What is the Story behind Kashi Vishwanath Temple?

Created by the confluence of the Varuna & Asi rivulets with the holy river Ganges, Varanasi, or Kashi as it is popularly called, is one of the most revered cities in India. Believed to be one of the most ancient towns of India, Kashi is believed to be at the centre of the Hindu doctrine of cosmogony.

If Kashi is at the heart of Hinduism, then Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the heartbeat of this godly land. This divine sanctuary is one of the holiest lands that are known to exist in the country. In fact, so sacred is this shrine that it finds mention in the Skanda Puranda, which is an ancient Hindu scripture.  Devoted to Lord Shiva, this temple is frequented by throngs of Hindus every day owing to its popularity.

Legend has it that one fine day; Lord Brahma (the Hindu deity associated with the act of creating the universe) and Lord Vishnu (the Hindu god responsible for maintaining tranquility and harmony on earth) had a tussle concerning the supremacy of their creative powers. In order to evaluate their powers, Lord Shiva pierced the three worlds with striking force in the form of an endless support of light, the jyotirlinga. This battle culminated in the defeat of Vishnu as Brahma had cunningly lied that he had a premonition that Vishnu had lost. Upon learning about this deception, Shiva appeared as a second pillar of light, cursing Brahma that he would not enjoy the prestige of being worshipped during celebrations while Vishnu would be worshipped till the end of time.

Overlooking the Western bank of River Ganges, Kashi Viswanath Temple is one of the most prominent of the twelve Jyotirlingas of the country. The others, include Somnath (Gujarat), Mallikarjuna (Andhra Pradesh), Mahakaleswar (Madhya Pradesh), Omkareshwar (Madhya Pradesh), Kedarnath (Uttarakhand), Bhimashankar (Maharashtra), Triambakeshwar (Maharashtra), Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga, Deogarh (Jharkhand), Nageswar (Gujarat), Rameshwar (Tamil Nadu) and Grishneshwar (Maharashtra).

Another interesting facet of this temple is the fact that it has been marred with several atrocious events in history. It was completely demolished by Qutb-ud-din Aibak in 1194 CE. While it was rebuilt during the reign of Illtutmish, it was demolished again during the reign of Sikandar Lodhi and later during Emperor Aurangzeb’s crusader activities to propagate Islam. It is remarkable to see how this temple has stood the numerous tests of time and stands in all its glory.