Kashi Vishwanath Temple

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Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Vishveshvara Mandir
Kashi Vishwanath Temple, c. 1915
DeityVishveshwar or Vishwanath (Shiva)
FestivalsMaha Shivaratri
StateUttar Pradesh
Kashi Vishwanath Temple is located in Uttar Pradesh
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Location within Uttar Pradesh
Geographic coordinates25°18′38.79″N 83°0′38.21″E / 25.3107750°N 83.0106139°E / 25.3107750; 83.0106139Coordinates: 25°18′38.79″N 83°0′38.21″E / 25.3107750°N 83.0106139°E / 25.3107750; 83.0106139
CreatorUnknown - by Unknown

1585 CE - by Man Singh I

1780 CE - by Ahilyabai Holkar

The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is located in Vishwanath Gali of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh in India. The temple stands on the western bank of the holy river Ganga, and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest of Shiva temples. The main deity is known by the names Shri Vishwanath and Vishweshwara (IAST: Vishveshvara or Vishveshvur) literally meaning Lord of the Universe. Varanasi was called Kashi ("shining") in ancient times, and hence the temple is popularly called Kashi Vishwanath Temple.

The temple is considered a central part of worship in the Shaiva culture by Hindu scriptures. It had been demolished by many Muslim rulers many times, most recently by Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal emperor who constructed the Gyanvapi Mosque on its site.[1] The current structure was built on an adjacent site by the Maratha ruler, Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in the year 1780.[2]

Since 1983, the temple has been managed by the government of Uttar Pradesh.


As per the Shiva Purana, once Brahma (the Hindu God of creation) and Vishnu (the Hindu God of Preservation) had an argument about who was supreme.[3] To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. To determine who was mightier Vishnu took the form of a boar and sought out the bottom while Brahma took the form of a swan to fly to the pillar's top. Brahma out of arrogance lied that he had found out the end, offering a katuki flower as witness. Vishnu modestly confessed to being unable to find the bottom. Shiva then took the form of the wrathful Bhairava, cut off Brahma's lying fifth head, and cursed Brahma that he would not be worshipped. Vishnu for his honesty would be worshiped as equal to Shiva with his own temples for all eternity. The jyotirlinga is an ancient axis mundi symbol representing the supreme formless (nirguna) reality at the core of creation, out of which the form (saguna) of Shiva appears. The jyothirlinga shrines, thus are places where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light.[4][5] There are 64 forms of Shiva, not to be confused with Jyotirlingas. Each of the twelve jyotirlinga sites take the name of the presiding deity - each considered different manifestation of Shiva.[6] At all these sites, the primary image is lingam representing the beginningless and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva.[6][7][8] The twelve jyothirlinga are Somnath in Gujarat, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnath in Uttarakhand, Bhimashankar in Maharashtra, Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Triambakeshwar in Maharashtra, Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga, Deogarh in Deoghar, Jharkhand, Nageswar at Dwarka in Gujarat, Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharashtra.[3][9]

The Manikarnika Ghat on the banks of Ganges near to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is considered as a Shakti Peetha, a revered place of worship for the Shaktism sect. The Daksha Yaga, a Shaivite literature is considered as an important literature which is the story about the origin of Shakti Peethas.[10]

Lord Vishweshara is said to be the reigning deity of Banaras, and, in opionion of people, holds the position of King over all the other deities, as well as all over the inhabitants residing not only within the city itself, but also within the circuit of the Panchkosi road (the sacred boundary of Banaras) extending for about 50 miles.[11]


Madhuri Desai notes accounts of the history of the temple to center around a litany of repeated destruction and re-construction.[12] Pilgrims visiting the present Kashi Vishwanath Temple are informed about the timelessness of the lingam.[12]

Ancient and classical period[edit]

The temple is mentioned in the Puranas including the Kashi Khanda (section) of Skanda Purana.

Medieval period and destruction[edit]

The original Vishwanath temple was destroyed by army of Qutb al-Din Aibak in 1194 CE, when he defeated the Raja of Kannauj as a commander of Mohammad Ghori; the Razia Mosque would be constructed in its place, a few years later.[13][14][15] In 1230, the temple was rebuilt by a Gujarati merchant during the reign of Delhi's Sultan Iltutmish (1211–1266 CE). It was demolished again during the rule of either Hussain Shah Sharqi (1447–1458) or Sikandar Lodhi (1489–1517).

Mughal period[edit]

Sketches by James Prinsep[16]
The Gyanvapi Mosque sketched as the Temple of Vishveshwur, Benares.
Plan of the Ancient Temple of Vishveshvur.
The dotted line shows the portion of the temple occupied by the present Masjid.

Raja Man Singh built the temple during Mughal emperor Akbar's rule. Raja Todar Mal further re-built the temple with at its original site in 1585, but orthodox Brahmins chose to boycott the temple, because his daughter was married to Islamic rulers.[14][17] During the rule of Jahangir, Vir Singh Deo either restored or completed the construction of earlier temple.[18] In 1669 CE, Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the temple and its lingam, and built the Gyanvapi Mosque in its place.[19] The remains of the erstwhile temple can be seen in the foundation, the columns and at the rear part of the mosque.[20]

Maratha & British Period[edit]

Elevation of the present temple structure

In 1742, the Maratha ruler Malhar Rao Holkar made a plan to demolish the mosque and reconstruct Vishweshwar temple at the site. However, his plan did not materialize, partially because of intervention by the Nawab of Awadh, who was given the control of the territory.[21]: 2  Around 1750, the Maharaja of Jaipur commissioned a survey of the land around the site, with the objective of purchasing land to rebuild the Kashi Vishwanath temple.[21]: 85  However, his plan to rebuild the temple did not materialize either. In 1780, Malhar Rao's daughter-in-law Ahilyabai Holkar rebuilt the present temple adjacent to the mosque.

IIn 1828, Baiza Bai, widow of the Maratha ruler Daulat Rao Scindhia of Gwalior State, built a low-roofed colonnade with over 40 pillars in the Gyan Vapi precinct.[22] During 1833–1840 CE, the boundary of Gyanvapi Well, the ghats and other nearby temples were constructed. Many noble families from various ancestral kingdoms of the Indian subcontinent and their prior establishments make generous contributions for the operations of the temple.

In 1835, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire, on the behest of his wife, Maharani Datar Kaur, donated 1 tonne of gold for plating the temple's dome. In 1841, Raghuji Bhonsle III of Nagpur donated silver to the temple.[21]: 200 [23] A 7-foot high stone statue of Nandi bull, gifted by the Rana of Nepal sometime in the 1860s, it lies to the east of the colonnade.[citation needed]

The temple was managed by a hereditary group of pandits or mahants. After the death of Mahant Devi Dutt, a dispute arose among his successors. In 1900, his brother-in-law Pandit Visheshwar Dayal Tewari filed a lawsuit, which resulted in him being declared the head priest.[24]

In older times, Dalits or people from lower castes were not allowed to enter the temple. After violent resistance to attempts following the abolition of untouchability by Article 17 of the Indian Constitution, Dalits were allowed to enter the temple in 1957.[25]


The puja of the Maa Shringar Gauri Temple, at the western side of the disputed Gyanvapi Mosque, was restricted after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992 due to the ensuing deadly riots that followed the demolition of the mosque. In August 2021, five Hindu women petitioned a local court at Varanasi to be allowed to pray at the Maa Shringar Gauri Temple.[26]

In 2019, the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor Project was conceived to ease access between the temple and the Ganges River, creating a wider space to prevent overcrowding. Its foundation stone was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The project aims to increase the total area of the temple to around 50,000 square meters. Around 1,400 residents and businesses within the corridor's area were relocated elsewhere and compensated. During the renovation, more than 40 ruined, centuries-old temples were found and rebuilt, including the Gangeshwar Mahadev temple, the Manokameshwar Mahadev temple, the Jauvinayak temple, and the Shri Kumbha Mahadev temple. On 13 December 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the site with a sacred ceremony.[27][28][29]

In February 2022, the sanctum sanctorum of the temple was gold-plated after an anonymous donor from South India donated 60 kg of gold to the temple.[30]

Temple Structure[edit]

The original holy well—Gyanvapi in between the temple and Gyanvapi Mosque

The temple complex consists of a series of smaller shrines, located in a small lane called the Vishwanatha Galli, near the river. The linga of the main deity at the shrine is 60 centimetres (24 in) tall and 90 centimetres (35 in) in circumference housed in a silver altar.[31] The main temple is quadrangle and is surrounded by shrines of other gods. There are small temples for Kala Bhairava, Kartikeya, Avimukteshwara, Vishnu, Ganesha, Shani, Shiva and Parvati in the complex.

There is a small well in the temple called the Jnana Vapi also spelled as Gyan vapi (the wisdom well). The Jnana Vapi well sites to the north of the main temple and during the invasion by the Mughals the Jyotirlinga was hidden in the well to protect it at the time of invasion. It is said that the main priest of the temple jumped in the well with the lingam in order to protect the Jyotirlinga from invaders.

There is a Sabha Griha or Congregation Hall leading to the inner Garbha Griha or Sanctum Sanctorum. The venerable Jyotirlinga is a dark brown colored stone which is enshrined in the Sanctum, placed on a silver platform. Structure of the Mandir is composed of three parts. The first compromises a spire on the temple. The second is gold dome and the third is the gold spire atop the sanctum bearing a flag and a trident.

The Kashi Vishwanath temple receives around 3,000 visitors every day. On certain occasions, the numbers reach 1,000,000 and more. Noteworthy about the temple is 15.5-metre-high gold spire and gold dome. There are three domes each made up of pure gold, donated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1835.

The Shri Kashi Vishwanath Dham corridor was constructed between Kashi Vishwanath Temple and Manikarnika Ghat along the Ganges River, providing various amenities for pilgrims.[32]


Located on the banks of the holy Ganges, Varanasi is regarded among the holiest of the Hindu cities. The Kashi Vishwanath temple is widely recognized as one of the most important places of worship in the Hindu religion. Inside the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the Jyotirlinga of Shiva, Vishveshvara or Vishvanath. The Vishveshvara Jyotirlinga has a very special and unique significance in the spiritual history of India.

Many leading saints, including Adi Sankaracharya, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda, Bamakhyapa, Goswami Tulsidas, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Sathya Sai Baba, Yogiji Maharaj, Pramukh Swami Maharaj, Mahant Swami Maharaj and Gurunanak have visited the site.[33][unreliable source?] A visit to the temple and a bath in the river Ganges is one of many methods believed to lead one on a path to Moksha (liberation). Thus, Hindus from all over the world 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 Tamil Nadu in Southern India, where people take water samples of the Ganges to perform prayer at the temple and bring back sand from near that temple. Because of the immense popularity and holiness of Kashi Vishwanath temple, hundreds of temples across India have been built in the same architectural style. Many legends record that the true devotee achieves freedom from death and saṃsāra by the worship of Shiva, Shiva's devotees on death being directly taken to his abode on Mount Kailash by his messengers and not to Yama. The superiority of Shiva and his victory over his own nature—Shiva is himself identified with death—is also stated. There is a popular belief that Shiva himself blows the mantra of salvation into the ears of people who die naturally at the Vishwanath temple.[34]

It is one of the shrines of the Vaippu Sthalams sung by Tamil Saivite Nayanar Sambandar.[35][36][37]

Cultural Events[edit]

Phalgun Shukla Ekadashi is celebrated as Rangabhari Ekadashi, that is, colors. According to tradition, before Holi, Baba Vishwanath comes back to Kashi after having a cow in the form of mother Bhagwati. The temple complex is echoed by the echo of dozens of Damroos. This tradition has been performed for over 200 years. On Basant Panchami Baba's Tilak is performed, Shivaratri marriage and Rangbhari Ekadashi marks parvati leaving with shiva.[38] These traditions are carried out by the erstwhile Mahant family of the temple for over a century.[39]

These rituals of Baba's marriage ceremony are performed at the residence of Kulpati Tiwari, the erstwhile Mahant of Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Redzone.[40] The seven rituals of Saptarishi Aarti were performed by Baba Vishwanath. According to the Puranas, Kashi is loved by the Saptarishi to the priest, so according to the tradition, the devotees of the Saptarishi Aarti perform the rituals of marriage. The seven archaks under the leadership of Pradhan Archak Pandit Shashibhushan Tripathi (Guddu Maharaj) completed the marriage in Vedic rituals.[41] Mangala Aarti is performed at 3:30 am, Bhog Aarti at 12:00 pm, Saptarishi Aaarti at 7:30 pm and Shringar Aaarti at 11:00 pm.[42]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Akhil Bakshi (2004). Between heaven and hell: travels through Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and India: an account of the expedition hands across the borders. Odyssey Books.
  2. ^ "Shri Kashi Vishwanath Temple - A Brief history".
  3. ^ a b R. 2003, pp. 92-95
  4. ^ Eck 1999, p. 107
  5. ^ See: Gwynne 2008, Section on Char Dham
  6. ^ a b Lochtefeld 2002, pp. 324-325
  7. ^ Harding 1998, pp. 158-158
  8. ^ Vivekananda Vol. 4
  9. ^ Chaturvedi 2006, pp. 58-72
  10. ^ "Kottiyoor Devaswam Temple Administration Portal". kottiyoordevaswom.com/. Kottiyoor Devaswam. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
  11. ^ Matthew Atmore Sherring (1968). The Sacred City of the Hindus An Account of Benares in Ancient and Modern Times (First ed.). London: Trübner & Company.
  12. ^ a b Desai, Madhuri (2017). "INTRODUCTION: THE PARADOX OF BANARAS". Banaras Reconstructed: Architecture and Sacred Space in a Hindu Holy City. University of Washington Press. pp. 3–16. ISBN 978-0-295-74160-4. JSTOR j.ctvcwnwvg.4.
  13. ^ Shin, Heeryoon (May 2015). Building a "Modern" Temple Town: Architecture and Patronage in Banaras, 1750-1900 (Thesis). Yale University. p. 4, 35, 38, 198.
  14. ^ a b Udayakumar, S. P. (2005). "Ramarajya: Envisioning the Future and Entrenching the Past". Presenting the Past: Anxious History and Ancient Future in Hindutva India. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-275-97209-7.
  15. ^ Bakker, Hans (1996). "Construction and Reconstruction of Sacred Space in Vārāṇasī". Numen. 43 (1): 42–43. doi:10.1163/1568527962598368. ISSN 0029-5973. JSTOR 3270235.
  16. ^ James Prinsep (1996). Benares Illustrated in a Series of Drawings. p. 29. ISBN 9788171241767.
  17. ^ S. P. Udayakumar (1 January 2005). Presenting the Past: Anxious History and Ancient Future in Hindutva India. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 99. ISBN 978-0-275-97209-7.
  18. ^ Pauwels, Heidi (23 March 2011). "A tale of two temples: Mathurā's Keśavadeva and Orcchā's Caturbhujadeva". South Asian History and Culture. 2 (2): 278–299. doi:10.1080/19472498.2011.553497. ISSN 1947-2498. S2CID 144492608.
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