Kashi Vishwanath temple is the holiest existing temple for the Hindus. It is one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located in Varanasi (earlier Banaras), Uttar Pradesh, India. Every Hindu is expected to go there at least once in his/her lifetime to pay homage to this ancient shrine. The remains (ashes) of the cremated ancestors are poured here on the River Ganges as a means to help them attain salvation. The temple is built on the western bank of the Ganges and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas-the twelve most holy Shiva temples. It is said that a visit to the temple and a bath in the Ganges is all it takes to lead a Hindu to the path of liberty. Displaying a gesture of impeccable harmony, the Kashi Vishwanath temple coexists with a mosque in the same area. During religious occasions like Shivratri (Night of Lord Shiva), Kashi Naresh (King of Kashi) is the chief functioning priest and no other person or priest is allowed to enter the temple till he performs his religious functions. This temple town claims to be the oldest living city in the world, with 3500 years of documented history, and is called Kashi in almost all ancient scriptures. Hence, the name-Kashi Vishwanath Temple!
The temple has been rebuilt several times. The original temple 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 Maharani Ahilya Bai of Indore in the year 1776 and the gold plating on the towers of the temple was provided by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Indore. To the side of the temple is Gyan-Kupor (The Well of Knowledge). It is believed that the Shiva Lingam removed from the original temple was hidden in this well to protect it from Aurangzeb and it still lies there. Such is the secular state of the temple that even non-Hindus are not stopped from entering and paying homage to this ancient shrine.
The iconographic form of Lord Shiva, the Lingam, represents the unity of the three states of the universe viz., Srishti (Evolution), Stithi (Existence) and Samhara (Involution) which work in a cyclic process of infinity. All these states are controlled by the Trinity which comprises of Brahma-The Creator, Vishnu-The Preserver and Shiva-The Destroyer. Shiva being the last one to complete the cycle from where the new cysle starts is also called Mahadeo (or Mahadev) which means the Supreme Divinity. It is said that Kashi Vishwanath has the mantra to salvation and those who live in Kashi get Aarth (meaning of life), Dharma (lawfulness), Karma (ability to act freely) and moksha (salvation).
The place itself is a major attraction to the visitors and the devotees. The temple has one of the most intense Aartis (Hymns) and Shlokas (verses) chanted almost 24x7 which adds to the divinity of the entire atmosphere. The temple complex consists of a series of smaller shrines, located in a small lane called the Vishwanatha Gali, near the river. The temple has a 15.5 meters high spire plated with 1000 kg of gold. The dome is a major attraction of this temple with carved sculptures on it. The idols and the scriptures around are made of silver with the carvings of Hindu deities. Aurangzeb had ordered the temple's demolition in 1669 and constructed Gyanvapi Mosque, which still exists alongside the temple. The best time to visit Kashi Vishwanath temple is during the festival season of Lord Shiva. Mahashivratri, Rangbhari (Aamlaki) Ekadashi, Annakoot , Shrawan Maah, Makar Shakranti, etc are the most auspicious festivals for the devotees of Shiva. During these festivities, Shiva is decorated beautifully.
How To Reach
Indian Airlines has a flight to Babatpur airport which is 22 km from Varanasi and 30 km from Sarnath. There is a direct daily flight connecting Varanasi and New Delhi. It also connects Varanasi to Agra, Khajuraho, Calcutta, Mumbai, Lucknow and Bhuvaneshwar.
Varanasi is a major rail junction. The city is served by trains from all metros and major cities across the country. Be it New Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Chennai, Gwalior, Meerut, Indore, Guwahati, Allahbad, Lucknow and/or Dehradun, this city has direct rail connections to all major cities.
Varanasi is also well-connected by national highways with all major cities. There are private and public buses to reach the temple. Taxies can also be hired to reach to the city.
Due to the gold plated spire on the top, the temple is sometimes called as 'Golden temple', just like the golden temple in Amritsar. There is also a tradition that one should give up at least one desire after a pilgrimage to the temple, and the pilgrimage also includes a visit to the temple at Rameswaram in South India where people take the water samples of the Ganges to perform prayer at the temple and bring back the sand from near that temple.