Kashi Vishwanath Temple

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Kashi Vishwanath temple.jpg
Temple Of Vishveshwur Benares by James Prinsep 1834.jpg

Kashi Vishvanath Temple is one of the most famous Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is located in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. The temple stands on the western bank of the holy river Ganga, and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest of Shiva temples. The main deity is known by the name Vishvanatha or Vishveshvara meaning Ruler of The Universe. Varanasi city is also called Kashi, and hence the temple is popularly called Kashi Vishvanath Temple. The temple has been referred to in Hindu scriptures for a very long time as a central part of worship in the Shaiva philosophy. It has been destroyed and re-constructed a number of times in history. The last structure was demolished by Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal emperor who constructed the Gyanvapi Mosque on its site. The current structure was built on an adjacent site by the Maratha ruler, Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780.


  • Aurangzeb cared nothing for art, destroyed its "heathen" monuments with coarse bigotry, and fought, through a reign of half a century, to eradicate from India almost all religions but his own. He issued orders to the provincial governors, and to his other subordinates, to raze to the ground all the temples of either Hindus or Christians, to smash every idol, and to close every Hindu school. In one year ( 1679-80) sixty-six temples were broken to pieces in Amber alone, sixty-three at Chitor, one hundred and twenty-three at Udaipur; and over the site of a Benares temple especially sacred to the Hindus he built, in deliberate insult, a Mohammedan mosque.
  • The Gyanvapi mosque in Varanasi is very certainly located on the exact site of the Vishvanath temple, and visibly includes remains of the old temple walls.... E.g.: “One night during the monsoon of 1991, the rain was so heavy that it washed away the wall that was concealing the frontage of the Bijamandal mosque raised by Aurangzeb in 1682” in Vidisha, and “the broken wall exposed so many Hindu idols that the Archaeological Survey of India had no choice but to excavate”, as mentioned by Prafull Goradia: “Heritage hushed up”....
    • Ayodhya: the case against the temple, by Koenraad Elst (2002)
  • The Lord Cherisher of the Faith learnt that in the provinces of Tatta, Multan, and especially at Benares, the Brahman misbelievers used to teach their false books in their established schools, and that admirers and students both Hindu and Muslim, used to come from great distances to these misguided men in order to acquire this vile learning. His Majesty, eager to establish Islam, issued orders to the governors of all the provinces to demolish the schools and temples of the infidels and with the utmost urgency put down the teaching and the public practice of the religion of these misbelievers.'...'It was reported that, according to the Emperor's command, his officers had demolished the temple of Viswanath at Kashi.'..
    • Maasir-i-Alamgiri, translated into English by Sir Jadu-Nath Sarkar, Calcutta, 1947, pp. 51-60
  • It is a small mosque wholly devoid of magnificence, erected, according to Mussulman practice, upon the ruins of a Hindoo temple. The limited site on which it was built may not have admitted of the usual display of beauty or splendour, or the imperial founder may have considered it more as a monument of triumph than of grandeur — have desired rather that it should express contempt than command admiration, Benares was indeed taken and plundered, and given up to every excess, by Mahomed Gauri in the year 1194; but the mosque in question was constructed by Aurungzebe, who has left behind him many similar proofs of his persecution of the Hindoos. A humane king would have lamented the past injuries of his subjects, a great one would have repaired them, but Aurungzebe, in a more enlightened age, and without the palliation of his predecessor, a barbarian and a conqueror, deliberately augmented the desolation of the city, the object of veneration of a whole people, and treated with derision and dishonour the religious feelings of its most peaceful inhabitants. It struck me as one of the most remarkable instances of the passive character of the Hindoos that they should have suffered the lofty minarets of this mosque to tower over their temples so long, and to be the first objects that meet the eye of the pilgrim on his approach to the far-sought sanctuary of his religion.
    • Travels in India a hundred years ago, with a visit to the United States; by Thomas Twining. (About Aurangzeb's mosque in Benares). Quoted in Jain, Meenakshi (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts.
  • Your visit at the demise of the Muslim rule, O ruler of men! proves to be as soothing as a shade to a sun-stricken man. Your darsana (appearance) here is like ointment to the wound sustained by our heart on our seeing the mosque near the Visvanatha temple.
    • Bharatendu Harishchandra while welcoming the Prince of Wales in 1875. Quoted from Narain, Harsh (1993). The Ayodhya temple-mosque dispute: Focus on Muslim sources. Delhi: Penman Publishers. p. 2. [1]
  • “When I go to the Vishwanath Mandir in Benares and listen to the most powerful, magical aarti I hear from the priests that the knowledge of it will probably die because the temple is now controlled by secular bureaucrats”.
    • Tavleen Singh, quoted in [2] [This article is a major extract from the article "Sita Ram Goel, memories and ideas" by S. Talageri, written for the Sita Ram Goel Commemoration Volume, entitled "India's Only Communalist", edited by Koenraad Elst, published in 2005.
  • At the back of the mosque and in continuation of it are some broken remains of what was probably the old Bishwanath Temple. It must have been a right noble building ; there is nothing finer, in the way of architecture in the whole city, than this scrap. A few pillars inside the mosque appear to be very old also.
    • — Edwin Greaves, Kashi the city illustrious, or Benares, 1909[14] Edwin Greaves (1909). Kashi the city illustrious, or Benares. Allahabad: Indian Press. pp. 80–82.
  • The great Vishvanath temple was destroyed no less than three times during the centuries. It is said that in AD 1994, when first attacked by Aibak, and on each subsequent occasion, Brahmins hid the jyotirlinga... The temple was subsequently rebuilt at another location, where too it was ravaged...
    • Jain, M. (2013). Rama and Ayodhya., p 107
  • if owing to the power of foreign rulers, there is no linga at all in that place, even so, the dharma of thee place itself should be observed, with rites of circumambulation, salutation, etc...
    • Narayana Bhatta (16th cent.), Tristhalisetu. in Jain, M. (2013). Rama and Ayodhya., p 107
  • In some cities, Varanasi or Lucknow, for example, mosques dominate the landscape. In Varanasi, of course, deemed by many the Hindu city par excellence, small temples literally dot the ghats and city, although most of them date no earlier than the late eighteenth century It is particularly interesting that Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar’s newly constructed Vishvanath temple, the focal tirtha in all Varanasi, is notably smaller than the adjacent mosque constructed during Aurangzeb’s reign from the spoils of an earlier Vishvanath temple.” Yet the Rani was a woman of considerable resources, and the temple was built in 1777 when Hindu political power dominated in Varanasi.” Had she wished to build a larger temple, rather than one almost lost in the interior gullies of Dasashvamedh Ghat, she could have done so.
    • DAVID GILMARTIN, BRUCE B. LAWRENCE - Beyond Turk and Hindu_ Rethinking Religious Identities in Islamicate South Asia 125ff. (also in Jain, M. (2010). Parallel pathways: Essays on Hindu-Muslim relations, 1707-1857.)
  • The object of the Marathas in all these undertakings was religious as well as political. They particularly intended to get the holy places of Prayag and Kashi back into Hindu possession. On 18th .June 1751 a Maratha agent writes, “ Malharrao has pitched his monsoon camp in the Doab. He intended to pull down the grand Mas j id built by Aurangzeb at Benares and restore the original temple of Kashi-Vishveshwar. The Brahmans of Kashi feel extremely terrified at such a move, for they realize the Muslim strength in these places. What the holy Ganges and the Protector Vishveshwar can ordain will come true. The Brahmans are going to send a strong appeal to the Peshwa against any such attempt by his Sardars.”
  • Even if the linga of Vishveshvara here is taken off somewhere and another is brought in and established by human hands, on account of the difficulty of the times, whatever is established in that place should be worshipped.… And if, owing to the power of foreign rulers, there is no linga at all in that place, even so, the dharma of the place itself should be observed, with rites of circumambulation, salutation, etc., and in this way the daily pilgrimage [nityayātrā] shall be performed.
    • Nārāyana Bhatta, who compiled a digest of Purānic verses on Kāshī, Gayā, and Prayāga in his Tristhalīsetu, in Eck, Diana L - Banaras_ city of light. also in Jain, M. (2010). Parallel pathways: Essays on Hindu-Muslim relations, 1707-1857.
  • The great Vishwanath temple was destroyed at least thrice from the twelfth century onwards. It was first attacked by Aibak in 1194 ce. Queen Raziya (r. 1236-1240), during her short chaotic reign, appropriated the site and had a mosque constructed there. The further history of Visveshvara has been described as “one of stubbornness and bigotry”. The temple became a prime symbol of Hindu resistance; they repeatedly rebuilt, as Muslims continually destroyed.
    • Jain, M. (2019). Flight of deities and rebirth of temples: Espisodes from Indian history. 93-4
  • though here the linga of Visvesvara is removed and another is brought in its place by human beings, owing to the times, the pilgrims must worship whatever linga is in this place.
    • Narayana Bhatta in (O’Hanlon 2011: 196-197). quoted in Jain, M. (2019). Flight of deities and rebirth of temples: Espisodes from Indian history.
  • ... the pagoda of Benares, which, after that of Jagannath, is the most famous in all India, with which it is even, as it were, on a par, being also built on the margin of the Ganges, and in the town of which it bears the name .
    • (Tavernier Vol. II 1889: 230). in Jain, M. (2019). Flight of deities and rebirth of temples: Espisodes from Indian history.

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