KASHI VISHWANATH: AN OVERVIEW:-
Adi Vishweshwar aka Kashi Vishwanath temple turns news headlines again. It is due to a case in Varanasi court for declaring the temple premises as the temple’s property. Also, retrieving the lost glory of the temple. The whole area is under dispute since 1669 when Aurangzeb ordered the demolition of the temple. Surprisingly, many attackers, partially or fully demolished it many times even before Aurangzeb. Qutb-Ud-Din Aibak first demolished the temple in 1193.
Many Hindu rulers like Malhar Rao Holkar, Raja Maan Singh tried to rebuild the temple but all in vain. Raja Todar Mall during Akbar’s reign ordered for the reconstruction which was the last reconstruction recorded. After the demolition, whenever any king wished to reconstruct the temple at the respective place, the Nawabs hindered it. Finally, Ahilyabai Holkar, the daughter-in-law of Maratha king, Malhar Rao Holkar constructed the temple adjacent to the original structure in 1777 and is functional to date.
KASHI VISHWANATH AS IN SCRIPTURES AND AVIMUKT AREA:-
The indispensability of the temple lies in the fact that it is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. Out of 12, 5 are ‘Swayambhoo Jyotirlings’, meaning ‘self emerged. And out of these 5, the Kashi Vishwanath is the 1st one! Originally, ‘Adi Vishweshwar’ is the name for Lord Shiv here but Kashi Vishwanath is the most popular name. Skand Puraan expounds on the importance of the area as,
“All the forsaken places are procured through Kashi. Nirvana is achieved only after getting Kashi. The benefit of Nirvana isn’t achieved by any other means. Even in, by residing in other religious place.”
The most fascinating is the story of the ‘Avimukt’ area surrounding the temple. The scriptures say that the area spreads in 5 Kos, equivalent to 15.40 km in radius. Skand Puraan, chapter 7 says clears it. The expounded version is in the same Skand Puraan, chapter 16,
“Goddess Shakti is in the nature; is nature. God(Shiv) is creator. They have made Universe under their feet. They have created 5 Kos area for their pleasure which can’t be extinct even during Pralay and so it is called ‘Avimukt’. When there was no land, no water, no air, God created this area for his Abode. “
Also, Dr. Jagdish Narayan Dubey mentioned in ‘Kashi Rahasya’,
“Lord Vishnu told saints that in the beginning of establishing Universe, the lingam was established for the benefit of all in 3 loks. We remembered Shambhu, and he came out in the form of lingam from our heart and he went on lingering up to 5 kos.”
WESTERNERS’ VIEWPOINT ON THE AREA:-
Many westerners who visited Kashi, mention their experiences as well as about the place. James Prinsep penned down in his ‘Benares Illustrated’,
“Vishweshwar, Lord of Universe is one of the most exhorted titles of Shiva and his connection with Benares is quaintly depicted in the following sentiments from Puranas:-
The Vedas and Shastras all testify that Vishweshwar is the first of the Devas, Kashi, the first of the cities, Ganga, the first of the rivers and charity, the first of the virtues.”
Christian missionary Edwin Greaves (1909), of the London Missionary Society, described the site in his book, Kashi: The city illustrious.
He described it as follows:
“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.”
The most incredible documentary proof of demolition of the temple by Aurangzeb is mentioned in the book ‘The History of India’. Written by Sir HM Elliot and John Dawson. The portion of a chapter mentions,
“It reached the ear of His Majesty, the protector of faith that in the province of Tatha, Multan and Benares, especially in the latter that foolish Brahmins were in the habit of expounding frivolous books. The students and learners; both Musalman and Hindus went there even from long distances lead by desire to become acquainted with the wicked sciences they taught.
The director of faith, consequently issued orders to all the Governors of province to infidels and they were strictly enjoying to put an entire stop to the teaching and practice of idolaters’ forms of worship.
2 September, 1669, King was reported that in accordance with his orders, the Mandir at Benares has been demolished.”
Though many demolitions, many plundering, and destruction, yet the Kashi Vishwanath temple is and would be the core of the spiritual hearts in India and in the world as well.