Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the most visited temple in Varanasi. It is located near the Manikarnika Ghat on the banks of River Ganga. The Jyotirlinga enshrined in the sanctum is the first self-manifested one among the twelve jyotirlingas found in different parts of India. It is also called as Vishwanath or Vishweshwara to refer Lord Shiva as the ‘Ruler of the Universe.’ To reach the temple, devotees have to pass through a narrow and crowded lane. The lane is named after the temple and is known as ‘Vishwanath Gali.’ The lane or gali is very famous for shopping stalls where one can purchase pooja items, sweets, and ladies materials. Despite being located at a crowded place, thousands of devotees visit this temple to perform abhisekha of the Shivlinga. The temple is mentioned as the Shiva’s abode in the Skanda Purana, and is one of the pilgrimage sites for the Hindus. Reference to the temple can be found in all the scriptures as the birthplace of Shaiva philosophy.
The old Kashi Vishwanath temple is believed to have built in 1490. It was destroyed by the Turks. The original Jyotirlinga was shifted to Jnana-Vapi. It was built again, but Aurangzeb destroyed it and built a mosque where it was originally standing. The Gyanvapi Mosque is adjacent to the temple. The pillars and stones used in the construction of the mosque are from the old temple. One can still see the fine intricate artwork on the wall of the mosque towards the western side.
The temple was reconstructed by Ahilyabai Holker of Indore in 1777. The queen was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. It is said that Shiva appeared in her dream once and asked her to rebuild the temple. The construction of the main temple is in a quadrangular form. The courtyard of the temple has several small temples dedicated to other gods. There is also a well in the courtyard known as Jnana Vapi, which means ‘wisdom well.’ The well is located to the north of the temple. Access to the sanctum is through a congregation hall. The Shivalinga is placed on the centre of the floor on a square silver altar inside the sanctum. Overall, the temple is divided into three parts. The first part is the spire of the temple, the second one is the gold dome, and the third one is the golden spire. Besides its sanctity, it is also admired for its architecture. It has a mandapa and a sanctum. Its spire is 15.5 meter in height and is plated in gold donated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Hence, it is also called as the ‘Golden Temple.’
The temple is opened for Managala Aarti at 2:30 am. However, ticket holders are permitted to enter the temple from 3 to 4 in the morning. From 4 to 11, the temple opens for general darshan. The Bhog Aarti is performed from 11:30 to 12:00 noon. The temple remains open for from 12 noon to evening 7 for devotees. The Sapta Rishi Aarti is from 7 pm to 8:30 pm. People can join this aarti and have a darshan of the deity till 9:00 pm. After 9 pm, darshan for devotees is barred till until Shringar Aarti is completed. The last aarti of the day, Shayana Aarti begins at 10:30 pm, after which the temple closes at 11 pm.
A walk inside the courtyard of the temple and a few moments of meditation inside the sanctum offer a fulfilling experience. Every devotee or tourist who comes to Varanasi does not miss to pay his or her obeisance to Lord Shiva in this temple.