The Kashi Vishwanath Mandir at Varanasi has stood the test of time. Varanasi is the centre of Hindu civilisation. It is often said that if Kashi is the heart of Sanatan Dharma, then the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir is its heartbeat. The Kashi Vishwanath Mandir is one of the most revered Hindu temples dedicated to Ashutosh Bhagawan Shiva. It is located in Vishwanath Gali of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. The Mandir stands on the western bank of the holy river Ganga, and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. Those who have paid obeisance at the mandir would know that reaching the mandir was a struggle – as one had to pass through the highly congested lanes of the holy city.
Ancient temples were occupied by residences, urban mismanagement was accepted as a status quo, and the fate of the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir was accepted as it was. However, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rise to power, all of that has changed. On December 13, PM Modi will be inaugurating the Kashi Vishwanath Dham Corridor, which has magnificently uplifted the surroundings of the sacred shrine. A galaxy of BJP leaders, including chief ministers of various states, will be present for the grand ceremony that will be live-streamed at 51,000 different locations across the country.
The invitation letter prepared by the Shri Kashi Vishwanath Mandir Nyaas mentions that the mandir was destroyed by the Mughals. The invitation letter made it a point to highlight the atrocities committed by Mughal invaders on the Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
How the Mandir was repeatedly destroyed by Islamic invaders:
Just after Islamic invaders made their way into India, relentless attacks on Kashi Vishwanath had started. First, in the 11th century, Qutb al-Din Aibak attacked it. The temple’s peak was shattered in the attack. But even after that, puja rituals continued there. The said destruction of the sacred Hindu mandir was carried out on the orders of Mohammad of Ghor.
The Kashi Vishwanath Mandir was demolished again during the rule of either Hussain Shah Sharqi (1447–1458) or Sikandar Lodi (1489–1517). Evidence suggests that the likely invasion of Kashi Vishwanath was conducted by Sikandar Lodi.
The final assault on the mandir was executed by Mughal tyrant Aurangzeb. In 1669 CE, Aurangzeb destroyed the mandir out of sheer hatred for Hindu culture, and built the Gyanvapi masjid in its place. The remains of the erstwhile mandir can still be seen in the foundation, the columns, and at the rear part of the mosque. The current temple which stands at Kashi is not the original site of worship. The original temple continues to be situated under the symbol of barbarity that Aurangzeb erected, and what he named the Gyanvapi mosque. Interestingly, such was the lethargic snobbery of the Mughal tyrant, that he named the erected mosque with a Sanskrit name, meaning a ‘well of knowledge’.
How Kashi Vishwanath Mandir was rebuilt after every assault:
After Ghori tore down the original temple, in 1230, the temple was rebuilt by a Gujarati merchant during the reign of Delhi’s then-Sultan Iltutmish (1211–1266 CE). Yet, Sikandar Lodi took down the temple again. Raja Man Singh then built the temple during Mughal emperor Akbar’s rule. In 1585, King Todermal further renovated the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir.
In 1742, the Maratha ruler Malhar Rao Holkar made a plan to demolish the mosque and reconstruct Vishweshwar mandir at the site. However, his plan did not materialize, partially because of intervention by the Nawab of Awadh, who was given the control of the territory. Subsequently, around 1750, the Maharaja of Jaipur commissioned a survey of the land around the site, with the aim of rebuilding the temple. However, this effort did not bear fruit either.
Finally, it was in 1780 that Rani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore built a new temple next to the Gyanvapi complex, which we know today as the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir.
In 1828, Baiza Bai, who was a widow of the Maratha ruler Daulat Rao Scindhia of Gwalior State, built a low-roofed colonnade with over 40 pillars in the Gyanvapi precinct. Thereafter, between, 1833 and 1840, the boundary of Gyanvapi well, the ghats, and other nearby mandirs, were constructed.
And then, in 1885, the first Sikh emperor, Sher-e-Punjab Maharaja Ranjit Singh donated 1 ton gold for the new mandir’s domes.
How Kashi Vishwanath Mandir is being re-established:
The Kashi Vishwanath Dham corridor is simply a stepping stone. Narendra Modi has become the latest name to join a long list of people who have contributed to keeping the soul of Kashi – its ancient mandir, alive. The various facilities that have been built in the corridor include a Ganga-view cafe, a Mandir Chowk surrounded by emporium space in three floors, food courts, shops, spiritual bookstore, a VIP guest house, Mumukshu Bhawan, Vedic Kendra, Bhog Shaala, a tourist facilitation centre, three Yatri Suvidha Kendras, toilet blocks, and two museums — City Museum and Varanasi Gallery. The ghat stretches from Lalita Ghat in Varanasi to the Mandir Chowk in the temple premises, to enable at least two lakh people to be present at a given point of time.
There is a big fight which is yet to be won. Kashi Vishwanath Mandir needs to be re-established at the site of the Gyanvapi masjid. The original mandir is visible even today, because the shoddy work done by the tyrant Aurangzeb could not cover up his criminality. The tyrant could not destroy the mandir, and simply converted it into a mosque in haste. This mosque is illegal and stands atop one of the most important Hindu mandirs. The day that mandir is rebuilt, Kashi will be re-established in every Hindu’s soul, in all its glory.