Story Behind Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Created by the confluence of the Varuna & Asi rivulets with the holy river Ganges, Varanasi, or Kashi as it is popularly called, is one of the most revered cities in India. Believed to be one of the most ancient towns of India, Kashi is believed to be at the centre of the Hindu doctrine of cosmogony.
The land of Varanasi (Kashi) has been the ultimate pilgrimage spot for Hindus for ages. Often referred to as Benares, Varanasi is the oldest living city in the world. These few lines by Mark Twain say it all: “Benaras is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend and looks twice as old as all of them put together”. Hindus believe that one who is graced to die on the land of Varanasi would attain salvation and freedom from the cycle of birth and re-birth. Abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati, the origins of Varanasi are yet unknown. Ganges in Varanasi is believed to have the power to wash away the sins of mortals.
If Kashi is at the heart of Hinduism, then Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the heartbeat of this godly land. This divine sanctuary is one of the holiest lands that are known to exist in the country. In fact, so sacred is this shrine that it finds mention in the Skanda Puranda, which is an ancient Hindu scripture. Devoted to Lord Shiva, this temple is frequented by throngs of Hindus every day owing to its popularity.
Legend has it that one fine day; Lord Brahma (the Hindu deity associated with the act of creating the universe) and Lord Vishnu (the Hindu god responsible for maintaining tranquility and harmony on earth) had a tussle concerning the supremacy of their creative powers. In order to evaluate their powers, Lord Shiva pierced the three worlds with striking force in the form of an endless support of light, the jyotirlinga. This battle culminated in the defeat of Vishnu as Brahma had cunningly lied that he had a premonition that Vishnu had lost. Upon learning about this deception, Shiva appeared as a second pillar of light, cursing Brahma that he would not enjoy the prestige of being worshipped during celebrations while Vishnu would be worshipped till the end of time.
Overlooking the Western bank of River Ganges, Kashi Viswanath Temple is one of the most prominent of the twelve Jyotirlingas of the country. The others, include Somnath (Gujarat), Mallikarjuna (Andhra Pradesh), Mahakaleswar (Madhya Pradesh), Omkareshwar (Madhya Pradesh), Kedarnath (Uttarakhand), Bhimashankar (Maharashtra), Triambakeshwar (Maharashtra), Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga, Deogarh (Jharkhand), Nageswar (Gujarat), Rameshwar (Tamil Nadu) and Grishneshwar (Maharashtra).
Another interesting facet of this temple is the fact that it has been marred with several atrocious events in history. It was completely demolished by Qutb-ud-din Aibak in 1194 CE. While it was rebuilt during the reign of Illtutmish, it was demolished again during the reign of Sikandar Lodhi and later during Emperor Aurangzeb’s crusader activities to propagate Islam. It is remarkable to see how this temple has stood the numerous tests of time and stands in all its glory.
History of Kashi Vishwanath temple
The history of the temple starts with a legendary story. Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu got into an argument that broke into a fight about their supremacy. As a moderator, Lord Shiva took a form of light that pierced through three worlds. Shiva demanded them to find the tip of the light and the one who finds the tip of the light would be considered supreme. Vishnu took the form of a pig and dug down to find the tip and Lord Brahma rode up to find the tip. The place where Shiva’s light pierced through the earth are the 12 jyothirlingas and this temple is one among those.
The year of construction of the building is unknown. This temple has been mentioned in many ancient scripts and myths. In 2nd AD, the temple was destroyed by invaders and was again rebuilt by a Gujarathi merchant. In 15thcentury, the temple was destroyed and rebuilt during the reign of Akbar, in 16th century. Since Raja Man Singh, father-in-law of Akbar, built the temple. Hindus boycotted the temple as the King let a Muslim marry into his family. In 17th century, the temple was destroyed by Aurangazeb and a mosque was built in the spot. The remains of the ancient temple can be seen right behind the mosque.
Many rulers tried to destroy the mosque and build back the temple, but failed. Later in 18th century, the temple was built adjacent to the mosque. Many kings from different parts of the world donated fund and statues to the temple. The temple was managed by the kings of Varanasi and now is under the control of Indian Government.
7 surprising facts about Kashi Vishwanath temple
One of the most famous temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, Kashi Vishwanath Temple is holiest place holding some of the most interesting facts. Standing on the Western bank of the holy river Ganga, it is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. Take a look at some facts that are not known by many...
Tumultuous History of Kashi Vishwanath temple
According to records the temple was found in 1490. Kashi has seen the rule of many kings both famous and not so famous. Few of us know that it was also ruled by Buddhists for some time. The city on the banks of Ganges has seen its share of slaughter and destruction. The temples were plundered time and again by the Mughals. The original temples were re-built, then destroyed and re-built.
The construction of the Kashi Vishwanath temple
Mughal Emperor Akbar gave permission to build the original temple, which was later destroyed by Aurangazeb.
The great Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar built the present temple
The Kashi Vishwanath temple was last rebuilt and restored to its glory by the Queen of Indore, Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar. She took the initiative to restore the temple and also provided the funds for it. Aurangzeb had destroyed the temple and built a mosque in its place.
Jyotirlingas in Kashi Vishwanath temple
Kashi Vishwanath is revered as one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Shiva. It is also said that Lord Shiva actually stayed here for some time. Kashi has been derived from the word KAS, which literally means to shine.
The golden chatra in Kashi Vishwanath temple
The temple has a golden chatra on top. It is believed that any wish is fulfilled if it is made after seeing the chartra.
First ray of light
It is believed that when the earth was created the first ray of light fell on Kashi. There are legends that believe that Shiva had actually stayed here for some time. Shiva is supposed to the guardian of the city and its people.
Legend of the GyaanaVapi or well of wisdom
It is said the when news reached of Aurangzebs plans to destroy the temple, the idol of Shiva was hidden in a well to protect it from the destruction. The well still stands there between the mosque and the temple. Be sure to see it next time you go to pray at this majestic site.