As a photographer striving to document the heritage sites of India, one of the things I deeply struggle with is the photographing of living temples. Out of respect for the devotees and their culture, the last thing I want to do is intrude, and so often my exploration of temples remains undocumented. Over the years I have become quite skilled at sensing what is appropriate in any given situation, and I always err on the side of caution. As a result of my sensitivities coupled with the populous nature of Varanasi, there is little to blog about regarding the temples of this great city.
Lakshminarayana Pancharatna Mandir (also known as Panchameshwara Temple) was one of the few exceptions as I explored the full length of the 85 ghats that front the great Ganga. Dominating the frontage of Assi Ghat and approached by a flight of 20 steps, this east-facing temple was built by Queen Dulari Radhakunvar of Surasand Estate, Bihar. She purchased the land in 1902 from the then king of Banaras, Prabhunarayan Singh, and erected the temple shortly afterwards.
This five-spired Vaishnavite temple is built on a 4m high platform, and consists of a main shikara surrounded by four smaller shikaras. There is a mandapa (pavilion) and a semi-mandapa, with three gates leading to an inner sanctum that has an irregular hexagonal shape.
Here there are images of Lakshinayayana, Shiva, Radha-Krishna, Rama-Sita, Lakshmana and Mayureshvara Shiva. In the medieval period, the tradition of a Pancayatan style of inner sanctum was developed which typically housed images of Surya (sun-god), Ganesha, goddess Parvati, Vishnu, and at the centre Shiva. However in this temple the rule has not been followed.
Paintings of gods and goddesses adorn the walls, in a style using extremely vivid colours that is so typical here in Banaras and replicated on wooden, glass and stone figurines. Many of the artisans who work on these temple paintings live in the neighbourhood of Khojwa, not far from here and situated close to Durga Temple and Anand Bagh.
According to a legend, before the finial consecration of the temple spire the queen died (27th June 1927), and therefore the kalsha has not been installed here.
It’s impossible to miss Lakshminarayana Pancharatna Mandir if you visit Assi Ghat, and is well worth visiting for a short while before you continue to explore the ancient city of Kashi. Of note very nearby is Lolark Kund, one of the unmissable sites in my opinion of any stay in Varanasi.
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Categories: India, Lakshminarayana Pancharatna Mandir, Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi
So much I’ve missed – Lolark Kund is very special – will catch it next time.
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It’s a good effort to find out some of the important temples in Varanasi which have gone into oblivion. Keep it up. It will help popularize and bring these heritage assets on the tourist map of Kashi (Banaras).
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