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Sunday, June 28, 2020

jhanki darshan at Kashi Vishwanath Temple ~ no kanwar yatra 2020

The month of monsoon which is known as the 'Shrawan Maas' or 'Saawan' in is devoted to Lord Shiva and pilgrims from all over India visit the holy cities on the bank of the Ganges to collect its holy water.  Kanwar is a bamboo pole which has two pitchers hung with a rope on either side A Kanwariya, meaning a devotee, carries this bamboo on his shoulder or both the shoulders and does a yatra while balancing the weight of the two containers. They head to places where the river Ganga flows (Haridwar, Rishikesh, Gaumukh, Gangotri, Kashi etc.) and fill the pots with her waters and then offer it to Lord Shiva. Some devotees decorate the Kanwar with colourful papers and flowers.

Varanasi  (Holy Kasi) also known as Benares is a city on the banks of the river Ganges in Uttar Pradesh, 320 kilometres (200 mi) south-east of the state capital, Lucknow, and 121 kilometres (75 mi) east of Allahabad. A major religious hub in India, it is the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism,    served by Varanasi Junction railway station and Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport.

Varanasi grew as an important industrial centre famous for its muslin and silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory works, and sculpture. Buddha is believed to have founded Buddhism here around 528 BCE when he gave his first sermon, "The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma", at nearby Sarnath. The city's religious importance continued to grow in the 8th century, when Adi Shankara established the worship of Shiva as an official sect of Varanasi.   Tulsidas wrote his epic poem on Rama's life called Ram Charit Manas in Varanasi. Several other major figures of the Bhakti movement were born in Varanasi, including Kabir and Ravidas.

Standing on the western bank of India's holiest river Ganges, Varanasi is the oldest surviving city of the world and the cultural capital of India. It is in the heart of this city that there stands in its fullest majesty the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in which is enshrined the Jyotirlinga of Shiva, Vishweshwara or Vishwanath. Here gravitate the teeming millions of India to seek benediction and spiritual peace by the darshan of this Jyotirlinga which confers liberation from the bondages of maya and the inexorable entanglements of the world. A simple glimpse of the Jyotirlinga is a soul-cleansing experience that transforms life and puts it on the path of knowledge and bhakti. Vishweshwara Jyotirlinga has a very special and unique significance in the spiritual history of India.  Deeply and intimately implanted in the Hindu mind, the Kashi Vishwanath Temple has been a living embodiment of our timeless cultural traditions and highest spiritual values.  

                   The Temple has been referred to in Hindu scriptures for a very long time as a central part of worship in the Shaiva Philosophy. It has been destroyed and re-constructed a number of times in history. The last structure was demolished by Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal emperor who constructed the Gyanvapi Mosque on its site. The current structure was built on an adjacent site by the Maratha ruler, Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in 1780.  Maharaja Ranjit Singh, First Sikh Maharaja, donated 1 ton Gold for flaming Temple's Dome.

Lord Siva statue at Haridwar
On June 8, 2020 - with an elaborate 'Mangala aarti', the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi threw open its doors for devotees after a gap of almost 80 days. Devotees who thronged the temple were allowed to offer prayers from a distance and flowers and 'prasad' was not allowed into the temple. Only those devotees who wore a mask were allowed in after proper sanitization.  It was stated that   devotees were asked to sanitize their hands twice before entering into the temple. "We are allowing only five devotees at a time to ensure social distancing. Every devotee is being subjected to thermal scanning and no one is allowed to touch the deity or the bells," a temple official said.  Earlier, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath  inaugurated the 'e-Rudrabhishek' facility at the Kashi Vishwanath temple.

Now comes the news that the Varanasi district authorities have made arrangements for three entry and exit gates for devotees for a jhanki darshan of Lord Shiva, the reigning deity of the Kashi Vishwanath temple, during the Hindu holy month of Shravan, beginning July 5, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, said Deepak Agarwal, divisional commissioner, Varanasi. The bureaucrat said kanwarias, the saffron-clad Shaivites, have been barred from visiting the temple town during the holy month because of the viral outbreak.

Devotees wouldn’t be allowed to enter the shrine’s sanctum sanctorum and only permitted a jhanki darshan’, he added. Agarwal shared this information with media persons after holding a meeting with the Kashi Vishwanath Trust authorities, the district, and police administrations regarding the special preparations for the holy month amid the pandemic. He said that the predetermined routes for the temple’s entry and the exit had been obstructed due to the ongoing construction work of the Kashi Vishwanath corridor. He instructed the officials to put up a zig-zag barricade from Maidagin crossing to Godaulia and mark prominent circles on the ground to maintain a six-feet social distance for devotees while standing in a queue. Sanitiser cans would be placed at every 100 metres along the queue, he added.

The temple authorities have been directed to hold a meeting with the members of the Yadav community called Yadav Bandhus and other people regarding tweaking of rules while performing the over two-century-old special puja during the holy month because of the viral outbreak. In a marked departure from the age-old tradition, only five persons would be allowed to perform the special puja on Shravan Mondays this year instead of the usual group of 100, Agarwal said. The authorities are also making arrangements for heightened security, uninterrupted power supply, and maintaining cleanliness in and around the ancient shrine during the holy month.

The annual pilgrimage of devotees of lord shiva, known as Kanwarias, would occur in towns like Haridwar, Gaumukh, and Gangotri, Varanasi, etc. The pilgrimage is a quest to fetch the holy water of river Ganga in the Hindu month of Shrawan (July -August) devoted to Lord Shiva.  The number of Kanwars who reached the holy city Haridwar last year to collect holy water was approximately 3.76 crore, with which they walked back home in faraway states.

Sad, all these are curtailed by Corona. At least in important temples  in the North, some darshan is allowed unlike Tamil Nadu where Temple remain closed from 20th Mar 2020.

With grief and concern of a devotee
S. Sampathkumar

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