As per legend, two thousand years ago, sage Vibhandak came to Varanasi from South India. He was amazed to see this ‘shivlingam’ growing by sesame’s size daily. Instead of going to the Vishveshwar Mahadev (Kashi Vishwanath) temple, he stayed and performed penance here for years. Later, after combining the nature of the ‘shivalingam’ and the name of the sage, the present name Tilbhandeshwar came into existence. There is also a belief that the Goddess Sharda, the deity of knowledge, had spent some time here.
During Islamic rule in India, three times the Muslim invaders tried to demolish and damage the Tilbhandeshwar Shivlingam but they could not succeed. Later, a British officer tied a thread around it to test the fact that the ‘shivlingam‘ keeps increasing continuously. But, the thread was found broken next day.
In addition to ‘shivlingam‘, the Tilbhandeshwar Mahadev Temple houses statues of several gods and goddesses like Parvati, Vibhandeshwar, Bhairav and Lord Ayappa. Large number of pilgrims and devotees visit the temple daily to offer prayers and, thereafter, to spend some time to meditate in the pristine complex, extremely pleasant and serene one. Though many festivals are celebrated in the temple on regular basis but, being a shrine of Lord Shiva, Tilbhandeshwar Mahadev Temple observes major festivals like Mahashivratri, Shravan, Nagpanchami and Ayappa Puja with utmost religious zeal. Mahashivratri is a very important festival related to Lord Shiva. It is the day when Lord Shiva got married with Goddess Parvati. On this occasion, huge crowd flock inside the temple. A lot of devotees go on a fast during these festivals. During Mahashivratri, a fest is organized in the temple by the organizers and the devotees combined. The fifteen days long fair is celebrated with extreme zeal by the devotees. They offer water, milk, flowers, fruits, and leaves of Aegle marmelos (बेल पत्र – leaves of wood apple) to Lord Shiva. Apart from these festivals, every Monday and every day of the Hindu month of Shravan, the devotees visit the temple to offer prayers to Lord Shiva.
The temple opens in ‘brahmamuhurt’ (ब्राह्ममुहूर्त). It remains open for the devotees from 4:30 AM to 9 PM. The priests perform the ‘shringaar’ (श्रृंगार- decoration) of the deities and temple before the shrine is opened for the general public. The ‘Mangala Aarti’, the first aarti of the day, is done when the temple is opened for the public. Thus, the devotees also happen to be part of the aarti. Since last three hundred years, the temple and adjoining ‘ashrama’ is being looked after by the saints of Kerala. The arrival of saints and sages from Kerala to this place took place at the time of Adi Shankaracharya's arrival in Kashi.
Tilbhandeshwar Mahadev Temple is located in Sonarpura, earlier Kedar Khand of Kashi, near Bangali Tola Inter College. It is 9 km away from Durga Temple and 5 km from Varanasi Railway Junction.