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Om! Gam! Ganapathaye! Namaha!

Om! Sri Raghavendraya Namaha!


Om! Namo! Bhagavathe! Vasudevaya!
Om! Ham! Hanumathe Sri Rama Doothaya Namaha!

KASI – A SACROSANCT PLACE

SIGNIFICANCE OF VARANASI (KASI)

Varanasi also commonly known as KASI or Benares is a city situated on the left (west)
bank of the river Ganga (Ganges) in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is one of the oldest
continually inhabited cities in the world. Varanasi is a holy city in Hinduism, being one
of the most sacred pilgrimage places for Hindus of all denominations. It has the holy
shrine of Lord Kasi Viswanath (manifestation of Lord Shiva) and also one of his twelve
revered Jyothirlingas.
The name Varanasi has its origin possibly from the names of the two rivers Varuna and
Assi for it lies with the confluence of Varuna with the Ganges being to its north and that
of Assi and the Ganges to its south. Varanasi is the Sanskrit name and Banaras is the
common name. Through the ages, Varanasi was variously known as Avimukthaka,
Anandakanana, Mahasmasana, Surandhana, Brahma Vardha, Sudarshana, Ramya,
and Kasi.
Standing on the western banks of India's holiest river Ganges, Varanasi is the oldest
surviving city of the world and the cultural capital of India. It is in the heart of this city
that there stands in its fullest majesty the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in which is
enshrined the Jyotirlinga of Shiva. It has always attracted a large number of pilgrims
and worshippers from time immemorial.
It is said that a simple glimpse of the Jyotirlinga is a soul-cleansing experience. This
Jyotirlinga has a very special and unique significance as it is believed that the merits
earned by the darshan of other Jyothirlingas scattered in various parts of India accrue to
a devotee by a single visit to Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
The word ‘Kashi’ originated from the word ‘Kas’ which means to shine (to glitter or to
sparkle, or luminous). Steeped in tradition and mythological legacy, Kashi is the
‘original ground ‘created by Shiva and Parvathi, upon which they stood at the
beginning of time.
It is one of the seven sacred cities of Hindus. Mention about Kasi is made in many
Hindu scriptures, including the Rig-Veda, Skhanda Purana, Ramayana, and the
Mahabharata. According to Vamana Purana, the Varuna and the Assi
rivers originated from the body of the Primordial Person at the beginning of time itself.
The tract of land lying between them is believed to be ‘Varanasi’, the holiest of all
pilgrimages.
THE ORIGIN OF KASI
It is said that once Lord Shiva had told Goddess Parvathi that ‘at the time of deluge
(pralaya) all the three (Shiva, Parvathi and Kashi) got manifested simultaneously by the
grace of 'Aadi Purusha' (The Almighty God). That is to say, Kasi is as old as Lord Shiva
and Goddess Parvathi.

Lord Vishnu is said to have created a divine reservoir at this place with his Sudarshana
chakra and filled it up with his sweat and engaged himself in an austere penance. Lord
Shiva appeared along with Goddess Parvathi before him and said that this holy place
will become famously known as Manikarnika because this is the very place where he
had once lost his ear ring.

“Lord Vishnu made a request to Shiva ' May this place fulfill the wishes of those who
seek salvation and since it is blessed with your eternal presence hence, it’s another
name would be Kashi.' Lord Shiva assured him saying that “This sacrosanct place is
very dear to me and no event takes place here against my wish, even if a person living
here happens to be a sinner he has nothing to fear because I protect him.” One who
lives far from Kashi but remembers it with reverence becomes absolved of all his sins.”

KASI IN MYTHOLOGY

It is said that the glory of Kasi temple and its Lord Viswanath was narrated by Skhanda
(Lord Karthikeya, the god of war) in Skhanda-Purana one of the 18 principal Hindu
Puranas in its most celebrated chapter called Kasi-Khanda.

According to this mythology Lord Karthikeya said that Kasi cannot be attained by mere
performing austerities and it can be attained only when one has the blessing of Lord
Shiva. The one who is fortunate enough to have reached Kashi must not leave it till he is
alive. There is no holy place as dear to Lord Shiva as Kashi, which is not abandoned by
him as well as his consort Parvathi even at the time of deluge. Lord Shiva named this
holy place as Anandavana, because it gave him immense joy.

As per the Skandha purana sage Agasthya went on to clarify his wife Lopamudra that
there are many holy places capable of giving salvation. But none of them can match
Kashi because Kashi is incomparable.
Kasi was a holy place even during epic times. Lord Siva was worshipped here with
great devotion. Sumitra the third wife of Kosala king Dasaratha was from Kasi.
Ramayana fame Laxmana and Sathrughna were her twin sons. In Mahabharatha Kuru
king Vichitraveerya's wives Ambika and Ambalika were from Kasi, who were abducted
by the Kuru warrior Bhishma along with their elder sister Amba. Dhritharastra was the
son of Ambika and Pandu was the son of Ambalika.
TEMPLES IN KASI AND THEIR SIGNIFICANCE
Varanasi is a city of temples. It is said that there are more than 2000 temples in Kasi.
Every nook and corner in Kasi has a temple. Though such small temples form the basis
of daily local prayers and other rituals there are many large temples too, erected at
different times through out the history of Varanasi.

Kashi Vishwanath Temple


Also called Golden Temple, is located on the outskirts of the Ganga. This temple makes
Varanasi a place of great religious importance to the Hindus as the Jyothirlinga of the
Lord Shiva is enshrined here. The Temple opens daily at 2.30 a.m. and closes at 11 p.m.
The temple was once destroyed by the Muslim Emperor Aurangzeb who built a
mosque over it. It was later resurrected at a location near the mosque, and is many
times a cause of local strain among Hindus and Muslims.

Annapurna Temple
Annapurna is the Hindu Goddess of nourishment. Anna means food and grains and
Purna means full, complete and perfect. She is called the Supreme Goddess of the city
of Kasi. As Annapurna she is the personification of food and source of all food.

It is said that Goddess Parvathi took the form of Annapurna and appeared with a
golden pot with full of cooked rice and a golden ladle and Lord Vishwanath himself
asked Bhiksha from her. It is believed that even today, nobody sleeps with hunger in
Kasi. The temple of Annapurna is located near the temple of Lord Vishwanath.

Visalakshi Temple (Goddess with wide eyes)


Benares is considered to be one of the Shakti Peethams of India. It is believed that the
ear rings of Goddess Sati fell at this place in Varanasi, and this temple is one among the
18 Shakti Peethams. It is a part of the famous trinity of temples - Kanchi Kamakshi,
Madura Meenakshi and Kasi Visalakshi. This small temple is situated in one of the
narrow lanes around the Vishwanath temple.

Durga Temple
Also nicknamed "Monkey temple," The temple got the name 'Monkey temple' because
of the presence of large number of monkeys in the temple. According to legends, statue
of Goddess Durga is said to be self manifested. Thousands of Hindu devotees visit the
Durga temple during Navaratri and other auspicious occasions.

Bindu Madhava Temple


Among the ancient temples in the must-visit list of Kashi temples is the Bindu Madhava
Temple near Panchaganga Ghat. This temple is also one of a trinity - Veni Madhava at
Sangam in Allahabad, Bindu Madhava at Kasi and Sethu Madhava at Rameswaram.

Kalabhairav Temple
It is the ancient temple of Varanasi near the Head Post Office. KalaBhairav is believed
as "Kotwal of Varanasi" without whose permission none can stay in Kashi. He is the
Kshetrapalaka of Kasi. He protects Varanasi. Every one should visit him in their Kasi
Yatra. He will take all the sins of devotees living in Kasi.

Chozi Matha Temple (Cowrie Matha)


A visit to Kashi is incomplete without a visit to the Chozi Matha Temple. This temple is
known by various names such as Chozi or Cowrie Mata, and Gouri Mata temple. The
name owes its origin to the cowries or shells which are thrown to the goddess as
offering. The goddess here is considered to be a sister of Shiva.

According to the legend, she had her temple within the ancient temple complex. On one
occasion Shiva banished her and sent her out of the temple for which she repented. As a
mercy Shiva decreed that all those who visit Kashi should also visit her. A trip to Kashi
would be ineffective without visiting her. Hence, it has become a practice to visit the
Chozi Mata Temple after visiting all the temples in Kashi. One can buy cowries outside
the temple, throw a few on the goddess and ask her to bless them by bestowing on them
the fruits of their Kashi Yatra.

Sankat Mochan Temple


It is dedicated to Lord Hanuman and is very popular with the local citizens. Besides the
Assi river stream, on the way of Durga Temple to Banaras Hindu Temple this well
known temple of Lord Hanuman is situated. Lord Hanuman is also known as
"Sankatamochan" the god who protects from the troubles. This temple is founded by
Tulsidas. This temple is also known as "Monkey" temple, as lot of monkeys’ are there
inside the premises.

New Vishwanath Temple called as Birla Mandir, was built as a replica of the old Kashi
Vishwanath Temple. The temple is a part of the Banaras Hindu University.
Dhundi Ganapathi Temple
Traditionally, the temple circuit begins with a visit to the Dhundi Ganapathi temple.
This temple is on the way to the Vishwanath temple. It is a small temple, looking like
one on the roadside, but one of the important ones. One can pay respects to Ganesha
while standing in the queue to enter the Vishwanath temple. It is near the place where
the security check is done. This is Ganesha with three eyes.

Thulasi Manas Mandir


This modern temple is dedicated to Lord Rama. It is situated at the place where
Tulsidas, the great medieval seer, lived and wrote the epic "Shri Ramcharitmanas".
Verses from Tulsidas’s epic are inscribed on the walls. It is just nearby to Durga Temple.
SARANATH
Saranath renowned for ancient remains of Buddhist stupas, monasteries and temples is
situated at a distance of 6 kms to the north of Varanasi city. Saranath is one of the four
most important Buddhist pilgrimage centers of India. Buddha, the great sage after
attaining enlightenment at Bodh Gaya came to Saranath and delivered his first
sermon to five disciples. Saranath is also sacred to the Jains.

VYASA KASI
It is said that once upon a time, Sage Veda Vyasa came to Kasi with his disciples and
went for Bhiksha (holy offering of food for sadhus) but nobody gave them Bhiksha.
They slept with hunger in the city of Annapurna. The same condition continued for
seven days. Vyasa got angry and wasprepared to curse Kasi. Goddess Annapurna
then appeared before them and gave them Bhiksha. Lord Vishwanath also appeared
but banned Vyasa from Kasi, as he was prepared to curse it. On praying, Shiva told
him that he can live on the opposite bank of Ganga at Kasi (Vyasa Kasi) It is located in
the mid way between Varanasi and Mughalsaraiabout 6 km from Kashi.

KASI GHATS
Story of Kasi cannot be complete without making a reference to its Ghats. Varanasi
(Kasi) is older than traditions. The divine grace of this city is a unique combination of
physical, metaphysical and supernatural elements. Ghats of Varanasi are natural
supplement to the concept of divinity. It is a city that liberates soul from human body
to ultimate. The much quoted Sanskrit sloka proclaim ‘Kasyam maranam mukthi’
(death in Kashi is Liberation). Varanasi has nearly 100 Ghats. Most of the Ghats are
bathing Ghats, while others are used as cremation sites. Many Ghats are associated with
legends or mythologies.

Dasashawamedh Ghat
It is located close to Vishwanath Temple. It is said that Lord Brahma created it to
welcome Lord Shiva. It is also said that Lord Brahma sacrificed ten horses in a Yagna
here and performed Dasa Aswamedha Yaga. This is the most busiest and ancient Ghat.

Manikarnika Ghat
This is popularly called as "the great cremation ground" (Mahasmasana). The name
Manikarnika derives its origin from the dropping rings of Siva during His
transcendental dance here. There also exists a sacred pond, Chakra Pushkarini Kunda
and Vishnu’s feet impression Karna Paduka. Along the sacred route, on the Ghat itself,
are the symbolically footprints of Lord Vishnu (Karna Paduka). Lord Vishnu was said
to have performed tapas on this spot for 7000 years.
Two legends are associated with Manikarnika Ghat. According to one, it is believed to
be the place where Lord Vishnu dug a pit with his Chakra and filled it with his
perspiration while performing various penances. While Lord Shiva was watching Lord
Vishnu at that time, the latter's earring ("Manikarnika") fell into the pit. According to
the second legend, it is the place where the ear rings of Goddess Sathi fell. This Ghat
area has ancient reputation as a cremation ground and it is said that Lord Siva (the
great destroyer) destroy the world here during deluge.
Prayaga Ghat
This Ghat (old Prayaga Tirtha) together with shrine of Prayagesvara replicates the
existence of Prayaga (Allahabad) in Varanasi. Prayaga, known as "Tirtharaja" (king of
Tirthas), lies at the confluence of the Ganga, the Yamuna and the invisible Saraswati
rivers. It is commonly believed that doing rituals and taking sacred bath here provide
exactly the same religious merit as those at Prayaga.

Harishchandra Ghat
This Ghat is named after a mythological King Harish Chandra, who once worked in the
cremation ground here for the preservance of truth and charity but at the end the Gods
rewarded him and restored his lost throne and his dead son to him. This is one of the
two cremation Ghats, and some times referred as Adi Manikarnika (the original
creation ground) still there exists Adi Manikarnika Tirtha.

Hanuman Ghat
It is believed that great saint Tulsidas has established a Hanuman Temple here which is
famous as Hanuman Ghat. The ancient name of this Ghat was Rameswaram Ghat
which was established by Lord Rama himself. The neighborhood is dominated by South
Indian residents.

THEERTHA VIDHI AT KASI

Theertha Vidhi forms a part of any Theertha Yathra. That too in a place like Kasi it is
very sacred, celestial and auspicious that yields lot of phala, punyadayaka and also
mukthidayaka.

Kasi is one of the trinity of places where performing sacred rites to forefathers is a must.
The other two are Prayaga (Allahabad) and Gaya. For helping the pilgrims in
conducting the Theertha Vidhi Kasi has representation of various philosophies of
Hindu religion. These rituals can be performed according to ones own religious
customs, and faithsand as per the directions of the local purohits representing.

For performing Theertha Vidhi as per Madhwa philosophy facilities are available at the
following address: Madhwashram, B.4/61, Hanuman Ghat, Dr. Gopalacharya Tonpe
Marge, Varanasi -Tele No: 0542-2277530. Contact Person: Sri Bhau Acharya Tonpe.
River Ganges is within 100 meters from this place. From Varanasi Railway station auto
charges will be approx Rs. 80 to 100. Dormitory accommodation, food and guide
facilities are available at this venue.

HOW TO REACH VARANASI


Varanasi is easily accessible from all parts of the country well connected by road, rail
and air.
AIR: The airport is 22 km. from Varanasi providing regular daily flight facility between
Varanasi and New Delhi. It also connects Varanasi to other major cities.

RAIL: Varanasi is an important and major railway junction. The city is served by trains
from all metros and major cities across the country. From Mughal Sarai Station (16 Km.
from Varanasi) also train facilities are available.

ROAD: Varanasi is well connected by road and the important national high ways
connecting Varanasi are NH2 - NH7- NH29. Some important road distances are: Agra
565 km., Allahabad 128 km., Bhopal 791 km., Bodhgaya 240 km., Kanpur 330 km.,
Lucknow 286 km., Patna 246 km., Saranath 10 km.,

Local transport facilities liketaxis, auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws are also readily
available. On some of the routes specially the old Varanasi areas of temples and
markets, one way traffic is maintained. And on that routes auto rickshaws or big
vehicles are not permitted.
Residents of Kasi mainly speak Kashika Bhojpuri, which is closely related to the
Hindilanguage. People often refer to Varanasi as "the city of temples", "the holy city of
India", "the religious capital of India", "the city of lights", "the city of learning" and the
"culture capital of India". American writer Mark Twain wrote: "Benares is older than
history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of
them put together.”
The culture of Varanasi is closely associated with the River Ganges and the river's
religious importance. The city has been a cultural and religious centre in northern India
for several thousand years. The Temple has been visited by all great saints and several
other spiritual personalities. Many prominent Indian philosophers, poets, writers, and
musicians resided or reside in Varanasi. Ayurveda is said to have originated at
Varanasi.
Varanasi is one of the holiest places in Buddhism too, being one of the four pilgrimage
sites said to have been designated by Gautama Buddha himself. Varanasi is also a
pilgrimage site for Jains along with Hindus and Buddhists. It is believed to be the
birthplace of Parshvanatha, the twenty-third Tirthankar. Islamic culture has also had
an influence on Varanasi.
Deeply engrossed in the Hindus mind Kasi Vishwanath Temple has been a living
example of our timeless cultural traditions and high spiritual values. It attracts visitors
not only from India but also from abroad. More than one million pilgrims visit the city
each year. Vaishnavism and Shaivism have always co-existed in Varanasi
harmoniously. Hindus believe that bathing in Ganga remits sins and that dying in
Kashi ensures release of a person's soul from the cycle of its transmigrations.
It is said that na Gaayathraya para manthra, na Mathru para dhaivatham, na Kaasya
param theertham, na Ekadasya samam vratham hat mean there is no manthram that is
superior to Gayathri manthram, there is no dhaivam superior to Mother, there is no
celestial and sacred theertham better than Kaasi and there is no vratham that is more
sacred than Ekadashi vratham.
To be in Kasi a sacrosanct place is an experience in itself.
Sri Krishnaarpanamasthu