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Notable Temples of Varansi

Panchakroshi Temple

Rana P.B. Singh
Fig. 7.2a. Panchakroshi Temple: Front View
Fig. 7.2a. Panchakroshi Temple: Front View

In a miniature form (microcosmos), the Panchakroshi Mandir (temple; house No. CK 5/33 Gola Gali, Bhikharidas Lane, Chauk, Varanasi) built in early 19th century, possesses 107 images of Panchakroshi Yatra path in addition to 194 other images associated with the different pilgrimage routes of Varanasi (cf. Figs. 1.1, 1.2a and b). The only image not represented is of Vrisabhadvajeshvara (no. 88 on the Panchakroshi circuit, at Kapiladhara); in fact, this is replaced by an image of sage Kapila who is said to have manifested that lingam. Of course, a sizeable stone image of Kapila is in the adjacent shrine of the main temple at Kapiladhara. These miniatures like stone niches (average size of ca. 30 X 45cm) on the walls and at the front gate contain engraved form of names, of course some of them are now ruined and repaired badly by cement. Architect and pilgrimage scholar Niels Gutschow (1994: 200) remarks that “as the initiated might perform the yatra within his own body the Panchakroshi Mandir serves as tool: 272 (in fact 301!) gods and goddesses, ghats, ponds and wells are visualised, worshipped and circumambulated in a single act of motion”.

The walls of the temple are transformed into a vast sacred scene. This temple, like other temples, visualises “the cosmic force which creates innumerable forms, and these are one whole, and without the least of them the universal harmony would lack completeness” (Kramrisch, 1946: 67). Of the total 301 images the nine are in the sanctum sanctorum (garbhagriha). The patron deity of this temple is Dvadasheshvara, which carries twelve miniatures of the Jyotir lingams of Shiva. Except the central one, representing Vishveshvara made of stone, the rest are made of crystal and placed on one platform of yoni. The sequence of numbering goes from right to left. These twelve Jyotir lingams of Shiva are located in different parts of India, and further replicated in Varanasi. By the process of spatial manifestation in the past (say around 9th-10th century) all these lingams of Shiva had given special place in the sacredscape of the city. That is how the city of Varanasi has converged as “a microcosm of India” (see Fig. 7.3).

The other yatra of which images represented in the niches of Panchakroshi Mandir (temple), include Yatras of Ashta Kupa, Ashtayatana, Avimukta, Bhairava, Dakshinadik, Devi, Ekadasha Rudra, Ganesha/ Vinayaka, Kedareshvara Antargriha, (Vishveshvara) Lingarupa, Navagraha, Nagara Pradakshina, Omkareshvara Antargriha, Panchakroshi, Saptapuri, Surya (Sun-god), Uttaradik, and Vishveshvara Antargriha. The total 301 images in this temple can be categorised into 14 groups according to the representation of divinities. The frequency of the images follows as: Shiva 131, Devi (goddess) 35, Tirthas (water pool) 28, Ganesha/Vinayaka 21, Bhairava 20, Shiva’s Ganas 17, Vishnu 14, Surya 12, Grahas (planets) 7, Kupa (sacred well) 5, Rishis (sage) 5, Sacred land (tapobhumi) 3, Karttikeya 1, and Mandapa, pavilion (Muktimandapa) 1.

From the list of 56 Vinayaka Yatra (8 directions x 7 layers of atmosphere), except the first one, Arka, all the seven (2 to 8) of the first outer spiral-form circuit are represented in the niches; additionally, the five (49 to 53) of the last circuit, and one more called Asha Vinayaka (no. 42 in the list) are also replicated. Of the total 14 images of the Adityas (forms of Sun god), except Yama and Sumantva, the rest 12 got seat in the niches. In many cases the same divine images are referred in various yatras in their own sequence, of course the glorifying praises and prayers are the same.


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Singh, Rana P.B.  2004. Cultural Landscapes and the Lifeworld. The Literary Images of Banaras. Pilgrimage and Cosmology Series: 7. Indica Books, Varanasi.

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Sukul, Kuberanāth 1977 (Samvata 2034). Vārānasī Vaibhava. (The Glory of Varanasi). Rastrabhasha Parishad, Patna. [in Hindi].

© National Museum Institute, 
New Delhi, 2021
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