Obeisance to Lord Siva at Kasi Viswanath Temple as prelude to the Kasi pilgrimage

Subra By Subra, 20th Jul 2012 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Asia>India>Traditions & Culture

A holy bath in the Ganges followed by prayers at Kasi Viswanath Temple are compulsory preliminaries for the Kasi yatra

How do you begin a Kasi yatra?

With some background to Kasi, its significance and the profound impact it has on devout Indians that I described in my previous article, I am now ready to take you through the Kasi Viswanath Temple as a prelude to the rituals that we had to undergo subsequently.

The Viswanath Temple is the ultimate place where the knowledge of body and soul can be realized and the lessons of dharma or the path of truth can be learnt. Many prominent saints of India like Adi Shankaracharya, Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Goswami Tulsidas, Swami Dayanand and others have given recognition to this temple as supreme.

This is a good and appropriate beginning for the Kasi pilgrimage because obeisance to Lord Siva is integral to the entire pilgrimage. As Kasi Viswanath Temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of Lord Siva located in various parts of India, it is said that a single visit to Kasi Viswanath Temple gives the devotee the benefits equivalent to performing darshan at all the other Jyotirlingas. So a Kasi yatra begins with a holy dip in the Ganges and prayers at Viswanath Temple. This is a must. Once a person has performed both he or she is symbolically ready to achieve liberation or "moksha".

We attended the early morning Mangala aarti at the temple where the Lord is woken up at 3am every morning. It is, no doubt, not an easy thing to be up and ready at the temple by 2.45am, but this is one puja which is worth the effort! First, we get to see the Lord as he was during the night (Nirmalaya Darshan). Then all the garlands and flowers are removed, and we get to see the original lingam in all its majesty (again, not an easy thing to see, as it is usually covered with flowers, water and bilva leaves). Then abhishekam is performed to the lingam followed by decoration with flowers. Again,this decoration is removed, and we get the prasad (food offering), and finally each and every one present is allowed to go near the lingam and offer prayers. This can be done in peace as the temple doors are not yet thrown open to the public.

The Saptharishi Aarthi in the evening is the aarti performed by 7 priests, each belonging to a different gothram, performing the aarti to the lingam simultaneously. It is believed that every evening the Saptarishis, the seven great sages, come to perform aarti to the Lord and hence this puja is conducted every evening at 7 pm. This is followed by the Sringar Aarthi and finally the Sayan Aarthi, when the Lord is put to sleep. To see the way in which the Sivalingam is decorated one gets awe-struck and the final aarthi is simply divine!

Mention must be made here of various other temples and mutts of significance in Varanasi. Though we could not visit and offer prayers to all of them, here is a list of some of them: Dundi Ganapathy Temple, Annapurani Temple, Visalakshi Devi Temple, Kala Bhairavar Temple, Dhandapani Temple, Bindu Madhava Temple, Vana Durgai Temple, Tulsi Manasa Mandir, Cowdi Matha Temple, Sankata Harana Anjaneyar Temple, Vyasa Kasi, Makaravahini, Saranath Buddhist Temple, Saraswathi Temple, Athma Veereswarar, Chintamani Vinayakar Temple, Gowri Kedareswar Temple, Sringeri Jagadguru Sankaracharya Swamigal Mutt, Kanchi Kamakoti Sankaracharya Swamigal Mutt, Kamakoteswarar Temple, Bharat Mata Temple, Vindhyachal Temple. Almost all the temples of Varanasi are equally sacred but Viswanath Temple is special for devotees.

A word of caution here – though Kasi is a place of great sanctity, it is also infamous for the exorbitant amounts of money the pandas (priests) extract for their services. If you talk to anyone who has visited Kasi, you will be sure to hear tales of how they have been fleeced by these priests. Unsuspecting locals and particularly foreigners are always the prey for some of these pandas who have no qualms about demanding unreasonable amounts of fees.


Abishekam, Adi Sankaracharya, Goswami Tulsidas, Gothra, Jyotirlingas, Liberation, Lingam, Mangala Aarti, Moksha, Mutt, Nirmalaya Darshan, Pandas, Prasad, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Saptharishi Aarti, Swami Dayanand, Swami Vivekananda

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author avatar Subra
A positive, cheerful personality keen to share my knowledge with like-minded people. I hold a PhD in English/American Literature as well as being an anthropologist and Chartered Accountant (ret.)

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author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
21st Jul 2012 (#)

Another inspiring work and balanced take with needed caution highlighted at the end. It is definitely the ultimate any devout Hindu looks forward to - a once in a lifetime experience. Thanks Subra for a unique effort that is rare at this site. Much appreciated - siva

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author avatar Subra
22nd Jul 2012 (#)

Your inspiring comments motivate me even more! Thanks heaps

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author avatar Subra
22nd Jul 2012 (#)

By the way Siva it looks as if some day you'll yourself go on a Kasi yatra. If and when you do I'll be too happy to assist.

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author avatar cnwriter..carolina
21st Jul 2012 (#)

so inspiring this Subra...just reading it took me into a very quiet and peaceful state...thank you...

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author avatar Subra
22nd Jul 2012 (#)

Really thrilled with what you say! Thanks a lot. Perhaps you should go to Kasi and see for yourself what it's all about. It'll be an unforgettable adventure!

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author avatar Ganesh
28th Feb 2014 (#)

Dear Mr Subra,
Thanks so much for the eye opening article. It makes me feel easier now that I 'm going to Varanasi on 20th April to perform a special 31st day soul prayers for my sister who passed away last week. Is there any procedures to go about this and how do I get to perform this ceremony. Everythig is totally new to me and I don't want to get fleeced by the pandas. Any feedback would be most appreciated.

Thanks a lot. Ganesh

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