Generally temples are known at least in the neighbourhood they belong to. That’s how I had reached the impossible to locate Krittivaseshwar Temple in the same locality. I was directed towards the new temple of Krittivaseshwar at first, but, as I knew that the one I was searching for is inside a mosque, I was not convinced with the temple that had conveniently presented itself to me within five minutes of my search in the territory. More about that in a later post.
While I was searching for the temple in the galis near Vishweshwarganj Market, I had read the name of the locality on various signboards: Madhyameshwar. My success in searching for and finding Krittivaseshwar Temple and the serendipitous and easy discovery of Mrityunjay Mahadev had emboldened me. It had made me optimistic. So, I decided to visit Madhyameshwar temple in an offhand manner.
Source of the base map: besttofind.com
The name of the temple at Madhyameshwar appears again and again in the the religious literature about the sacred sites of Kashi. He is, literally, the Lord of/at the middle location or centre of the city. The temple has now been relegated to the backwaters on the sacral map of the city. The various maps and descriptions related to kroshi yatras, mandals and grihas take that temple as the centre of all such geometric shapes. How to reach the temple that is so important? Well, very difficult!
Madhyameshwar Temple is on the line rising perpendicularly from Ganga River in the map above, nearly at the vertex of the triangle. The circle inside the triangle is the most densely populated region of pakki mahaal, which, in turn, is the most densely populated portion of the city. Here, the term population is applicable to both gods and men.
Madhyameshwar must have been one of the more important temples in the time period of the composition of various Purans and Mahatmyas that mention Kashi, i.e. seven to eleven hundred years ago. Very few people know about it today. I asked so many persons of the eponymous locality, and most of them sent me to Mrityunjay Mahadev: the central deity of the locality nowadays. Only two persons, out of the large number of residents of the locality I accosted, knew about the temple. I met a gentleman while entering the gali close to the temple, who assured me that there was no such temple around. He was shocked when he learnt, with me, that the temple was in the next gali.
And there it was. The temple and its gymnasium both were there at the suddenly opening space in the gali. The galis or lanes of Varanasi are not uniform in their width, gradient or social composition. They are full of surprises, even for a Banarsi. About the open spaces with temples or mosques embedded in the network of galis, I have started to think that the temple or the deity under a tree predates the construction of houses and galis. What prevents me from over generalization with confidence is the presence of chowks without any place of worship, deep within the labyrinthine lanes of Kashi.
Kashi Vishweshwar, Gyaan Vaapi, Omkareshwar, Krittivaseshwar, even Kedarsehwar, are within the network of galis. The farther one moves towards Assi Ghat, away from Rani Ghat along the river, one finds that the characteristics and components of the galis change. So, the claim that openings in galis are associated with the sacral map of the city, needs to be researched about first.
Madhyameshwar was never important enough to become the origin of any of the khandas of Kashi. Yet he was a god known to all those whose living depended on those who worshipped various gods in Kashi, and those who used to come with some knowledge of the city’s sacral map. How do I know? Because Madhyameshwar is the point to which references to the various khandas etc. are pegged. Today, it’s not known very widely. From centre, it has been pushed to the periphery.
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