Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
The Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is another one of Varanasi’s major temples, and for many city residents it is considered to be one of the three most important. It is dedicated to Hanuman, one of the most revered Hindu deities. It is a very prominent shrine among locals, and many pilgrims to the city visit here in addition to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple and the ghats along the river.
The Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is closely associated with the life of Goswami Tulsidas, a very prominent Hindu poet of the 16th century. For many years he lived in Varanasi, becoming one of its best known and popular citizens (one of the river ghats was later named in his honor). His opus magnum was the epic poem known as the Ramacharitamanasa, which recounted the deeds of the deity Rama based on an earlier Sanskrit work.
As the story goes, one day Tulsidas received a vision of the deity Hunaman. Hunaman, himself a follower of Rama, encouraged the poet to write his great epic in Rama’s honor. Tulsidas proceeded to follow Hunaman’s command. His work went on to become one of the central writings of the Hindu faith, with many Hindus regarding it as the most important piece of religious literature.
A temple was constructed on the site where Tulsidas had his vision, and overnight it became one of Varanasi’s most popular religious shrines. Dedicated to Hanuman, it also became a popular site for worship of Rama. It is arguably the best known temple to Hanuman in India, and a major center for his annual festival.
Over the centuries the original temple fell victim to the ravages of time. A new temple, the current one, was constructed in the early 20th century. In 2006, a series of explosions perpetrated by Pakistani terrorists rocked Varanasi. The only temple to be directly attacked was the Sankat Mochan Temple. Worship was defiantly continued the next day. The temple, which has always been a symbol of divine protection for supplicants, is now a symbol of resistance against terrorism and more popular than ever.
The Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is associated with Banaras Hindu University, the largest college in Varanasi. The current building was constructed in the early 20th century and was part of the initial university construction. Considering its importance and popularity, the Sankat Mochan Temple is surprisingly small, but still accommodates thousands of visitors on certain days.
The two-story, relatively simple yellow brick structure is typical of construction during the last decades of the British colonial era. However, within its walls are beautiful wall paintings including a locally famous depiction of the deity Hanuman. The Sankat Mochan Temple is also nicknamed the Monkey Temple due to the resident population of monkeys that reside in and around the building.
The Sankat Mochan Hanuman Temple is located in central Varanasi just north of Banaras Hindu University, approximately 400 miles southeast of New Delhi. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: www.up-tourism.com/varanasi (official tourism website of Varanasi).
By some counts there are over twenty thousand temples, shrines and ghats in Varanasi. The other major ones are the Kashi Vishwanath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva; the Durga Mandir and Durga Kund, dedicated to the goddess Durga; and the Tilbhandeshwar Temple, one of the cities oldest temples. Other important temples include the New Vishwanath Temple, the Annapurna Temple, the Bharat Mata Temple, the Kala Bhaironath Temple and the Tulsi Manas Mandir Temple.