The temple receiving the highest honour in the whole city is that dedicated to the god Vishveshwara or Lord Shiva, who is worshipped in the lingam form, a plain conical stone (looks like a nuclear reactor) set on end. Vishveshwara is the reigning deity of Benares, and, in the opinion of the people, holds the position of king over all the other deities, as well as over all the inhabitants residing, not only within the city itself, but also within the circuit of the Panchkosi road or sacred boundary of Benares, extending fifty miles. Lord Vishveshwara is also called as Lord Vishwanath, hence, Vishveshwara Temple is called as Vishwanath Temple and Kashi Vishwanath.
Lord Vishveshwara, in his capacity of idol-king of Benares, demands the homage of his subjects, and will not resign his rights to the other deities who throng his dominions. His subjects must, first of all, worship him, and must bring their offerings to his shrine. One of the most plentiful offerings presented to Him is the Ganges water. It is not a matter of surprise, therefore, that Lord Vishveshwara should receive more adoration than any other idol in Benares. Not only the permanent inhabitants of the city, but also pilgrims and other travellers, may be seen pressing into the temple during the greater portion of the day. The worshippers are of all classes and conditions, and present a singular, and even picturesque, variety of appearance. Among the most prominent of these is the proud Brahman with shaven head - who performs his devotions with punctilious nicety; the sadhus and saints, too, in almost primitive nakedness, hair dyed and matted together, and body bedaubed with ashes, — though scarcely noticed by other people, arrests the attention of the stranger; the women are, for the most part, thoroughly clothed and, some of them, occasionally, are profusely decorated with gold and silver ornaments studded with precious stones. All the worshippers carry offerings in their hands, consisting of sugar, rice, ghee (or clarified butter), grain, flowers, water, etc. One of the most beautiful of the flowers presented is the lotus.
Over the narrow doorway which constitutes the chief entrance to the temple, is a small figure of Lord Ganesh, upon which some of the worshippers, as they pass in, sprinkle a few drops of water. As one enters the enclosure, several shrines are visible. The worshipper pays his homage to any god, or to all, as he may elect; but he must of necessity approach the paramount deity of the place- Lord Shiva, in the form of Lingam. The devotee makes his obeisance to the god either by bowing his head — his hands being folded in adoration — or by prostrating himself upon the ground; after which he presents his offering, and rings one of the bells suspended from the roof of the temple. Nearly all the worshippers engage in their devotions in a quiet, orderly, and decent manner, but with manifest perfunctoriness, and with little or no thought beyond the desire to perform thoroughly the task they have set themselves, even to the minutest particular.
The temple of Bishweshwar or Kashi Vishwanath is situated in the midst of a quadrangle, covered in with a roof, above which the tower (‘shikhar’) of the temple is seen. At each corner is a ‘shikhar’ (pyramidal tower), and, at the south-east corner of the temple is sacred Lingam or Lord Shiva. The temple presents three distinct divisions. The first is the spire of a temple of Mahadeva, whose base is in the quadrangle below; the second is a large gilded dome; and the third is the gilded tower of the temple of Lord Vishweshwar. These three objects are all in a row, in the centre of the quadrangle, filling up most of the space from one side to the other. The carving upon them is not particularly striking but the dome and tower glittering in the sun look like vast masses of burnished gold. The expense of gilding them was borne by the late Maharaja Ranjeet Singh, the king of Punjab. The tower, dome, and spire terminate, severally, in a sharp point. Attached to the first is a high pole bearing a small flag and tipped with a trident.
The temple of Lord Vishweshwar, is fifty one feet in height. The space between the temples of Lord Vishweshwar and Mahadeva, beneath the dome, is used as a belfry; and as many as nine bells are suspended in it. One is of elegant workmanship, and was presented to the temple by the king of Nepal. Outside the enclosure, to the north, is a large collection of deities, raised upon a platform, called by the the faithful ‘the court of Mahadeva’. They are, for the most part, male and female emblems. Several small idols likewise are built into the wall, flanking this court. These are evidently not of modern manufacture. Their age, however, does not seem to be known. The probability is that they were taken from the ruins of the old temple of Lord Vishweshwar, which stood to the north-west of the present structure, and was demolished by the Mughal ruler Aurungzeb in the seventeenth century. Extensive remains of this ancient temple are still visible. They form a large portion of the western wall of the Gyanvapi mosque, which was built upon its site by this bigoted oppressor of the Hindus. Judging from the proportions of these ruins, it is manifest that the former temple of Lord Vishweshwar must have been both loftier and more capacious than the existing structure; and the courtyard is four or five times more spacious than the entire area occupied by the modern temple. The architecture of the ruins clearly suggest grandiose Hindu temple.
Aartis in Kashi Vishwanath Temple: Vishwanath Temple or Golden Temple of Varanasi is also called Kashi Vishwanath that attracts Hindu faithful from across the globe. Kashi Vishwanath Temple is one of the holiest temples in the country and every Hindu has great regards for it. The beautiful highly venerated temple is situated in the world’s oldest living city of
Varanasi. Kashi Vishwanath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiv, has immense religious significance in Hindu dharma. Also known as Golden Temple, it was rebuilt by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar, the Maratha Monarch of Indore. One of the 12 ‘Jyotirlingas’, the temple is one of the holiest temples. The main deity in this temple is Shri Vishwanath whose earlier name was Vishweshwara (विश्वेश्वर). Vishweshwara means ‘ruler of the Universe’. The name given to this temple is on the names of the city Kashi and God Vishwanath. The temple has been constructed, destroyed, and re-built enough number of times. Kashi Vishwanath Temple is located on the banks of river Ganga and the Vishweshwara ‘lingam’ has a special significance in the spiritual history of India.
Five different types of ‘aarti’ are conducted on a daily basis in the Kashi Vishwanath Temple at different times of the day. Each ‘aarti’ is important and has a significance of its own. The ‘aartis’ are performed by the priests after cleaning the temple and readying gods for it. Every ‘aarti’ is accessible to the devotees. The devotees from various parts of the world gather to attend these holy ‘aartis’ in the temple. Aarti is basically a Sanskrit word, meaning complete love. Aarti is performed for the deities out of pure devotion. The devotees perform several rituals; utter auspicious hymns; sing religious songs praising the deities; and, thus, express their affection towards the God. Aarti is done to thank God after the bhajans and puja is over. The devotees or the priests light incense sticks, diyas (earthen oil lamps), camphor, etc in a plate and show it to the God while singing ‘aarti’ songs. After the ‘aarti’ is completed, the smoke that comes out of the diyas is blown towards the devotees too as a form of God’s blessings. Aarti signifies the five elements of the universe which are Jal (जल - water), Vayu (वायु - air), Agni (अग्नि - fire), Prithvi (पृथ्वी – earth), and Akash (आकाश - sky). Find the list of ‘aartis’, regularly performed in Kashi Vishwanath Temple along with its importance.
(a) Mangala Aarti: The first ‘aarti’ of Kashi Vishwanath Temple is Mangala Aarti (मंगल आरती). Mangala Aarti is morning ‘aarti’ that starts from 3:00 AM and continues up till 4:00 AM. It takes place for one full hour. The preparation of the ‘aarti’ is conducted by the priests and temple caretakers & completed by 2:45 AM. This ‘aarti’ is conducted every morning in ‘Brahm Muhurt’ (ब्राह्ममुहूर्त) to wake up the gods. The devotees who visit to partake in Mangala Aarti are allowed to go inside Kashi Vishwanath Temple to reach near the deity and offer the prayers. This is the most important ‘aarti’ in this temple. It is mandatory for the devotees to be present in the temple premises at least half an hour before the ‘aarti’ starts and then only the devotees will be let in. The devotees have to be there in the temple 30 minutes before the ‘aarti’ starts and then only the devotees will be let in. But the devotees can enter inside the main temple to witness this ‘aarti’ only at the time when the main ritual of the ‘aarti’ starts. Before that, the devotees have to just sit for 30 minutes and watch the Jyotirlinga from outside. Experiencing Mangala Aarti is quite unique & exotic. Since it takes place quite early in the morning, during Brahm Muhurt, it happens to be a bit tough for normal devotees to attend but if the devotees can make for this aarti, it will be definitely a lifetime experience. The rituals performed during Mangala Aarti are auspicious and a treat to the eyes.
(b) Bhog Aarti : The afternoon ‘aarti’ is called as Bhog Aarti (भोग आरती) that takes place during 11.15 am to 12.20 pm. This ‘aarti’ takes place for about 1 hour and 5 minutes. This is the second ‘aarti’ done 7 hours after Mangala Aarti. The importance of this ‘aarti’ is to offer food to the God. Bhog Aarti is done to offer food to God and make him relish his food while accepting what we give him as ‘bhog’. The main purpose of the ‘aarti’ is to thank God for giving us food as He is the one who is providing us food as per our ‘karma’ (कर्म). So, by dint of Bhog Aarti, priests and devotees express their humble indebtedness to the Almighty & Omnipresent for ensuring pacification of hunger and providing ‘life’ to pursue objectives in the real world. By means of the song sung during Bhog Aarti, the priests request the gods to partake the food and oblige them. By the way of this ‘aarti’, the priests offer food to the gods first, before eating themselves. Bhog are done at this ‘aarti’ time. Post Bhog Aarti, the bhog is distributed amongst the devotees in the form of ‘Prasad’ (प्रसाद) by the priests. The devotees must take the bhog by first thanking God for his grace and benevolence.
(c) Sandhya Aarti: As the name suggests, Sandhya Aarti is the evening ‘aarti’. Sandhya in Sanskrit means evening. The ‘aarti’ carried out during evening in Kashi Vishwanath Temple or any other place is called as Sandhya Aarti. The ‘aarti’ commences at 7 PM, continues till 8.15 PM and thus lasts for more than an hour. The younger priests perform Sandhya Aarti and related religious rituals, using the fire and chanting devotional songs, sacred hymns, ‘shlokas’ & Vedic mantras. The devotees can attend this ‘aarti’ as well. They get ‘Prasad’ once the ‘aarti’ is completed. Mangala Aarti & Sandhya Aarti are the most important ‘aartis’ in Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Devotees flock in horde to attend these two aartis. The pilgrims coming to Varanasi try their level best to participate in at least one of them. The sight of Sandhya Aarti, done by the priests with all the huge Diya stands, is a bliss. The mantras, bhajans, and ‘aarti’ songs are delightful to listen. The priests ask the devotees to pray to the God and ask for their well being and be grateful to God for everything that He has given us.
(d) Shringara Aarti: Post Sandhya Aarti, just after 45 minutes, the first night ‘aarti’ is performed. This ‘aarti’ is called as Shringara Aarti. Shringar Aarti is also done every night for adornment of the Lord. Shringara in Sanskrit means to adorn or decorate with ornaments. The devotees are not allowed to enter the main deity’s temple once the ‘aarti’ starts. During this aarti, the religious songs are sung by the priests and the adornment of the gods is done. In that scenario, the devotees have to do ‘darshan’ (दर्शन) from the outside. Once Shringar Aarti is done, bhog is offered to the God and then it is offered to the devotees as ‘prasad’. Watching the process of the night ‘aarti’ wherein the priests perform the Shringar of the God, i.e., they decorate the idol of the God with beautiful ornaments. Post Shringar, the idols of gods look incredible. This view is definitely a treat to the eyes for everyone. Once the Shringas Aarti is started, the devotees cannot enter the temple to have a look of the deity. The devotees have to stay outside and wait for the Shringaar Aarti to end and then only they can enter the temple to watch the idol of the God.
(e) Shayana Aarti: is carried out every day late in the night. Shayana in Sanskrit means to sleep. This ‘aarti’ is done every late night to make the presiding deity sleep peacefully. The ‘aarti’ is performed every night at 10.30 PM and ends at 11.00 PM. It is a short, half an hour, aarti done late night. Shayana Aarti is the last rite that is performed just before the Lord goes to sleep. Post this aarti, prasad, clothes and other offerings are distributed among the poor. Once the aarti is done, the temple gets closed. No other activity is performed inside the temple post Shayana Aarti to make it peaceful for the gods to sleep. The temple opens next morning with preparations of Mangala Aarti.
Visiting Kashi Vishwanath Temple without experiencing these ‘aartis’ would not be fair on your part. Spend an entire day at Kashi Vishwanath Temple to attend and witness all these ‘aartis’ for the best experience of the temple.
|Mangala Aarti||3:00 AM to 4:00 AM||A morning aarti to wake up the Lord ever|
|Bhog Aarti||11:15 AM to 12:20 PM||An aarti in which bhog is offered to the deity|
|Sandhya Aarti||7:00 PM to 8:15 PM||An ‘aarti’ that welcomes the evening|
|Shringar Aarti||9:00 PM to 10:15 PM||A night aarti done for the adornment of the presiding deity|
|Shayana Aarti||10:30 PM to 11:00 PM||Also a night ‘aarti’ that is performed just before the Lord goes to sleep|