The temple holds importance for displaying the unique patterns of duplication and condensation that have served to map a sacred geography. A single tirtha is duplicated so that its presence is found in multiple places. Tirtha is a holy place for the Hindus. A ‘tirtha’ has immense religious significance. And multiple tirthas are condensed into a single place. This is the Panchkosi Temple, located in the narrow lanes of the heart of the city, where one may visit all the holy sites of the circumambulatory Panchkosi Yatra, indeed all the holy sites of Varanasi, in a single place. This temple was probably built in the eighteenth / nineteenth century, as a three-dimensional “built map” of the whole sacred zone. In the rows of niches around its perimeter are some two hundred and seventy three (273) individual shrines, each providing a symbolic duplicate of one of the stations along the Panchakroshi Parikrama or one of the other sacred sites in the zone of Varanasi. At this temple, the condensation of a universe of ‘tirthas’ into a single place is illustrated in brick and stone.
There are hundreds of temples in Varanasi, dedicated to various deities and their forms. Almost all of them have been given place into Panchkosi Temple compound.
The shrines representing Kedareshwar Mahadev Lingam, Durga Temple, the ancient Lolark Kund (related to Sun worship) and Tilbhandeshwar Mahadev Lingam are established there. Originally, Tilbhandeshwar Mahadev is a large lingam that astonishingly grows by the size of a sesame seed each day. Around the perimeter of the temple are niches displaying specific shrines to Lord Ganesha and Kal Bhairav, particular temple images of Lord Vishnu and Lord Krishna, sancta of the goddesses, and, of course, the many Shiva lingams. Fittingly, in the central sanctum is a very special lingam: the Dvadasheshwara “Twelve Lord” lingam, a single lingam representing all twelve of the ‘jyotirlingams’ in one place. The shaft of the lingam anchors the ‘mandala’, while crystal stones representing the other eleven ‘jyotirlingams’ are arrayed around the ‘pitha’, or base.
The Panchkosi Temple needs proper upkeep. It looks like normal houses of old Varanasi which is quite strange, keeping in view its religious significance and the large chunk of devotees flock here.