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One of the most popular attractions in Varanasi, the Vishwanath Mandir, also known as Kashi Vishwanath Temple, is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the presiding god of the city. Also referred to as the golden temple, due to its gold-plating, this temple holds a very special place among Hindu devotees. Given its present shape in 1780 by queen Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore, the temple's iconic 15.5-metre-high gold spire and gold dome were donated by Ranjeet Singh, the ruler of Punjab in 1839. The temple is ensconced within a maze of other shrines and narrow galis or walkways lined by shops selling sweetmeats, paan (betel leaf), handicrafts and other knick-knacks. The time for darshan (general visit) is from 4 am to 11 pm. Adjacent to the temple are Annapurna Temple dedicated to the goddess of food and Dundiraj Vinayak dedicated to Lord Ganesha, which are equally revered. The temple is located on the banks of River Ganges and the jyotirlinga (devotional shrine of Lord Shiva) present here is believed to be the 12th jyotirlinga. The temple campus also has a well called Jnana Vapi or wisdom well. Many believe that the jyotirlinga was kept in the well to protect it and the main saint of the temple jumped into the well to keep it from intruders. The temple finds immense significance in Hindu mythology as many great saints from the religion are believed to have visited this site to get the darshan of the jyotirlinga and to bathe in the holy waters of the Ganga.
Kal Bhairav Temple, as is evident from the name, is dedicated to Lord Kal Bhairav, the fiercest form of Lord Shiva. The main idol in the temple features a man wearing a garland with a skull for a face. A popular belief here is that Kal Bhairava decides who stays in Varanasi, and perhaps that is why those coming to the city, first visit the temple, and those leaving stop here to take the god's permission. The entrance to the temple is narrow and one can see the deity from it. Devotees like to offer sesame oil and flowers to the deity. The inner sanctum has a back entrance but only priests can access it. There are many shops lined outside the premises in case visitors need to buy offerings for the god.
known as Monkey Temple due to the presence of a number of monkeys there. Within the compound is a kund (pond), lined by stone stairs on all sides and watch-pillars standing at each corner. The temple is an important pilgrimage site for Hindu devotees, especially during Navaratri (a Hindu festival during which the goddess is worshipped). Among the devotees, there is a popular belief that the idol of Goddess Durga came into being on its own, and the red hues of the temple are a tribute to the goddess who is associated with the colour. Many believe that the goddess protects devotees from problems.
There is another famous Durga temple in Varanasi that goes by the name of Brahmacharini Durga Temple. It is located close to the Durga Ghat (means Durga Kund) at the bank of Ganga.
Paying homage to the 6th-century Indian bhakti poet Goswami Tulsidas, the author of the epic Ramcharitramanas, the Tulsi Manas Mandir was constructed in 1964. Made with white marble, the temple is beautifully landscaped and has verses and scenes from the Ramcharitramanas engraved on its walls. Located close to the Banaras Hindu University, it has a lot of historic and cultural importance primarily because Goswami Tulsidas is credited with popularising the Indian epic Ramayan, by writing it in Awadhi, a dialect of the Hindi language, thereby making it accessible to the masses. The temple is dedicated to Lord Rama and lies in close proximity to the famous Durga temple. It houses beautiful idols of Lord Rama, Goddess Sita, Lord Lakshmana and Lord Hanuman. It also has a lovely garden.
One of the oldest temples dedicated to Lord Hanuman, the Sankar Mochan Mandir is located in the southern part of the city, close to Assi Ghat and Banaras Hindu University. Founded by saint Tulsidas, the temple is very popular among devotees. The word 'sankat mochan' translates into one who helps remove sufferings. Many devotees believe that visiting this temple would put an end to their miseries. Tuesdays and Saturdays, considered as holy days, see maximum crowds who flock to the temple to worship the deity. People offer sindoor or vermilion to the idol of Lord Hanuman along with ladoos (spherical sweets). The sindoor is then put on the forehead of devotees. The temple is also the venue for several classical musical festivals, including the week-long Sankat Mochan Sangeet Samaroh, that takes place annually in April.
Dedicated to the 23rd tirthankara (saint) of the Jain religion, Parshavnath, the Parshavnath Jain Temple is located away from the city centre, at Bhelapur. Primarily managed by the Digambara sect of Jainism, the temple is a prominent pilgrimage centre for members of the Jain community. It is believed to date back to the time of Bhagawan Adinath. It is said that that the svayamvar of the daughter of the king of Kashi, Sulochana, was held here. The tirth also finds mention in Vividh Tirth Kalpa, which was written by Acharya Jinaprabhsurisvarji, a scholar, in the 14th century. The lattice work of the temple is delicate and intricate and the carvings along the walls of the structure add to its value.
Along with Banaras Hindu University, the other great seat of learning in Varanasi is the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth. The Bharat Mata Temple is located within the campus of this varsity. This unique temple, which worships no gods or goddesses except Bharat Mata (Mother India), was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936. The temple houses a marble statue of Bharat Mata (Mother India), which is modelled to symbolise India. Its design indicates the goddess of India for all the religious deities, leaders and freedom fighters. It also houses a marble relief geographical map of undivided India, representing plains, mountains and oceans.
The temple was constructed by Babu Shiv Prasad Gupt. It is an eight-storeyed structure with a height of about 180 ft.