By Swami Harshananda
Kāśī or Vārāṇasī in the State of Uttar Pradesh is the most ancient city of the world. Its presiding deity is Viśvanātha in the form of a liṅga. This is one of the twelve jyotirlingas, manifestation of God in the form of a pillar of fire, as mentioned in the purāṇas.
History of Viśvanātha Temple
The ancient temple of Viśvanātha has been demolished several times by the Muslim fanatics and rebuilt by the devotees. The present temple is the one built by Ahalyābāi Holkar, the queen of Indore, in A. D. 1777. There is reason to believe that the original liṅga which had been thrown into the Jñānavāpī or Gyānvāpī well nearby was surreptitiously recovered, quietly preserved and later installed in this temple. It was ceremonially reconsecrated.
Outlook of Viśvanātha Temple
The temple is a stone structure situated in a quadrangle covered with a roof. Two towers and a dome in between them rise above the roof. The first tower is above the Daṇḍapāṇīśvara shrine and the second over the sanctum of Viśvanātha. On the last is a pole bearing a flag and a trident. The temple has been built on a piece of land which is 9 meters square. The sanctum is about 2.6 meters (8.5 feet) square. The total height of the tower from the ground is 15 meters.
Interior of Viśvanātha Temple
There are beautiful carvings of different designs. The temple is kept open from 3 a.m. to 11 p.m. during which five āratis are done.
Auspicious Days of Viśvanātha Temple
Three days are considered extremely sacred in this temple for special decoration to the Lord Viśvanātha. They are:
- Kārttikaśukla-p0ratipad - It is the first day of bright fortnight of Kārttika, in October/ November.
- Mahāśivarātri - It is in the Māgha-kṛṣṇa- caturdaśi in February/March.
- Phālguna- śukla-ekādaśi - It is in February/March.
Even today, the temple is extremely popular and is daily visited by thousands of devotees throughout the year.
- Viśvanātha means ‘Lord of the universe’.
- Jyotirlingas are the ‘lingas of light’.
- It is the ‘well of enlightenment’.
- It is approximately 30 feet.
- It is approximately 51 feet.
- Āratis are the ceremonial waving of lights.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore