Kashi Vishwanath Temple is where Lord Shiva rules the universe with an 800 kg gold-plated tower. If you’re planning on visiting this holy site in Varanasi, there are a few things you should know.
Firstly, leave your cameras, mobile phones, and electronic devices at home. You’ll need to deposit them in lockers outside the temple, so don’t forget your locker key! Foreigners can enter from Gate number 2 and bypass the long lines of Indians waiting for their turn. But beware, only Hindus are allowed to enter the wisdom well called Jnana Vapi.
In ancient times, the king of Kashi had a VIP pass for special festivals like Shivaratri. During his prayers, nobody else was allowed to enter the temple premises. Nowadays, everyone is welcome, as long as they’re wearing the appropriate attire. Devotees must wear Dhoti-Kurti (for men) and Saree (for women) if they want to perform sparsh darshan (entering inside the temple sanctum). But don’t worry, if you’re dressed in western wear, you can still worship the deity outside the sanctum.
The temple is composed of smaller shrines and is located in a small lane called the Vishwanatha Galli near the river. You’ll find the main temple constructed in the form of a quadrangle, surrounded by shrines dedicated to other deities. These temples are dedicated to Kaalbhairav, Dhandapani, Avimukteshwara, Vishnu, Vinayaka, Sanishwara, Virupaksha and Virupaksh Gauri. The main Shivalinga of the temple is 60 cm tall and 90 cm in circumference, enshrined in a silver altar. And don’t forget to check out the gold dome and spire atop the Vishwanath, carrying a flag and a trident.
This temple has seen it all – complete annihilation and rebuilding many times over the course of history. It was destroyed in 1194 by Qutb-ud-din Aibak’s army, rebuilt during the rule of Delhi’s Iltutmish, and demolished again during Sikander Lodhi’s time. Raja Man Singh rebuilt the temple during Mughal Emperor Akbar’s rule. In 1669 CE, Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the temple and built the Gyanvapi Mosque in its place. But the Golden Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was finally rebuilt in 1780 by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, the Maratha monarch. Since 28 January 1983, the temple has become the property of the Uttar Pradesh government and managed by Kashi Naresh.
When you’re on your way to the temple, take a stroll through the Kashi Vishwanath Gali, famous for its shops selling pooja items and sweets. Ladies, there’s a popular corner in the street where you can shop for Banarasi sarees, dresses, devotional articles, and jewelry. The roadside kiosks sell snacks for those untimely hunger pangs. After completing your darshan of Lord Shiva, head to the shops for some affordable shopping.
A visit to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and dip in the holy Ganges is the ultimate way to attain liberation or ‘Moksha.’ No wonder it’s one of the most revered temples of Varanasi, thronged by devotees throughout the year.