Times of India, February 28, 1995
Lucknow: In the narrow winding lane from the Dashwashwamedh Ghat leading towards the famed Vishwanath Mandir in Varanasi, the atmosphere is one of extreme piety at all times of the day. The temple is, perhaps, one of the most potent symbols of Hinduism in the country in a city which by all accounts is one of the oldest centers of pilgrimage for the Hindus.
The original Vishwanath temple is supposed to have been built around 490 AD during the Gupta period। istorical records suggest that it was destroyed by Muslim ruler. The first Muslim invader to attack Varanasi was Ahmed Nihalidin, the governor of the Indian province of the Ghazani empire, in the 11th century. His aim was to acquire the wealth accumulated in the temples of Varanasi. Later, Qutub-ud-din Aibak of the slave dynasty invaded the city and more than 1000 temples are said to have been destroyed in this onslaught.
In 1539, it was captured by Sher Shah Suri। In the tolerant regime of Akbar, many temples and other structure were rebuilt by Hindu kings in Varanasi.
Raja Todar mal, one of the "jewels" in Akbar's court, constructed a new temple on the site of the destroyed Vishwanath temple in 1585.
This was again destroyed by Aurangzeb in 1669 while on his way to conquer the Deccan. Aurangzeb got a mosque constructed in its place.
The present temple was reconstructed by Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar in 1777. The dome of the Vishwanath temple was gold-plated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839.
Adjacent to the temple is the Gyanvapi Masjid, which was built by Auragzeb on the remnants of the original temple। He had, however, agreed to the plea of the Kashi Brahmins that a temple would be allowed to exist adjacent to the Gyanvapi masjid as also to the reconstruction of the Kali temple at Aurangabad, about three kmaway। This temple, too, was destroyed by the invading Muslim armies.The remnants of the original Vishwanath temple are revered by the devout Hindus as Shrinagar Gauri, the abode of Lord Mahadev. Muslims offer namaz in the premises of the Gyanvapi masjid but not in the main hall.