Kashi – The Luminous One

Shiva's First Jyotirlinga

Kashi - The City Of Light

KĀSHĪ: THE CITY OF LIGHT This name is the most ancient. It was used nearly three thousand years ago to refer to the kingdom of which this city became the capital. In time, the name came to refer to the capital city as well.

It was to the outskirts of Kāshī that the Buddha came to preach his first sermon in the sixth century B.C. The somewhat later Jātaka tales of the Buddhist tradition speak of the “town of Kāshī.”

As for its etymology, it has been suggested that the name Kāshī comes from Kāsha, the name of an ancient king, whose dynasty later produced the famous legendary King Divodāsa of Kāshī, or that it comes from kāsha, the name of the tall silver-flowering grass which grows wild along the riverbank. Most commonly, however, it is said to derive from the Sanskrit root kāsh, “to shine, to look brilliant or beautiful.” Kāshī, sometimes called Kāshikā, is the shining one, the luminous one, the illumining one.

Its most famous māhātmya, the Kāshī Khanda explains: “Because that light, which is the unspeakable Shiva, shines [kāshate] here, let its other name be called Kāshī.” The wordplay of Sanskrit continually underlines the relation of the City of Light to the light of enlightenment. For example, the city is called “City of Light, which illumines liberation”—moksha-prakāshikā Kāshī.

The legend of the Jyotir Linga:  the Linga of Light, is one of the most enduring myths of the Puranas and is told many times in various settings.

It recounts the appearance of the first Shiva linga which pierced the three worlds as a brilliant shaft of light and was witnessed by Brahma and Vishnu

One day Brahma and Vishnu were quarreling. Brahma claimed, ‘I created the world. I must be God.” Vishnu retorted, “That you seek validation means you cannot be God, “ Then who is God?’ Brahma demanded to know.

As he spoke, a huge column of fire split the earth between them and blazed up through the sky to pierce the highest heavens. Astounded, Brahma and Vishnu decide to determine the source and extent of this brilliant pillar of light. Vishnu became a boar and burrowed deep into the netherworlds. Brahma mounted his goose and flew as far up as the heavens reach.

But even after thousands of years they could not find the bottom or the top of the shaft of light. When they finally give up and returned to their starting place, Shiva emerged from the light in his partial bodily form.

The legend says, the linga of light was the first linga. After that, Shiva vowed that this unfathomable linga would become small so that people might have it as an emblem for their worship.

Wherever, the linga is, there is a tirtha, which in Sanskrit means a shallow ford. Because the linga by nature is a “crossing place” where the worlds are knit together by the shaft of Shiva. ( A tirtha- kshetra means a place of pilgrimage, where one might cross into the other world).

The linga of light is thus the image of the supremacy of Shiva. It is what Mircea Eliade calls the axis mundi or the pillar at the centre of the world, originating deep in the netherworlds, cracking the surface of the earth and splitting the roof of the sky.

In this linga or form, Shiva is not one god among others, but the unfathomable One. This light is the mysterium tremendum which finally cannot be described or comprehended by any or all faces and attributes.

It is believed the pillar of light appeared here in Kashi.

Whatever the scriptures say , whether the light appeared here or not but one thing is clear - It talks about the story of OUR CREATION - the creation of this physical world.


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