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Notable Temples of Varansi

Vrishabhadvajeshvasta Temple

Rana P.B. Singh & Pravin S. Rana

According to an 8th century text, the Kuttanimatam, the prince Samarabhatta worshipped here. This indicates the historicity of the place. The temple of Vrishabhadhvajeshvara (also called Kapileshvara, named after sage Kapila; Fig. 1.1) Shiva and the attached water pool, Kapiladhara, are both eulogized in the Mahabharata epic, and prescribed as archetype of the waterfront sacred site of Gangasagar. That’s how this site is assumed to be the replica of Gaya, famous for the ancestral rites. In the ancient period the area of the temple was surrounded by bushes and dense tress, therefore this was saved from the destruction by the Muslims. This is the fifth night-halt on the Panchakroshi Yatra route.  This site is known for ancestral worship in the form of systematic rituals under the direction of the local priest. The natural setting, the stairways to the water pool, the meeting of the raised platform with the fields, the associated shrines and images (like sage Kapila, folk singers Guru Bihari and Pattu, Sati, Daksha, Vyasa, Hanuman, Chandi, Shiva, etc.), all together make this area a sacredscape. The unique image of dancing Ganesha, symbolizing his 56-forms in one, called Chhappan Vinayakas’ Vinayaka, is in a shrine that also contains the image of sage Kapila, the progenitor of the Samkhya philosophy of Indian thought. This Ganesha has eight hands representing the 8 directions, and seven bends to his body representing the 7 layers of the atmosphere. The product of 8 by 7 together makes 56. There are 10 dharmashalas, rest houses for the pilgrims.

In the ancient period the area of the temple was surrounded by bushes and dense tress, therefore this was saved from the destruction by the Muslims. This is the fifth night-halt on the Panchakroshi Yatra route, and being the last one considered to be more meritorious, which is supported by the ancient tale that tells Lord Shiva while riding on his vehicle Nandin Bull carrying flag in his hand firstly stopped here and was worshiped by all the gods gathered here (cf. KKh, 62.84).

In some of the temples of Varanasi, one finds special forms of lingams associated with sacred geometry and cosmic connotation. The Bayalisha‑Lingi Lingam at Kapiladhara on the Panchakroshi route (see Fig.1.2) represents the total form of Shri Yantra’s triangles. Shri Yantra is drawn from nine triangles, four pointed downward and five upward, thus forming 42 (6 x 7) triangular fragments around a central triangle. There is probably no other set of triangles that interlock with such integrational perfection. This is also represented as a symbol of life, both universal and individual. In other ways, the seven sheaths (chakras) and six directions (including above and below) together make 42.

Shiva is described as the greatest yogi who in all the junction of space, time and energy cycles reveals the cosmos. According to the Kashi Khanda (73), Shiva controls the three realms (heaven, earth, and the netherworld) as a Yogi by His manifested power of two layers of sheaths (seven up from navel cord base, and seven down), i.e., 14. This way, 3 x 14 becomes a total of 42. There are 42 different lingams at various places in Varanasi. However, all of them are represented in one structure at Kapiladhara (Fig. 1.2). In this way, 42 represent the super‑state of consciousness where macro and micro cosmos meet.


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© National Museum Institute, 
New Delhi, 2021
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