Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Places to visit at Varanasi - Temples

Kashi Vishwanath Temple : The Hindus consider him the greatest of the gods. A few steps south of Dashaswamedh Ghat take you to the lane on your right—and you are in Vishwanath Gali. The lane runs along Godawlia. The narrow lane is an abode of various Hindu gods and goddesses. The lane is also chock-a-block with shops with myriad merchandise. The main temple ahead has the black-stone deity of Vishwcswar in it Rituals are performed all day long—arati at the break of dawn 3 am, the evening arati at 7-30 pm, the donning of royal robe at 9 pm and finally the deity goes to sleep in a silver bed. Special tickets for observing all this are available at nominal cost.

The temple has been razed time and again during 11th—17th century. It has also been repeatedly renovated. It was renovated by Todarmal, the revenue minister of Akbar, in 1585 and it was again destroyed. Benimadha v Rao Scindia got it renovated again in the early 17th century. Aurangzeb destroyed it and built Alamgir Mosque on the ruins. The Mosque has 71 meter high minaret for performing aajan. The old temple was behind the Mosque and north-west of today's temple. Even the ruins of the old temple were washed away in the devastating flood of 1948. A detour across the main road takes you to the site. The base and the rear part of the mosque still now offer you a view of the old architecture. Razia Mosque too was built up on the ruins in the 13th century.

Hiu-en-Tsang's chronicle tells us that the copper-color idol in the old days was 100 arms high. The present temple was built on the ruins of the old one by Ahalyabai Holkar, the queen of Indore, in 1777, and Punjab Keshri Ranjit Singh, in 1839. They covered its pinnacles with 820 kg of gold. The main crest gilt and 51 ft high and is surrounded by the small ones. The big ornate bell came as a gift from the King of Nepal. And in the lane, left of the temple, the Nahbatkhana was built by Warren Hastings.

Gyan Bhapi, the well of knowledge is a bit north, between the temple and the mosque. The legend is, this well was dug out by a fierce Ishan with his trident. He had bathed Vishwanath in one thousand pitchers of water that came from the well. A second opinion says that Mukunda Brahmachari came to Kashi and hit a blow in the earth to get the holy water for worshipping Vishwanath. Gnyan Bhapi was a secret shelter for Vishwanath when Kalapahar or Kalachand Roy with 41 conservative Brahmin converted into Islam, arrived here to destroy the temple.

Some believe, people used to commit suicide in the water for emancipation. The temple of Gyan Bhapi was built by Baijabai, the queen of Gwalior in 1830.

Annapurna Temple, built by Peshoa Baji rao I in 1725, is in the same lane, opposite Vishwanath Temple. The spectacular Annakuta festival takes place on the first lunar day of the bright fortnight in the month of Kartick. The golden idol of the goddess is open to public viewing during the festival.

Other temples of Varanasi:
There are more than 1000 temples in Varanasi. Here are few important ones.

Durga Temple, 8 km south at Asi, was built by Rani Bhabani of Bengal in the 18th century. This temple has a Nagara architecture and has a saffron idol of goddess Durga in it. The five crests of the temple signify the five basic elements converging in Brahma. The temple is also known as the Monkey Temple for a huge crowd of monkeys in the campus. People come for a holy dip in the pond of the temple.

Tulsi Manas Temple, built in 1964 in the memory of Tulsidas, the creator of Ramcharit Manas, is another attraction. The temple has three main deities— Ram, Lakshman and Sita. They are flanked by Lakshmi. Narayan, Annapurna and Vishwanath. Tulsidas lived in this place and this is where he wrote his great epic Ramcharit Manas. He died here in 1623. The Hindi couplets of Ramayana in eight volumes have been inscribed on white marble. Puppet shows of Ramayana are held on the first floor. Tulsi ghat, the exact location where Tulsidas believed to have composed his epic, is nearby. The temple is open to all during 5 am to 12 pm and 3 pm to 12 am.

Bharatmata Temple, at Vidyapith Road south of Cantonment Station, was built by Siba Prasad Gupta and Durgaprasad Kshetri. The temple has its own unique charm. It was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936. A relief map of India, instead of gods, is carved on the white marble wall.

The Town Hall near Kotwali Police Station was built in 1845. Nearby is Vairabnath Temple or the abode of Kalavairab, built in 1825 by Bajirao II. Close to it are Dandapani Temple and Kamrup. The common belief is, those who cannot see the shadows of their faces in the water of the well are destined to die an untimely death. There are other idols—Ganesha, Annapurna, Sukreswara, Shanaishchara. People believe that one has to report about one's return journey at Ganesh Temple. The same ritual is practiced before Sakshi Gopala at Puri. The Temple of Sankatmochan is near the Venaras Hindu University. Hanuman Temple also is quite close to it.

Other articles on Varanasi
Varanasi – A must visit place in India
Transport, Tours and Travel agents of Varanasi
Hotels and other accommodation at Varanasi
Choice of Food in Varanasi
Places to visit at Varanasi - Temples
Places to visit at Varanasi - Ghats
Shopping and other attractions of Varanasi

This article is originally published in Travel India and India Study Channel

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