Varanasi Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Introduction:
Standing on the western bank of India’s holiest river Ganges, Varanasi is the oldest surviving city of the world and the cultural capital of India. It is in the heart of this city that there stands in its fullest majesty the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in which is enshrined the Jyotirlinga of Shiva, Vishweshwara or Vishwanath. Here gravitate the teeming millions of India to seek benediction and spiritual peace by the darshan of this Jyotirlinga which confers liberation from the bondages of maya and the inexorable entanglements of the world. A simple glimpse of the Jyotirlinga is a soul-cleansing experience that transforms life and puts it on the path of knowledge and bhakti. Vishweshwara Jyotirlinga has a very special and unique significance in the spiritual history of India. Tradition has it that the merits earned by the darshan of other jyotirlinga scattered in various parts of India accrue to devotee by a single visit to Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
Deeply and intimately implanted in the Hindu mind, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple has been a living embodiment of our timeless cultural traditions and highest spiritual values. The Temple has been visited by all great saints- Adi Shankaracharya, Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekanand, Goswami Tulsidas, Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati, Gurunanak and several other spiritual personalities. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple attracts visitors not only from India but abroad as well and thereby symbolises man’s desire to live in peace and harmony with one another. Vishwanath being a supreme repository of this spiritual truth thus strengthens the bonds of universal brotherhood and fellow feeling at the national as well as global levels.
On January 28, 1983 the temple was taken over by the Govt. of Uttar Pradesh and it’s management ever since stands entrusted to a Trust with Dr. Vibhuti Narayan Singh. Former Kashi Naresh, as president and an Executive Committee with Divisional Commissioner as Chairman. The Temple in the present shape was built way back in 1780 by Late Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore. In the year 1785 a Naubatkhana was built up in front of the Temple by the then Collector Mohd. Ibrahim Khan at the instance of Governor General Warren Hastings. In 1839, The two domes of the Temple were covered by gold donated by Punjab Kesari Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Third dome still remains uncovered, Ministry of culture & Religious affairs of U.P. Govt. is taking keen interest for gold plating of third dome of Temple.
Shri Kashi Shiva the Supreme: Shiv Linga, The Mandala:
The frame of the cosmic reality, according to ancient Hindu thought, consists of the three fundamental states called evolution (Shrishthi), existence (sthiti), and involution (samhara) that acts in a cyclic process of infinity. Each one of the forms is controlled by a God, named Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Siva/Shiva (the destroyer); these three Gods are called the Trinity. Shiva, being the last to complete the cycle from where the new cycle starts, is known as Mahadeo, the Supreme Divinity. The iconographic form of the Shiva, the Linga represents the unity of the three states of cosmos (shown in above figure).
The Linga consists of the three parts. The first is a square base of three-layers at the bottom showing the three mythical realms (lokas), symbolizing evolution the place of Brahma. The second is an octagonal round form in the middle showing the eight directions, symbolizing existence or perseverance the place of Vishnu; and third is a cylinder at the top with a spherical end, symbolizing involution or completion of the cosmic cycle the place of Shiva. This icon shows the supreme state of integrity, the ultimate form of Shiva linga itself is a symbol of cosmic mandala. As Sadasiva (eternal reality) Shiva is represented as linga, standing also for ‘total knowledge’. As Rudra, the destroyer, his consort is Kali. As Bhairava, the terrible destroyer, his consort is Durga. As a jovial god living in the Himalaya, his wife is Parvati. As possessor of all forms of divine power Shiva rooms at the bottom of everything that is moving, that is how he is called Ishvara, derived from I-cara, i.e. I the centre, and cara, the rhythm of movement. Shiva is also depicted as cosmic dancer, Tandava Nartakari, the one who keeps up the rhythm of the world in cosmos.
Special Note: Above all information regarding Shivlinga and its description has been taken from “The Linga Puran” and the book “Banaras Region: A spiritual & Cultural Guide. Indica Books, Varanasi. Pilgrimage & Cosmology Series: 1 written by “Prof. Rana P. B. Singh & Dr. Pravin S. Rana
Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple Important Festivals:
Foundation Day of Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the most famous Hindu temples which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is located in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India, and the holiest existing place of Hindus. The temple stands on the western bank of the holy river Ganges and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest of Shiva temples. The main deity is known by the name Vishwanath or Vishweshwara meaning Ruler of the universe. The temple town, which 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 Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
The temple has been referred to in Hindu scriptures for a very long time and as a central part of worship in the Shaiva philosophy. It has been destroyed and re-constructed a number of times in the history. The last structure was demolished by Aurganzeb, who constructed the Gyanvapi Mosque on its site. The current structure was built on an adjacent site by the Maratha monarch, Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780. Since 1983, the temple has been managed by the government of Uttar Pradesh. During the religious occasion of Shivratri, which is celebrated with great festivities, the Kashi Naresh (King of Kashi) is the chief officiating priest and no other person or priest is allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum. It is only after he performs his religious functions that others are allowed to enter.
Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious day for the Hindus and is celebrated in almost all parts of the country in myriad cultural forms, with great devotion, fervour & gaiety. Lakhs of people take a dip in places like Ganga Sagar & Prayag and pray to Lord Sun. It is celebrated with pomp in southern parts of the country as Pongal, and in Punjab it is celebrated as Lohri & Maghi. Gujarati’s not only look reverentially up to the sun on Makar Sankranti, but also offer thousands of their colorful oblations in the form of beautiful kites, flying all over the skyline. They may be trying to reach up to their glorious God or bring about greater proximity with the one who represents the best. It is a day for which Bhishma Pitamah kept waiting to leave his mortal coil to attain salvation.
Makar Sankranti is the day when the glorious Sun-God of Hindus, begins its ascendancy and enter into the Northern Hemisphere. Sun, for the Hindus stands for Pratyaksha-Brahman – the manifest God, who symbolizes, the one, non-dual, self-effulgent, glorious divinity, blessing one & all tirelessly. Sun is the one who transcends time and also the one who rotates the proverbial Wheel of Time. The famous Gayatri Mantra, which is chanted everyday by every faithful Hindu, is directed to Sun God, to bless them with intelligence & wisdom. Sun not only represents God, but, also stands for an embodiment of knowledge & wisdom. Lord Krishna reveals in Gita that this manifested divinity was his first disciple, and we all know it to be indeed a worthy one too. No Sundays for the Sun may be because one who revels in its very ‘being’, the very essence of his own Self, is always in the Sunday mood.
The co-relation of cosmic events with individual life and values is one of the most astounding traits of Hindu Masters. Once this co-relation is brought about thereafter, these cosmic events become instrumental to remind us the best which we cherish & value. Of all the cosmic bodies, Sun is the most glorious & important, thus every sun-centric cosmic event becomes very important spiritual, religious & cultural event. On Makar Sankranti the Sun begins its ascendancy and journey into the Northern Hemisphere, and thus it signifies an event wherein the Gods seem to remind their children that ‘Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya’- May you go higher & higher – to more & more Light and never to darkness.
Shivaratri is celebrated on the 6th night of the Shukla paksh of Phalgun (Feb or March) every year. On the auspicious day, devotees observe fast and keep vigil all night. Mahashivaratri marks the night when Lord Shiva performed the ‘Tandava’. It is also believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to Parvati Ma. On this day Shiva devotees observe fast and offer fruits, flowers, milk and bel leaves on Shiva Linga. At the Kashi Vishwanath temple, this festival celebrated with great spiritualism and festivities Devotees from all across the nation and overseas, come to Kashi Vishwanath Temple to visit the shrine and get the pious darshan of the Baba.
Month Of Savan:
Shrawan Maah is highly auspicious month for the lord Shiva devotees. Special decoration is done on every Monday of the month as it is considered as the day dedicated to Lord Shiva and his excellence. On first Monday of the Shrawan month lord Shiva is decorated to its full glory, , on second Monday lord Bhagwa Shankar and mother Parvati’s moveable statues are decorated. On the third and fourth Monday, shri Ardhyanarishwar and Shri Rudrakshay, decoration is is done par excellence respectively. The whole month of Shrawan Maah is celebrated with great enthusiasm, it is highly auspicious as every member of the Lord Shiva’s family are decorated and special ‘Jhoola Shringar’ is performed by the shastris and other experts.
The Dev Deepavali (“the Diwali of the Gods” or “Festival of Lights of the Gods”) is an auspicious festival celebrated on of the Kartik Poornima with great festivities in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. It falls on the day of full moon in the Hindu month of Kartik (November – December), usually fifteen days after Diwali. The steps of all the Ghats on the riverfront of the Ganges River, from Ravidas Ghat at the southern end to Rajghat, are lit with more than a million earthen lamps (diyas) in honour of the Ganges, and its presiding goddess. The gods are believed to descend to Earth to bathe in the Ganges on this day. The festival is also observed as Tripura Purnima Snan. The tradition of lighting the lamps on the Dev Deepawali festival day was first started at the Panchganga Ghat in 1985.During Dev Deepawali, houses are decorated with oil lamps and colored designs on their front doors also known as rangolis. Firecrackers are burnt at night following the processions of decorated deities taken out into the streets of Varanasi, and oil lamps are set afloat on the river by the devotees.
Annakoot is celebrated in observance of an episode in Sri Krishna’s childhood, in which Lord Krishna gave protection to the cowherd clan of Vrindavan from the wrath of Indra and humbled Indra in that process. The cowherds, their wives, children, and cattle jubilantly surrounded Sri Krishna. They were awed by His superhuman accomplishment and celebrated Sri Krishna’s feat with a sumptuous feast. Thus began the tradition of Annakoot. After the prayers, traditional worship & Aarti, innumerable varieties of delicious sweets/ all Cookings / 56 bhogs are ceremoniously raised in the form of a mountain and presented before the deity as “Bhog”.After the Lord had it full, the Bhog is then available for the citizens who take turns to approach the Mountain of Food and take Prasad from it. It is a great Feast which is enjoyed thoroughly by the Lord as well as the devotees, every year.
Rangbhari (Aamlaki) Ekadashi):
Once, in the month of Phalguna (February – March), the holy fast of Amalakii Ekadasii arrives, conjoined with Dvadasi. This particular fast bestows great benefit of high value & regard. Amalakii is offspring of Lord Brahma, who has the powers to destroy all kinds of sinful reactions. Amalakii is actually a form of Brahman and was once worshiped by Lord Ramachandra Himself. Whoever circumambulators her is therefore immediately freed of all his sins.
The devotees take a holy dip into the water of Ganga after which they offer a pot filled of Jal to the Amalakii tree, as well as garlands and various aromatic incense. Then worships & prayers of Lord Parashurama are offered while the devotees enchant : ‘Oh Lord ParashurAma, Oh son of Renuka, Oh all-pleasing one, Oh liberator of the worlds, kindly come beneath this holy Amalakii tree and accept our humble obeisance.
If the Amalaki tree isn’t available then one can worship the sacred Tulsi tree (the holy basil). Also, plant the sacred Tulsi seeds, and offer lamps to her.
Akshya Tritiya is considered as one of the four most auspicious days of the Vedic Calendar. It is the third day of the new moon of Vaishakh month (April-May). The day is celebrated with great festivities in Kashi Vishwanath temple, where men and women of all ages come to offer their prayers and offering. Akshya Tritiya is also considered as a prime day to do daan and the rich donate money, food, blankets, clothes, etc. to the needy and poor people. This day is considered important for purchasing gold and other luxuries as it is also a day devoted to Goddess Lakshmi, who brings dhan and samridhi.
The 12 Jyotirlinga Temples:
Saurashtre Somanathamcha Srisaile Mallikarjunam |
Ujjayinya Mahakalam Omkaramamaleswaram ||
Paralyam Vaidyanathancha Dakinyam Bheema Shankaram |
Setu Bandhethu Ramesam, Nagesam Darukavane ||
Varanasyantu Vishwesam Tryambakam Gautameethate |
Himalayetu Kedaaram, Ghrishnesamcha shivaalaye ||
Etani jyotirlingani, Saayam Praatah Patennarah |
Sapta Janma Kritam pApam, Smaranena Vinashyati ||
“Mahadev, the Lord incorporates in Himself, the aura and the holiness of all the twelve Jyotirlingas. The grandeur of these places is unique and so is their aura. Devotees line up in great numbers to get glimpses and Darshan of all the JyotirLingas.”
Location of the Jyotirlinga temples:
Two on the sea shore, three on river banks, four in the heights of the mountains and three in villages located in meadows; the twelve Jyotirlingas are spread out in a unique and interesting way. Every place has been described in glorious words by many, detailing the surroundings. The story of the origins, and the unique blessings that each one of the site has to offer.
Those of us, who go to these temples of Shubhankar Shankar- Jyoti-Sivasthan, receive the holy blessings of the Lord and come back happy, peaceful and blessed. This in indeed depends on one’s devotion and experience too.
Malikarjuna Swami, Andhra Pradesh
Mahakaleshwar, Madhya Pradesh
Omkareshwar, Madhya Pradesh
Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Uttar Pradesh
Trimbakeshwar Shiva Temple, Maharashtra
Nageshvara Jyotirlinga, Gujarat
Baidyanath Temple, Jharkhand
Rameshwar, Tamil Nadu
Those who chant the Dwadasa Jyotirlinga Strotram or prayer will attain salvation and enlightenment and be released from this cycle of human existence with all its travails. By worshipping the Lingas, people of all castes, creeds, and color would be freed from all difficulties. By eating the holy offering made to these Lingas (Naivedyam) one would get rid of all the sins instantly.
As a matter of fact, we do the Darshan of the JyotirLingas as a part of our daily life. Sun, Fire, and Light etc., are indeed a part of that great Light. “Om tatsavituvarenye” these magical words of the Gayatri mantra or chant invoke this Supreme light only. By chanting this powerful Mantra, humans can obtain divine power to their life-light or Atmajyothi, and seek wisdom and salvation.
The aura of the Sun rays and the various benefits that can be derived there from is indeed a difficult task to describe in words. This gorgeous life-light is the only thing that is responsible for any and every activity in the universe. We salute this life force.
“Agni” or fire is a great light. For all the activities on the earth, “Fire” is the pivot.
Deepajyoti or light and its greatness is known to all of us, and we offer our prayers to the holy light. The holy Light is offered a place of pride at welcome celebrations and on all auspicious occasions.
“Shubham karoti kalyanam Arogyam Dhanasampada|
Shatru buddhi vinashaya Deepa Jyoti namostute||”
The holy light removes the darkness from the lives of one and all. Darkness means ignorance and it is destroyed by the holy light. The natured light of God makes all our wishes come true when we take a Darshan of it at the Jyotiringas.
Thus, by taking a Darshan of these twelve JyotirLingas the auspicious air surrounding them and the holy pilgrimage will bring happiness, peace, and satisfaction to all.