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Kasi

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Bhooma

Member
I had a a wonderful time visiting Kasi,Gaya and Badrinath last year with my family. Even though the weather was very cold, we felt it was the right time as it was not so crowded( mid to end of October ). If any member is interested, I would be pleased to pass on the contact details of the tour operator who did a splendid job.
 

Chintana

Active member
Dear Posters,

We'd like information on going to Kasi on a pilgrim tour. Please share with us what you know.

Best Regards,
Chintana
 

kaivalyam

Member
Having stayed in Kashi for many years, I'd say the following:

(1) Visiting the Vishwanath temple:-
(a) If you care about money:- Be careful when visiting the temple. The approach to the temple is through a very narrow road lined with shops. To say that the shopkeepers are belligerent is an understatement. They'll try to get you to buy a lot of stuff, leave your footwear at their stores and so on. Don't listen to them. You can leave your footwear right at the temple gates. Avoid carrying any leather goods(purses, belts) as you cannot take them inside and there are no good places to leave them outside the temple. Get elsewhere any pooja stuff, Ganga water(and milk) for pouring over the linga. You can do your own worship to the deity there. Don't give anybody any money because, once they sense a weakness, they'll demand money from you for everything. Go around like you know the place and ignore anybody who tries to give you directions. Definitely know Hindi or get someone who knows Hindi. The old temple where the jyotirlinga was is now a mosque and you cannot go there. You'll see Nandi facing that direction.

(b) If you do not care about money:- These traders and poojaris need to make a living as well. Nonspiritual though it may seem, this is the only way for many of them to make their ends meet. If you are so inclined, you can help as many people as you can. If you are doing this, get a guide. That way, you'll get to know the significance of each place and he can take to each poojari who does some pooja for you.

(2) Visiting the Vishalakshi temple:- Not many people know where this temple is. It is close to the old Vishwanath temple. Ask people there for directions and they'll tell you.

(3) Visiting the Vishwanath temple in BHU:- This is a very beautiful temple built in the Birla style. For many people, this is the default Vishwanath temple. If you don't explicitly specify that you want to go to the old temple, you will most likely be taken here.

(4) Durga kund temple and Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple are other notable places. The Sankat Mochan temple is a very famous temple here and associated with Goswami Tulasidas, the author of Shri Tulasi Ramayana.

(5) Ganga - If you are collecting water from there, try to get it further away from the banks. If you take a boat, make sure it isn't overloaded(no more than three). The currents in the river here are deceptive, so please be careful.

(6) Ghats - There are lots of ghats here, each with its own significance. Some are bathing ghats and some aren't. Know the type of the ghat before you go there.

The people in general are very nice and helpful. You'll find really spiritual and pious people everywhere(and you'll also see people with all too human character flaws as well). However, if you have realistic expectations and show a tiny fraction of the patience that Shri Vishwanatha shows :), there is no reason why you wouldn't enjoy your trip. Watch where you are going though because you'll find paan spit everywhere. If you are going in the winter, you should expect it to be mildly cold(approx 0C-4C) and if you are going there by train, you'd be better off travelling in an A/C compartment due to better thermal insulation and temperature regulation. Do consider carrying multiple layers of clothing if you aren't accustomed to cold weather.

Even if you don't wish to sample the local cuisine, consider trying out the sweet or 'meetha' paan and 'thandai'(if you do try this out, and if it matters to you, specifically ask for 'bhaang' to be excluded. It is added by default). Don't get south indian food here, you'll most likely be disappointed.

I think the Shankara matha there arranges accommodation, though I'm not very sure about this.
 

kaivalyam

Member
Also, if you go to the BHU Vishwanath temple or to the university itself, explicitly mention that you want to go inside the university. Otherwise, you might just get dropped off at the university gate at Lanka and it is a good 2+km walk from there in potentially cold weather.
 

muthu

Member
Visiting Kasi ,Allahabad and Gaya

Can any one help me giving contact details for visiting Kasi,Gaya and
Allahabad for performing pithur karya.

Regards,

muthus
Having stayed in Kashi for many years, I'd say the following:

(1) Visiting the Vishwanath temple:-
(a) If you care about money:- Be careful when visiting the temple. The approach to the temple is through a very narrow road lined with shops. To say that the shopkeepers are belligerent is an understatement. They'll try to get you to buy a lot of stuff, leave your footwear at their stores and so on. Don't listen to them. You can leave your footwear right at the temple gates. Avoid carrying any leather goods(purses, belts) as you cannot take them inside and there are no good places to leave them outside the temple. Get elsewhere any pooja stuff, Ganga water(and milk) for pouring over the linga. You can do your own worship to the deity there. Don't give anybody any money because, once they sense a weakness, they'll demand money from you for everything. Go around like you know the place and ignore anybody who tries to give you directions. Definitely know Hindi or get someone who knows Hindi. The old temple where the jyotirlinga was is now a mosque and you cannot go there. You'll see Nandi facing that direction.

(b) If you do not care about money:- These traders and poojaris need to make a living as well. Nonspiritual though it may seem, this is the only way for many of them to make their ends meet. If you are so inclined, you can help as many people as you can. If you are doing this, get a guide. That way, you'll get to know the significance of each place and he can take to each poojari who does some pooja for you.

(2) Visiting the Vishalakshi temple:- Not many people know where this temple is. It is close to the old Vishwanath temple. Ask people there for directions and they'll tell you.

(3) Visiting the Vishwanath temple in BHU:- This is a very beautiful temple built in the Birla style. For many people, this is the default Vishwanath temple. If you don't explicitly specify that you want to go to the old temple, you will most likely be taken here.

(4) Durga kund temple and Sankat Mochan Hanuman temple are other notable places. The Sankat Mochan temple is a very famous temple here and associated with Goswami Tulasidas, the author of Shri Tulasi Ramayana.

(5) Ganga - If you are collecting water from there, try to get it further away from the banks. If you take a boat, make sure it isn't overloaded(no more than three). The currents in the river here are deceptive, so please be careful.

(6) Ghats - There are lots of ghats here, each with its own significance. Some are bathing ghats and some aren't. Know the type of the ghat before you go there.

The people in general are very nice and helpful. You'll find really spiritual and pious people everywhere(and you'll also see people with all too human character flaws as well). However, if you have realistic expectations and show a tiny fraction of the patience that Shri Vishwanatha shows :), there is no reason why you wouldn't enjoy your trip. Watch where you are going though because you'll find paan spit everywhere. If you are going in the winter, you should expect it to be mildly cold(approx 0C-4C) and if you are going there by train, you'd be better off travelling in an A/C compartment due to better thermal insulation and temperature regulation. Do consider carrying multiple layers of clothing if you aren't accustomed to cold weather.

Even if you don't wish to sample the local cuisine, consider trying out the sweet or 'meetha' paan and 'thandai'(if you do try this out, and if it matters to you, specifically ask for 'bhaang' to be excluded. It is added by default). Don't get south indian food here, you'll most likely be disappointed.

I think the Shankara matha there arranges accommodation, though I'm not very sure about this.
 

Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
Banares/Kasi/Varanasi

Banares aka Kasi and Varanasi is the holiest city for the Hindus. In the words of M.A. Sherring who wrote about the city in 1868,

"It is acknowledged throughout the world as a core of the Hindu tradition and a seat of ancient learning. It is a city where where infinity, continuity, the past and present live together. There are few cities in the world of greater antiquity, and none that have so uninterruptedly maintained their ancient celebrity
and distinction."
"Blessed is Kashi, the city of liberation, adorned by Ganga and the soothing soul-saving maiden of a river, the Manikarnika."
- Adi Sankaracharya.

The present city is not very old. It lies along the bank of the river Ganga. There is a long line of ghats (a series of steps leading down to the river). You could read up something about the city here.

http://hinduism.about.com/library/weekly/aa041201d.htm

Now for the visitor old Banares is a maze of small lanes dotted with temples. The first time you land in Banares, the only word which comes to your mind is "chaos". If this is the feeling of an Indian, you can imagine the feeling of the visitor who has come to India for the first time. To add to to the confusion there are security personnel all over the place.

The most important temples are

Viswanath temple
Annapurana temple
Kalabhairava temple

I will explain the significance of these temples in my next post.
 

tbs

Well-known member
hi all,
i visited banares(kashi) /gaya /saranath in bihar with my family.
i did my father's yearly sraddham at kashi and gaya sraddham too.
if u plan for this trip...........plan carefully with well versed vadhyar
and known tamil family. i had chance to do GO DHANAM in kashi
HINDI IS AN ADVANTAGE FOR THIS TRIP...

REGARDS
tbs
 

Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
The temples of Kasi - Kala Bhairava Temple

The most famous temple in Kasi is the Viswanath temple.

But traditionally a pilgrim is expected to visit the Kala Bhairava
temple first. It is because Kala Bhairava is the Lord of Kasi. He is
the Kotwal or the magistrate. Adi Sankara in his Kala Bhairavashtakam
calls him

"Kasikarapuratinatha KalaBhairavam Bhaje".

We take Kala Bhairava's permission and then proceed to other temples.

So I will start with the KalaBhairava temple. We in Tamil Nadu are
familiar with Bhairava. All our Siva temples have a Bhairava nadai.
Kala Bhairava is the Lord of Kala ( time) or Death. This is a temple
which is believed to be not destroyed by the invaders. It is a
beautiful but small temple.

Two things you will immediately notice in the temple. One is the
presence of a number of dogs. Dog is the vahana of Bhairava and there
is a statue of a dog also. Another thing is the number of people
sitting around selling Black threads. If you go to them they will tap
your head with peacock fathers and tie the black thread in your hand.
This thread has a number of knots in it. It is a Rakshai and is
supposed to ward off evils.

Long back this temple used to be frequented by Tantriks/Yogis who used
to remove evil by uttering mantras and touching you with the peacock
feathers. But now the Tantriks/Yogis have disappeared and these are
traders. Talking about peacock feathers the Muslim holymen also use
peacock feathers to ward off evil. But the learned Muslim holymen have
also disappeared.

You might have heard of the term "kasikkayiru". In the old days
pilgrims to Kasi would come back with a number of Kasikayiru and tie
them in the hands of all people especially children. I remember the
time when my grandmother went to Kasi and got the thread for me.

You should recite KalaBhairava Ashtakam here. You can get books in
Devanagari script in the temple in case you do not have a sloka book.
But any pilgrim to Kasi should carry a book of slokas.

The last lines of the ashtakam are beautiful.

"kalbahiravashtakam patanthi e manoharam. Jnana mukti sadhanam vichtra
punya vardhanam. Soka, Moha, Dhainya, Loba, Kopa, Tapa nasanam, te
prayanti Kalabairavangri sannidim druvam."

There is another temple nearby called the Dhanda temple. Kala
Bhairava's weapon is a dhandam or stick. You would have heard about
Yama dhandam, the stick carried by Yama. This temple has a stone
stick. You may not be able to see it as it is always covered by a silk
cloth. Please do not be taken in by the priest telling you that it is
Dhandapani or Lord Muruga. This is done to attract Tamil pilgrims.
Muruga also carries a Dhanda. That is why he is called Dhandapani. But
this temple is for Kala Bhairava's Dhandam. There were other dhanda
temples in Kasi. None of them have survived.

You have to enquire about this temple which is not in the usual pilgrim's tour.

A small aside: The most popular Bhairava in Tamil Nadu in recent time
is Swarna Akarshana Bhairava. As the name shows gold attracting
Bhairava. He is a Bhairava of the Siddhas who were alchemists among
other things.
 

happyhindu

Well-known member
Thanks much sir. Please do post about the other temples.

Is there any specific reason why the dog became Kalabhairava's vahana?

The deification of animals is fascinating. Is there any place or group in India where Cats are revered, just as the Bastet?

Am wondering about these vahanas: Mushika for Vinayaka, Buffalo for Yama, Peacock for Skanda, Crow for Shani, Nandi for Shiva, Garuda for Vishnu, and so on.

Would these vahanas have a spiritual significance or would it mean there were ancient groups that were associated with these animals? Like lets say, is it possible to associate Skanda with a Peacock-taming tribe? Then there is Hayagriva - is it possible that horse riding people would have wanted to emulate its mental strength and focus, and thus deified it? Have heard the Chenchu tribe claims that Lakshmi was from their tribe, wonder if they were associated with Owls in the past...it wud be fascinating to know if these are just folktale or is there more to such stories...or perhaps its best to just see the spiritual significance rather than trying to associate too much with too much with no basis :) It wud be great to hear from you on this sir.

Thanks & regards.
 

Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
Yes. Unlike many of the Vahanas, the association of dogs and jackals
with Bhairava is very easy to understand. Bhairava stays in the
cremation grounds. He is the Lord of the Bhuthas. Dogs and jackals
frequent cremation grounds. (At least they used to till now when our
municipal corporations seem bent on renovating the cremation grounds to
look like public parks.)

The other place where dogs are depicted is with Lord Dattatreya. He
has four dogs lying at his feet. These represent the four Vedas. But
in general dogs have a very low place in our religion. It is because
we are Cow people and not sheep people like the Christians. Dogs are
used to herd the sheep. We had no use for the dog. Another reason for
the low status is the fact that dogs eat their own vomit.

Cats have no place in Hinduism except the big ones, Lion and Tiger.
Lion is the vahana of Devi. She is associated with jungles and is said
to be of tribal origin. Lions were very common in ancient India. When
they disappeared people replaced lion with tiger. It is also because a
deficient language like Hindi does not even have a word for Lion. Sher
is Lion and tiger. So Sherewali Maa becomes Devi on a Tiger, though in
the Murti in the temple she is riding a Lion. In Sanskrit she is
always Simhavahini.

Thanks for asking me. That got me going. This is sathsang.
 

happyhindu

Well-known member
Yikes! i didn't know dogs do that :) No wonder they are considered stress-free pets - they clean up after themselves even in the worst possible way :der: Am wondering which were the earliest animals to be tamed...and in which geographical regions of India were hunting dogs first tamed..i suppose they were associated with people who tended in the burial grounds as well :preggers:

And we being the agri-society that we are, Cows always seem to reign supreme everywhere. Cannot imagine a gaaywalla given any importance in the present time but still ppl argue based on occupation jaati groups :) Now am also able to understand why ppl from the former shepherd groups never like to identify themselves as such (i wud see their role as a case of caste evolution actually).

i just went thru this very well done article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vahana

Looking forward to knowing more abt the other two temples.
 

Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
That was a good article about Vahanas. There is a form of Ganesa known as Heramba Ganapati whose vahana is Lion. This is a good site about Ganesa.

http://www.csuchico.edu/~cheinz/syllabi/asst001/spring99/Karmegam/index.html

Viswanath Temple:

This the famous temple visited by millions of Hindus. The old temple was destroyed by Aurangazeb who built a Mosque in its place. The new temple is adjacent to the Mosque. This was built by Rani Ahilya Bayi Holkar. The Holkars were Mahratta chieftains who ruled over parts of Madhya Pradesh with Indore as their capital. Kasi was in the possession of the Mahrattas.

The domes of the temple were covered with gold plates by Maharaja Ranji Singh of Punjab. Yes, the same king who made Hari Mandir of Amritsar the Golden temple.

The temple is not very big. Except during the Aarti times, you are allowed to do the Abhishek of the Sivalinga. You can buy the Ganga water, Bhailva leaves, Dhatura, and other Puja materials favoured by Lord Siva near the temple. Beacause of the presence of the Mosque this is a high security area and there is vigorous checking. Better to leave your cell phone and camera at home. There are a number of shops which provide locker facilities. They are O.K. You may carry a lock with which you can lock the locker. But please note down the location of the shop carefully. Since the temple is in a maze of lanes, you may find it difficult to locate the shop later. I have seen people running around searching for a particular shop.

There are three Artis in the temple. Early morning 3.30 A.M, Afternoon and Evening. They sell special tickets for the early morning and evening Aarti. You can buy the tickets in the temple. They do not have any seating arrangements. People sit outside the Garba Graha and view the Arti through the doors. Reach the temple at least an hour before time so that you can get a good seat. Do not miss the Arti. It is a thrilling experience. I remember the good old days when we used to walk in and see the Arti every day.

Lingashtakam by Adi Sankara is to be recited at this temple. You can add Chandrasekharshtakam also.

Near the temple is a well known as Jnana Vapi. The temple of knowledge. You should see this. When I was in Kasi last month, I saw a lot of new construction going on. They are adding to the temple. The construction is near the Jnana Vapi. Since Jnana Vapi is next to the Mosque, security is severe. This well is one of the series of holy wells in Banares.

One of the first things the British did when they captured Banares, was to clean up all the wells which were the major source of diseases and stench not having been cleaned for ages. More about wells later.
 

Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
Viswanath temple:

Hyuen Tsang, the Chinese traveller visited Varanasi in the 7th century. His travel accounts speak of the grandeur of the city and of its temples. This writer describes a hundred feet high statue of Shiva made of brass ( must be Shiva Linga) that adorned the city.

The Abishekams done in the morning and evening are "kan Kolla katachi". The prasadams after the Arti are taken off by the Pundits. You have to catch hold of one of them and give him Dhakshina (you know) to get the prasadams. Among other things like Milk, Curd, Ghee etc. one of the unusaual Abhisekam is done with Bang (
cannabis). The Bang prasadam is very much in demand.

You can read about the bang tradition here.

http://www.holifestival.org/tradition-of-bhang.html

The other hallucinating drug associated closely with Shiva worship is Datura.
 

happyhindu

Well-known member
Thanks much sir. The video is great and i can imagine how thrilling it must be to be really seeing it.
Please do post about the Annapurana temple.

Regards.
 

Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
Annapurna temple

This temple is in the same lane as Viswanath temple. You have to pass by this temple to reach Viswanath temple. Annapurna is the bestower of food and prosperity. Annapurana is supposed to haven given Bikshai to Shiva in the form of Bikashadanar. Adi Sankara had composed the famous Annapurnashtakam about this Deity. A beautiful sloka. You should recite it here.

The present temple was constructed by Balaji Baji Rao one of the Mahratta Peshwas. Peshwas were Brahmins. At present this temple is owned by the Annapurna Mutt with a Mahant in charge. The idol is a small one made of black stone. Normally you do not see the idol because it is covered by the Silver Kavacham and flowers. You see only the face of the silver kavacham.

But if you are particular to see the image, you can buy an Abhishekam ticket. The Abhishekam takes place in the morning and you are allowed to do the Abishekam. But the ticket may not available for all the days. Enquire in the office.

On Diwali day they take out the Golden Annapurna and she comes around in a Laddu chariot. Worth seeing. We go round on Diwali day enquiring "Ganga snanam accha?". Imagine having a bath in the real Ganga on Diwali day and having dharshan of Maa Annapurna in her golden splendour riding in a Laddu chariot.

When you reach the temple, you will notice

1. The crowd is very thin when compared to Viswanth temple. There is practically no Q.
2. Once you enter you are greeted by notice boards in Telugu and Tamil. The crowd is mostly from Andhra Pradesh.You do not find many local people.
3. The temple serves free food in the afternoon. You get your token in the office. There is a huge rush and a melee. Then when the food comes you find it is South Indian (Andhra) food.

This seems to have become a Telugu temple. You will find that most of the Donors and the Management committee are from Andhra Pradesh.

You can donate for Anna Dhana here. One day's Anna Dhana costs Rs. 1500.

Visalakshi Temple:

There is a saying in Tamil " Kanchi Kamakshi, Kasi Visalakshi". But this is not known in Kasi. The Visalakshi temple is near Viswanath temple. You have to enquire around. Then they may ask "do you mean the Nattukottchetti temple? This is the local name as the temple was constructed by the Nattukottai Chettiars. Not an old temple. A small temple in typical Tamil Nadu style.

I will write about the other temples and the Ghats later.
 

happyhindu

Well-known member
Thanks sir...me too have heard abt kasi annapurna temple from andhra folks, being a community depending mainly on agricultural income, apparently they like give away part of their harvest as annadanam...

Looking forward to the other temples and ghats..
 

Nacchinarkiniyan

Well-known member
Annapurna temple: As a student of religious history, I have also been interested in tracing the evolution of temples. Annapurna temple is an example of how a temple evolves and changes over a period of time. Annapurna temple was a favourite temple of the Bengalis. The Bengalis are very much attached to Kasi. Annapurna is mentioned as a form of Maha Kali in the Adhya Kali stotram. This stotram envisages Maha Kali as the supreme deity. That is why the name Adhya. Rani Rashmoni had planned to come to Kali for dharshan of Annapurna. But MAA appeared in her dream and asked her to construct a temple for her in Kolkata. That is the genesis of the famous Dhakshineswar temple.

They have a Maha Meru (Sri Chakra) in the mandap of the temple. Pilgrims conduct regular Lalita Sahasranama archanai there. You have to bring your own Sasthirigal. Local Telugu/Tamil pundits do it. If you pay well you can do the archanai to the main deity also.

This Vigraha and the Sri Chakra in this temple were consecrated by Sri Abhinava Vidyatirtha Swamigal, the 35th Pontiff of Sringeri Sarada Peetham on Diwali day in 1977.

Bindu-Madhava Temple: This is an ancient temple. Not well known to the pilgrims. This was built in the 5th century A.D and reconsecrated and a grand temple built by Raja Man Singh of Amber in the 16th century. This occupied the highest point in Kasi and was visible for miles around. The temple was destroyed by Aurangazeb in 1682 and a mosque was built in its place.

A new temple was built by the Raja of Aundh (Satara, Maharashtra) in the 19th century. This temple is popular among the Vaishnavites of South India. If anyone knows the background of that popularity please post here.

This temple is at one of the ends of Varanasi called the Pancha Ganga Ghat. A very steep climb from the Ganga river. I have not been able to get there by road.

Durga temple:This temple was constructed by a Bengali Maharani in the 18th century. The name of the Maharani is not known. This is in the typical north Indian Nagara style. It is stained red with ocher and has a multi layered spire (shikhara) consisting of five segments symbolizing the five elements and supported by finely carved columns. This is a beautiful temple with a Beautiful MAA.

This temple was known as the monkey temple because of the presence of a large number of monkeys there. But the monkeys have disappeared. Talking about monkeys I remember the time when Tirupati temple was full of monkeys. I remember my younger brother was attacked by one (may be he was making faces at them).

There is a tank near the Durga temple known as Durga Kund. This is older than the temple and mentioned in old books.

Sankata Mochan Hanuman temple:This is a modern temple without any historical significance. However now they are claiming that it was established by Tulsidas the author of the Ram Charith Manas (Tulsi Ramayana). It is a very popular temple. It is a fairly large complex unlike the other Kasi temples. There is also a Tulsi Manas Temple: A modern concrete temple in memory of Tulsidas.

Viswanth Temple, Banares Hindu University.The foundation stone of this temple was laid in 1931. It took along time to complete the construction. This is said to be a replica of the original Kasi Viswanth temple. Worth visiting. You can see a photograph of the temple here.

http://www.bhu.ac.in/temple.htm

Bharat Mata Mandir: A temple dedicated to Mother India. No idols. Only a big relief map of India. The map has been carved out of white marble. It is situated in Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth campus.
 
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