Vishalakshi Temple

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Vishalakshi Temple
Vishalakshi Temple is located in Uttar Pradesh
Vishalakshi Temple
Vishalakshi Temple
Location within Uttar Pradesh
Coordinates: 25°18′32″N 83°0′39″E / 25.30889°N 83.01083°E / 25.30889; 83.01083Coordinates: 25°18′32″N 83°0′39″E / 25.30889°N 83.01083°E / 25.30889; 83.01083
Name
Other names: Shakti Pitha of Varanasi
Proper name: Vishalakshi Temple
Location
Country: India
State: Uttar Pradesh
District: Varanasi
Locale: Mir Ghat, Varanasi
Architecture and culture
Primary deity: Vishalakshi
Architectural styles: Mandir

The Vishalakshi Temple or Vishalakshi Gauri Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to the goddess Vishalakshi (an aspect of goddess Parvati/Gauri) at Mir Ghat on the banks of the Ganges at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India.[1][2] It is generally regarded as a Shakti Pitha, the most sacred temples dedicated to the Hindu Divine Mother.

The earrings or eyes of the goddess Sati are said to have fallen on this holy spot of Varanasi. Vishalakshi Temple is known for its temple festival on Kajali Tij, held on the third day during waning fortnight in the Hindu month of Bhadrapada (August).

Religious significance[edit]

Shiva carrying the corpse of Sati.

The daughter of Prajapati Daksha, Sati was married to the god Shiva against his wishes. Daksha organized a great yajna, but did not invite Sati and Shiva. Uninvited, Sati reached the yajna-site, where Daksha ignored Sati and vilified Shiva. Unable to withstand this insult, Sati jumped into the sacrificial fire and committed suicide. Sati died, but her corpse did not burn. Shiva (as Virabhadra) slew Daksha for being responsible for Sati's death and forgave him, resurrecting him. The wild, grief-stricken Shiva wandered the universe with Sati's corpse. Finally, the god Vishnu dismembered the body of Sati into 52 parts, each of which became a Shakti Pitha, temple to a form of the Goddess. Shiva is also worshipped at each Shakti Pitha in the form of Bhairava, the male counterpart or guardian of the presiding goddess of the Pitha.[3] Sati's eye or earring is believed to have fallen at Varanasi, establishing Vishalakshi as a Shakti Pitha.[4]

In the sacred geography of Varanasi, six points are said to symbolize Shastanga (six-fold) yoga, which is performing by visiting the six sites. They are the Vishwanath Temple (the most important temple of Varanasi - dedicated to Shiva), the Vishalakshi Temple, the Ganges, the Kala Bhairava temple (dedicated to Varanasi's guardian deity and Vishalakshi's Bhiarava), the Dhudiraj Temple (dedicated to the god Ganesha - son of Shiva and Parvati) and the Dandapani temple (dedicated to an aspect of Shiva).[5]

In Shakti Peetha lists[edit]

Vishalakshi or Varanasi figures in most standard lists of Shakti Peethas.[6]

The Tantric work Rudrayamala, composed before 1052 CE, mentions 10 principal Shakti Peethas, which includes Varanasi as the fifth one. The Kularnava Tantra mentions 18 Pithas and mentions Varanasi as the sixth one. The Ashadashapitha (18 Peethas) ascribed to Shankaracharya (interpreted as Adi Shankara, however probably Shankara Agamacharya, Bengali author of the Tara-rahasya-vrittika) enumerates 18 names along with their presiding deities or Pitha-devis including Vishalakshi of Varanasi as the fifth Pitha. In the Kubjika Tantra, Varanasi is third in 42 names. There are the two lists of Pithas in the Jnanarnava, one with 8 names and the other with fifty names. The 8-name list does not mention Varanasi, but the other list names Varanasi in the second spot.[7] Vishalakshi of Varanasi is mentioned as first of 108 Shakti Pithas in the list in the Devi Bhagavata Purana. The face of Sati is described to have fallen here. This is only instance where a body part is related to the Shakti Pitha in the text. The Devi Gita within the same text gives a long list of Pithas, where Vishalakshi is mentioned as dwelling in Avimukta (Varanasi). No body part is related to the Pitha in this list.[8][9][10] In the non-scripture 16th century Bengali work Chandimangal, Mukundaram lists nine Pithas in the Daksha-yajna-bhanga section. Varanasi is the last Pitha described to be the place where Sati's chest fell and the presiding goddess being Vishalakshi.[11] Lakshmidhara also includes Vishalakshi in his 12th century list.[6]

The Pithanirnaya or Mahapithanirupana section from the Tantrachudamani originally listed 43 names, but names were added over time making it 51 Pithas. It details the Pitha-devata or Devi (name of goddess at the Pitha), the Kshastradishas (Bhairava) and the anga-pratyanga (limbs including ornaments of Sati). Manikarnika at Varanasi with Vishalakshi as the presiding goddess comes in at number 23. A kundala (earring) is the anga-pratyanga and Kala-Bhairava (Kala) is the Bhairava. In some later versions of the text, Varanasi is not included in the chief 51/52 Pithas. In one of the versions, it is demoted from a Pitha to an upa-Pitha (subordinate Pitha). Here, the kundala is said to be anga-pratyanga, but two Pitha-devatas and Bhairavas are mentioned. First, Vishalakshi with Kalabhairava and secondary Annapurna with Vishweshvara. Vishweshvara is the presiding deity of Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the most important temple in Varanasi and the Annapurna temple is nearby.[12]

History[edit]

According to the scholar Jones, the Shakti Pithas were originally part of cult worship by the tribals as local deities, which over the centuries were syncretised to Shakthi Peethas under the influence of the Brahmins, and have now a permanent influence on the psyche of the people.[3] In the syncretism of various religious beliefs in the country, as many as 108 goddesses were assimilated in the Shakti Pitha list.[13]

Annapurna, the goddess of food and form of Shiva's consort Parvati, is given the epithet Vishalakshi, the "wide-eyed". Her most famous temple stands at Varanasi, where patron goddess she is considered. The Skanda Purana narrates the tale of the sage Vyasa cursing Varanasi, as no one in the city offered him food. Finally, Vishalakshi appears in the form of a house wife and grants food to Vyasa. This role of Vishalakshi is similar to that of Annapurna, who offers food to her husband Shiva, whose hunger can be satited by her food. Shiva gratified by Annapurna's food, establishes Varanasi and appoints her as its presiding goddess. The goddess Vishalakshi of the Varanasi temple may have been identified with Annapurna in early times, however over time became a distinct goddess, resulting in the goddess temples.[14]

Vishalakshi, the "wide-eyed" goddess is often associated two other goddesses: Kamakshi, the "love-eyed" goddess of Kanchipuram and Minakshi, the "fish-eyed" of Madurai, prominently due to their similar names.[15] Together the three are regarded the most important Goddess temples by South Indians. While Vishalakshi dwells in North India, the other goddess temples are in Tamil Nadu, South India. South Indians venerated Vishalakshi for ages and have strong ties with the temple. South Indian Tamil people also helped renovate the temple in 1971.[4][2][15]

Worship and festivals[edit]

Devotees often bathe in the holy Ganges nearby before offering worship at the temple. The puja (worship), offerings, recitation of hymns to the goddess and charity at the temple is considered highly fruitful due to the power of the presiding goddess. The goddess is especially worshipped by unmarried girls for a groom, childless couples for progeny and unfortunate women for turn of their fortune. Two goddess images are housed side-by-side in the garbhagirha (sanctum): a smaller black stone image called Adi Vishalakshi on left back side and another taller black stone image installed at a later date. Devotees often visit the Vishwanath and Annapurna shrines with this temple.[2]

Two most important festivals in the temple as well as all other goddess temples in Varanasi is two Navaratris ("nine nights"). The Ashwin Navatri or simply called Navaratri, culminating in Vijayadashami, falls in the waxing fortnight of the Hindu month of Ashwin (October) and celebrates the victory of the goddess Durga on the buffalo-demon Mahishasura. The other Navaratri is in the waxing fortnight of Chaitra (March). On each of nine days, one of Varanasi's goddess temples - corresponding to one of the Navadurga (nine Durgas) or nine Gauris (Parvatis) - is recommended to be visited. The nine-temple circuit is described in various Kashi mahatmyas (texts narrating the greatness of the holy city of Varanasi/Kashi).[16][2] Devotees flock to the temple in the evening of the fifth day of Navatri.[17]

The yearly temple festival of Vishalakshi Temple is celebrated on Kajali Tij (Black Third), the third lunar day (tij) of the waning fortnight in Bhadrapada, the last month of the Indian rainy season. Women sing "amorous" rainy season songs called kajali (black) around this time. The holy day is observed especially for the welfare of brothers by women.[18]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Eck 1982, p. 229.
  2. ^ a b c d Varanasi Temples
  3. ^ a b Jones, Constance; Ryan, James D. (2007). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase Publishing. pp. 401–402. ISBN 9780816075645. Retrieved 14 November 2012. 
  4. ^ a b Eck 1982, p. 173.
  5. ^ Eck 1982, p. 323.
  6. ^ a b Eck 1982, p. 172.
  7. ^ Sircar 1998, pp. 17-20.
  8. ^ Sircar 1998, pp. 25-7.
  9. ^ Swami Satyananda (1 July 1996). Devi Gita. Devi Mandir. pp. 52, 192. ISBN 978-1-877795-13-8. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  10. ^ C MacKenzie Brown (1998). The Devī Gītā: The Song of the Goddess. SUNY Press. pp. 242–6. ISBN 978-0-7914-3940-1. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  11. ^ Sircar 1998, pp. 32-3.
  12. ^ Sircar 1998, pp. 35-41.
  13. ^ Sircar 1998, pp. 24-5.
  14. ^ P. Arundhati (1 January 2001). Annapurna: A Bunch of Flowers of Indian Culture. Concept Publishing Company. pp. 17–21. ISBN 978-81-7022-897-4. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  15. ^ a b V. K. Subramanian (1 January 2003). Art Shrines Of Ancient India. Abhinav Publications. p. 30. ISBN 978-81-7017-431-8. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  16. ^ Eck 1982, p. 174.
  17. ^ Eck 1982, p. 263.
  18. ^ Eck 1982, p. 266.

References[edit]