Note: In this post, for the sake of reading, I’ve just mentioned the main highlights of the top 9 temples and haven’t elaborated much about them, that’s why I ‘ve mentioned the links to my other posts in which I’ve talked about them in detail, so feel free to check them if you need any further info about a particular temple.
The city of Varanasi is the nucleus of Sanatan Dharma. All the sects, branches, sub-branches of Sanatan Dharma are deeply connected with this city. The cults (panth) which were born on the soil of the Indian Subcontinent like ~ HINDUISM, JAINISM, BUDDHISM continue to admire Varanasi as an important religious city for them.
It is quite difficult to tell how many temples existed in Varanasi before the arrival of the Muslim invaders as most of the remains have been erased, but there is no doubt that there still remain the remains of many temples, buried inside the Earth.
Muslim invaders destroyed the temples of Benares but could not erase the love of the Hindus of this holy city.
Presently there are countless number of temples in Varanasi. Some temples are ancient, some are witnesses to historical events, some have great religious significance, some very unique, some very strange. Devotees visit these temples throughout the year. In such a situation, selecting the most major temples is a complicated task, for the simple reason that the importance of these temples changes with a change in the frame of reference and viewing.
I’ve tried to keep all the factors in my mind while listing out the most major temples but still if you think I’ve missed out any one which I should have kept in the list feel free to drop a comment below it’ll be awesome to hear it from you!!!
Markandey Temple is located at a distance of about 35 km from the main Varanasi city. This ancient temple is situated in a village called Kaithi near Saidpur on the route from Varanasi to Ghazipur.
This temple is situated on the confluence of river Ganga and Gomti. Since ancient times, the confluence of rivers has been considered very sacred in Hinduism and many pilgrimage sites are settled at the confluence of rivers.
Markandeya Mahadev Temple is one of the oldest temples of Hindus. The description of this temple is also found in Mahabharata.
मार्कण्डेयस्य राजेन्द्रतीर्थमासाद्य दुर्लभम् ।
गोमतीगङ्गयोश्चैव सङ्गमे लोकविश्रुते॥
(MAHABHARAT -PAGE 241)
According to the Mahabharata, there was a Markandeya shrine at the confluence of the Ganges and the Gomti. Hence the existence of Markandeya Tirth predates the Mahabharata.
When Markandeya Rishi was born, astrologers told his father ~Rishi Mrikand that the child would live only for 14 years. The parents were shocked to hear this.
On the advice of the learned Brahmins, parents of the Markandeya started offering prayers to Shiva on the confluence of the Ganges and the Gomti. As soon as the child Markandeya turned 14, Yamraj came to take his life. (Yama is the Hindu god of death and justice)
At that time the child Markandeya was absorbed in the worship of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva appeared as soon as Yamraj proceeded to take away his life. Lord Shiva ordered Yamraj to return when Markandeya has finished offering prayers.
Since then Markandeya ji and Mahadev ji were worshiped at that place and since then this place became famous as Markandeya Mahadev Temple.
NOTE :- This temple is located at a distance of 35 km from the main Varanasi city, but all the means of reaching the temple are accessible. At present, many air-conditioned buses of city bus service are also easily available on this route.
MULGANDHA KUTI VIHAR
The ruins of Mulgandha Kuti Vihar were found during the excavation of Sarnath in 1905.
This is the place where Gautam Buddha used to meditate during his stay at Sarnath. Later, Emperor Ashoka built a grand temple here.
Chinese traveler Xuanzang (HIUEN TSANG) came here during his visit to India and according to him Mulgandha Kuti Vihar was a grand temple. The temple was completely destroyed in 1194 by Muslim invaders.Even today, seeing the ruins of this temple, the grandeur of this temple can be easily estimated.
In 1931 the construction of a new Mulgandha Kuti Vihar temple on the lines of the ancient Mulgandha Kuti Vihar temple was completed by theMahabodhi Societyat Sarnath. At present the new Mulgandha Kuti Vihar temple is a major Buddhist temple in Sarnath.
The golden statue of the Buddha sits inside the temple and the events related to the life of Buddha are depicted through huge paintings on the inner wall of the temple.
DURGA TEMPLE VARANASI
This temple is also one of the oldest temples of Banaras. This temple has also been mentioned inKashikhand. This temple was rebuilt in 1760 by the queen of Nadia of Bengal state. The temple is mainly divided into two parts.
A huge pond is also a part of the temple, due to which it is known as Durga Kund.(as kund typically means ~a square pond)
The red colour of the temple’s building is its specialty.
It is believed that Mata Durga took rest at this place after fighting and killing Shumbha-Nikumbha. In place of the idol of Mother Durga, her face and feet are worshipped in the temple.
THE MONKEY TEMPLE
Monkeys were seen in large numbers in and around the temple, due to which this temple got famous by the name of ‘Monkey Temple’ among tourists from western countries. At present, monkeys are seldom in and around the temple, but this temple is still quite famous as ‘The Monkey Temple’ amongst the tourists from western countries.
Read this article written by me for further details:- https://nithinks.com/2022/09/25/durgakund-shri-durga-temple-varanasi/
BHARAT MATA TEMPLE
The building of this temple was designed by freedom fighter Babu Shiv Prasad Gupta and was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi in 1936.
This temple is one of the unique temples of Varanasi. There is no idol of any deity installed inside this temple. Instead, inside the temple, a huge map of the country of India is made on the floor. This map shows the geographical nature of integrated India. A map of undivided India (Akhand Bharat ) is carved in marble as a votive object.
The main building is double storied and square in plan. The map comprises 762 square pieces of marble measuring 11″x 11″. The relief map carved on the floor can be seen from the first floor’s circumambulatory passage. It measures 950 m x 920 m at the scale of 1:405500 (1 inch being equal to 6.4 miles.)
I’ve written a complete separate blog post about the Bharat Mata temple which you can read over here if you want :- https://nithinks.com/2021/01/25/bharat-mata-mandirmother-india-temple-and-vande-mataram/
ADI KESHAV TEMPLE
Adi Keshav was the most prominent and revered temple of Varanasi in ancient times. This temple is situated at the confluence of Ganga and Varuna. Historians believe that ancient Kashi was situated over here. The remains of settlements from 2000 BC have been found here in the excavation ofRajghat.
IMPORTANCE OF ADI KESHAV TEMPLE
THE IMPORTANCE OF ADI KESHAV GHAT HAS BEEN MENTIONED IN KASHI KHANDA, MATSYA PURANA AND LINGA PURANA , THIS GHAT IS ALSO KNOWN AS VARUNA SANGAM GHAT . ACCORDING KASHI KHANDA AFTER BEING ADVISED BY LORD SHIVA , LORD VISHNU PUT HIS FIRSTSTEP IN KASHI AT THIS GHAT AFTER HE WASHED HIS FOOT HE LEFT A FOOT IMPRESSION ON THE GHAT WHERE HE INSTALLED STATUE OF HIS OWN. THE PILGRIMAGE IS ALSO KNOWN AS PADODAK TIRTHA ITS BELIEVED THAT A HOLY DIP AT THIS SPOT HELPS TO FREE THE DEVOTEES FROM THE CIRCLE OF LIFE AND DEATH . BHUDEVI, SRIDEVI, KESHVADITYA ARE ALSO WORSHIPPED AT THIS TEMPLE .THE TEMPLE OF ADI KESHAV HAS A SABHA MANDAP AND A GARBH GRIH.
This holy temple of Hindus was destroyed in 1194 by Muslim invaders. It was rebuilt in 1807 by Scindia (Sindhia) of Gwalior.
Note: – Presently the newly built Khidkiya Ghat in Varanasi is becoming quite famous among tourists, the distance from Khidkiya Ghat to Adi Keshav temple is about one and a half kilometer. Tourists visiting Khidkia Ghat can easily reach Adi Keshav Temple by foot, boat or vehicle.
Please visit this post of mine for more information regarding Adi Keshav Temple:- https://nithinks.com/2021/12/06/the-search-for-hindus-lost-temples-in-the-city-of-templesvaranasi/
HAR -HAR MAHADEV
This is presumably the most famous temple of Varanasi. Exact information is not available regarding when this temple first came into existence. This temple is a symbol of the struggle of Hindus against Islamic imperialism.
From the eleventh century to the seventeenth century, the incidents of temple demolition and construction kept happening.
Whenever this holy temple was demolished by Islamic imperialists, Hindus struggled to retrieve the temple and rebuilt it.
The temple was rebuilt by Maharani Ahilyabai of Indore in 1777-80.
Later, Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab got gold plated on the top of the temple. Maharani Baijabai of Gwalior built a pavilion and a huge Nandi statue was installed there by the Maharaja of Nepal.
I won’t write any further aboutVishwanath Temple and its history in this blog post as it is already exceeding 2700 words and is more or less a pain to read, so please take a look at this blog post of mine for further information, :- https://nithinks.com/2022/05/17/history-of-hindu-struggle-and-attainment-of-shivling/
SHRI KASHI VISHWANATH DHAM
Kashi Vishwanath Temple has been expanded under ‘Shri Kashi Vishwanath Dham project’. The project of expansion of the Vishwanath temple by the Government of India was welcomed by all sections.
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi told that earlier the area of the temple courtyard was three thousand square feet and now it has been extended to five lakh square feet.
Prime Minister added that this whole new complex of Vishwanath Dham is not just a grand building. This is a symbol of the Sanatan culture of our India. It is a symbol of our spiritual soul. This is a symbol of India’s antiquity, traditions, India’s energy and dynamism. The Prime Minister said “when one comes here, they will see not only faith but will also feel the glory of the past here. How antiquity and novelty come alive together. How the inspirations of the ancient are giving direction to the future, We are witnessing this very vividly in Vishwanath Dham complex “.
This temple was built by Vishnu Pant Gajade.
This temple is located near the Vishwanath temple. The speciality of Maa Annapurna Temple is that here Maa Annapurna is shown in the kitchen. There are many other idols installed in the temple premises. In which Mata Parvati, Mata Kali, Lord Shiva, and other deities are present. Mother Annapurna Devi idol is placed on a silver throne in the temple.
Note: Although this temple remains open throughout the year, the golden statue of Mother Annapurna can be seen on only four days in a year from Dhanteras to Annakoot.
Ancient story related to Annapurna temple construction
It is said that once there was a severe famine on the earth and there was a shortage of food. This caused an outcry on the planet. The people of the earth worshiped Shiva and prayed to him to remove the food crisis. It is believed that after that Mother Parvati reached the earth with Lord Shiva.
Mother Parvati took the form of Mother Annapurna and donated food to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva distributed that food among the people of the earth. And then only the food crisis ended.
This temple is also one of the historical and famous temples of Varanasi. The Sankat Mochan Temple was established by Tulsi Das ji about 400 years ago. Goswami Tulsidas (1511 – 1623) was a great poet of Hindi literature.Ramcharit Manasis considered to be one of his greatest works.
Tulsi Das ji protected the Hindus from the self-loathing of defeat and restored the character of Lord Rama in people’s mind. I’ve elucidated about Tulsidas Ji and his unmatched contribution in protecting the Hindus and their unique culture in this blog post of mine, feel free to check it out for any further info. :- https://nithinks.com/2019/10/07/islamic-imperialism-breaking-of-idols-hindu-struggle-past-present/
Ancient story related to Sankat Mochan temple’s construction
According to religious belief, Tulsidas went across the Ganges after taking a bath. There was a dry Babool(acacia) tree there. So, whenever he went to that place, he never forgot to give water to the acacia tree. Slowly the tree started turning green.
One day while pouring water, Tulsidas found a ghost on the tree. He said- “DO YOU WANT TO MEET LORD RAMA ?” Tulsidas asked in surprise-“CAN YOU REUNITE ME WITH RAM?”
The ghost told that to meet Lord Ram, Tulsidas would have to meet Lord Hanuman first. He told him that if he went to the temple of Lord Rama in Karnaghanta he would find a leprosy patient sitting at the last, that patient is none other than Lord Hanuman himself. Hearing this, Tulsidas immediately went to that temple.
As soon as Tulsidas reached the temple and went on to meet the leprosy patient, he left from there. Tulsidas followed him. That leprosy patient went on and on and eventually entered the forest area. At that time this forest area outside the city was known as Anand Kanan Van. Tulsi Das thought that now the forest area has started and he cannot follow the patient any further. So he thought of a solution .
In such a situation, he touched the feet of that person and said “ARE YOU HANUMAN ???”, PLEASE GIVE ME DARSHAN .
After this, Hanuman Ji appeared in front of him in his actual form and on the special request of Tulsi Das, Hanuman Ji turned into a clay idol. A temple was built in the future at the place where Tulsi Das ji installed this clay idol, and that temple is what we now know, as the Sankatmochan temple.
VISHWANATH TEMPLE AT BANARAS HINDU UNIVERSITY
Vishwanath temple of the BANARAS HINDU UNIVERSITY is a replica of the old Vishwanath temple which was built around 1585 during the reign of Akbar. During Akbar’s reign, Narayan Bhatt rebuilt the Kashi Vishwanath temple around 1585 CE with the help of his minister Raja Todarmal.
This temple was demolished by Aurangzeb in 1669 CE and a mosque was built from the ruins of the temple. This mosque is currently known as Gyanvapi Masjid.
The grand temple built in the B.H.U (BANARAS HINDU UNIVERSITY) campus is a replica of the temple built by Narayan Bhatt. Hence this temple is known as ‘Naya (New)Vishwanath Mandir’ in Varanasi.
Due to the unimaginable cooperation of the Birla family in the construction of this temple, this temple is also known as Birla Mandir in other places of India.
It took almost 35 years to construct this temple, and it is one of the tallest temples in the country when measured from the top most summit.
Most of the temple is made of marble. The present building of Vishwanath temple is two storied and The idols of other major Hindu deities are also present in the temple.
The temples of Varanasi are not only important from the religious point of view but they are also living witnesses of ancient history. These temples also tell the history of Sanatan Dharma’s struggle against Islamic imperialism. In each and every difficult circumstance that one could possibly imagine, people saved their religion and culture and even today Hindu culture remains in its original form.