaktism sect. The Daksha Yaga, a Shaivite literature is considered as an important literature which is the story about the origin of Shakti Peethas.
Cultural Events Performed
Phalgun Shukla Ekadashi is celebrated as Rangabhari Ekadashi i.e. colors. According to tradition, before Holi, Baba Vishwanath comes back to Kashi after having a cow in the form of mother Bhagwati.The temple complex is echoed by the echo of dozens of Damroos. This tradition has been performed for over 200 years. On Basant Panchami Baba's Tilak is performed, Shivaratri marriage and Rangbhari Ekadashi marks parvati leaving with shiva. These traditions are carried out by the erstwhile mahant family of the temple for over a century.
These rituals of Baba's marriage ceremony are performed at the residence of Dr. Kulpati Tiwari, the erstwhile Mahant of Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Redzone. The seven rituals of Saptarishi Aarti were performed by Baba Vishwanath. According to the Puranas, Kashi is loved by the Saptarishi to the priest, so according to the tradition, the devotees of the Saptarishi Aarti perform the rituals of marriage. The seven archaks under the leadership of Pradhan Archak Pandit Shashibhushan Tripathi (Guddu Maharaj) completed the marriage in Vedic rituals.
The temple complex consists of a series of smaller shrines, located in a small lane called the Vishwanatha Galli, near the river. The linga of the main deity at the shrine is 60 centimetres (24 in) tall and 90 centimetres (35 in) in circumference housed in a silver altar. The main temple is quadrangle and is surrounded by shrines of other gods. There are small temples for Kaalbhairav, Dhandapani, Avimukteshwara, Vishnu, Vinayaka, Sanishwara, Virupaksha and Virupaksh Gauri in the complex. There is a small well in the temple called the Jnana Vapi also spelled as Gyaan vapi (the wisdom well). The Jnana Vapi well sites to the north of the main temple and during the invasion by the Mughals the Jyotirlinga was hidden in the well to protect it at the time of invasion. It is said that the main priest of the temple jumped in the well with the Shiv Ling in order to protect the Jyotirlinga from invaders.
According to the structure of the temple, there is a Sabha Griha or Congregation Hall leading to the inner Garbha Griha or Sanctum Sanctorum. The venerable Jyotirlinga is a dark brown colored stone which is enshrined in the Sanctum, placed on a silver platform. Structure of the Mandir is composed of three parts. The first compromises a spire on the Mandir of Lord Vishwanath or Mahadeva. The second is gold dome and the third is the gold spire atop Lord Vishwanath carrying a flag and a trident.
The Kashi Vishwanath temple receives around 3,000 visitors every day. On certain occasions, the numbers reach 1,000,000 and more. Noteworthy about the temple is 15.5-metre-high gold spire and gold dome. There are three domes each made up of pure gold, supplied by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1835.
Importance of the temple
Located on the banks of the holy Ganges, Varanasi is regarded among the holiest of the Hindu cities. The Kashi Vishwanath temple is widely recognized as one of the most important places of worship in the Hindu religion. Inside the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the Jyotirlinga of Shiva, Vishveshvara or Vishvanath. The Vishveshvara Jyotirlinga has a very special and unique significance in the spiritual history of India.
Many leading saints, including Adi Sankaracharya, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda, Bamakhyapa, Goswami Tulsidas, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Sathya Sai Baba, Yogiji Maharaj, Pramukh Swami Maharaj, Mahant Swami Maharaj and Gurunanak have visited the site. A visit to the temple and a bath in the river Ganges is one of many methods believed to lead one on a path to Moksha (liberation). Thus, Hindus from all over the world try to visit the place at least once in their lifetime. There is also a tradition that one should give up at least one desire after a pilgrimage the temple, and the pilgrimage would also include a visit to the temple at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu in Southern India, where people take water samples of the Ganges to perform prayer at the temple and bring back sand from near that temple. Because of the immense popularity and holiness of Kashi Vishwanath temple, hundreds of temples across India have been built in the same architectural style. Many legends record that the true devotee achieves freedom from death and sa?s?ra by the worship of Shiva, Shiva's devotees on death being directly taken to his abode on Mount Kailash by his messengers and not to Yama. The superiority of Shiva and his victory over his own nature—Shiva is himself identified with death—is also stated. There is a popular belief that Shiva himself blows the mantra of salvation into the ears of people who die naturally at the Vishwanath temple.
Mahashivratri Shivaratri: This festival is celebrated on the 6th night of the dark Phalgun- Feb or March every year. Devotees observe fast on this night and do not eat anything till night and offer fruits, flowers and bel leaves on Shiva Linga. The Festival- Mahashivaratri marks the night when Lord Shiva performed the 'Tandava'. People believe that on this holy day Lord Shiva was married to Parvati Maa
Shrawan Maas: This is highly auspicious and illustrious month for the lord Shiva devotees. Special decoration is been done on every Monday of the month. Lord Shiva’s Shringara is being performed on the second Monday of Shrwana Mass. Lord Bhagwa- Shankar and mother Parvati’s moveable statues are being decorated on this notable month. Shri Ardhyanarishwar and Shri Rudrakshay , decoration is being performed respectively on third and fourth Monday. It is highly auspicious month for the devotees as every member of Lord Shiva’s family are decorated and special 'Jhoola Sringar' is being performed with a great show.
There are 5 aartis of Shri Kashi Vishwanath
Mangala Aarti :- 3.00 - 4.00 (Morning)
Bhoga Aarti :- 11.15 to 12.20 (Day)
Sandhya Aarti :- 7.00 to 8.15 (Evening)
Shringara Aarti :- 9.00 to 10.15 (Night)
Shayana Aarti :- 10.30-11.00 (Night)