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Sometimes the temple is referred as Golden Temple, due to the gold plating done on its 15.5 meter high spire.
Kashi Vishwanath Temple stands on the western bank of the holy river Ganges, and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest of Shiva temples. Dedicated to Vishwanatha or Vishweshwara (the Ruler of the universe), one of the manifestations of Lord Shiva, the temple has been visited by many famous spiritual personalities like Adi Shankaracharya, Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekanand, Goswami Tulsidas, Maharshi Dayanand Saraswati, Gurunanak etc. The temple attracts Hindu devotees and other visitors not only from India but also from abroad.
Although the exact date of construction is unknown, the temple has been destroyed and rebuilt in many times. The original temple, destroyed in the 12th century, was replaced by a mosque by Aurangzeb. It was rebuilt in the 16th, and again destroyed within a century. The present temple was built in 1780 by Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore. In 1839, the spire and the domes the temple were covered by gold donated by the Punjab Kesari, Maharaja Ranjeet Singh. On January 28, 1983 the temple was taken over by the government of Uttar Pradesh.
Kashi Vishwanath temple complex consists of a mandapa and a sanctum, besides many subsidiary shrines located in a small lane called the Vishwanatha Galli. The entrance of the temple is through a narrow street surrounded by unique, souvenir shops and guards. The shiva lingam, placed in the sanctum is made of smooth black stone, which is 60 cm tall and 90 cm in circumference. It is said 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). On the northern side of the temple there is a well called Gyan Vapi (Jnana vapi) Well or Gyan Kup means ‘wisdom well’ with an ancient idol of Vishweshwar. It is said that the Jyotirlingam of the Vishwanath Temple was concealed in this well by the devotees in order to protect it from the early Muslim invaders. Two domes on the roof of the Temple were covered by one ton of gold was provided by Punjab Kesari Maharaja Ranjeet Singh in 1839. Third dome still remains uncovered.
On the southern entrance of the temple, there are three temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Virupakshi Gauri and Avimukta Vinayaka. There are a group of five lingas enclosed in the temple called Nilakantheshvar temple. Shanishchara and Virupaksha temples are seen just above the Avimuka Vinayaka temple. At the entrance, there is a linga called Avimukteshvara.
The temple opens daily at 2.30 a.m. Different poojas and rituals are performed in several intervals till it closes at 9 P.M. Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple. The main festival celebrated here is Mahashivratri on the 6th night of the dark Phalgun (February- March). On the auspicious day, the observe fast and offer fruits, flowers and bel leaves on Shiva Linga. Rangbhari ( Aamlaki) Ekadashi on Phalguna (February - March), Annakoot, Makar Shakranti, Shrawan Maah and Akshya Trithiya (April - May) are the other special days for the devotees.
Vishwanath temple is surrounded by various small shrines dedicated to Dhandapani, Avimukteshwara, Vishnu, Vinayaka, Sanishwara, Virupaksha and Virupaksh Gauri. Tourists/pilgrims can take a religious tour to the nearby tourist places when visiting Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Also, devotees can take a ritual bath in the varanasi ghats and perform puja to the rising sun. Among the ghats, Varanasi Ganga Ghat, Kedar Ghat, Tulsi Ghat, Mansarovar Ghat, Dasaswamedh Ghat, Panchaganga Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, Manmandir Ghat, Dandi Ghat and Harishchandra Ghat are the famous ghats.
Also one can visit the nearby temples like Annapurna Bhavani Temple, Tulsi Manas Temple, Goddess Durga Temple, Kal Bhairava Temple, Bharat Mata Temple, Dhundhiraj Ganesh Temple (one of the oldest temples in Varanasi), Chausatthi Devi Temple, Dharmesha Temple, Kedareshvara Temple, Mahamrityunjaya Temple, Nepali Temple , New Vishvanatha Temple, Sankat Mochan Mandir, Goddess Shitala Temple, Vakratunda Vinayaka Temple and Vishalakshi Mandir. Also one can shop sarees, dress materials, jeweleries, wooden toys and gift items from the nearby shops.
There is a website developed in 2007 for this temple. One can offer poojas and rituals through this website.