“The Ganges itself and every individual drop of water in it are temples. Religion, then, is the business of Benares, just as gold-production is the business of Johannesburg. …Yes the city of Benares is in effect just a big church, a religious hive, whose every cell is a temple, a shrine or a mosque, and whose every conceivable earthly and heavenly good is procurable under one roof, so to speak - a sort of Army and Navy Stores, theologically stocked.” -Mark Twain
Kashi is rightly known as the ‘City of Temples’. Every temple has its own story, importance and legacy. (The most important being the Kashi Vishwanath Temple which I have already described in the previous post.) It is impossible to visit and describe each one of them. In addition to the Kashi Vishwanath JyotirLing, I visited the following temples and am describing them below.
After taking the blessings of Lord Shiva, we proceeded towards the Annapurna Temple, located just besides the main temple area of the Kashi Vishwanath temple. Goddess Annapurna Bhavani- a generous form of Shakti, is looked upon as the provider of food and the sustainer of prosperity. The temple we visited, we were told, was a replica of the original temple - the gates of which open only during the Hindu festival of Diwali every year. The idol of Annapurna Bhavani was made in black stone with the face covered in silver (unlike the original idol which is made in solid gold), holding a cooking pot and was draped in a beautiful sari.
Dhundiraj Ganpati Temple
Located near one of the entrances to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, it is dedicated to Lord Ganesha-The son of Lord Shiva. It is a very small temple but is one of the most important ones in Kashi. Ask anyone in the gullies and you will definitely find it.
Kaal Bhairav Temple
Wading through small and serpentine lanes, one can reach here located in Vishweshwar Ganj near Malviya Market. Lord Kaal Bhairav, a fierce incarnation of Lord Shiva, is believed to be the ‘Kotwal (Police Chief) Of Varanasi’. Kaal means both Death and Fate, in addition to meaning Black. He is the one who has assumed the duties of the God of Death in Kashi. Even Death, it is said, is afraid of Kaal Bhairav.
[ Kaal Bhairav Temple ]
I saw that the entrance was guarded by the vehicle of Kaal Bhairav, a Dog. Kaal Bhairav’s image is said to be pot-bellied, seated upon a dog, holding a trident but since it is hidden behind a cloth drapery, only the silver face, garlanded with flowers, was visible through the doorway of inner sanctum.
Barely a five minute walk from either Assi Ghat or the ISKCON Temple is situated the Durga Kund (pond) besides which is the beautiful Durga temple also known as the ‘Monkey temple’ because of the presence of large number of monkeys although I didn’t spot any.
[ Durga Kund ]
The presiding deity of the temple is Kushmanda Devi known as Durga, the consort of Lord Shiva. Built in the eighteenth century, it is said that the image of Goddess Durga was never established by human hands, but is self-manifested and appeared here on its own accord. Non-Hindus can enter the courtyard of the Durga temple but not the inner sanctum. During the Hindu festival Navratri, a large number of pilgrims throng the place.
[ Durga Temple stained in red colour ]
Bal Hanuman Temple
[ Bal Hanuman Temple ]
Just opposite the Tulsi Manas Temple is this small yet ancient temple which we visited. It is dedicated to Lord Hanuman and Venkateshwar Tirupati Balaji.
Stones throw from Tulsi Manas Temple is this newly built temple dedicated to Salasar Hanuman, Rani Sati Dadi and Khatu Shyam – all these deities have their distinct temples at Salasar, Jhunjhunu and Khatu cities respectively in Rajasthan.
[ Tridev Temple Entrance ]
Photography is allowed inside the temple. The temple comes alive in the evenings when the lighting takes its effect and is definitely worth a visit at that time.
[ Tridev Temple in The Evening Lights ]
Sankat Mochan Temple
Another 2-3 minutes walk from the Tridev temple is this sacred Sankat Mochan temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman and founded by seer Tulsidas. The word ‘Sankat Mochan’ means one who helps in removing sufferings and pain. It is said that people who pray here get their wishes fulfilled. We offered ‘laddoos’ to Lord Hanuman and recited the Hanuman Chalisa. On Thursdays and Saturdays there is a large queue for the darshan. Mobile phones and cameras are not allowed inside the temple and need to be deposited outside in the locker service provided by the temple.
New Vishwanath Temple
[ New Vishwanath Temple in the BHU ]
Located in the sprawling campus of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), it is also called the Birla temple as the famous industrialist family of India, the Birlas, constructed it. The New Vishwanath Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a replica of the original Kashi Vishwanath temple. The temple is built in white marble, and was planned by Madan Mohan Malviya, the founder of the BHU. It is open to people from all castes and religions.