TRAVELOGUE TO MUKTHINATH KATHMANDU AYODHYA ALLHABAD NAIMISARANYAM CHITRAKOOT AND VARANASI DURING THE MONTH OF APRIL 2009
When we finished our pilgrimage to Badrinath last Year, Sathyan, my second son suggested whether we can organize a visit to Mukthinath in Nepal next Year. One of my close friends had gone there and returned in 5 days. They flew down to Delhi and then to Kathmandu, Pokharan & Jamsom. I took it that Sathyan plans to make the visit in the similar way.
Some time in Jan 2009, suddenly he conveyed that he has paid advance for all the three of us ( me, Mythili and Sathyan) and we are on a group of 30 people. The tour would take around 15 days and cover all the important holy places in Nepal and UP. When I hesitated for the reason that he has to take leave from his office for 15 days and leave the children with Vidya for the entire period, he was adamant and insisted that we take the pilgrimage. Seeing his keen initiative, I couldn’t say NO and agreed.
We left Chennai on the night of 14th April by train to Gorakhpur. The weather during the entire journey was horrible. Thank God, we travelled by 3 tier AC coach or otherwise, the severe heat was unbearable. We reached Gorakhpur on the evening of 16th and stay was arranged in the Dharamasala run by the Gorekeshwar Trust. We visited the temple in the night.
The city of Gorakhpur has a rich history of culture and historical importance. In ancient times the area of Gorakhpur included Basti, Deoria, Azamgarh, and parts of Nepal. The city of Gorakhpur was an important center of Aryan civilization. Gorakhpur dates back to 6th century in India. Gorakhpur is named after the renowned Guru Gorakshnath who performed “Hath Yoga” where the Gorakhnath
Temple now exists which is one of the many historical sites in the city. Gorakhpur is the birth place of not only King Vikas Sankrityayan Ji but also of Saraswati Shishu Mandir. Gorakhpur was part of the ancient empires of Shunga, Kushana, Gupta, and Harsha dynasties. Few are aware that the Tharu King Mausen of Madan Singh ruled over the great city of Gorakhpur and all of the adjacent areas.
During the medieval period when northern India fell into Muslim leadership Gorakhpur was included. Ruled by Qutb-ud-din Aybak to the Bahadur Shah Gorakhpur was influenced by the muslim culture. By the year 1803, the city of Gorakhpur was under British control. Gorakhpur became one of the major centers of the famous 1857 uprising. Gorakhpur helped the Indian national movement. The turning-point in the history of India’s freedom struggle started with the ‘Chauri Chaura’ incident of 1922. Planned at the residence of Baldev Prasad protesters burnt down the entire Chauri Chaur Police Station killing over eighteen policemen. The trial of Jawaharlal Nehru took place in the district of Gorakhpur during the year of 1940. The coming of the mystic poet and famous saint Kabir to Maghar took place in the great city of Gorakhpur. The Great Lord Buddha who founded Buddhism renounced his costumes at the confluence of rivers Rapti & Rohini during 600 B.C. in Gorakhpur making it the center of religious worlds of Hinduism as well as Buddhism. Gorakhpur also has the famous Gita Press Hindu publisher of books making it a city rich in culture and history.
Next day in the early morning we left for Pokharan in Nepal. The journey by the bus took the entire day and we reached late in the evening. It was very tiresome. Having travelled in Kerala many a times, the entire stretch to Pokharan from the India- Nepal Border made me to feel as if I am travelling in Kerala. The mountain range on one side and villages on the other side replicated the Kerala scenes. Corruption is common everywhere and it is there also in Nepal. Our bus being Indian with Indian number plate, it became handy for the policemen to stop the bus for some flimsy reasons. Once the palm is greased, we were allowed to proceed. At the border, we have to register the vehicle showing the entire vehicle records and we are issued with a permit with a validity of One week. Though we have been advised to carry our identity card- either the passport or the electoral card, we have not been checked.
Pokhara lies on an important old trading route between Tibet and India. In the 17th. century it was part of the influential Kingdom of Kaski which again was one of the Chaubise Rajaya (24 Kingdoms of Nepal) ruled by a branch of the Shah Dynasty. Many of the mountains around Pokhara still have medieval ruins from this time. In 1752 the King of Kaski invited Newars from Bhaktapur to Pokhara to promote trade. Their heritage can still be seen in the architecture along the streets in Bhimshen Tol (Old Pokhara). Hindus, again, brought their culture and customs from Kathmandu and settled in the whole Pokhara valley. In 1786 Prithvi Narayan Shah added Pokhara into his kingdom. It had by then become an important trading place on the routes from Kathmandu to Jumla and from India to Tibet.
When the citizens of Bhaktapur came to Pokhara they brought many cultural dances like, "BHAIRAB DANCE, TAYA MACHA, LAKHE DANCE" and many more which helped in the tourism sector. Before only Newari people used to live here. After the British camp was shifted here Magar and Gurung people also used to live here.
From 1959 to 1962 some 300,000 refugees came to Nepal from neighboring Tibet, which had been annexed by China. Four refugee camps were established in the Pokhara valley: Tashipalkhel, Tashiling, Paljorling and Jambling. These camps have evolved into settlements. Because of their different architecture, prayer flags, gompas and chorten, these can easily be distinguished from the other settlements. Until the end of the 1960s the town could only be reached by foot and it was considered even more a mystical place than Kathmandu. The first road was finished in 1968 after which tourist set in and the city grew rapidly. The area along the Phewa lake developed into one of the major tourism hubs of Nepal. Pokhara is the gate way to the world's best trekking route "Round Annapurana". which is usually a trek of 25 days. Pokhara Airport is a regional airport and was established on July 4, 1958 It is operated by the government (Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal). It offers regular connections to, Jamsom
The plane ride from Pokhara to Jamsom keeps everyone on the edge of their seats. The little plane flies in the gorges between huge Himalayan cliffs gaining altitude steadily in order to reach high station Jamsom. On this ride you get to see firsthand how really high the Himalayas cliffs are. Tiny villages rest on hilltops of smaller cliffs. Each of the villages are so isolated that its atleast three days walk to the nearest town that has a motorable road. The Himalayas also trap the monsoon clouds from getting to Tibet. Here, you get a first hand view of what that means. The Cliffs clearly raise much above the cloud cover. As a result the lower Himalaya is green and water rich sending all the water back to India while Tibet on the other side has eroded to be a dry plateau. From the cockpit view is the Dhaulagiri, the seventh highest mountain in the world (8167m or 26795 ft). For last minute fun the plane leaps over a gorge and a river that runs very close to the edge of the runway. As soon as we got out, we immediately noticed that the air is much cooler here. Dhaulagiri stands tall overlooking the airport. There is an army camp nearby. The airstrip is shared both by the army and commercial operators. Flights to Jamsom operate only in the morning as it gets very windy in the afternoons.
Kandaki river enroute to Mukthinath from Jamsom.
road to Mukthinath
Elevation 3800 metres. Hindus and Buddhists alike visit Muktinath. The temple is built in the pagoda style dedicated to Lord Vishnu or Avalokiteshwara as the buddhists call him. For Hindus, Muktinath is one of the most important places of pilgrimage. Due to its remoteness Muktinath doesn’t see pilgrims by the thousands.
Water from the Glacier above flows down through these Gomukhs. There are 108 of these behind the temple.
Holy water from Gandaki River
Padmasambhava & Dakinis
Lord Vishnu & Shalagramas
The building of the current main temple is initiated by Queen Subarna Prabha, the second wife of Shah Rana Bahadur (1775-1806), King of Nepal, after she had a dream. In 1815 AD - the year of the ending of the Anglo-Nepal war - the temple at Mukthinath was built, as can be read on a bronze plaquette in the temple.
Statue of one of the most influential philosophers of India, Srimad Ramanujacarya Maharaja (1017-1137 AD) in a corner of the entrance building of the Vishnu-Chenrezig temple.
Information about the visit to Mukthinath as detailed in the official web site of Mukthinath Foundation International.
Can I travel to Muktinath safely by myself?
Basically the trip can be divided in two parts: from Kathmandu to Jomsom, and from Jomsom to Muktinath.
From Kathmandu to Jamsom you can:
Starting from Jamsom you can:
Where can I buy bus tickets, and can I do this at the last minute?
The road is OK, and officials at government road blocks prevent the drivers of trucks and buses from going too fast by noting down there arrival time at each road block. The cheap local buses to Pokhara always have bad tires and are often run by junior drivers. You can feel comfortable travelling with a tourist bus to Pokhara though. Having said this, travelling by bus in Nepal is less save than flying.
And how about the plane tickets for Jomsom?
Kathmandu is situated in the heart of the Himalaya mountains, and has a rich history. Considered by some to be among the most beautiful cities in the world, the earliest known inscription in the Kathmandu Valley is dated 185 AD. The oldest firmly dated building in the earthquake-prone valley is almost 1,992 years old. Four stupas around the city of Patan said to have been erected by Charumati, attest to the ancient history present within are in Patan near kendra Hiranyavarna Maha vihara (called "Patukodon"). The Licchavi Dynasty whose earliest inscriptions date back to 464 AD were the next rulers of the valley. The Malla Dynasty consisted of Newar rulers, who ruled Kathmandu Valley and the surrounding area from the 12th century till the 17th century when the Shah Dynasty founder Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered the valley as he created present-day Nepal. Most of ancient Nepali Architecture present in Nepal today is from the Malla/Newar era.
The city of Kathmandu is named after a structure in Durbar Square called Kaasthamandap. In Sanskrit, Kaasth (काष्ठ) is "wood" and Mandap (मंडप/मण्डप) is "covered shelter." This unique temple, also known as Maru Sattal, was built in 1596 A.D. by King Laxmi Narsingh Malla. The entire structure contains no iron nails or supports and is made entirely from wood. Legend has it that the timber used for this two story pagoda was obtained from a single tree.
Kathmandu is also sometimes called "Kantipur". "Kanti" is an alternate name of the Goddess Laxmi, and "pur" means the place where such a goddess resides. Thus, the name Kantipur demonstrates the ancient belief that it is the place where Laxmi dwells. Before the Newars there were lots of kings who ruled Kathmandu. One of them was of the Kirati people. Ancestors of the old Kirati know that many history books of Kathmandu were deliberately burnt because they did not want other people to know that the Kirati lived in Kathmandu before the Newars did. Some people say that the Newars were the native people of Kathmandu because there are many Newari speaking people, but this is only a myth.
We left Kathmandu in the early morning and reached Gorakhpur late in the evening and stayed at Gorekeshwar Dharamasala. Next day in the early morning, we left for Ayodhya and reached around 11 AM. We took our holy bath in the river Saryu immediately on reaching Ayodhya and before settling down at Birla Dharamasala
The city of Ayodhya is an important pilgrim place for Hindus in India. It is one of the seven holiest cities of India. Ayodhya is the birthplace of Lord Ram, who is an important deity in the Hindu pantheon. This small, quiet town attracts pilgrims from all over the country. Hindu pilgrims visiting Ayodhya during festivals and important religious functions consider a holy dip in the sacred Saryu River very auspicious. Ayodhya city was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Ayodhya, where Lord Ram was born. It is also mentioned in Hindu mythology and the Ramayana. The ancient scripture of Atharvaveda describes Ayodhya as 'a city built by gods' and compares its prosperity with the glory and splendor of the paradise.
Babur, the founder of the Mughal Empire in India, constructed a mosque in Ayodhya. It became the part of the great Mughal Empire and was ruled by them for many years. After the decline of the Mughal Empire, it became a part of the regional state of Awadh, which was later annexed by the British.
Near the remains of the Babri Masjid, the traveler can see the Ram Janmabhumi (birthplace of Lord Ram) shrine. It is believed that Lord Ram spent much of his childhood here. Visiting the Janmabhumi of Lord Rama is a nightmare as the security is very severe and one has to cross more than 3 check-points. We walked through winding railings and through few more check points. Then, we could see the rubble that once was a mosque. Finally, there He was, at a distance. It was difficult to get a good dharsan of the Lord. The closest the line gets to the shrine is about 30 feet away. The priest was seated on a bench close to the line. Pilgrims handed over their offerings to him. Chatting with the guard standing nearby, the priest handed back some prasadam. A few seconds later we were walking out. In all, it took about 15 minutes for us to walk through the line, have dharsan and exit. There are more than 200 security personnel guarding the entire area- drawn from the local police force and para military troop. Other places to visit in Ayodhya are Lakshman Ghat, Kala Ram temple and the Kanak Bhavan temple, which was built in the 19th century. One kilometer east of the Ram Janmabhumi shrine is Hanumangadhi (Fortress of Hanuman, the revered monkey god and friend/devotee of Lord Ram). It is said that Lord Hanuman lived in a cave nearby to protect the Ram Janmabhumi.
The main attraction at Ayodhya for the group was the visit to "Ammaji" temple. This is a South Indian temple constructed by a devout Sri Vaishnava more than 100 years ago. The temple is located in one of the side streets and we almost could not find it. Lord Rama is most majestic here. There is a small sannithi for Lord Ranganatha and another sannithi for Acharyas including Sri Ramanuja and Sri Manavalamaanunigal. The worship at this temple is like any temple in the South.
After the lunch, we left for Naimisaranyam and reached in the mid night and stay has been arranged at the Ahobila Mutt.
1. This kshetram is said to be one of the 8 swayam Vyatka kshetram. The other swayam Vyatka kshetram are Sri Rangam, Srimushnam, Salagram, Thotadri (Vaanamamalai), Thirupathy, Pushkaram and Badri.
2. This Naimisaranya kshetram is said to be regarded as "Tapovanam". There are 9 tapovams. They are Dandakaranyam, Saindhavaranyam, Jambhukaranyam, Pushkararanyam, Utpalaranyam, Badrikaranyam, Gurujangalaranyam, Aruputharanyam and Naimisaranayam. It is belived that the perumal is found in the form of forest. And this Naimisaranyam is regarded as a holy forest.
The Emperumaan of this sthalam is giving his seva as the entire form of the Vanam (forest).
In the old age, all the Maha Rishis along with Sownakar went towards Brahma devan and asked him which is the best place suited for doing Yagam and tapas. As the answer, Brahma devan took a dharbai grass and made it as a wheel shape and rolled the dharbai grass. Brahma devar said after he rolls the grass, the place where it stopped is said to be the ideal place for doing tapas and yagam. He rolled the wheel and it stops at a particular place in the Earth and that place is said to the place which is called as "Naimisaranyam".
Nemi means a Wheel and Naimisam means the place where the wheel landed. Aaranyam means forest. Since Nemi, the Chakkaram which landed on Aaranya the forest, the sthalam is called as "Naimisaranyam". This Naimisaranyam is said to be the place where most of the Rishis have done sacrifices, tapas and meditation and have explained the meaning of old puranas and veda.
The Lord Emperumaan gives his seva as in the form of Nature. This sthala emperumaan, gives his seva with the name as "Sri Hari" along with Sri Hari Lakshmi and gave his audiance (prathyaksham) to Devendran, Sudharma, Devarishis, Soodhapuranika and Vedavyasa.
Once, Balarama, the brother of Sri Krishna came to this kshetram. At that time, Soodhar was very busy creating puranas. He didn't notice the arrival of Balarama. On seeing this, Balarama got angry and hit him. He got into sin by committing this. To get out the sin, he went to lots of Punya kshetras for an year and finally he came back to this kshetram and help the rishis and yogis, who were suffering from the frightening of a arakkan (Demon) by named "Vilvalan". All the rishis and yogis thanked Balarama for making them to perform austerities, tapas in peace to reach the Emperumaan.
Gayasooran, an Asura did tapas in this sthalam. Sriman Narayanan gave His audiance to him as he was fulfilled by his tapas. Sriman Narayanan asked him what boon he wants as a result of complete tapas. But, Gayasooran answered the Almighty, that he didn't want any boon from him and he was so strong powerful than Sriman Narayana. On hearing this, Sriman Narayana sent his wheel (chakra) to kill the asura and his body was cut into 3 parts. The three parts are the Siro Gaya, (the head part), the Nambi Gaya (the middle part) and the Charana Gaya (the foot part). This sthalam, the Naimisaranyam is said to be the Nabhi Gaya. The Gaya Kshetram is said to be the Charana Gaya and Badri is said to be Siro Gaya. Offering prayers to departed souls in all these three sthalams is said to be so grateful.
The sthala viruksham, known as tree is Tapovanam and all the trees found in this sthalam are said to be sthala viruksham and because of this, the sthala viruksham is Tapovanam (Vanam means the entire forest).
The Pushkarani of this sthalam are Gomukhi Nadhi and Chakkara theertham. On the shore of Chakkara theertham, separate sannadhis for Chakarathalwar, Vinayaka, Sri Rama, Lakshmana and Seetha Piratti is located. On the way to Gomukhi Nadhi, a separate temple called as "Vyasa Ghat" is found. On the other side of this sthalam, a temple for Suka maharishi is situated, where Suka Bhagavan's e bronze statue lies.
Near to this Suka Maharishi temple, a temple for Hanuman on the top of the mountains which is known as the "Hanuman Ghat". He is in standing posture holding Sri Rama and Lakshmana in his two shoulders, in Vishwaroopa Kolam.
One of Ahobila Mutt Jeeyar attained Paramapadham in this sthalam and as his rememberance, his sannadhi and a mutt of Ahobilam is opened in this sthalam. Ramanuja koodam, Vaanamamalai Jeeyar Mutt are also situated, helping the devotees who come to this sthalam to get the seva of this sthalam Emperumaan.
Thirumangai Alwar who is the only alwar who has done the Mangalasasanam on this sthala perumal explains about the life led by the human. The Moolavar of this Naimisaranyam Divyadesam is Devarajan. He is also named as "Sri Hari". Moolavar in standing posture (Nindra thirukkolam) facing east direction. Prathyaksham for Indiran, Sudharman, Devarishi, Soodhapuranikar and Vedavyasar.
After lunch, hosted by the families of Gopal and Ramanathan, left for Allahabad and reached in the night. Stay has been arranged in Bangur Charitable Trust Dharamasala. Next day morning, all of us took our holy bath at Triveni sangamam. Day happened to be Amavasya; some of us did our Tharpanam in the triveni sangamam
Allahabad also known as Prayag, is believed to be the spot where Brahma offered his first sacrifice after creating the world. It is one of four sites of the Kumbh Mela, the others being Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik. It has a position of importance in Hinduism and Hindu mythology for it is situated at the confluence, known as Triveni Sangam, of the holy rivers, Ganges and Yamuna, and Hindu belief says that the invisible Sarasvati River joins here also.. The Puranas record that Yayati left Prayag and conquered the region of Saptha Sindhu. His five sons Yadu, Druhyu, Puru, Anu and Turvashu became the main tribes of the Rigveda. In the times of the Ramayana, Prayag was made up of a few rishis' huts at the confluence of the sacred rivers, and much of the Vatsa country was continuous jungle. Lord Rama, the main protagonist in the Ramayana, spent some time here, at the Ashram of Sage Bharadwaj, before proceeding to nearby Chitrakuta. When Islamic rule came, Prayag became a part of the Delhi Sultanate when the town was annexed by Muhammad of Ghor in 1193. Then the Mughals took over from the rulers of Delhi and under them Prayag rose to prominence once again. It was from Allahabad that Prince Salim, later to become emperor Jahangir, revolted against his father, the Mughal emperor Akbar. In 1602, prince Salim held a parallel imperial court in Akbar's fort here, ignoring the royal summons to leave Allahabad and proceed to Agra. However, before his death in 1605, Akbar named Salim his successor. The history repeated itself when in his (Muslim League) presidential address on December 29, 1930 at Allahabad, Muhammad Iqbal outlined a vision of an independent state for Muslim-majority provinces in northwestern India named Pakistan.
From Allahabad, we reached Chithrakoot in he afternoon. Located in the Banda district of modern Uttar Pradesh(U.P), on the banks of river Paisuni(Mandikini),Chitrakoot is a tranquil retreat on the northern spur of the Vindhyas. Just 6 km south of Karvi and 72 km south east of Banda district on the road to Allahabad, Chitrakoot Dham is one of the most ancient holy pilgrim places of India. Legends have it that it was the abode of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and brother Lakshman for eleven years of their fourteen years of exile. This is also the place,where they came in contact with sage Atri and sati Anasuya.This abode of the gods is credited to have seen the incarnations of Brahma,Vishnu and Mahesh. Chitrakoot ,sacred with the touch of Lord's feet,was where Goswami Tulsidas, the creator of the epic "Shri Ramcharitmanas" spent many years of his life. Dotted with innumerable temples and shrines, nature's splendor here is wrapped in peace and tranquility, permeated only by singing birds and gushing streams. A forested hill of prime religious significance, this is believed to be the original Chitrakoot. The Bharat Milap Temple is located here. Pilgrims perform a ritual circumambulation of the hill to seek blessings.
Sphatik Shila This picturesque spot is marked by two immense rocks. It is believed to be the place where Lord Rama and Sita feasted their eyes on the beauty of Chitrakoot. When Indra’s son Jayanthan misbehaved with Sita Devi, Rama punished him by throwing an arrow from this spot.
Hanuman Dhara Located on a steep hillside, it is approachable by a flight of 360 steps. Here, the waters of a natural spring cascade over an image of Lord Hanuman.
Ram Ghat On the banks of the River Mandakini, and center of ritual activity, this Ghat is the most frequented in Chitrakoot. The "Aarti" performed in the evening is particularly beautiful.
Janki Kund An unusual cave over the Mandakini. Said to be the place where Sita bathed.
We left Chithrakoot in the evening, reached Varanasi in the mid night via Allahabad. The stay was at the Sankara Mutt.
According to a popular Puranic story, when Vyasa failed to get alms in Varanasi he put a curse on the city. Soon after, at a house where Parvati and Shiva had taken human form as householders, Vyasa was so pleased with the alms he received that he forgot his curse.[ However, because of his bad temper Shiva banished Vyasa from Varanasi. Resolved to be near at hand, Vyasa took his residence on the other side of the Ganga where his temple may still be seen at Ramnagar.
Varanasi is a holy city in Hinduism, being one of the most sacred pilgrimage places for Hindus of all denominations. More than 1,000,000 pilgrims visit the city each year. It has the holy shrine of Lord Kashi Vishwanath (a manifestation of Lord Shiva), and also one of the twelve revered Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.
Hindus believe that bathing in Ganga remits sins and that dying in Kashi ensures release of a person's soul from the cycle of its transmigrations. Hindus regard Kashi as one of the Shakti Peethas, and that Vishalakshi Temple stands on the spot where Goddess Sati's earrings fell.Hindus of the Shakti sect make a pilgrimage to the city because they regard river Ganga itself as Goddess Shakti. Adi Shankara wrote his commentaries on Hinduism here, leading to the great Hindu revival. Vaishnavism and Shaivism have always co-existed in Varanasi harmoniously.
Varanasi is a city of temples. Almost every road crossing has a nearby temple. Such small temples form the basis of daily local prayers and other rituals. But there are many large temples too, erected at different times through out the history of Varanasi.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple, also called Golden Temple, which in its present shape was built in 1780 by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore, is located on the outskirts of the Ganga. This temple makes Varanasi a place of great religious importance to the Hindus, as Vishweshwara or Vishwanatha, the aforementioned Jyotirlinga of the Lord Shiva is enshrined here. It is said that a single view of Vishwanatha Jyotirlinga is considered to merit more than that of other jyotirlingas. A Naubatkhana was built up in front of the Temple by the collector Mohammed Ibrahim Khan at the instance of Governor General Warren Hastings in 1785. In 1839, Punjab Kesari, the Jat-Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the ruler of Punjab donated gold to cover the two domes of the temple. On January 28, 1983 the Temple was taken over by the government of Uttar Pradesh and its management was transferred to a trust with Late Dr. Vibhuti Narayan Singh, then Kashi Naresh, as president and an executive committee with Divisional Commissioner as chairman.
The temple was once destroyed by the Muslim Emperor Aurangzeb who built a mosque over it. It was later resurrected at a location near the mosque, and is many times a cause of local strain among Hindus and Muslims.
Durga Temple, also nicknamed "Monkey temple," was built at some point of time in 18th century. The temple got the name 'Monkey temple' because of the presence of large number of monkeys in the temple. According to legends, the present statue of Goddess Durga was not made by man but appeared on its own in the temple. Thousands of Hindu devotees visit the Durga temple during Navratri and other auspicious occasions. Non-Hindus can enter the courtyard of the Durga temple but not the inner sanctum.
The architecture is of Nagara Style, which is typical of North India. The temple is accompanied by a rectangular tank of water called Durga Kund. ("Kund" meaning a pond or pool.) The temple has multi-tiered spires and is stained red with ochre, signifying the red colour of Durga. The Kund was earlier connected to the river itself thus refreshing the water. This channel was later closed, leading to locked water which is replenished only by rain or drainage from the Temple. Every year on the occasion of Nag panchami, the act of depicting Lord Vishnu reclining on the coiled-up mystical snake or "Shesha" is repeated in the Kund.
Most of the temples that are located on the Ganga Ghats are old and date back to the medieval period. According to legends the first Siva Jyotirlinga, the fiery pillar of light, came through the earth here and flared into the sky. Therefore Varanasi is also called Kashi, "the City of Light." The Kashi Vishwanath temple, located near the Ganga Ghats, is the most famous and important temple of Varanasi. In this temple resides the guardian of the holy city, Lord Shiva. Other important temples of Varanasi are the new Vishwanath temple, the Sankat Mochan temple, the Durga temple, the Kal Bhairav temple and the Mritunjaya temple.
The new Vishwanath Temple, called Birla Mandir, mainly funded by RaThe Jyotirlinga of Shiva, Vishweshwara or Vishwanatha, is enshrined in the Kashi Vishwanath temple, considered as one of the holiest temples of India. In Hindu religion it is believed that a simple glimpse of the Jyotirlinga is a soul-cleansing experience that transforms life and puts it on the path of knowledge and Bhakti (devotion). A single darshan of Vishweshwara Jyotirlinga is considered to merit more than the darshan of other jyotirlingas, scattered in various parts of India. The Kashi Vishwanath Temple has been a living picture of the timeless cultural traditions and highest spiritual values.
Governor General Lord Cornwallis establish the Sanskrit College (1791), which was the first college in Varanasi. The first principal of Sanskrit College was Sanskrit Professor J. Myor, ICS followed by Dr. J.R. Ballentien, RTH Griffith, Dr. G. Thevo, Dr. Aurthor Venice, Dr. Ganganath Jha, and Gopinath Kaviraj among others. After independence this college became Sampurnanand Sanskrit University.
The new Vishwanath temple of Varanasi is located in the premises of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU). It is also called the Birla temple as the famous industrialist family of India, the Birlas, constructed it. The New Vishwanath Temple is dedicated to lord Shiva and is a replica of the original Vishwanath temple. The temple is built in white marbles, and was planned by Madan Mohan Malviya, the founder of the Banaras Hindu University. The most important characteristic of the new Vishwanath temple is that it is open to people from all castes and religions. The huge campus of New Vishwanath Temple is a delight to the eyes of visitor. The interior has a Siva lingam and verses from Hindu scriptures are inscribed on the walls.
We left Varanasi on 27th night by Ganga Cauvery super fast train and reached safely on 29th morning. Though the entire trip was tiresome, we had a heartfelt satisfaction that we have completed this pilgrimage successfully- thanks to Sathyan.