Situated on the western bank of holy River Ganga, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is regarded as one of the most popular Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Located in the heart of Varanasi, the temple is a core of faith for millions of Hindus. As per the Shaiva philosophy, it is believed that the Kashi Vishwanath temple is the centre of the worship since a long time. The the main deity of Kashi Vishwanath Temple is Lord Shiva, also known as Vishwanatha or Vishweshwarar meaning 'the ruler of the universe'. The city of Varanasi, the cultural capital of India, is thus known as the city of Lord Shiva. The presiding Jyotirlinga in the temple is considered as the 12th of all the Jyotirlingas in the country.
In the olden times, on special festivals such as Shivaratri, the king of Kashi (Kashi Naresh) visited the temple for worship during which nobody else is allowed to enter the temple premises. Devotees were allowed only after the king had concluded his prayers. Being one of the most famous temples of Varanasi, the temple witnesses around 3,000 devotees on daily basis and the footfall increases to 1,00,000 on special occasions. The importance of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple also stems from the fact that it finds mentions in several holy scriptures of the Hindus. On the outside, the temple is adorned with intricate carvings that impart a divine quality to the facade. There is also a well present within the temple complex called Jnana Vapi or wisdom well. Other than that, the temple also houses several other small temples such as Kaalbhairav, Vishnu, Virupaksh Gauri, Vinayaka and Avimukteshwara.
The very first mention of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple can be found in the Puranas including the Kashi Khanda (section) of Skanda Purana. Interestingly, this temple has seen complete annihilation and rebuilding many times over the course of history. The first time the temple was destroyed was in the year 1194 by the hands of Qutb-ud-din Aibak's army when he defeated the King of Kannauj. The temple was rebuilt during the rule of Delhi's Iltutmish and was demolished again during Sikander Lodhi's time. Raja Man Singh rebuilt the temple during Mughal Emperor Akbar's rule. In 1669 CE, Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the temple and built the Gyanvapi Mosque in its place.
Also known as the Golden Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, it was finally rebuilt in the year 1780 by the Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, the Maratha monarch. The temple comprises of two domes covered in gold donated by the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Punjab Kesari, while the Bhosales of Nagpur donated silver to the temple. Since 28 January 1983, the temple has become the property of Uttar Pradesh government and was managed by Dr Vibhuti Narayan Singh and later by the Kashi Naresh.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is a collection of smaller shrines that are located in The temple complex consists of a series of smaller shrines, located in a small lane called the Vishwanatha Galli near the river. The main temple is constructed in the form of a quadrangle and is surrounded by the shrines dedicated to other deities. These temples are dedicated to Kaalbhairav, Dhandapani, Avimukteshwara, Vishnu, Vinayaka, Sanishwara, Virupaksha and Virupaksh Gauri. Made out of black stone, the main Shivalinga of the temple is 60 cm tall and 90 cm in circumference and is enshrined in a silver altar. A holy well by the name of Gyaan Vapi is situated here as well, which is believed to be the site where the Shivalinga was hidden to protect it from foreign invaders. Structure of the temple is composed of three parts. The first is a spire on the temple of Lord Vishwanath, the second a gold dome and the third is the gold spire atop the Vishwanath carrying a flag and a trident.
One of the most revered temples of Varanasi, Kashi Vishwanath Temple has a great significance in Hindu religion. It is widely believed that a visit to the temple followed by a dip in the holy Ganges is the ultimate way to attain liberation or 'Moksha' and for the same reason it is thronged by devotees throughout the year. Another belief is that Lord Shiva himself whispers the mantras of salvation into the ears of the people who die naturally at the Vishwanath Temple. Several great Hindu saints such as Goswami Tulsidas, Swami Vivekanand, Adi Sankaracharya, Gurunanak Dev, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Ramakrishna Paramhansa etc have visited this temple.
Pooja schedule of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is illustrated as follows:-
Mangala Aarti: 3:00 AM to 4:00 AM (Morning)
Bhoga Aarti: 11:15 AM to 12:20 AM (Day)
Sandhya Aarti: 7:00 PM to 8:15 PM (Evening)
Shringara Aarti: 9:00 PM to 10:15 PM (Night)
Shayana Aarti: 10:30 PM ti 11:00 PM (Night)
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For reaching the temple, one has to pass through the Kashi Vishwanath Gali famous for its shops selling pooja items and sweets. There is also a popular ladies corner in the street which sells a number of items such as Banarasi saree, dresses, devotional articles and jewellery. Other items on sale here include bangles, Kurtis, wooden toys, brass articles, statues, religious books, posters of deities, accessories, dress materials, sweets, eatables and even music CDs. A few roadside kiosks also sell snacks for those untimely hunger pangs. After completing their darshan of Lord Shiva, devotees can also go here for some affordable shopping.
The temple is situated only about 5 km away from the Varanasi railway station. If you are commuting from anywhere in the city, the best way to reach your destination is through taxi or an auto rickshaw. The actual temple is, however, located inside the Vishwanath Gali which is not a motorable road and you will have to walk your way up to the temple threshold.