The Kashi Panchkroshi Yatra is considered to be one of the oldest pilgrimage routes of the world. According to the Hindu scriptures, Lord Rama along with Sita Mata and his brothers had visited the important tirthsthalas on this ancient route to liberate his father Raja Dasharatha from the curse of the parents of Shravana Kumar (Putrashoka).
Lord Rama along with Sita Mata and his family offered prayers again at the sacrosanct shrines on the Panchkroshi path on the advice of Kulaguru Vashishta Brahmarshi on his return to Ayodhya as he had incurred the Brahmahatya dosha after killing Shiva bhakta Ravana, Lord of Lanka. Lord Rama was asked to perform the necessary rites and rituals to liberate himself and his family from this deadly sin.
It is believed that in the Dwapura Yuga, Dharmaraja Yudhishtira along with his brothers and Draupadi had also offered prayers at the sacred shrines on the Panchkroshi Yatra during their exile. This spiritual journey has pancha (five) paṛāva (halts) and covers about 80 km. The devotees generally commence this journey in the months of Phalguna, Vaisakha and Chaitra and during the auspicious festival of Maha Shivaratri.
A day prior to the yatra, pilgrims take a dip in the Ganges and offer prayers at Shree Kashi Vishwanath seeking his blessings to finish the Panchkroshi Yatra. On the day of the journey, pilgrims take a dip in the Ganga and offer prayers at Dhundiraj Vinayak Mandir, Maa Annapurna Mandir and Bhuvaneshwari Devi Mandir and start their journey from Manikarnika Kund (Burning Ghat).
The first stop is the Kardameshwar Mahadev Mandir where devotees take a dip in the Bindu Sarovar and do the parikrama of Kardameshwar Mahadev. They spend their time in meditation, singing bhajans and reading the scriptures and stay overnight at the temple complex.
The next morning, the pilgrims walk to Bhimchandi Mandir (Bhimachandi Mandir) that is located in Bhimchandi village. This temple is also known as Chandikeshwara Mandir or Chandikeshwara Mahadev Mandir.
This temple has been written about in detail in the Kashi Khanda of the Skanda Purana and is considered to be one of the most important temples of the Panchkroshi Yatra. It is believed that this temple was built around the 12th century though archaeological evidence suggests that this temple is thousands of years old.
The Bhimchandi Mahadevi Mandir is located near a huge kund known as Gandharva Sagara. The plan of this temple is quite similar to the Kardameshwar Mahadev Temple though it is smaller in size.
The Chandikeshwara Mahadev Mandir is compact in plan with simple embellishments on the shikhara. Devotees throng this temple during the month of Shravan and on Maha Shivaratri. There are small idols of the Pancha Pandavas in the sanctum sanctorum.
Though the presiding deity is Bhimchandi, there are other shrines within the complex namely Bhimchanda Vinayaka on the south-west, Raviraktaaksha Gandharva Mandir, Hanuman Mandir and Narkarnavataraka Shiva (Narakanivatar Mahadev Mandir) that are venerated by locals.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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