The ghatscape of Kasi is dominated by one huge edifice of solid stone popularly known as Beni Madho ka Dharhara. As one looks from any ghat between Kedar and Manikarnika Ghats towards Raj Ghat, one can’t fail to see this structure.
History books and travelogues have it that at this very spot once stood the famous Bindu Madhav Temple, one of the main temples of Kasi, special because its central deity was Vishnuji. In this way, along with Adi Keshav, this was the focal point of the devotion of the vaishnavas in the city of Shivji. Aurangzebe ordered the destruction of Kasi’s temples. Vishweshwar and Bindu Madhav Temples were both destroyed and mosques made at their place, reusing the material of the destroyed temple; at least, in one case. Now, the idol from the original temple is kept in some place nearby and is not as popular as it once used to be.
Aurangzeb’s mosque, writes Sherring, had unstable minarets that had to be shortened considerably later on. Yet, the present mosque is still a magnificent and imposing structure indeed.
The images above make it very clear that the mosque is made of the same kind of material that went to make the ghats and temples in Kasi: Chunar stone. It is a part of the architectural tradition of Kasi. The first time I saw it, I was struck with awe and wonder. It was early in the morning then and sun rays were illuminating the front. The central dome of the mosque is four or five storeys high, as can be judged by comparing its neighbouring houses. Nothing like it can be seen in Kasi. The other mosque constructed by Aurangzebe’s orders in Kasi is at Jnana Vaapi. Although it’s more widely known because it was demanded by Hindutva organizations during the rise of BJP, it stands no chance in comparison to the (Bindu Madhav) mosque in grandeur and beauty.
This mosque is not visited by many. Although people have seen it from some ghat afar, they have never seen this wonderful building closely. People of my acquaintance generally guessed the location of the mosque somewhere in Delhi or Lucknow, not even once in Kasi.
One has to climb a flight of stone stairs to reach the wooden front door of the compound. As one enters the compound there’s a shallow fountain of stone. To the left there are rooms for the care-taker who has a smiling face and amiable nature. On hearing that I’m a Banarsi, he welcomed me with open arms and we chatted a little before I left.