Kashi Vishwanath Temple Uttar Pradesh

Varanasi, or Banaras, (also known as Kashi) is one of the oldest living cities in the world. Varanasi is so old that it is a part of Indian mythology and finds mention in the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Through the ages Varanasi was also known variously as "Avimuktaka", "Anandakanana", "Mahasmasana", "Surandhana", "Brahma Vardha", "Sudarsana", "Ramya" and "Kasi" or Kashi - 'the City of Light". The oldest living city in the world, Varanasi is the ultimate destination of all Hindu pilgrims searching for moksha from the cycle of birth and re-birth. The word ‘Kashi’ originated from the word ‘Kas’ which means to shine. Stepped in tradition and mythological legacy, Kashi is the ‘original ground’ created by Lord Shiva and Parvati, upon which they stood at the beginning of time.Varanasi is said to be the point at which the first jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light by which Shiva manifested his supremacy over other Gods, broke through the earth's crust and flared towards the heavens. More than the Ghats and even the Ganga, the Shivalinga installed in the temple remains the devotional focus of Varansi. It is open only to Hindus.

Situated amidst the crowded lanes of Varanasi, the temple of Vishwanatha can be approached from a lane called Vishwanatha lane. Inside the courtyard is the temple of Vishwanatha surrounded by many subsidiary shrines. 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 Vishwanatha. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple, also known as Golden Temple is the most sacred and main temple of Varanasi and it is dedicated to Lord Shiva or Vishveswara (Vishwanath), the presiding deity of the city. It is more popular due to the Gold plating done on its 15.5 meter high spire. One ton of gold donated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh has been used in the gold plating of the spire. The original temple was located across the road, but it was destroyed by Aurangzeb who built a mosque in its place, but the traces of the old temple can be seen behind the mosque.. The present temple was built by Ahalya Bai of Indore in 1776.This mosque has minarets towering 71 metres above the Ganges. Now the new Vishwanath Temple situated in the premises of Banaras Hindu University, it is managed by the reputed industrialists - the Birla family.

About the Deity
Situated amidst the crowded lanes of Varanasi, the temple of Vishwanatha can be approached from a lane called Vishwanatha lane. Inside the courtyard is the temple of Vishwanatha surrounded by many subsidiary shrines. There is a well, called Jnana Vapi i.e. wisdom well located to the north of the main temple. As one enters the temple from the southern side the first temple to the left of the pilgrim are three temples in a row one behind the other, Vishnu, Virupakshi Gauri and Avimukta Vinayaka. A cluster of five lingas enclosed in a temple is called Nilakantheshvar temple. Just above the Avimukteshvara Vinayaka are temples of Shanishchara and Virupaksha. To the right just near the entrance is the temple enshrining a linga called Avimukteshvara. There is a controversy regarding the original Jyotirlinga at the place, which suggests that not the Vishwanatha but the Avimukteshvara is the original Jyotirlinga.

Varanasi Kashi Vishwanath Temple

The Golden Temple or Kashi Vishwanath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was built by Ahalya Bai of Indore in 1776 and 800 kg of gold plating on the towers were provided by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Lahore. The Shivlinga in the temple is the main devotional focus of the city. Next to the Temple is a Well known as the Gyan Kapur Kuan (well of knowledge). This temple was renovated by Maharani Khaneti ,wife of Sudarshan Shah in 1857.The temple has a Shivling (60 cm. high and 90 Cm. Circumference).People from all over India do also visit the Vishvanath temple during their visits to Uttarkashi, Gangotri and Yamunotri. The Vishwanatha temple consists of a mandapa and a sanctum. Inside the sanctum a linga is set into the center of the floor in a square silver altar. The Linga is of black stone. Though the interior of the temple is not large and elaborate it presents the peaceful atmosphere ideal for worship.

The Vishvanath temple was, however, destroyed by the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb who built the Gaynvapi Mosque using columns from the original temple razed by Aurangzeb. Even today the western wall of the mosque show the minarets towering 71 metres above the Ganges of a temple which had very intricate and fine artwork on it. Both the Kashi Vishwanath and the Gyanvapi mosque are adjacent to each other. 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 embodinent 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 snd 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 wll as global levels.

On January 28, 1983 the Temple was taken over by the Govt. of Uttar Pradesh and it's management eversince 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 Naubatkhan was built up infront of the Temple by the then collector Mohd. Ibrahim Khan at the instance of Governor General Warren Hastings. Two domes of the Temple were covered by 800kg of gold ,plating on the towers ,donated by Punjab Kesari Maharaja Ranjeet Singhsome 50 years later. Third dome but was remained uncovered, Ministry of cultures & Religious affairs of U.P. Govt. took keen interest for gold plating of third dome of Temple. The five Aaratis of Mahadev is very famous. At this time Shiva is decorated with leaves shaded under huge cobra. Thousands of people come in this time to visit the decorated Vishwanath.Kashi Vishwanath Shiva Lingam in Golden Temple, which has seen many of its destructions is the symbol of mysterious cosmos, which attracts many thousands hindus to offer Ganges-water daily. It is the belief of the people of Banaras is that Baba Vishwanath is responsible for the happiness and sadness of the lives of the people of Banaras.

Legend maintains that Lord Shiva manifested himself in the from of a lingam at 12 holy cities in India, Varanasi being one of them.These lingams we known as JYOTIRLINGAMS. To the side of the temple is Gyan-Kupor('The well of Knowledge'). The Jyotirlingam of the original Vishwanath Temple, is believed to be hidden in the well by his devotees to protect it from the early Muslim invaders.

About the Puja -Archana:
The pilgrims visit the temple any time of the day and worship the Lord by offering flowers and bilva leaves and chanting mantras of Shiva. Daily five times the Aarati is performed. The evening Aarati is known as Shringar Aarati. During this Aarati the linga is decorated with variety of flowers. The temple is kept open from 5.30 in the morning and stays so till 12 in the noon. The temple usually remains closed during the noon hours, and reopens in the evening at 4 p.m. The temple closes in the night after the last pujas are performed by 8p.m. The Temple closes at 11p.m. Most of the prasad,milk,clothes and other such offerings are given to the poors.

Places to see
The Ghats
Pilgrims flock the ghats to have a ritual bath and perform puja to the rising sun. The Dasashvamedh ghat offers a magnificent view of the riverfront. Other special ghats are the Asi, Barnasangam, Panchganga and Manikarnika.

Tulsi Manas Mandi
7 km from the railway station, it is a temple dedicated to Lord Rama. Believed to be situated where saint-poet Tulsi Das lived and wrote the epic Ram Charit Manas. An exquisite structure of white marble, it has the text of Ram Charit Manas engraved on its walls.

Durga Temple
7 km from railway station, is one of the important temples dedicated to Goddess Durga. Constructed in the 18th century in the Nagara style of architecture, it has five shikharas (spires), which start from the bottom and converge on the top. Locally known as 'Monkey temple' because of the large number of monkeys inhabiting the place.

Gyanvapi Mosque
Gyanvapi Mosque was built by Emperor Aurangzeb adjacent to the Vishwanath temple.

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