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Panchkroshi Yatra – Ancient Sacred Circle of Varanasi

(Kardmeshwar Mahadev, source: Amar Ujala)
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Ever wondered the significance of a marble plate outside the majority of the temple in Varanasi showing the order of that particular temple? 

Let’s decode this and understand the pilgrimage routs of Varanasi especially “The Panchkroshi”.  

“Kashi the cultural capital of India”, enriched by thousands of Puranic temples, and most of them are linked together with the pilgrimage routs. These routes are the sacred landscape of Varanasi, which symbolizes a cosmos and makes the cultural, spiritual, religious, and architectural heritage.

Varanasi Ghats Boat Ride experience

Surprisingly Varanasi is designed with such signs, symbols, and sacred geometry that its territorial organization makes it a “Cosmocised sacred City”, unfortunately, most of the people are unaware of this fact hence many sacred sites have been altered or lost over the period of time. 

The center of this sacred geometry is the “Madhyameshwara  Mahadev – the lord of Centre” on the bank of Mandakini Tirtha (Mandakini tirtha is lost now, but some locals consider the pond in company garden at Maidagin as Mandakini tirtha).

Five concentric circle spreads from the “Madhyameshwara “ and divides the city into five territorial layers, representing the five aspects of Lord Shiva –

  1. Vamadeva
  2. Sadyojata
  3. Aghora
  4. Tatpurusha
  5. Ishana

Five elements, five transcendental power and hence forms the five pilgrimage path of  Kashi named as –

  1. Chaurasikroshi
  2. Panchkroshi
  3. Nagar pradakshina (around the outer part of the city)
  4. Avimukta (Inner city, where lord Shiva always said to be present)
  5. Antagriha (circles the core of Kashi).

Chaurasikroshi is the largest one of these circles, also known as “ Brihada Panchkroshi”.

Panchkroshi Yatra, varanasiSo with this, we can say that “Kashi illuminates the world by dwelling inside the citadel of Lord Vishwanath, as the world within.”  So while performing these journeys a pilgrim transcends the macrocosmic world in the form of microcosms.

Out of these sacred paths “Panchkroshi” is the most popular and fairly documented one. 

Panchkroshi Yatra is divided into five parts with a night halt station, linking temples on the right-hand side of the path and Dharmashalas (44 in numbers with the capacity of nearly 25 thousand accommodations) on the left-hand side of the route.

The Panchkroshi houses 108 Shiva temple, 11 Vinayaka temple, 10 Devi temple, 4 Vishnu temple, 2 Bhairava temple, and 15 temples dedicated to other Devas.

The Five parts of Panchkroshi Yatra

  1. Kardmeshwara
  2. Bhimchnadi
  3. Rameshwar
  4. Panch Pandav, Shivpur
  5. Kapildhara

*These five stops are on a radial path of 80 km. The radial point of this sacred root is the temple of “Dehli Vinayak” with the distance between the center ( Madhyameshwara)  and the radial point is 5 krosha( i.e 11 miles or 16 Km).

Distance between Halts

  • Manikarnika to Kardmeshwara – 3 Kos
  • Kardmeshwar to Bhim Chandi – 5 Kos
  • Bhimchandi to Rameshwar – 7 Kos
  • Rameshwar to Shivpur – 4 Kos
  • Shivpur to Kapildhara – 3 Kos
  • Kapildhara to Manikarnika – 3 Kos  ( Making the total journey of 25 Kos)

*1 Kos = 3.2 Km

In the holy month of  Chaitra, Vaisakh, Falgun, Kartik, Sawan and Adhimas(Purushottam), thousands of devotee embarks on this 5-day long journey of five kosha after taking bath at Ganga, darshan of Kashi VishwanathMaa AnnapurnaDhundhiraj Ganesh and Sankalpa ( the sacred vows) at Gyanvapi. Usually, the yatra is of five days but on the day of Shivratri, it can be performed in a day too.

After taking vows to complete the journey, the devotee starts their journey from Chakrapuskarini tirtha, Manikarnika Ghat, and proceeds barefooted with immense devotion towards other destinations in the hope of Moksha.

First Halt – Kardmeshwara  Mahadev

Kardmeshwar Mahadev, panchkroshi yatra varanasi
(Kardmeshwar Mahadev, source: Amar Ujala)

The first and most important night halt at Kandwa Village is the temple of Kardmeshwara Mahadev temple, one of the oldest structures, archeologically dates to CE 10th century, though certain surrounding structure dates to the Gupta period, CE 4th – 6t h centuries.

As names go the shiv linga here was installed by the sage Kardam, who was the son of Prajapati, one of the progenitors of life and believed to be the son of Brahma. 

Adjacent to this magnificent temple a pond is there,  named “ Kardam Kunda / Tirtha believed to be formed by the teardrops of sage Kardam while doing Tapasya.  Historically this massive rectangular pond was constructed in the mid-18th century by Queen Rani Bhavani of Nator Estate ( Bengal).

Virupaksha linga, Nilkanthesvara, Yaksheshvara,  Somanathevara ( a well in which devotee see their reflection and believes that their life is safe),  Kardama Kupa the surrounding complex has along with images of Ganesha, Parvati, Vishnu, Surya, and other deities.

Devotees take holy bath in the Kardam Kunda and offer five grains i.e. barley, paddy rice, wheat, green lentils, black lentils as well as sesame with bilva Patra and Gangajal to lord Kardmeshvra, and pray for their well beings. 

A Dharamshala near Kardameshwar Temple

Second Halt – Bhim Chandi

Dedicated to the fierce form of goddess Durga – Bhim Chandi / Bhism Chandi is the next stop after the Kardmeshwara.  The temple of Chandikeshvara Shiva is also situated here. The Temple complex has five statues of Pandava’s and a Gandharv Sagar Kund.

Third Halt – Rameshwar

Rameshwar Temple varanasi
Rameshwar Temple (left), One of the shivlings believed to be built by Lord Ram (center), Varuna Ghat (right)

Situated after the longest route ( 28 km ) from Bimchandi to Rameshvara at the bank of river Varuna is the Rameshwar Mahadev Temple.  According to famous belief, after the killing of Ravana Lord Rama did penance here and established a Shiv linga to get away from the sin of killing a Brahmana. Every year in the month of November an annual fair of “Lota – Bhanta” happens here. Where devotees offer cooked food from potato, eggplant to Lord Shiva, and pray for the wellbeing of their children.

Nearby this temple, a temple dedicated to the goddess Tulja Bhawani is present. Tulja Bhawani is the form of goddess Durga and kula Devi of Veer Chatrapati Shiva Ji Maharaj.

Fourth Halt – Shivpur

Shivpur Padav, Panchkrohi yatra varanasi
Idols of Pandavas & Dropati at Shivpuri (Source: Indian tales)

A much simpler temple structure situated outer skirt of Banaras. This temple has five Shivling established by Pandvas in the descending order. Adjacent to the temple a pond known as “ Draupadi Kund” is present.

According to legends after losing their kingdom, In their exile period, Pandavas did Panchkroshi Yatra and worshipped Lord Shiva here to get their lost kingship.

Fifth Halt – Kapil Dhara

The final and last destination of the five-day-long pilgrimage is “Kapileshwara Mahadev Temple” situated at the bank of a large pond. The shiv linga here was established by Sage Kapil, son of sage Kardam. Surprisingly both temple Kardmeshvara and Kapil Dhara temple are situated at a long straight axis (12 km long) delineates the western edge of Kashi while the eastern edge is made by the river Ganga.

Kapil dhara, panchkroshi yatra, Varanasi
( source –From the archive of James Princep)

After completing the rituals at Kapildhara temple, the devotee heads to the temple of “Jaun Vinayak” near the majestic Adi Keshav Ghat at the confluence of Varuna and Ganga.  The devotee offers their homage to Lord Ganesha here and take the Jaun or Oat saplings from this temple and plant them in Ganga. Planting the sapling denotes the completion of a great task as we say here at Varanasi “Ganga Ji mein jaun bo diye”.

From here pilgrim reaches back to Manikarnika Ghat, leaves their Sankalpa (The sacred Vows )here, this final step marks the completion of this sacred journey.

(video source: VaranasiVideos, youtube)

As per our tradition, it’s important to take the blessings of the elderly after completion of sacred works so again devotee heads to Ganga for a holy bath and darshan of Lord Vishwanath, Annapurna, Vinayak, and  Kal Bhairav before leaving for their respective homes.

With this, our Panchkroshi Yatra comes to an end!!  Next time if you got the chance to visit Kashi or if you are in this divine city, please make these journeys feel the rich meanings of our cultural heritage and the Varanasi.

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  1. Shivam Yadav says

    Very informative and well described!

  2. Rajat says

    How does one undertake the Panchkroshi Yatra? I mean, is there any organized manner or do people do this on their own?

  3. Vijaya Balakrishnan says

    Thank you for such valuable information and insight. You ignited the fire in me to take up this Yatra. With grace of Lord Vishwanath this will fructify at the right time. Har Har Mahadev. Vishweshvaray Namah.

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