Kashi Vishwanath temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and and it is one of the most famous Hindu temples located in Varanasi (earlier Banaras), Uttar Pradesh, India. It is the holiest existing temple Every Hindu is wish to go there at least once in his lifetime to pay homage to this ancient shrine. The remains (ashes) of the cremated ancestors are poured here on the River Ganges as a means to help them attain salvation.
The temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas-the twelve most holy Shiva temples and it is built on the western bank of the Ganges .
It is said that a visit to the temple and a bath in the Ganges is all it takes to lead anyone to the path of liberty.
During religious occasions like Shivratri (Night of Lord Shiva), Kashi Naresh (King of Kashi) is the chief functioning priest and no other person or priest is allowed to enter the temple till he performs his religious functions.
Varanasi claims to be the oldest living city in the world, with 3500 years of documented history, and is called Kashi in almost all ancient scriptures. Hence, the name-Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
The temple has been rebuilt several times. The original temple was destroyed by Aurangzeb who built a mosque in its place, but the traces of the old temple can be seen behind the mosque. The present temple was built by Maharani Ahilya Bai of Indore in the year 1776 and the gold plating on the towers of the temple was provided by Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Indore.
To the side of the temple is Gyan-Kupor (The Well of Knowledge). It is believed that the Shiva Lingam removed from the original temple was hidden in this well to protect it from Aurangzeb and it still lies there.
The iconographic form of Lord Shiva, the Lingam, represents the unity of the three states of the universe viz., Srishti (Evolution), Stithi (Existence) and Samhara (Involution) which work in a cyclic process of infinity. All these states are controlled by the Trinity which comprises of Brahma-The Creator, Vishnu-The Preserver and Shiva-The Destroyer. Shiva being the last one to complete the cycle from where the new cysle starts is also called Mahadeo (or Mahadev) which means the Supreme Divinity. It is said that Kashi Vishwanath has the mantra to salvation and those who live in Kashi get Aarth (meaning of life), Dharma (lawfulness), Karma (ability to act freely) and moksha (salvation).
It is believed that when the earth was created the first ray of light fell on Kashi.
There are legends that believe that Shiva had actually stayed here for some time. Shiva is supposed to the guardian of the city and its people. It is said that in Kashi even the nine planets cannot do their own free will and have to abide by Shiv. Shani was supposed to have come to Kashi in search of Shiv and could not enter the temple for 7 and half years. When you visit Kashi you will see the temple for Shanidev outside the Vishwanath temple.
The place itself is a major attraction to the visitors and the devotees. The temple has one of the most intense Aartis (Hymns) and Shlokas (verses) chanted almost 24×7 which adds to the divinity of the entire atmosphere. The best time to visit Kashi Vishwanath temple is during the festival season of Lord Shiva. Mahashivratri, Rangbhari (Aamlaki) Ekadashi, Annakoot , Shrawan Maah, Makar Shakranti, etc are the most auspicious festivals for the devotees of Shiva. During these festivities, Shiva is decorated beautifully.