Ratneshwar Mahadev – The Leaning Temple of Kashi

Ratneshwar Mahadev or the leaning temple of Varanasi is one of the only 2 leaning temples in the world. Ratneshwar Mahadev which is also known by the name Matr Rin is often confused as Kashi Karvat temple by locals.

Varanasi tilting temple
Ratneshwar Mahadev in Winters (picture by Vivek Mishra)

The Ratneshwar Mahadev temple is one of the most photographed locations in Varanasi. You can find its pictures easily on any social media with a simple search. Located at the Manikarnika Ghat this temple is gradually gaining the attention it deserves.

Entry gate of the Ratneshwar Mahadev’s sanctum (picture by Unnati Sharma)
The inner sanctum of Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple (picture by Unnati Sharma)
The inner sanctum of Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple (picture by Unnati Sharma)
Inside Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple (picture by Unnati Sharma)

The story of Ratneshwar Mahadev is as mysterious as the temple itself looks at first glance. Attached to so many legends and stories there are no confirmed resources on who actually built it.

Ratneshwar Mahadev, leaning temple of Varanasi
Leaning temple of varanasi Moody picture
Ratneshwar Mahadev in Mist (Picture by Piyush Singh)

According to the legends Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple was built by one of the servants of Raja Man Singh in memory of his late mother Ratna Bai. Upon completing the construction he told everyone that he’s paid the debt of his mother by building this temple. Since the mother’s debt (Matri-rin) can never be paid back, the temple got cursed. This is why the temple is also known as Matri-rin Mahadev.

Another legend states that the temple was built by Ratna Bai, a servant of Ahilya Bai. The queen cursed this temple when Ratna Bai named it on herself as Ratneshwar Mahadev.

Ratneshwar Mahadev Historical Records

There is no concrete evidence of who actually built the temple a few scholars suggest that it was built by Queen Baija Bai of Gwalior but as per the revenue records of the city the temple was built between 1825-1830. Also, the below drawing by James Princep shows the tower of the temple. It confirms that the temple was there during the serving time of James Princep(1820-1830).

Ratneshwar mahadev oldest picture
Ratneshwar Mahadev temple as seen in James Princep’s Drawing (extreme right)

Tilt of Ratneshwar Mahadev

The tilt we see today wasn’t always there and the old photos of Ratneshwar Mahadev temple also confirm the same. But today it leans at a staggering 9° which is approx 5° more than Italy’s famous leaning tower. 

ratneshwar mahadev
Ratneshwar Mahadev before it started leaning (captured in 1865)

To understand this phenomenon we need to understand the geography of Ghat and its surrounding.

In monsoon when the river Ganges swells to its full capacity all the Ghats get submerged in water, sometimes they totally disappear in it. For this reason, most of the temples were built on a higher platform.

The mason was aware of it and even if wasn’t then It might have taken at least a year and a half to complete the temple at the quickest. So, the temple would have gone underwater at least one time for a few months at the time of its construction. Which confirms that the selection of location was intentional.

As ignorant as it may sound, digging deep into archives shows that Ratneshwar Mahadev wasn’t the only temple built at a lower platform. There were also a few temples that were intentionally built on the lower ground for unknown reasons.

Ratneshwar Mahadev leaning temple of varanasi
City of Benares, pencil, and watercolor on paper by Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Ramus Forrest (1750-1827)

Out of these ill-fated structures, only Ratneshwar Mahadev was able to survive the test of time. 

Reasons behind tilt

Since there is no official study done by the government so, we can only point a few possible reasons which can be proved/disapproved later on with further research.

Defected Foundation

Why Ratneshwar Mahadev is leaning
A sinking foundation

A sinking foundation. According to UrDesignMag, this is the most common foundation defect found in most of buildings. A sinking foundation is often caused by soil changes under the architecture.

The foundation of Ratneshwar Mahadev or Matra-Rin temple sits on a silt which cannot behold the weight of the temple. Especially the weight of its main sanctum towards which it is leaning.

tilting temple in varanasi
Another old tilted structure at Manikarnika Ghat

River Velocity

Ratneshwar mahadev varanasi
The velocity of Ganges as surveyed by Kumar Gaurav ( Summers, May 2019)

The Ganges is known for its roaring form in the monsoon. The river as it moves continuously keeps shaping the banks and surroundings. The kinetic energy of the river puts a significant amount of pressure on anything which abrupts its course. This adds up immense pressure on a structure that stays submerged for most of the months in the year.

Diesel Boats

The waves generated by diesel boats passing frequently breaks where they find a solid object. Prolonged exposure to such waves can cause soil erosion and further escalate the process of sinking.

A similar issue is faced by many Ghats where huge cavities develop underneath the stairs and the area later caves-in.

We will only be able to figure out the main reason when the Government takes up the conservation process.

2016 lightning strike & damage

Varanasi Lightning strike in storm

In 2016 a lightning struck the Shikhar of the temple destroying a part of it. As per locals, a loud boom was heard in daylight and the parts of Shikhar were scattered everywhere.

Later, a local group of artists wanted to take up the work of restoration but never received any help from the government. As time passed by the pieces of the broken shikar vanished into the Ganges.

Save Ratneshwar Mahadev

Kashi is there for eternity but the leaning temple won’t survive the test of time. The tilt for which it is famous will also make it collapse into the Ganges one day.

We have started a petition to bring the attention of the Government towards this vanishing marvel. If you would like to help, please sign the petition on the link mentioned below and share it with your friends.

Let’s save Ratneshwar Mahadev!

Sign the petition to save Ratneshwar Mahadev

Share it with your friends 

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