Do You Want to Know Why Varanasi is the Most Holy Indian City?Sacred Waters | April 28, 2010
Located on the banks of the Ganges in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi is the sacred site for its myriad of temples, some 100 ghats, and traditional rituals. Also called Banaras and Kashi (the luminous one), it is home to the sacred shrine of Lord Kashi Vishwanath, a form of Lord Shiva, residing in form of one of its 12 Jyotilingas (Linga of Light). According to legend, the Lord Shiva discovered the city prior to 5,000 years, which since then has been the significant site of pilgrimage in India among the seven sacred Hindu cities.
The term Varanasi is given to this holy town due to the confluence of two tributaries namely Varuna and Asi meeting the Ganges on the shore. Surprisingly, the city is coined with different names or titles as the Religious Capital of India and the City of Learning. As far as its learning aspect is concerned, the town is famous for its wisdom imparting activities in the ancient days and today, the same is being continued with its four universities.
Apart from the Hindus, it is holy for the Buddhists as the Sarnath city where Buddha preached Buddhism for the first time to his first sermon after Enlightenment is just 12 km from here. It is also a sacred site for Jains where their 23rd Tirthankar (apostle) – Lord Parshwanath took birth.
According to the Hindus, bathing in Ganga makes one free of its sins. Further, dying here is considered auspicious for attaining liberation from the cycle of births and deaths forever. It is also said that this was the site where the Goddess Sati’s earrings fell making it among the holy Shakti Peethas. This was when Lord Shiva was carrying the churned body of Goddess Sati (previous life of his divine consort – Mata Parvati).
Places I Visited
Stunned by the temples and various ghats of lit lamps and rituals, I was inclined towards them. Among them, I first paid homage to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, the Golden Temple due to its gilded two domes, which is located in the periphery of the Ganga. Lord Shiva as Vishweshwara or Vishwanatha, is worshipped here whose one look earns more good than any of the remaining jyotirlingas. People told me that its original location was at the site of the nearby Aurangzeb who damaged the original one. There is also a new Kashi Vishwanath temple with good architecture and open to all people.
Near the ancient temple is the magnificent Dashashwamedh Ghat revered for two legends. One says that Lord Brahma was the creator of this ghat for greeting Lord Shiva. While the other mentions that Lord Brahma gave up 10 horses in a fire ritual here. In the evening, some priests daily do the Agni Pooja (Worship to Fire) in honor of Lord Shiva, River Ganga, Surya (Sun), Agni (Fire), and the whole universe.
Next, I visited the Durga Temple of the 18th century also called as the Monkey Temple as many monkey are seen here. It is dedicated to the demon-slaying Durga – the Goddess of Shakti. Legend has it that her present statue appeared mystically in the temple. However, only Hindus can go into the inner sanctum to see the statue. Luckily, I could see it. Others are allowed only until the courtyard. The red spires denote the goddess’ red color and the entire edifice exhibits the typical north-Indian Nagara style. There is also a Durga Kund (pond) wherein on Nag Panchami falling in (July/August), the kund is seen with Lord Vishnu reclining on a celestial snake ‘Sheshanag’ (stimulation).