Shiv will release you from the cycle of birth and death. Our love for him will lead us unto Moksh is the eternal and only truth for billions of his Hindu devotees across the globe. Kashi was always his favorite destination and he had a special fondness for it, according to the Purans. If you die in Varanasi you become a candidate for salvation automatically. It is one of the oldest cities in the world and was also known as Shiv Ki Nagri in olden times. The Kashi Vishwanath temple is one of the holiest sites for the Hindus. Despite a very vivid history and confrontation with extreme situations it stands tall and proud as one of the most revered spiritual locations and an architectural marvel in itself. Let’s take a look at certain facts that most common people aren’t aware of.
The city has been mentioned time and again in the Upanishads, Brahmanas and the Puranas. Kashi has been derived from the word KAS, which literally means to shine. There are records to prove that the temple was founded in 1490. Kashi has seen the rule of many kings both famous and not so famous. Few of us know that it was also ruled by Buddhists for some time. The city on the banks of Ganges has seen its share of slaughter and destruction. The temples were plundered time and again by the Mughals. The original temples were re-built, then destroyed and re-built. The city has a resilience that could survive all attacks and get back to running again.
The Kashi Vishwanath temple was last rebuilt and restored to its glory by the Queen of Indore, Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar. She took the initiative to restore the temple and also provided the funds for it. Aurangzeb had destroyed the temple and built a mosque in its place. Even today the remains of the temple are visible on the western wall of the mosque in the form of excellent and complicated artistic work. There is a legend that Shiva appeared in her dream and she took upon herself to start the renovation work in the 18th century.
After the Queen of Indore re-built the temple, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Indore donated almost a ton of gold to ensure that the towers of the Kashi Vishwanath temple are gold plated. The towers are almost 15.5 meters in height and a sight seen to be believed. The temple has an inner sanctum that comprises of a linga made up of black stone placed in a silver altar, on the floor. There are three shrines in a row on the south. Around the temple there is a cluster of five lings, when combined known as Nilakantheshvar temple.
It is believed that when the earth was created the first ray of light fell on Kashi. There are legends that believe that Shiva had actually stayed here for some time. Shiva is supposed to the guardian of the city and its people. It is said that in Kashi even the nine planets cannot do their own free will and have to abide by Shiv. Shani was supposed to have come to Kashi in search of Shiv and could not enter the temple for 7 and half years. When you visit Kashi you will see the temple for Shanidev outside the Vishwanath temple.
It is said the when news reached of Aurangzebs plans to destroy the temple, the idol of Shiva was hidden in a well to protect it from the destruction. The well still stands there between the mosque and the temple. Be sure to see it next time you go to pray at this majestic site.
Kashi has been infamous for its Pandas and priests since the temple came into existence. Each one of us who visited the city has a tale to share about the pushing, the over charged fees and bullying, ironically to see the Almighty. There is good news the temple has its own website now with all its details. You can book a token for yourself and avoid standing in the long lines. If you live abroad you can be lucky to have a tete-a-tete with your God live from the website. There is also provision to get pooja done on your name and be assured that the Prasad will reach you by post.