Temples of Varanasi
Varanasi is immune to catastrophe since it has the blessings of Lord Shiva. It rests on the trident of Shiva. It has remained unfazed even during the pralaya (doom) since it is protected by the three Shivlingas situated on top of three hills covering the city. These Shivalingas are famous as Omkareshwara, Vishweshwara, and Kedareshwara. Devotees come to Varanasi to pay their obeisance to several gods.
There are thousands of Hindu temples in Varanasi. One website has estimated the number of temples in Varanasi to be around 23,000. When and how it was counted is not clarified though. But given the sanctity and the age of the city, the estimated number cannot be challenged. However, not all the temples are famous with pilgrims as each one of them has his or her favourite gods. If the popularity of the temple is weighed by the number of footfalls each day and each year it witness, then Kashi Vishwanath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Sankat Mochan Hunuman Temple devoted to Lord Hanuman, and the Durga Temple in reverence for Goddess Durga are the most worshipped ones. Only in Varanasi, one can find temples in admiration of the nine forms of Goddess Durga, and Mother Gauri.
If the temples of Varanasi have to be segregated by the popularity of god, then Lord Shiva will reign supreme. Though nobody has counted the number of temples that have Shivlinga, it will still be larger than other gods. Lord Shiva being the presiding deity of Varanasi also justifies this fact. Moreover, the city itself was built by Lord Shiva. Some of the Shivalingas are self-manifested, which means Lord Shiva himself installed them and devotees sheltered them by building a temple around them. Therefore, Shaivism is deeply rooted in Varanasi.
Since Varanasi was a home to the gods, ascetics, saints and sages, the growth of Hindu religion and Hindu temple permeated rapidly. However, the sanctity of the city and temples was brutally massacred by the Muslims rulers from 11th to 13th century. However, the atrocities of the rulers could not deter believers from following their practice of worshipping Hindu gods. Those people happily accepted death by the hands of the tormentors rather than surrendering and following new religion.
The temples of Varanasi have a rare distinction of offering boons to votaries. People who come here with all their conviction and make wishes to the gods without taming any ill feelings in their hearts, gods fulfill their wishes. Once the fruit of devotion is bestowed upon the devotees, they make a promise to visit Varanasi regularly as long as they are alive.
Most temples of Varanasi have undergone renovation as they were repeatedly destroyed by foreign hands or succumbed to the time. The present temples in Varanasi were built in the 18th century by the Maratha rulers. If the credit for unity among people has to be attributed to someone or something, then it has to be the temples. For the Hindu temples in Varanasi have acted like a component that has glued the people of the city together for ages.