A lot has been said about the city of Varanasi. Be it, the spiritual significance or its vernacular built heritage that gives a deep insight into ancient Indian history and architecture. Be it its many ghats that are lit up for the evening aarti as the sun sets in the Ganges. Be it its funeral pyres that are known as the gateway to heaven. Or be its many temples where people come praying for long lives. But a few know that these temples, take a life of their own as well.
Having been religious centres of the country since ancient times, these temples have withstood time and have seen spiritual and philosophical institutions develop in and around them. They are living embodiments of history, with thousands of stories frozen in their walls. One, more so in particular. The Kardameshwara temple, the oldest living temple among them all is one that is less popular and less frequented by the people of the city. And we are set to explore it with a unique heritage walk organised by Sahapedia, through its outreach programme 'India Heritage Walks Festival' on February 24, 2019.
Situated in Kandwa, Varanasi, the Kardameshwara temple is part of the first half of the Panchkroshi Yatra, an ancient pilgrimage journey undertaken during Shivratri. Built in the twelfth century, it is the only surviving temple after the Mughal destruction of the 17th century. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is considered to be an equivalent of the Kedareshwar of the Himalayas. Supposedly devotees visit this temple to seek fulfilment of salvation, wealth, purchase of vehicles, relief from diseases and to gain knowledge.
The Kardameshwara temple is full of fantastic stories about mythology and history and their interest quotient is only rivalled by the temple’s fascinating architecture. Built in the Pancharatha type, with 5 vertical rathas on the tower of the temple, there are intricate inscriptions on the pillars that are said to be from the 14th and the 15th century. On the upper portion of the temple are carved kanguras. The lower part that supposedly has copper sculpting, is visible in fragments. Carvings of dancers, mythical beasts, musicians, reptiles etc. are also visible. The Kardameshwara temple shows successive layers of growth beginning from the 6th century, continuing till the 17th century.
The temple is blessed with a connection of waterworks. There’s a tank next to the temple, called as the Bindu Sarovar which is known to have been formed by Lord Shiva itself. However other records say that Rani Bhawani of Bengal constructed this temple in the 18th century. Legend says that the Shivalings at the temple were established by Kardam Rishi himself, who according to Hindu scriptures was an important sage during those times.
Hear more stories about him and the role he played in building the legacy of this space as you marvel at the architectural marvels of Kardameshwara temple. But the walk also serves as an opportunity to realise the sorry condition in which most of our ancient heritage sites exist today. There’s a lot of garbage in and around the temple complex, that itself may crumble into ruins soon if proper restoration activities are not undertaken. This tangible cultural heritage hides many intangible traditions and stories and it is up to us as citizens of the country to rally the cause of saving these. There’s no better way to start than to immerse yourself in this ancient heritage and listen to the fascinating narratives of its past and present during this heritage walk.
The walk is being led by Sonali Jaiswal, a conservation architect, practising architecture and living in Varanasi. A heritage enthusiast who loves to explore the city, she is a member of the ACLA - Asian Cultural Landscape Association (SNU Seoul, Korea) and some of her research projects are on the city of Banaras. Having participated in various cultural and social activities happening around the city, she is a vivacious storyteller who is all set to take you through a journey across time and space in the beautiful Kardameshwara temple.
Come, experience the past in all its magnanimity in this ancient temple complex.
This guided tour is free.
For more details, about the walk and for registration, click here.
To learn more about the rich heritage of Varanasi on Sahapedia, click here.
Feature Image Courtesy: Ixigo// https://www.ixigo.com/kardameshwara-mahadeva-temple-varanasi-india-ne-3019915