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10 May 2013

The twelve jyotirlinga are Somnath in Gujarat, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andra Pradesh,
Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnath in
Himalayas, Bhimashankar in Maharashtra, Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Triambakeshwar
in Maharashtra, Vaidyanath at Deogarh in Jharkand, Nageswar at Dwarka in Gujarat, Rameshwar at
Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharashtra.

Kashi Vishwanath
The India we see at Kashi Vishwanath and also at Kashi reflects the elaborate and ancient ritual tradition of Hinduism. It is a tradition of
pilgrimage to scared places, bathing in sacred waters and honoring divine images. It is a tradition in which all of the senses are employed in the
apprehension of the divine. Its shrines are heaped with fresh flowers and filled with the smell of incense, the chanting of prayers and the ringing
of bells. It is a tradition that has and images God in a thousand ways, that has been adept in discovering the presence of the divine everywhere
and in bringing every aspect of human life into the religious arena. It is a religious tradition that understands life and death as a religious whole.

This article along with captions and box

items is based/adapted/excerpted from the
book Banaras: City of Light by Diana Eck, Are there not many holy places on this earth?
religious scholar and Professor of
Comparative Religion and Indian Studies Yet which of them would equal in the balance one speck of Kashi’s dust?
at Harvard University.
Are there not many rivers running to the sea?
Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the
Yet which of them is like the River of Heaven (Ganges) in Kashi?
most famous Hindu temples dedicated to
Lord Shiva and is located in Varanasi, the Are there not many fields of liberation on earth?
holiest existing place of Hindus, where at Yet no one equals the smallest part of the city never forsaken by Shiva.
least once in life a Hindu is expected to do
pilgrimage, and if possible, also pour the
The Ganges, Shiva and Kashi: Where this trinity is watchful,
remains of cremated ancestors on the River no wonder here is found the grace that leads one on to perfect bliss
Ganges. The temple is in Varanasi
(erstwhile Kashi) the state of Uttar Pradesh, - Skanda Purana - Kashi Khand (35, 7-10)
continued on page 12
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Kaal Bhairav Varanasi

Most important is the

linga of light itself –
the image of the
supremacy of Shiva. It God KalBhairav is believed as Kotwal Of Varanasi
is what Merica Eliade without his permission no one can stay in Kashi
has called the axis Bhairava, sometimes known as Kaala Bhairava, KalBhairab, Annadhaani Bhairava (In
mundi, the pillar at the Karnataka) Bhairo or Bhairon or Bhairadya or Bheruji (In Rajasthan), Kaal Bhairava,
center of the world, KaalaBhairavar or Vairavar (In Tamil), is the fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva associated
with annihilation. He is one of the most important deities of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and
originating deep in the Nepal who originated in Hindu mythology and is sacred to Hindus, Buddhists and Jains
netherworlds, cracking alike.
the surface of the
The origin of Bhairava can be traced to the conversation between Lord Brahma and Lord
earth, and splitting the Vishnu recounted in "Shiv Maha-Puran" where Lord Vishnu asks Lord Brahma who is the
roof of the sky. In this supreme creator of the Universe. Arrogantly, Brahma tells Vishnu to worship him because
he (Brahma) is the supreme creator. This angered Shiva who then incarnated in the form
linga, Shiva is not one
of Bhairava to punish Brahma. Bhairava beheaded one of Brahma's five heads and since
god among others, but then Brahma has only four heads. When depicted as Kala Bhairava, Bhairava is shown
the unfathomable One. carrying the decapitated head of Brahma. Cutting off Brahma's fifth head made him guilty
of the crime of killing a Brahmin(Brahmahatyapap), and as a result, he had to carry around
In this “partless” form ,
the decapitated skull for twelve years and roam as Bhikshatana, a mendicant, until he had
Shiva, transcends even been absolved of the sin.
Shiva himself, in
His temples or shrines are present within or near most Jyotirlinga temples, the sacred
embodied “partial” twelve shrines dedicated to Shiva across India, including Kashi Vishwanath Temple,
form. This is not Shiva, Varanasi and the Mahakaleshwar Temple at Ujjain, where at the KalBhairav Temple, he is
beautiful or ugly, worshipped by the Kapalika and Aghori sects of Shaivism, here one can also find the
PatalBhairav and Vikrant Bahirav shrines.
dressed in silks or
tiger skins, wearing the Kaal Bhairava temples can also be found around Shakti Peethas, as it is said Shiva
allocated the job of guarding each of 52 Shakti Peethas to one Bhairava. As such it is said
crescent moon or the
there are 52 forms of Bhairava, which are in fact considered as manifestation of Shiva
necklace of skulls. himself. In the form of the frightful Bhairava, Shiva is said to be guarding each of these
This light is the Shaktipeeths. Each Shaktipeeth temple is accompanied by a temple dedicated to
mystreium tremendum
which finally cannot be Traditionally KalBhairav is the Gramadevata in the rural villages of [Karnataka],
described or Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, where he is referred to as "Bhaivara/Annadhani" Vairavar.
In Karnataka, Lord Bhairava is the supreme god for the Vokkaliga community commonly
comprehended by any referred as "Gowdas", especially for the GangadikaraGowda caste he is considered as
one or all faces and the care taker and punisher.
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Varanasi Golden Temple

The temple stands on the western bank of

the holy river Ganges, and is one of the
twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest of Shiva
temples. The main deity is known by the
name Vishwanatha or Vishweshwara
meaning Ruler of the universe.

The Kashi Vishwanath temple has been

destroyed and rebuilt a number of times.
The Gyanvapi Mosque, which is adjacent to
the Kashi Vishwanath temple, is the original
site of the temple before it was destroyed by
Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. and a mosque
built upon its ruins.

The name of the mosque is Alamgiri Mosque

but it is popularly known as Gyanvapi
Mosque. The mosque shows evidence of
original Hindu temple in its foundation,
columns and rear. The old temple wall was
also incorporated as part of the walls of the
mosque. The deliberately retained
remnants of the temple are described to be
"a warning and an insult to Hindu feelings".

The Kashi
Vishwanath temple
has been destroyed
and rebuilt a number
of times. The
Gyanvapi Mosque,
which is adjacent to
The current structure of Kashi Vishwanath temple is built by the Maratha monarch, Ahilya
the Kashi Vishwanath Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780. The temple is also known as the Golden temple of Varanasi
temple, is the original because the two domes of the temple are covered with gold. The gold used to cover the two
domes was donated by the Punjab Kesari, the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who ruled the
site of the temple Punjab.
before it was The Kashi Vishwanath Temple was rebuilt in situated between the temple and the
destroyed by Mughal 1780 besides the mosque and the two mosque. The well is believed by Hindus to
Emperor Aurangzeb. structures have existed in harmony since be the location where the sacred Shiva linga
then, separated by a barricade of iron staves icon of the temple was hidden, before the
and a mosque built and chicken wire. temple was razed by Aurangzeb.
upon its ruins.
The Gyanvapi - the well of knowledge - is
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Manikarnika Ghat - Kashi

The current temple structure was built by the

Maratha monarch, Ahilya Bai Holkar of
Indore in 1780. The temple is also known as
the Golden temple because the two domes
of the temple are covered with gold. The
gold used to cover the two domes was
donated by the Punjab Kesari, the Sikh
Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who ruled the

Since 1983, the temple has been managed

by the government of Uttar Pradesh. During
the religious occasion of Shivratri, Kashi
Naresh (King of Kashi) is the chief officiating
priest and no other person or priest is
allowed to enter the sanctum sanctorum. It
Manikarnika Ghat is the primary cremation ghat in Varanasi.The well at the ghat is called
is only after he performs his religious
ManikarnikaKund and was built by Lord Vishnu
functions that others are allowed to enter.

The temple complex consists of a series of and VirupakshGauri in the complex. There is Due to the immense popularity and holiness
smaller shrines, located in a small lane a small well in the temple called the Jnana of Kashi Vishwanath temple, hundreds of
called the Vishwanatha Galli, near the river. Vapi (the wisdom well) and it is believed that temples across the nation have been built in
The linga of the main deity at the shrine is 60 the Jytorlinga was hidden in the well to the same architectural style. Many legends
cm tall and 90 cm in circumference housed protect it at the time of invasion. It is said that record that the true devotee achieves
in a silver altar. There are small temples for the main priest of the temple jumped in the freedom from death and sa? sâra by the
Kaalbhairav, Dhandapani, Avimukteshwara, well with the Shiv Ling in order to protect the worship of Shiva, Shiva's devotees on death
Vishnu, Vinayaka, Sanishwara, Virupaksha Jyotirlinga from invaders. being directly taken to his abode on Mount
Kailash by his messengers and not to Yama.
The temple is widely recognized as one of
the most important places of worship in 16
Hindu religion and most of the leading Hindu
saints, including AdiSankaracharya,
The superiority of Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami
Shiva and his victory Vivekananda, Goswami Tulsidas, Swami
over his own nature - Dayananda Saraswati and Gurunanak have The story of the fiery
visited the site.
Shiva is himself linga begins and
identified with death - A visit to the temple and a bath in the river ends in Kashi. In
Ganges is one of many methods believed to
is also stated. There is Kashi mythology this
lead one on a path to Moksha (liberation).
a popular belief that Thus, people from all over the nation try to is the place where
Shiva himself blows visit the place at least once in their lifetime. the light split the
There is also a tradition that one should give
the mantra of up at least one desire after a pilgrimage to
earth and this is the
salvation into the ears the temple, and the pilgrimage should also place called
of people who choose include a visit to the temple at Rameswaram
in South India, where people take water
to end their lives at the samples of the Ganges to perform prayers Tirtha, “Where the
Vishwanath temple. at the temple and bring back sand from the skull fell”
beaches near that temple.
14 May 2013

Some Prominent Lingas

Lingam in the cave at Amarnath

1008 Lingas carved on a rock surface

at the shore of the river Tungabhadra, Hampi, India

AshtaBhairava murthy lingas Koonanchery

Lingam at Jambukesvara temple in Srirangam Sivalingam at the Sri Meenakshi temple in Madurai
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The Lingas

the more restrictive term "theophany" (an

appearance of a god). Eliade argues that
religion is based on a sharp distinction
between the sacred (God, gods, mythical
ancestors, etc.) and the profane. According
to Eliade, for traditional man, myths
describe "breakthroughs of the sacred (or
the 'supernatural') into the World" – that is,
hierophanies. (In the hierophanies recorded
in myth, the sacred appears in the form of
ideal models (the actions and
commandments of gods, heroes, etc.).
Above photos are of following
By manifesting itself as ideal models, the Jyotirlingas, Nageshwara, Mallikarjuna,
sacred gives the world value, direction, and Mahakaleshwara, Chandikeshwara, and
purpose: "The manifestation of the sacred Kalabhairava
Above photos are of following Jyotirlingas
O m k a r e s h w a r, Va i d y a n a t h a , ontologically founds the world" According to
this view, all things need to imitate or by its founder. Despite their multiplicity,
Vishwanatha, Bhimashankara,
conform to the sacred models established Shiva is said to be present in all these lingas.
Triyambakeshwara, Ghushmeshara
by hierophanies in order to have true reality:
Lord Shiva on The Multiplicity Of Lingas
The Lingas to traditional man, things "acquire their
In the Kashi Khand, Shiva speaks to Parvati
Lingas are of two kinds: those that can be reality, their identity, only to the extent of
of the multiplicity of lingas, both in numbers
moved from place to place (chalaligas) and their participation in a transcendent reality".)
and in kind, in Kashi.
those that cannot (achala linga). One can
buy a small portable linga in the market to One enumeration claims that there are sixty-
There are uncounted lingas in the Forest of
use for daily worship at home.Or one might eight such self-manifested lingas in India,
Bliss ( Anandavana – ancient name of
wear such a linga around the neck, as do the but in fact there are thousands of lingas
Kashi), O Parvati. Some are material and
members of the Vira Shiva or Lingayat sect. which people call swayambhu , affirming
others are of a subtle or spiritual nature.
that the Lord has appeared here by Divine
They are made of various gems, made of
A momentary (kshanika) is also movable: a initiative. Second there are sthapita lingas
many elements, made of stone. Many are
small linga hand fashioned of clay in which which have been established by people,
self-born and many are established by gods
Shiva is invited to dwell for the moment of sages or gods. When they are consecrated ,
and sages….
worship and which is removed away to the Shiva is invited to take up residence in the
Ganges or some another stream at the linga. Such lingas go by the name of their
Those that have been established here are
conclusion of worship. The kshanika linga establisher as well as by the name of Shiva:
the cause of liberation. Some are not visible,
dramatizes the Hindu understanding of Ishwara or Isha, literally , the Lord.
some are visible and some are rather in a
divine images: they are a focal point of miserable state . Even those that are broken
worship, a lens for darshanaand for a time Thus the linga established by Brahma is
down by the ravages of time are still to be
they are imbued with the full presence and Brahmeshvara and that established by the
worshipped, fair Parvati. One time I counted
power of the Divine. moon, Chandra, is Chandreshwara. The
a hundred billion of them. Six million of them
established linga partakes of the nature of
stand in the waters of the Ganges, those
Of the non-moving lingas , there are two the establisher as well as that of Shiva.
lingas bestow yogic achievement and have
kinds. First there are the swayambhu lingas, Chandreshwara is especially associated
become invisible now in the Kali Age, O
which are said to have emerged with Mondays, the day of the moon. The
Goddess. And of course those lingas that
miraculously from the earth as hierophanies linga of the yogi Jaigishavya called
were established here by my devotes after
of Shiva.( The term "hierophany" appears Jaigishavyeshvara, is particularly honored
the day I counted have not been counted at
frequently in the works of the religious to obtain the high yogic attainments realized
historian MirceaEliade as an alternative to
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The superiority of Shiva and his victory over witness to support him. In the Kaashi
his own nature—Shiva is himself identified Khanda version, Brahma speaks
with death—is also stated. There is a condescendingly to Shiva, as an elder
popular belief that Shiva himself blows the would speak in recognizing the antics of a
mantra of salvation into the ears of people youth. Whatever the cause, Brahma’s
who choose to end their lives at the slander against Shiva is punished. Shiva,
Vishwanath temple. taking the fearsome form of Bhairava, cuts
off one of Brahma’s five heads, leaving him
The Kashi Vishwanath temple is located with the four by which he is traditionally
The Kashi Vishvanath
almost 5 km away from the Varanasi railway recognized.
temple complex station and almost 6 km from the Banaras
consists of a series of Hindu University. The Kashi Vishwanath However, the skull of Brahma , tangible
temple receives around 3000 visitors every evidence of the worst of sins – killing a
smaller shrines,
day. On certain occasions the numbers Brahmin – sticks to Bhairava’s hand and will
located in a small lane reach 100,000. Today about a thousand not come loose. Even the Lord must pay for
called the Vishwanatha policemen guard the Kashi Vishwanath site. the sin of killing a Brahmin, so Bhairava
wanders all over India, the skull clinging to
Galli, near the river. The Jyotirlinga Story his hand, until he comes finally to Varanasi
The linga of the main The jyotirlinga is the supreme “partless” (Kashi) where the skull drops and Bhairava
deity at the shrine is 60 reality, out of which Shiva may sometimes becomes free of that sin … (For more on
appear in bodily form as a “partial” reality. Bhairava see Box on page 11)
cm tall and 90 cm in The myth of the jyotirlinga is of major
circumference housed importance to the mythology and symbolism Most important is the linga of light itself – the
in a silver altar. There of Kashi, for here in this city that fiery column image of the supremacy of Shiva. It is what
of light is said to have appeared. Merica Eliade has called the axis mundi , the
are small temples for
pillar at the center of the world, originating
Kaalbhairav, The story begins with Brahma, the creator, deep in the netherworlds, cracking the
Dhandapani, and Vishnu, the sustainer of the Universe, surface of the earth, and splitting the roof of
arguing about which of them is supreme. In the sky. In this linga, Shiva is not one god
Avimukteshwara, some accounts of this myth, such as that of among others, but the unfathomable One. In
Vishnu, Vinayaka, the Kashi Khanda and the Karma Purana, this “partless” form, Shiva, transcends even
Sanishwara, Brahma and Vishnu call in the four Vedas to Shiva himself, in embodied “partial” form.
settle the dispute.
Virupaksha and
This is not Shiva, beautiful or ugly, dressed
Virupaksh Gauri in the The Vedas, however, testify , that neither in silks or tiger skins, wearing the crescent
complex. There is a Brahma or Vishnu but Shiva is supreme. As moon or the necklace of skulls. This light is
the two stand in disbelief, a huge column of the mystreiumtremendum which finally
small well in the temple fire splits the earth between them and cannot be described or comprehended by
called the Jnana Vapi blazes up through the sky to pierce the any one or all faces and attributes.
(the wisdom well) and it highest heavens. Astounded, Brahma and
Vishnu decide to determine source and The linga of light was the first linga. After that
is believed that the extent of this brilliant pillar of light. Vishnu Shiva vowed that this unfathomable linga
Jytorlinga was hidden becomes a boar and burrows deep into the would become small so that people might
in the well to protect it netherworlds. Brahma mounts his goose have it as an emblem for their worship.
and flies up as far as the heavens reach. But
at the time of invasion. even after thousands of years they cannot The story of the fiery linga begins and ends
It is said that the main find the bottom or top of the shaft of light. in Kashi. In Kashi mythology this is the place
priest of the temple When they have returned to the starting where the light split the earth and this is the
place, Shiva emerges from the light in his place called Kapalamochana Tirtha, “Where
jumped in the well with “partial” bodily form. Vishnu honors the Lord, the skull fell”.
the Shiv Ling in order but Brahma is still conceited and deluded.
Next month in the 12 Jyotirling series the
to protect the
In the Shiv Purana version of the myth omkareshwar temple.
Jyotirlinga from Brahma lies about having seen the top of the
invaders. pillar and recruits the Ketki flower as a false