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7 Interesting Facts About Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Varanasi

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Kashi Vishwanath Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, located in Vishwanath Gali, in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The temple is a renowned Hindu pilgrimage site. It is also one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines. The presiding deity has the names, Vishwanath and Vishweshwara, literally meaning ‘Lord of the Universe’.

 

 

 

The temple was demolished many times during the Mughal invasions. It was the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, who built the Gyanvapi Mosque on the site where the temple stood. The Maratha queen, Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, built the structure that exists now in 1780.

 

 

 

Legend of Jyotirlinga

 

Hindus believe that Varanasi is the first Jyotirlinga that manifested itself. As per legend, it was at this place that Shiva appeared as an infinite column of light or Jyotirlinga before Brahma and Vishnu when they were arguing about which among them was superior.

 

 

 

Vishnu and Brahma decided that whoever could find the origin of the luminous column would be the supreme god. To discover its origin, Vishnu took the form of a boar (Varaha) and went underground, while Brahma turned into a swan and flew up to locate the top of the column. Both of them failed to find its origin. However, Brahma falsely declared that he had found the summit of the column, while Vishnu admitted his failure. As Brahma lied to him, Shiva punished him by cutting his 5th head and pronouncing a curse on him. According to the curse, people would not worship Brahma, and there would be no temples for him. As Vishnu had been honest, people would worship him alongside Shiva and have temples dedicated to him for eternity.

 

 

 

Hindu scriptures define Vishweshara as the deity of Varanasi. He is the king of all the other deities and also all the inhabitants of the city. He also rules over the extended circuit of the Panchkosi (the sacred boundary of Varanasi), an area that encompasses over 50 miles.

 

The Skanda Purana has a part titled ‘Kashi Khanda, while the Brahmavaivarta Purana has a portion called ‘Kashi Rahasya. Both are dedicated to the city of Varanasi. According to the Kashi Khanda, there were 1099 temples totally, of which 513 were specifically for the worship of Shiva. The scripture claims that the Vishvanath temple’s name was Moksha Lakshmi Vilas earlier. The temple had five mandapas (halls), and the lingam of Vishwanath was in the garbhagriha. The other four mandapas include the Jnana mandapa in the east, the Ranga mandapa in the west, the Aishwarya mandapa in the north, and the Mukti mandapa in the south.

 

The Kashi Vishwanath temple gets around 3,000 visitors every day. Sometimes, it can reach 1,000,000 or more. The temple has a 15.5-metre-high gold spire and gold Onion dome.

 

 

 

 

 

The Vishveshvara Jyotirlinga has a very special significance for Hindus. Visiting the temple and having a bath in the Ganges can help one attain Moksha (liberation). So, Hindus from all over the world make an effort to visit the temple at least once in their lifetime. It is also a tradition to renounce at least one desire after visiting and worshipping at the temple. The pilgrimage often includes a visit to the at Rameswaram temple in Tamil Nadu as well. Devotees take water samples of the Ganges to offer prayers at the temple and bring back sand from near the Rameswaram temple.

 

 

 

Due to the great popularity and sacredness of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, hundreds of temples throughout India have been constructed in the same architectural style. Many legends claim that a true devotee can achieve freedom from the birth-death cycle by worshipping Shiva here. Shiva’s devotees believe that they will be directly taken to Mount Kailash (Shiva’s abode) by his messengers. They also believe that Shiva himself utters the Mantra of salvation into the ears of those who die a natural death at this temple.

 

 

 

The temple is one of the Vaippu Sthalams that Tamil Saivite saint-poet Nayanar Sambandar sang praises about. There are grand celebrations at the temple during Maha Shivaratri, the ‘great night of Shiva’.

 

 

 

7 Interesting Facts about Kashi Vishwanath Temple

 

 

 

Hindus have regarded Varanasi city as a holy city since time immemorial. The Upanishads, Puranas, and Brahmanas assert this fact. The Kashi Kanda of Skanda Purana and Brahma Vaivarta Purana mention this temple.

 

 

 

The temple was destroyed and rebuilt many times by different rulers. When the army of Qutub –ud-in Aibak defeated the Raja of Kannauj, it destroyed the original temple. The destruction and reconstruction process continued for many centuries.

 

 

 

The Mughals looted the temple repeatedly. Though the Mughal emperor, Akbar, permitted Hindus to rebuild the temple, his great-grandson Aurangazeb, a fanatic Muslim ruler, destroyed it and built a mosque in its place. It was the Maratha queen of Indore, Rani Ahilyabai Holkar, who built the current structure.

 

 

 

The name ‘Kashi’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Kas’ meaning ‘to sparkle’.

 

 

 

The temple has 3 domes, which are covered with pure gold, that Maharaja Ranjit Singh donated in 1835. It is said that those who make a wish after seeing the golden chatra on top will have their wish come true.

 

 

 

The temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva. People believe that one can attain salvation if one sees the Shiva Linga here. Hence, many Hindus come to worship at the temple from far and wide.

 

 

 

There is a Well of Wisdom, Jnana Vapi or Gyana Vapi, between the temple and a mosque that stands adjacent to it. It is said that the idol of Shiva was concealed in the well when Aurangazeb’s intent to destroy the temple became known. Read more.

 

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