It is not only the most important temple of Varanasi but is also one of the main temples for the Hindus in all of India. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas (self-manifested lingams) situated in India. Also famous by the name of Shri Vishweshwar, the Temple is said to be the abode of Lord Shiva. It is believed that the Lord resides here and is the giver of liberation and happiness. A single visit to the Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirling is said to worth more than the visits of other Jyotirlings, strewn across India.
The legendary Vishwanath Temple has been rebuilt several times. Like most other temples in and around Varanasi, this one too could not escape the evil hands of Mughal Emperor Aurangazeb, who built a mosque on the ruins. The brave Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore built the present temple in the 18th century and stands next to the mosque that Aurangzeb built. Next to the temple is the Gyan Vapi (Well of Knowledge) where, as one of the pandas (priests) told us, the original ShivaLing lies hidden. The gold used in the plating of the Temple dome was donated by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, the ruler of Punjab in the 19th century, hence it is also known as the ‘Golden Temple’.
There are several entrances to the temple, all of them heavily guarded by gun-totting commandos and policemen, turning the whole area into a fortress. Camera and mobile phones are not allowed in the temple premises. There are innumerable shops selling various items for offering to Lord Shiva like flowers, Bilva leaves, milk, Ganga Jal, etc. which you can buy and then deposit your mobiles/cams in the small lockers built in their shops. We kept ours in one of these lockers and proceeded further. After going through multiple checkpoints, we reached the main temple area.
[ One of the entrances to
the Kashi Vishwanath Temple ]
There was a small queue for the darshan. The main ShivLing is present in a small rectangular space. Amidst chants of ‘Har Har Mahadev’, ‘Bum Bum Bhole’ and ringing of the Temple bells, we offered milk, bilva leaves, flowers and the sacred waters of the Ganga to the ShivLing and took the blessings of Lord Shiva. The atmosphere was truly divine and spiritual. The main temple room is small but the charged up atmosphere more than makes up for it.
It was really one of a kind as there are innumerable other small lingams inside the temple premises and I admired the beauty of the temple. Though, at the same time, I wondered what the original temple would have looked like. There was also an army of monkeys, some snatching sweets from the devotees, some just curiously observing the pilgrims.
The visit to most revered temple of India was certainly worth a visit. Truly the temple area is the focal point of the people visiting Varanasi and this makes the whole atmosphere of the place so divine.