The most famous Hindu temple of India; dedicated to Lord Shiva.
According to the legend, the Viswanath temple at Kasi has a cosmic origin. Lord Brahma created a wonderful city called ‘panchakosi’ by his divine will. He also created a special world around this cosmic world.
Later, during the ‘Pralay’ (the final destruction of the world by flood), Lord Shiva protected this world by keeping it on his trident. After the Pralay was over, Lord Shiva took this world out of his trident; put that cosmic world on the earth. This is the land now we call Kasi or Varanasi.
Though the legend is beyond human imagination (as is always!) the modern history of the temple begins with the medieval period.
The temple witnessed repeated attacks from the Muslim rulers of North India. Sultan Muhammed of Ghori attacked the temple in 1194 AD followed by Firoz Shah Tughlaq in 1351 AD. Finally, the Mughal ruler Aurangazeb vandalized it in 1669 AD.
Aurangazeb demolished the original temple; constructed a mosque called Gyanvapi mosque on the original site. To save the original Jyotirlinga from being destructed, the then chief priest of the temple jumped on a nearby well together with the Shiv Linga. The mosque and this well can be seen near the present temple.
The present Jyotirlinga temple is built by Smt. Ahaliya Bhai Holakar of Indore. The temple spire and the dome is said to have plated with 1000 kilograms of gold by Maharaja Ranjith Singh of Punjab in 1835 AD.
The holy city of Kasi or Varanasi lies on the banks of river Ganga. The presence of Ganga at Kasi makes it doubly auspicious. A dip in Ganga at Kasi is believed to condone all sins of a devote Hindu.
This river has an envious place in Hinduism. The holy river has many ghats in Kasi, of which the Manikarnika ghat (associated with Lord Vishnu) and Dasaswamedha Ghat (where cremation takes place) is popular.
The word ‘Kas’ means light. Thus, Kasi is said to mean the place where the supreme light is present forever.
Varanasi lies between two rivers Varuna and Asi. So the city is also known as Varanasi. Banaras is the name given by the British rulers.
Varanasi is a major city connected by road, rail and air to the other parts of the country.
Varanasi is 300 kilometers from Lucknow- the state capital. Allahabad is the nearest major city which is 125 kilometers away.