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Notable Temples of Varansi

Trilochaneshvara Temple

by Rana P.B. Singh & Pravin S. Rana
Trilochaneshvara Temple (with courtesy of Niels Gutschow, 2006).
Trilochaneshvara Temple (with courtesy of Niels Gutschow, 2006).

This temple represents the “Third Eye” of Lord Shiva. According to some inscriptional sources this was a prominent one in the Gahadavala period (CE 12th century). The Kashi Khanda (75.24-74) eulogizes its glory as more merit-giver even than Omkareshvara. The KKh also prescribed the rituals there after taking holy bath in the Pilipippla tirtha at the nearby riverfront ghat along the Ganga; especial merit is prescribed for visitation on the 4th and 8th day of dark fortnight (waning) of each Hindu month.

There is little information about the present temple. However, the central part of the entire compound, including the square sanctum with it pillared mandapa in front, certainly dates from first half of the 19th century. Nathubala, a Maratha noble from Pune is said to have undertaken the re-consecration of the lingam in the newly built temple. Gutschow (2006: p. 187) describes: “The details of the baluster columns and arches and the specific design of the towering pyramid above the sanctum is almost identical to that of Kalabhairava, which was established by another noble from Pune in 1817. To the square sanctum a platform (mandapa) is added without any architectural sophistication. A single row of four pillars supports a flat roof, while pilasters on the wall of the sanctum faintly indicate the other end of this spatial element. The pyramidal, six-stepped roof supports a large kalasha on a lotus, from which a pointed element emerges, identified either as a flame or a stylized coconut. This element is repeated 168 times on stumps of pillars”.

The 18 lingams establishing the body of Visheshvara represent an adequate power for destroying sins, but “the power of Trilochana is something very unique” (KKh, 75.60):

“O Aparna, listen to the reason why this Linga is superior to all the other Lingams. I shall tell. Retain it in the ear. Formerly, as I was absorbed in yoga, this great ling pierced through the seven nether worlds from beneath the earth and issued forth in front of me. I was stationed well-concealed in this Lingam formerly and I gave unto you, O Gauri, three eyes and you saw the excellent Lingam. Ever since then, O Goddess of Devas, this Lingam is praised as Trilochana, the bestower of vision of knowledge, by people residing within the three worlds. Those who are the devotee of Trilochana are all themselves three-eyed; they are my attendants; they are indeed liberated ones even while living” (KKh, 75.61-65).

Attached to this temple is an ancient holy well known for its healing water that destroys all sorts of sins (KKh 75.74-75), named Padodaka Kupa, which is now partially in deserted form. Other lingams in the vicinity are mentioned that “accord salvation on being seen and touched” (KKh, 75.76), including Valmikeshvara, but it is not sure whether this is one of the enshrined in the rear chamber of Trilochana Temple or the one located on Valmiki Tila (mound), the former mound on the north-western periphery of Varanasi.  In the compound, existing image of sun-god, Arunaditya, is praised that those who worship him, because “neither misery, nor poverty, nor sins will affect those” (51. 17-22), but nothing is said about the location of his shrine; however, it is identified with a small sun-disc (now invisible under a layer of vermilion paste) below the large Hanuman in the rear wall of the temple as Arunaditya.


Gutschow, Niels 2006. Benares: The Sacred Landscape of Varanasi. Stuttgart/ London: Edition Axel Menges.

Havell, Ernest Binfield 1905. Benares, the Sacred City. Blackie & Sons Ltd, London. Thaper Spink & Co., Calcutta (reprinted, 1968) and Pilgrims Book House, Varanasi (reprinted, 1999).

KR, Kāśī Rahasya (an appendix to the Brahmavaivarta Purana), 1957. Gurumaṇḍala Granthamalaya, No. XIV, vol. III, Calcutta. Dt. ca CE 16th century. Ref. 26 chapters.

Lannoy, Richard 2002. Benares Seen From Within. Bath UK: Callisto Books, & Varanasi: Indica Books, & Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Singh, Pratibha 2004. Śiva-Kāśi: Paurāṇic Paripekṣya aur Vartmān Saṅdarbh (Śiva-Kashi: Paurāṇic Background and Present Context). Vishvavidyalaya Prakashan, Varanasi. [in Hindi].

Singh, Rana P.B. 2009. Banaras: Making of India’s Heritage City. (Planet Earth & Cultural Understanding, Series Pub. 3). Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne U.K.

Singh, Rana P.B. 2009. Banaras, India’s Heritage City: Geography, History, & Bibliography.     [including Bibliography of 1276 sources, Hindu Festivals, 2006-15]. Pilgrimage and Cosmology Series: 8. Indica Books, Varanasi.

Singh, Rana P.B. and Rana, Pravin S. 2002. Banaras Region. A Spiritual and Cultural Guide. Pilgrimage & Cosmology Series: 1. Indica Books, Varanasi. 2nd ed. 2006; pp. 161-174.

Singh, Rana P.B. 2002. Towards the Pilgrimage Archetype. The Panchakroshi Yatra of Banaras. Pilgrimage & Cosmology Series: 3. Indica Books, Varanasi. 2nd Ed. 2011.

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

Yadav, Subhash C. [collated, ed.] 2010. Kardameśvara Temple, Kandava, Varanasi. Lucknow: U.P. State Archaeology Department.

© National Museum Institute, 
New Delhi, 2021
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