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Kasi-kshetrancha Kalabairava darsanam|
Prayaga madhavam Trushtva Yega Bilvam Sivarpanam||
Maha-Smsana Nilayam Prasanna Spadiga-prabavam|
Vedhacvam Jyothir Roopamcha Yega Bilvam Sivarpanam||
... Varanasyantu Vishwesam ...
The ancient city of Varanasi understands life in a different way from the rest of the world. The Ganges ever flowing sweeps the banks of this ancient city as she flows by. A city seeped in faith, aware that the only truth is death and reminds itself every time with every spec of ash that merges with the river, the essence of life leaves the body to return another day. This city has seen the soul depart every day with every burning pyre reminding us about the only truth that lies is the realm of Shiva.
While the mind dwells on the limitation of life, and witnesses its freedom along the burning ghats of the Ganges, as the ash merges into water, it presents a very different spectacle on the morning of Shivaratri.
As one rises up in the early hours of the morning, to make a visit to the Kasi Vishwanath temple, there is a strong possibility that you get run over by a clan of nagas visiting the Lord on this auspicious day. A river of ash clad naked men just gushes through the narrow street of Vishwanatha temple, and nothing except the Ganges can stop them. Its a different world, of Gods and saints, of a river of ash clad aspirants coming to life and suddenly disappearing into the darkness for another night of Shivaratri.
And then the path is open to us. To step in the direction of this ancient temple, to breath in the air that surrounds it, to imbibe the peace and tranquility it presents is a very different experience altogether. A series of small temples are located deep within the jungle of temples and mosques within this narrow street. And here within this small compound you find everybody. The heavend descend to earth to present its silent extravaganza.
The various shrines present within this complex are dedicated to Vishnu, Virupakshi Gauri, Avimukta Vinayaka along with a cluster of five Lingas that are enclosed inside another shrine chamber called Nilakanteshwar temple. Apart from them,Shanishchara and Virupaksha also are housed here. Interestingly there is a shrine chamber dedicated to Avimukteshwara Shiva, which has also been speculated to be the main Jyotir Linga at Kasi Vishwanath.
The main story goes that this temple was constructed by a brahmin called Divodas on the request of Nikumbha and Aunikumbha. This pleased the Lord and he granted a boon to all his devotees. Divodas wanted to have a son but he was not blessed with one. This enraged him and he went and destroyed the same temple he had built for the Lord. Nikumbha cursed the land and said it would be devoid of worshippers. When the land grew empty the Lord descended again and took residence here permanently. The Lord stands here as a Swayambhuvalinga. Parvathi offered food here to all her devotees and is known by the name of Annapoorni. The Lord Himself is seen with a bowl here, asking for annam from the seated Goddess.This is also a ShaktiPeetham as the Goddess's left hand fell here when her corpse was cut my Vishnu's Sudarshan chakra.
The Shiva Linga here is placed within a square shaped mettalic (silver/brass) pit. The Linga is of black stone. The Lord is worshipped and bathed with holy Ganges water and flowers are offered. The puja to the Lord for the day is complete when the Arti rises into the air and fills the chamber with song and light. Truly its a journey through life to heaven in a single visit to Kasi.
Photo courtesy: Liveindia.com