Kashi Vishwanath temple is one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and is in the holy city of Varanasi, India. It is believed that Varanasi is the point at which the first Jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light by which Shiva manifested his supremacy over other gods, broke through the earth’s crust and flared towards the heavens. The temple stands on the western bank of Hinduism's holiest river Ganges, and the deity is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas the holiest of Shiva deities. The main deity is known by the name Vishwanatha or Vishweshwara meaning the Ruler of the world. The temple town that claims to be the oldest living city in the world, with 3500 years of documented history is also called Kashi and hence the temple is popularly called as Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Due to this 15.5m high golden spire, the temple is sometimes called as the Golden Temple.
The original temple has not yet been found and due to invasions, the temple has been destroyed and rebuit a number of times. The current structure is believed to have been built by Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780.
The temple is widely recognized as one of the most important places of worship in Hindu religion and most of the leading Hindu saints, including Adi Sankaracharya, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda, Goswami Tulsidas, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Gurunanak have visited this site. According to Hindu mythology, a visit to the temple and a bath in the river Ganga is believed to lead one on a path to Moksha (liberation). Thus, people from all over the nation, try to visit the place at least once in their lifetime. There is also a tradition that one should give up at least one desire after a pilgrimage the temple, and the pilgrimage would also include a visit to the temple at Rameswaram in South India, where people take the water samples of Ganga to perform prayer at the temple and bring back the sand from near that temple. Due to the immense popularity and holiness of this temple, hundreds of temples across the nation have been built with the same style and architecture.
The Shiva temple is believed to have been there in the site for thousands of years, as mentioned in old scriptures. The Mughal emperor Akbar allowed the temple to be constructed but his grandson, the Islamic ruler Aurangzeb ordered its demolition in 1669 and constructed Gaynvapi Mosque, which still exists alongside the temple. This mosque has minarets towering 71 metres above the Ganges River and the traces of the old temple can be seen behind the mosque. The temple spire and the dome are plated with 1000 kg of gold donated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab, in 1835. Places of Interest
Kashi Vishvanath Temple- Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple has earned the name of Golden Temple due to the gold plating done using one ton of gold donated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh on its 15.5-m high spire. Invaders destroyed the original temple and Rani Ahilyabai of Indore rebuilt it only in in 1776. Again, the fanatic Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the Vishvanath temple to replace it with the Gaynvapi Mosque. However, one can still see the remnants of the temple in the intricate and fine artwork of the western wall of the mosque. Today, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the Gyanvapi mosque lie adjacent to each other.
Kaal Bhairav Temple- The Kaal Bhairav is said to be the Inspector (Kotwal) of Kashi. It is believed if he gets angry on someone, the person cannot leave Varanasi for his entire life. The legends says that even death is scared of Kaal Bhairav. People who go on pilgrim visit to Varanasi, do not forget to visit Kaal Bhairava Temple.
Durga Temple- The 8th century Durga temple is built in Nagara Style and is one of the most important temples of the city. The 'shikhara' of the temple consists of several small spires layered one on top of the other.
Bharat Mata Temple- Dedicated to Mother India, it is situated in Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth. It was built by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupt and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936. The statue marble of Mother India shows undivided India with mountains, plains and oceans in exact proportions.
Tulsi Manas Temple- Dedicated to Lord Rama, this temple is said to be built on the site where Goswami Tulsidas wrote the epic 'Ramacharitramanas'. It was built in 1964 by a philanthropist family.
Nepali Temple- Built in Nepali style by the King of Nepal on Lalita Ghat, it is also known as the Kathwala temple because of the magnificent woodwork. Tourist attraction for visitors from all over the world, it is said to be incomparable to any other temple in India. It is said that the workers and the wood was imported from Nepal to build this temple and the its specialty is that termites do not eat the wood used to construct it.
New Vishwanath temple- The Birlas, one of India's richest industrial families, set up this temple. It was also planned by Pandit Malaviya who wished to see Hinduism revived but without the caste distinctions. Accordingly, the temple is open to persons of all castes and creeds.
The Ghats (River Front)- Varanasi Ghats are the major attractions of the temple city. There are more than one hundred Ghats in the city and each of them is marked by a lingam having their own religious significance. Thousands of devotees throng to these Ghats every in the morning to take a dip in the holy water and enjoy a spectacular view of sunrise. Though most of the Ghats are used for bathing, some of them are also used for cremations. The most sacred Ghats in Varanasi are the Asi Ghat, Adi Keshava Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Panchaganga Ghat and Dashashwamedha Ghat. The Pancha Trirtha Yatra is performed by crossing these five Ghats.
Getting there and Around
By Air- Varanasi is on several Indian Airlines routes, including the popular daily tourist shuttle Delhi/Agra/Khajuraho/Varanasi and back. There are flights from Lucknow, Jaipur, Bhubaneshwar and Kathmandu also. The airport is about 22 km away from the city, and the Indian Airlines shuttle bus service runs from there to the city.
By Rail- There are not many trains running from Delhi or Calcutta to Varanasi, but most Delhi-Calcutta trains do pass through Mughalsarai, 12 km south of Varanasi. Varanasi is connected by train to Mumbai, Allahabad, Patna, Jaipur, Gorakhpur and Khajuraho.
By Road- There are buses running from Varanasi to Jaunpur, Allahabad, Lucknow, Faizabad, and Gorakhpur. No direct buses run to Khajuraho.
There is a wide variety of hotel accommodation available in the city. The hotels at the top end, which are mostly in the cantonment area of the city, include Hotel de Paris (Tel: +91-542-346601) and Hotel Varanasi Ashok (Tel: 346020, Fax: 342141). Hotel Clarks Varanasi (Tel 342401, Fax: 348186) is the oldest hotel here, dating back to the British era. Hotel Taj Ganges (Tel: 342481, Fax: 348067) is also a good option.