Varanasi is said to be the oldest surviving city of the world. Varanasi is also called as Kashi or Benaras. Being the most venerated pilgrim place in Hindu religion, Varanasi is said to be a museum of temples. Also called the city of temples, Varanasi is home to about 2,000 temples. People from all parts of India as well as the world come to Varanasi to visit these temples, making the holy temples of Varanasi amongst the most visited temples in India. Many important and famous temples are located at Ganga Ghats (river front), adding to the religious value of the holy river, Ganges.
Most of the temples that are located on the Ganga Ghats are old and date back to the medieval period. According to legends the first Siva Jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light, came through the earth here and flared into the sky. Therefore Varanasi is also called Kashi, "the City of Light." The Kashi Vishwanath temple, located near the Ganga Ghats, is the most famous and important temple of Varanasi. In this temple resides the guardian of the holy city, Lord Shiva. Other important temples of Varanasi are the new Vishwanath temple, the Sankat Mochan temple, the Durga temple, the Kal Bhairav temple and the Mritunjaya temple.
- 1. Vishwanath Temple The Kashi Vishwanath temple of Varanasi is one of the holiest and most venerated temples of India. The Kashi Vishwanath temple is located in the heart of the cultural capital of India, Varanasi. It stands on the western bank of India's holiest river Ganges. The Kashi Vishwanath temple is the center of faith for millions of Hindus. The Jyotirlinga of Shiva, Vishweshwara or Vishwanatha, is enshrined in the Kashi Vishwanath temple, considered as one of the holiest temples of India. In Hindu religion it is believed that a simple glimpse of the Jyotirlinga is a soul-cleansing experience that transforms life and puts it on the path of knowledge and Bhakti (devotion). A single darshan of Vishweshwara Jyotirlinga is considered to merit more than the darshan of other jyotirlingas, scattered in various parts of India. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple has been a living picture of the timeless cultural traditions and highest spiritual values.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple attracts Hindu devotees and other visitors not only from India but also the world over. Lord Vishwanath is considered the supreme repository of the spiritual truth and strengthens the bonds of universal brotherhood. Late Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore built the temple in the present shape, way back in 1780. In the year 1785, a Naubatkhana was built up in front of the Temple at the instance of Governor General, Warren Hastings. In 1839, two domes of the Temple were covered by gold, donated by Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, the ruler of Punjab. The management of the Kashi Vishwanath temple rests with a trust.
The Vishwanath temple opens daily at 2.30 A.M. for Mangala Aarti and between 3 to 4 A.M. ticket holders are permitted to join. The timing of general Darshan is from 4 to 11 A.M. The timing for midday Bhog Aarti is from11.30 to 12 A.M. Between 12 noon to 7 P.M., general devotees are free to have Darshan. From 7 to 8.30 P.M. the Sapta Rishi Aarati is held after which Darshan is possible again till 9 P.M. At 9 P.M. the Shringar/Bhog Aarati starts and after that Darshan is possible only from outside. Shayana Aarti starts at 10.30 P.M. and the temple closes at 11 P.M. Most of the offerings at the Kashi Vishwanath temple are given to poor.