Kashi Vishwanath Temple
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most sacred places of pilgrimage that a Hindu must make to ensure good health, well-being and to ultimately to attain Moksha. The Temple is situated in the holy city of Varanasi in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The holy River Ganga flows beside the Temple increasing the spiritual value of the Temple by manifolds. Kashi Vishwanath Temple plays an important role in Hindu mythology and has been mentioned innumerable times in scriptures like Skanda Purana, Shiva Purana, the Upanishads and in the Vedas.
In the famous Skanda Purana, the city of Kashi has been given twelve different names, some of which are Varanasi, Anand-Kanan, Avimukt, Rudrawas, Shri Shivpuri and Muktibhumi. The name “Kashi” means Prakash or Light of Brahma and Vishnu. The name of Varanasi is derived from the fact that the ancient city was initially situated between the Varuna and Asi rivers or Ghats.
The city consists of hundreds of temples, each having a unique significance in Hindu mythology. The Lords Dandapani (Lord Karthikeyan, son of Lord Shiva) and Kalabhairav are the guardians of the city. The city consists of around 84 bathing ghats and several Theerthams that are supposed to exist since the times of the Vedas.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple complex is quadrangular in shape with several small temples and shrines dedicated to Lord Dandapani (Karthikeya), Lord Vinayaka, Kalabhairavar, Avimukteshwar, Lord Vishnu, Virupaksha, Virupaksha Gauri and Lord Shaneeshwara. There are three distinct regions of the Temple – the first is a spire over the Temple of Lord Vishwanath, the second is a golden dome and the third is a spire with a trident and a flag atop it. The Temple has a Sabha Griha that leads to the Garbha Griha where the Linga is housed.
History and Legend
- As per mentions in several Vedas and Puranas, the Jyotirlinga existed at this place since time immemorial. However, actual evidence for the Kashi Vishwanath Temple exists only from the 11th century onwards.
- The Kashi Vishwanath Temple was subjected to repeated invasions and destruction. The original structure of the Temple was destroyed by Qutb-ud-din-Aibak in 1194 CE but was rebuilt under the reign of Sultan Iltutmish.
- The Kashi Vishwanath Temple was again attacked under the reign of either Sikander Lodhi or under Husain Sharqi in the 1400s. Raja Man Singh built it but was boycotted as he allowed the Mughals to marry into his family. However, Todar Mal further re-built the Temple with Akbar’s blessings at the original site in 1585.
- In 1669, Aurangzeb destroyed the Temple again and over the foundations, built the Gyanvapi Mosque. The remains of the Temple can still be seen in the Mosque premises.
- Plans were made to demolish the mosque by Maratha ruler Malhar Rao Holkar in 1742 and in 1750 by the Maharaja of Jaipur. However, they were unsuccessful in doing so due to the objections raised by the Nawabs of Lucknow.
- In 1780, Rani Ahilyabai Holkar constructed the present Kashi Vishwanath Temple near the mosque. In 1828, the widow of Daulat Rao Scindia, Baija Rao built a colonnade with 40 pillars at the Gyan Vyapi premises.
- The Gyan Vyapi Well boundary, the Ghats, and other small temples were eventually built during the period 1833-1840.
- In 1841, Silver was donated to the Kashi Vishwanath Temole by the Bhonsles of Nagpur and in 1859, Gold was donated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh.
- The legend of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple dates back to the origins of life on Earth. It is believed that at the time of creation when there were no humans on Earth, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu fought for supremacy. They used powerful weapons against each other and the fight continued for thousands of years. To test them, Lord Shiva intercepted them and created an endless pillar of fire and light. Both Brahma and Vishnu wanted to know the end of the pillar. Lord Brahma assumed the figure of Swan and flew up and Lord Vishnu assumed the figure of a Boar and went down to find the end. After searching for centuries, Lord Vishnu came back and conceded his defeat but Lord Brahma lied and said that he had found the end of the pillar.
- The lie angered Shiva and he came out of the bright light and fire. He declared that all three of them will form Omkaar (Trinity), Brahma will be the creator, Vishnu will be the preserver and Shiva will be the destroyer. He cursed Brahma that no one will worship him because of his lies. He also declared that Lord Vishnu will be a Purushottam or the Supreme Being.
- The pillar of fire vanished but some of the parts of it remained at Kashi as a Jyotirlinga.
Significance of the Temple
- The Linga of the presiding deity Lord Vishwanath (Lord Shiva) is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas that are revered in Hindu mythology. The Jyotirlinga means that the Linga is self-manifested and that Lord Shiva himself has turned into the Linga. It is believed that a one-time visit to Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga equals to the visit of the rest of the eleven Jyotirlingas. The Jyotirlinga is considered as the first among all Jyotirlingas as is called the King of Jyotirlingas.
- It is believed that Kashi is the holiest city for Hindus and that anyone who lives here will attain Moksha. It is a belief that anyone who departs from the city of Kashi will attain spiritual enlightenment and salvation. This is the reason that the ashes of departed people are mostly dispersed in the River Ganga at Kashi.
- The city of Kashi or Varanasi is the most direct of the seven Moksha Puris as per Hindu beliefs. The other six are Ayodhya, Mathura, Haridwar, Kanchipuram, Ujjain, and Dwarka.
- The holy city of Kashi is considered as the most ancient continually inhabited city in the world.
- The holy city is home to other Gods too. In the Puranas, the city is also mentioned as Aadyavaishnav Bhoomi and Lord Brahma is supposed to have performed ten Ashwamedha Yagnas at the Dashashwamedha Ghat. The place is also important for devotees of Shakti (Goddess Sati) as the city is also home to a Shakti Peeth.
- It is mentioned in the scriptures that the city was built by Lord Shiva on his trident as his residence after his marriage with Goddess Parvati. Hence, it is believed that the city is so sacred that even if the end of the world (Pralayam) happens, the city of Kashi will survive.
- It is believed that the first rays of the sun fell on the city of Kashi when the world was created. Lord Shiva is the protector of the city.
- It is believed that the nine grihas (Navagraha) do not influence or affect the people living in Kashi as they abide by the rules of Lord Shiva. They cannot even enter the city without Lord Shiva’s permission.
- The well of Gyan Vaapi is also known as the well of wisdom. It is believed that before Aurangzeb attacked the city, the Jyotirlinga was hidden inside the well. The well can be seen between the mosque and the temple.
- The Ghat of Manikarnika on the banks of River Ganga, situated near the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is considered as a Shakti Peetha. The Shakti Peethas are the 52 places where parts of the body of Goddess Sati (Adi Parashakti), first wife of Lord Shiva, fell on Earth after being decapitated by Lord Vishnu’s Sudarshana Chakra in the Daksha Yagna episode of history.
- The Kashi Vishwanath Temple has been visited and appreciated by several revered ancient saints like Sri Adi Shankaracharya, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayanand Saraswati and Gurunanak.
- A popular tradition that is followed till date is that the water taken from River Ganga after visiting the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is used for Abhishekam of the Jyotirlinga of Sri Ramanathaswamy in Rameswaram. The sand from the Temple is brought back to Kashi and given as an offering to Lord Vishwanath. Hence, it is believed that pilgrimage of Kashi and Rameswaram will lead to complete Moksha and enlightenment.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple Timings
- The Kashi Vishwanath Temple opens daily at 2:30 AM and closes at 11 PM.
- The Mangala Aarti is performed between 3 AM to 4 AM.
- The mid-day Bhog Aarti is performed between 11:30 AM to 12 PM.
- The Sapta Rishi Aarti is performed between 7 PM to 8:30 PM.
- The Shringar Bhog and Aarti are performed at 9 PM.
- The Shayan Aarti starts at 10:30 PM.
- The general darshan timings are 4 AM to 11 AM, 12 PM to 7 PM, and from 8:30 PM to 9 PM.
- After 9 PM, pilgrims are allowed to view the Lord from outside the sanctum.
The devotees can also have an Online Darshan and e-pooja by visiting the website https://shrikashivishwanath.org
Although there is no prescribed strict dress code for entering the Kashi Vishwanath Temple premises, it is advised to wear decent clothes to visit the shrine. Shorts and miniskirts are generally not encouraged.
Poojas and Rituals
The below Sevas are performed between 4 AM to 6 PM:
- Rudrabhishek – The Pooja is dedicated to Lord Shiva who is worshiped as fire or Rudra. The puja wipes out all sins and purifies the atmosphere. It also removes all sorts of planetary related ill-occurrences. The Mondays of the month, as well as the Pradosham days, are considered as ideal for performing the Pooja.
- Maharudrabhishek – In the Abhishek, recitations of Rigveda, Samveda, Yajurveda and Atharva Veda is done in front of the deities of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
- Laghurudrabhishek – This Abhishek is done to resolve issues related to health and wealth. It is also done to remove the bad effects of planets in the horoscope.
- Shravan Somvar Pooja – The Mondays of the month of Shravan (July – August) are considered highly auspicious for worshiping Lord Shiva. Devotees observe Somvar Vrat during the Shravan month and perform Poojas in their homes. The articles used for the worship are Bilva leaves, white flowers, water, honey, and milk. The charges for the Seva are Rs. 6251.
- Lakh Vilvarchana – This Archana is performed by offering a lakh Bilva leaves to the Linga of the God.
The below Poojas are under the Long Term Schemes offered for a period of 20 years:
- Dainik Pooja and Archana scheme – The scheme is an annual scheme for which the membership fees is Rs. 11,000. As per the scheme, the Rudrabhishekam is performed once a year for 20 years in the name of the devotee.
- Yati Bhiksha – The word “Yati” means “Sadhu” or a Sage. The “Yati Bhiksha” means that offerings like food will be provided to the Sadhus residing in the holy town of Varanasi. The charges for the Seva are Rs. 8751.
- Sarwa Pooja – All the Poojas of the day are performed for one day in the name of the devotee. The charges of the Seva are Rs. 13751.
The Poojas and Sevas can be booked online by visiting the site https://shrikashivishwanath.org/
Besides the above Poojas and Sevas, the below Yatras should be performed by the devotees:
- Panchatheertha Yatra – The pilgrims should take a bath in the five main Ghats in the sequence of Asi ghat – Dashashwamedha ghat – Aadikeshav ghat – Panchganga ghat – Manikarnika ghat, and then visit all the shrines at Kashi.
- Mauni Yatra – The Yatra should begin with a bath in the Manikarnika ghat followed by the darshan of various forms of Shiva and Shakti and end with a bath again at the Manikarnika ghat. The condition of the Yatra is that it should be performed in silence.
Festivals celebrated at the Temple
- Mahashivaratri – The festival is celebrated on the 13th night and the 14th day of the month of Maagha (February / March). The Linga of Lord Shiva is bathed with Ganga water, applied with Chandan paste, and offered Bilva leaves, bhang, datura, flowers, coconut, fruits and cow milk. People keep fast for the whole day and do Shiva Pooja at their homes. Taking a bath in River Ganga on Mahashivaratri is considered extremely sacred.
Several myths and legends are associated with the festival of Mahashivaratri. As per one legend, the Devas and Asuras both churned an ocean of milk to obtain Amrit (water that gives immortality). They came upon a deadly poison which exploded into poisonous fumes when touched. The fumes enveloped the entire world and all Gods rushed to Lord Shiva to protect the world. Lord Shiva absorbed the fumes with his trident and swallowed the poison, thus saving the world. This is the reason for the blueness of the skin especially the throat of Lord Shiva.The day is also known as the day Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati.
- Makara Sankranthi – The day is celebrated with great pomp and festivities. The devotees take a dip in River Ganga and pray to the Sun God on this day. The day signifies the ascent of the sun and beginning of spring. The day is dedicated to a good harvest in the agricultural terms. On the day of the festival, thousands of kites are flown in the Varanasi skyline which is an enthralling experience to have.
- Shravan festival – The whole month of Shravan (June-July) is celebrated with great zest and excitement. The month of Shravan is considered to be the holy month of the Hindu calendar. Special decorations and special Poojas are performed for Lord Shiva on every Monday. On the first Monday, decoration of Lord Shiva occurs, on the second, both Shiva and Parvati’s idols are decorated. On the third and the fourth Monday, Lord Ardhanarishwar and Sri Rudrakshaya are worshiped.
- Dev Deepawali – The festival literally means “The Diwali of the Gods”. The festival is celebrated in the month of Karthik Poornima, 15 days after the festival of Diwali. The steps of all the ghats are lit with lamps in honor of river Ganga. It is believed that Gods descend to the Earth to take a bath in Ganga.
- Rangbhari Ekadashi – The festival is celebrated in the month of February –March. As per the legend, the consummation of the marriage between Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati happened on this day. The devotees carry the idols of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati in a Palki from the house of the Mahant of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and take them to the sanctum of the Temple. Then the Gods are offered with Gulaal and Rose petals.
Besides the above festivals, Ramnavami, Hanuman Jayanti, Dussehra, Holi, and Janmashtami are also celebrated with great pomp and fare.
How to reach: Road, Rail and Air
- By Air – The nearest airport to the city is Babatpur which is 22 km from Varanasi. Direct flights are operated by Air India as well as other private airlines from cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Agra, Bhubaneswar and Lucknow.
- By Train – The nearest Railway Station is Varanasi Junction or the Mughal Sarai Junction. Several trains connect the city to almost all major parts of the country like Delhi, Chennai, Howrah, Jammu, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai and Guwahati.
- By Road – The city is located on NH2 highway linking Kolkata to New Delhi. Several buses are available from places like Delhi, Agra, Lucknow, Kanpur, Allahabad, Patna, Nagpur, Gorakhpur, Azamgarh and Gaya.
Where to stay
A number of Government operated Guest Houses are available for accommodation for Government servants. Please visit the link to see a list of the Government Guest Houses – https://shrikashivishwanath.org/accomodation.aspx
Apart from these Guest Houses, several private hotels offer a wide range of rooms like standard, AC Rooms, and dormitories.
Where to eat
The city of Varanasi boasts of great food and culture. The traditional must haves of the city’s culinary delights are Chaat items like Kachoris and Puris along with the Tomato Chat. The Kashi Kalakand is also a popular desert here and is available widely. Lassis and Thandais are popular drinks that one must try out in the city for an enjoyable experience. The cuisine in Varanasi is mainly vegetarian with occasional but rare non-veg hotels.
- Kashi Visalakshi Temple – The sacred Temple is located behind the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The Temple is one of the 51 Shakti Peeths of Goddess Sati. It is believed that when her body was cut with Lord Vishnu’s Sudarshana Chakra, her third eye (Aksha) and the earing (Manikarni) fell at this location and hence the name Visalakshi.
- The Kalbhairav Temple – The Temple is situated 1 km away from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. It is said that one must visit this Temple to complete their Kashi yatra. As per the legend, when Lord Brahma lies about finding the end of the huge pillar of light, Lord Shiva gets angry and assumes the form of Kalbhairav. He decapitated one of the five heads of Brahma. However, the decapitation made Lord Shiva guilty of the crime of killing. He carried the head of Brahma and roamed around as a Bhikshatana until his sin was forgiven. The head was released from him after he reached Kashi. He is the guard of Kashi and it is a belief that no one can enter Kashi without his permission.
- Markandey Mahadev Temple – The Temple is located at Kaithi, Varanasi which is 29 km away from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. As per the legend, a couple named Mrikandu and Marudvati prayed to Shiva to attain a son. Lord Shiva granted them a boon of a son who was eventually named Markandeya. He was an extraordinarily intelligent in his childhood. He was always dedicated to Lord Shiva and master of the Mahamritunjaya Mantra. When he became 16, Yama came to take him. Markandeya prayed for the defense to Lord Shiva who vanquished Yama and granted him the gift of immortality.
- Bharat Mata Mandir – This unique temple is located just 4 km away from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. The Temple is located inside the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth Campus. The unique feature is that the Temple does not contain any idol of Gods and Goddesses. The Bharat Mata is worshiped here. A map of India can be seen in the sanctum to which offerings are made. The Temple was constructed by Babu Shiv Prasad and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936.
- Mrityunjay Mahadev temple – The famous temple is located just 1 km away from the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. It is believed that the Mrityunjay Mahadev is the “God who triumphs over death”. Devotees from all over the country come here to pray for long and healthy life and against unnatural death. It is a belief that the well of the temple contains water with medicinal properties and it can cure several ailments of the sick.
- Annapoorna Mandir – The Temple dedicated to Annapoorna Devi, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati is located near the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. It is believed that Goddess Annapoorna is responsible for the nourishment of the human souls. Anyone who worships her with devotion will never have any food shortages in his or her life.
- Tulsi Manas Mandir – The Tulsi Manas Mandir is dedicated to Lord Rama, Lakshman, and Sita. It is believed that the Temple is constructed over the place where the saint Goswami Tulsidas wrote the epic Ramcharitramanas. The walls of the Temple depict the scenes of the epic.
Besides the above temples, several important and historically significant temples can be visited in the city of Varanasi. Some of those Temple are the Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple, the Durga Temple, the Vyas Temple, the Birla Temple, the Tilbhandeshwar Temple and the Sarnath Temple.