Kashi – History

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Kashi Vishwanatha – Jyotirlinga

History

The temple has been mentioned in the Puranas including the Kashi Khanda (section) of Skanda Purana.

  • 1194 CE – The original Vishwanath temple was destroyed.
  • 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.
  • 1585 – Raja Todar Mal further re-built the temple with Akbar’s funding at its original site.
  • 1669, 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.
  • 1780 – The Temple in the present shape was built by Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore.
  • 1785 – Naubatkhana was built up in front of the Temple by the then Collector Mohd. Ibrahim Khan at the instance of Governor General Warren Hastings.
  • 1828, Baija Bai, widow of the Maratha ruler Daulat Rao Scindhia of Gwalior State, built a low-roofed colonnade with over 40 pillars in the Gyan Vapi precinct.
  • 1833-1840, the boundary of Gyanvapi Well, the ghats and other nearby temples were constructed. Many noble families from various ancestral kingdoms of India and their prior establishments make generous contributions for the operations of the temple.
  • 1839, Two domes of the Temple were covered by gold donated by Punjab Kesari Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. Third dome still remains uncovered, Ministry of culture & Religious affairs of U.P. Govt. is taking keen interest for gold plating of third dome of Temple.
  • 1841, the Bhosales of Nagpur donated silver to the temple.
  • 1859, Maharaja Ranjit Singh donated gold for plating the temple’s dome.

Legend

As per Shiva Purana, once Brahma (the Hindu God of creation) and Vishnu (the Hindu God of Harmony) had an argument in terms of supremacy of creation. To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the Jyotirlinga. Vishnu and Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either directions. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat. Shiva appeared as a second pillar of light and cursed Brahma that he would have no place in ceremonies while Vishnu would be worshiped till the end of eternity. The Jyotirlinga is the supreme partless reality, out of which Shiva partly appears. The Jyothirlinga shrines, thus are places where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light. There are 64 forms of Shiva, not to be confused with Jyotirlingas. Each of the twelve Jyothirlinga sites take the name of the presiding deity – each considered different manifestation of Shiva. At all these sites, the primary image is lingam representing the beginningless and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva.

The Manikarnika Ghat on the banks of Ganges near to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple is considered as a Shakti Peetha, a revered place of worship for the Shaktism sect. The mythology of Daksha Yaga, a Shaivite literature is considered as an important literature which is the story about the origin of Shakti Peethas. It is said that Shiva came to the Kashi Vishwanath Shrine through Manikarnika after the death of Sati Devi.

The temple structure

The original holy well—Gyanvapi in between the temple and Gyanvapi Mosque

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 cm tall and 90 cm 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 the Jnana Vapi also spelled as Gyaan vapi (the wisdom well). The Jnana Vapi well sites to the north of the main temple and it is believed that the Jytorlinga was hidden in the well to protect it at the time of 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.

According to the structure of the temple, there is a sabha gurh or congregation hall leading to the inner garbha, gurh or sanctum. The venerable linga is made up of black colored stone, and is enshrined in the sanctum, placed on a silver platform. Structure of the temple is composed of three parts. The first compromises a spire on the temple of Lord Vishwanath or Mahadeva. The second is gold dome and the third is the gold spire atop the Vishwanath carrying a flag and a trident.

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