The Leaning Temple of Varanasi

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

February 2018

Varanasi holds a special place in my heart, and not because of its religious significance. I do not like notifications on my phone. Doesn’t matter if its 30 spam mails or messages, I prefer my notification bar status to be clear. And that is exactly what I was doing while standing on the Manikarnika Ghat of Varanasi, when I received my acceptance to further my studies in UK. For this very reason, both the Ghat and this temple hold a very sentimental reason for me.

Varanasi is a sanctuary to temples. But none are like the Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple. Also known as Kashi Karvat, meaning a temple in Kashi, which leans (karvat) to one side, it is one of the most photographed temples in the holy city of Varanasi. The temple, while apparently well-preserved, leans significantly towards the back side (north-west), and its garbhagriha is generally below the water much of the year, except for a few months during the summer. In the 19th century, the priest used to dive in the water to perform rituals when the temple entrance was submerged, according to some reports.

Amazingly, the tilt of the temple is at 9 degrees, and is 5 degrees more than the incline of the Leaning tower of Pisa.

One of the beliefs held regarding the temple is that the ‘ghat’ had collapsed and leaned backwards after not being able to withstand its weight. The temple supposedly stood straight before the 1860s. There is another interesting story behind its tilted nature (and obviously my favourite). The legend states that it was built by a servant of Raja Man Singh for his mother, named Ratna Bai. Once the temple was built, the man proudly declared that he had paid the debt to his mother. Much to his shock, as soon as these words escaped his lips, the temple started tilting backwards (north-west) to show that the debt to one’s mother can never be paid. That’s why the temple is also known by the name Matr-rin (or, mother’s debt) 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.

Folklore aside, the temple holds the record of one of a kind leaning temple along with another, located in Odisha. You can also, read up on this interesting article on the influence of the Ghat geography on the structure of Ratneshwar temple.

A interesting nugget for Monday feature, don’t you agree?

Related (and not-so related) Posts:

Uttar Pradesh


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