Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga is one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is located in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, 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. Varanasi is one of the old and mythological cities like Dwarka which was established by Lord Krishna.
The main deity is known by the name Shri Vishwanath and also by the ancient name of deity Vishweshwara (Vishveshvara literally means Ruler of the Universe). Varanasi city is also called Kashi in ancient times, and hence the temple is popularly called as Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
The Temple has been referred to in Hindu scriptures for a very long time as a central part of worship in the Shaiva Philosophy. It has been destroyed and re-constructed a number of times in history.
The last structure was demolished by Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal emperor who constructed the Gyanvapi Mosque on its site. The current structure was built on an adjacent site by the Maratha ruler, Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780.
Ancientness of Kashi
The city of Kashi is one of the oldest cities in the world which is still alive. The temple has been mentioned in Mahabharata and Ramayana and the Puranas including the Kashi Khanda section of Skanda Purana.
There are about 18 Puranas and out of 18 Puranas 6 are related to Shiva. Skanda Purana, which is the largest Purana is dedicated to Shiva and has stories of Kartikay, son of Shiva. In this Purana, the fourth chapter is called Kashi Khanda. This provides an in-detail description of the city of Varanasi and the legends, rituals, and greatness that is associated with Varanasi.
The Origin of Kashi
Sage Agastya asked Lord Kartikeya how the sacred place, Kashi came into existence. He also asked how Kashi became famous as a place capable of giving salvation to a man.
Lord Kartikeya revealed to Agastya that once Parvati had asked Lord Shiva the same question. Lord Shiva had told her, At the time of the catastrophic event a deluge when everything had submerged in the ocean and darkness prevailed everywhere, only BRAHMA the embodiment of truth existed at that time and nothing else.
He is the absolute truth, the ultimate knowledge, the infinite, the omnipresent and the eternal bliss. Though basically formless he attained a form on account of his own wish. That form is none other than me. Later on, I created Prakriti from my body.
All three of us (Shiva, Parvati, and Kashi) manifested simultaneously by the grace of ‘Aadi Purush’ (The Almighty God).
Below temples were converted to Mosque in the past
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Lord Kartikeya Describes the Majesty of Kashi
Sage Agastya and his wife Lopamudra circumambulated Sri Shail Mountain and climbed up Lohit mountain where they found Lord Kartikeya.
Both of them praised Kartikeya by singing Vedic hymns in his praise. Lord Kartikeya was extremely pleased by their devotion and said, O respected sage! You can understand Kashi’s importance by the fact that, though I am capable of reaching any place according to my wish but still, here I am doing this austere penance for the attainment of Kashi.
I must confess that I have not been successful in my efforts till date. If anybody thinks that he can attain Kashi just by performing austerities than he is totally wrong.
Kashi can never be attained until and unless one has the blessing of Lord Mahadeva. And one who is fortunate enough to have reached Kashi must under no circumstances leave it till he is alive. O Agastya! You are blessed because you had the good fortune of residing at Kashi.
Why It become Shiva favorite place
How it became Shiv’s favorite seat also has an interesting legend. Once Shiva and Paravati happened to visit Lord Brahma’s realm. As the eternal couple entered the realm, Brahma began to hymn his glories from all the five mouths.
But one of the mouths committed a mistake in mightily pronouncing a word. This angered Shiv severed one of his faces with a gaze of his third eye.
The offending head, though, was severed, it didn’t fall on the ground and got stuck up on Shiv’s back. The reason was that even though Brahma lost his one head, it amounted to committing the crime of slaying a Brahmana-hatya, which is believed to be the most heinous sin by the Hindu jurispendence.
Hence Shiv had to atone for it. Shiv himself was helpless since the hacked-off head of Brahma would not come off no matter where he went. This way he kept moving all over the world but that stigma of a ‘Brahma-hatya’ would not leave him.
Eventually, he happened to come to Kashi. And lo and behold, that severed head of Brahma automatically fell away from Shiv’s back. Shiv was delighted to have come to this so holy a place where one even gets absolved of the consequence of committing the most heinous crime.
So he decided to remain here. It is due to his grace that Kashi is not destroyed even during the Pralaya (Final Dissolutions) because during that period Shiv provides it the support of his trident.
When the effect of dissolution subsides he replaces the city at its appointed place. Hence Varanasi is believed to be the holiest place in the world. Lord Shiva is ever-present here and any prayer to him gets its earliest response only in this hallowed city.
Chronology of Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga
The original Vishwanath temple was destroyed by the army of Qutb-ud-din Aibak in 1194 CE. Possibly at the same time, he demolished the Saraswati temple in Ajmer and converted to the mosque.
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).
Raja Man Singh built the temple during Mughal emperor Akbar’s rule, but some Hindus boycotted it as he had let the Mughals marry within his family.
In 1669 CE, Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the temple and built the Gyanvapi Mosque in its place. The remains of the erstwhile temple can be seen in the foundation, the columns and at the rear part of the mosque.
In 1780, Malhar Rao’s daughter-in-law Ahilyabai Holkar constructed the present temple adjacent to the mosque.
In 1835, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Sikh Empire donated 1 tonne of gold for plating the temple’s dome
Structure of Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga
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 centimeters (24 in) tall and 90 centimeters (35 in) in circumference housed in a silver altar.
The main temple is quadrangle and is surrounded by shrines of other gods. There are small temples for Kaalbhairav, Dhandapani, Avimukteshwara, Vishnu, Vinayaka, Sanishwara, Virupaksha and Virupaksh Gauri in the complex.
There is a small well in the temple called as Gyan Vapi (the wisdom well). During the invasion by the Mughals, the Jyotirlinga was hidden in the well to protect it at the time of the invasion. It is said that the main priest of the temple jumped in the well with the Shiv Ling in order to protect the Jyotirlinga from invaders.
Evidence of Temple Artifacts
Vishweshwara, which stood to the north-west of the present structure, and was demolished by the Emperor Aurungzeb in the seventeenth century. Extensive remains of this ancient temple are still visible. They form a large portion of the western wall of the mosque.
Judging from the proportions of these ruins, it is manifest that the former temple of Bisheswar must have been both loftier and more capacious than the existing structure; and the courtyard is four or five times more spacious than the entire area occupied by the modern temple.
There is really nothing in this temple of an ancient character; but, on the eastern side of the enclosure, the ground becomes considerably elevated, and upon it stands a mosque built of very old materials.
The pillars of which date as far back as the Gupta period (At least 3 century AD), and possibly earlier. Maybe these old stones and pillars are remains of the original Vishweshwara?
Is the Linga in Temple Orignal One?
As Kashi Vishwanath temple demolished and constructed multiple times and finally built adjacent to the mosque, so the question is the lingam in the current temple is the same which were installed in the original temple?
According to some scholars, the original Jyotirling was kept back in Gyan Byapi well during the attack by Mugal emperor Aurangzeb but later it was lifted and set up by a common devotee. Being ordered by Lord Shiva himself, Queen Ahilyabai Holkar, rebuilt Viswanath temple. But she did not ( maybe could not) uproot the Jyotirling and that’s why the Shivling is not directly under the center of the main dome.
The problem is unsolvable today. But whatever be the conclusion, Lord Viswanath was present before time and will be present in the future.
Currently, the Archeological Survey of India is performing a detailed survey of this temple to extract the history of the temple. On this UP Sunni Waqf Board filed a petition to put a stay on the ASI survey. The Muslim side demanded that the stay on the ASI survey of Kashi Vishwanath in the case be maintained, but the court has rejected their demand.
Recently in India Supreme court has given Ayodhya temple judgment in the favor of the Hindu community. It was not proved by law only, it was proved by archeological evidence as well that Ayodhya temple is a Hindu temple.
It is very unfortunate to know that many ancient temples of Hindus were demolished and converted into mosques, be it the temple of Ayodhya, the Saraswati temple of Ajmer or the Krishna Janmabhoomi. All this could possible because we shared the unity that Sanatan Dharma had given us among castes and varnas. Unity is integrity, we have forgotten it and we failed to create unity, which foreign invaders took full advantage. Now, this is our responsibility as well as answerability for the coming generations that we become united again under the Sanatan Dharm by forgetting our caste, only then we can take our civilization to the next generations.
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