Why does the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy get all the attention when we have another one Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple in Varanasi, India?
The Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy is famous all over the world due to its tilt to one side. The construction of the tower, completed in 200 years, is a unique specimen of architectural art.
There is a similar temple in the city of temple Varanasi (Banaras/Kashi), which has been tilted to one side for almost 500 years. The temple is known as Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple. Foreign tourists are often seen comparing it with the Tower of Pisa. This temple remains submerged in water for six months a year.
Location of the temple
Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple (also known as the Leaning temple of Varanasi) is located at the Scindia Ghat bordered by Manikarnika Ghat (a place for Hindu cremation) which is located in front of the Tarkeshwar Mahadev Temple built in 1795 by Ahilyabai Holkar where Lord Shiva is said to recite the Taraka Mantra (salvation mantra) in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. It is the most photographed temple in the holy city of Varanasi (Kashi) in Uttar Pradesh.
History of the temple
The history of the temple is also said to be very interesting. The temple is so ancient that its correct description is not found anywhere in history. It is told by some history experts that between the 15th and 16th centuries.
However, the priests claim it was built by an unnamed servant of Raja Man Singh for his mother Ratna Bai about 500 years ago. According to the revenue records, it was constructed from 1825 to 1830.
Kashi being the city of lord Shankar (Mahadev) many kings and queens came to live in the city.
Some sources claim that was built by Queen Baija Bai of Gwalior in the 19th century. According to another story, it was built by a female servant of Ahilya Bai of Indore, named Ratna Bai. Ahilya Bai cursed it to lean because her servant had named it after herself.
Another interesting story claims, when Raja Man Singh came to live in Kashi, he built many Havelis, Kothis, and temples in Banaras. His mother also used to live here. At that time his servant had also brought his mother to Kashi.
At Scindia Ghat, the king’s servant called many craftsmen of the country including Rajasthan and started building a temple of Mahadev in the name of the mother.
After the temple was built, he went there with his mother and said that the debt of your milk has been paid off. The mother bowed to Mahadev, who was sitting inside the temple, from outside and started leaving. The son said that walk inside the temple and have darshan (take a look).
Then the mother replied that the son should look back and look at the temple, he has sunk into the ground on one side. It is said that since then till today this temple is tilted on one side like this.
After all, by whose curse this temple is crooked, comes in trend and it gives birth to the debate on how it’s starting. When the media team of Dainik Bhaskar talked to some experts, five different stories related to the temple came out. Because the age of the temple is also too confusing.
There are different claims about when this temple was built:
- According to the revenue record, its construction took place between 1825 and 1830. At the same time, according to the Regional Archeology Officer, it was completed in the 18th century.
- The priests settled around the ghat believe that Ratneshwar Mahadev was established in the 15th century.
- Ahilya Bai cursed:
According to priest Shyam Shankar Tiwari, this temple was built by Ahilya Bai’s maid.
Ahilya Bai Holkar was building temples and ponds in the city. At the same time, the queen’s maid Ratna Bai also expressed her desire to build a Shiva temple near Manikarnika Kund. He had borrowed money from Ahilya Bai for the construction. Ahilya Bai was pleased to see the temple, but she told Ratna Bai not to give her name to this temple. The maid did not listen to him and named the temple Ratneshwar Mahadev.
Ahilya Bai got angry at this and cursed that very little worship will be possible in this temple. Then the temple became crooked and remains submerged in the Ganges for most of the year.
- The anger of the saint made him crooked: Local resident Ramesh Kumar Seth told that this temple was built by a king. Some great saints used to meditate in the temple around the 18th century. The saint had asked the king for the responsibility of maintaining and worshiping the temple. The king did not give the temple to the saint, due to which the enraged Mahatma cursed him- go, this temple will never be worth worshiping, and the temple has become crooked.
- The temple bowed due to the curse of the pandas: Gopal Mishra, who took care of the temple, also told his version. According to Gopal, once a Mahant used to worship here. The pandas used to harass them here, due to which they got angry and cursed them and left. Since then till today the worship of this temple is done only for 4 months in a year. For the remaining 8 months, only the mother Ganga performs the Abhishek or the soil of the flood remains to lie in the sanctum.
- King Man Singh Story.
- Amethi Royal Family got the construction done: According to Dr. Ratnesh Verma, secretary of the District Cultural Committee, the Amethi royal family had erected the temple structure in 1857, since then the temple has been crooked.
- It was made by the craftsmen of Jaipur.
- The shape of the temple was like that of the Durga temple, hence the lion is made on the peak domes.
- Vishnu avatar and Krishna pastimes have been made.
Specialists have done the research to reveal the truth:
According to historian S. K. Singh, around the 18th century, James Prinsep had carved the Ratneshwar Mahadev temple in his sketch of Banaras. It is said that the British had also done a lot of research on the crookedness of the temple. For several days, a team of British experts also visited.
Architecture of the temple
When we compare Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple and Leaning Tower of Pisa, Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple is far more beautiful and actually leans 5° more than the Tower of Pisa.
The temple is elegantly constructed in the classical style with a Nagara shikhara and Phamsana mandapa. The site of the temple is very unusual.
Unlike all other temples in Varanasi on the banks of Ganga, the temple is built at a very low level. In fact, the water level can reach the shikhara (peak) part of the temple. The temple leans over 9 degrees which is more than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
It is constructed at a very low spot; the builder must have known that its Garbhagriha (or Sannidhanam is the sanctum sanctorum, the innermost sanctuary of a Hindu and Jain temples where resides the idol of the primary deity of the temple) would be underwater for most of the year.
In spite of much of the temple being underwater during most of the year, it is well preserved, except for the lean that can be noted in 20th-century photos.
The temple is 12 meters long in height that is also greater than the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Conclusion — The magnificent Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple (Leaning temple of Varanasi) is a sample of great Indian architecture. As the temple faced natural calamity, it got damaged which must be protected and preserved by government authorities who are getting to save for future time and reference. India is the cradle of human civilization.