If sound and calm can live along with rush and chanting, it would always be in Benaras. The compact land is home for endless revelry and tradition, that a simply living in the holy land is a festival, and moreover death can also be celebrated in this place. Panchkroshi is one of these jovial customs, a voyage that involves worship, camaraderie and a pious destination.
The journey of Panchkroshi is a semicircular pilgrimage to the coverage of the entire city of banaras. And the expedition is as classic as any other story the beautiful Kaashi beholds. As per saying Initially the journey used to be as long as 84 Krosha, but the tour is now simplified and can be covered within 25 Krosha (Approx 75 kilometers), with 5 different halt centers, which are all temples.
According to the legends, even Lord Rama has been a part of this voyage twice. First, with all his Brothers and Goddess Sita, to liberate his father King Dashrath from the curse of Shravan Kumar. And again while he had to liberate himself from the curse of killing a Brahmana (Ravana). Even the Pandavas from Mahabharata are believed to conquer the journey along their wife Draupadi.
According to Hindu calendar The Panchanga, the tour officially occurs in the months of Falgun, Vaishak and Chitra. Pilgrimage can also be done on the festival of Shivratri. A five day tour is organised during the additional Hindu month the Adhimasa that occurs every third year.
The interesting fact is that, all the temples that fall within Panchkroshi always lie towards the right side, while the resting areas called Dharamshalas fall towards the left, since the pilgrims eat and sleep there.
There are 108 Shivlingas, 56 Temples, 11 Vinayakas, 10 Other temples devoted to Lord Shiva, 4 Lord Vishnu, 2 Temples devoted to lord Bhairava, and 15 other gods and goddesses, who are to be worshipped along the pilgrimage.
A day prior, the pilgrims take a pious dip in the Holy Ganges, and worship Kashi Vishwanath with a resolution to blissfully finish the whole journey.
On the first day of the journey, the pilgrims bath in the Ganga, they worship Dhundhiraj Temple, Annapurna Temple and Bhuvaneshvari Devi temple, and begin their journey with the Manikarnika Kund.
After the worship of the Manikarnika Temple, these pilgrims head towards the Panchkroshi route, that begins from Assi. These devotees travel barefoot and carry their luggage over their head and head towards Kardameshwar Temple as their first destination. It is believed, the temple was built in 12th century. The pilgrims now bathe into the Bindu sarovar, a pond adjacent to the temple and halt nearby for the night.
Next morning, these pilgrims walk for their following destination, the Bhimachandi Temple. Situated beside the Gandharva Sagar Kunda, this temple is also known as Chandikeshwara temple.
The pilgrims now move towards Rameshwara temple, their third destination. The temple is situated on bank of Varuna river, the legends believe the Shivling in this temple was raised by Lord Rama himself and that’s the reason why this temple is named after Lord Rama. Lakshmaneshwara, Bharateswara and Shatrughanehwa temples can also be found nearby.
The fourth destination, Shivpura Temple is extremely modest. The temple has 5 continuous Shiva Lingas arranged in descending order, again relating it to the Pandavas. The pond nearby is called Draupadi Kund.
The fifth and final destination is Kapildhara. A massive temple of lord Kapileshwara. The temple is devoted to Kapila Rishi, the son of Kardama Muni. The devotees pay their respects to their ancestors. Next to the temple, the Varuna River meets the Ganga. The devotees carry barley plants or barley seeds and plant them in the Ganga, as the symbol for wishing for the fulfillment of the rarest of wishes.
The devotees now head towards Manikarnika Ghat by walking or on a boat and end their pilgrim by visiting Kashi Vishwanath, Goddess Annapurna and Kalbhairav temple once again.
The tour is barely not a journey over the routes, it’s a journey to one’s soul, where people come across all the rights and wrongs they have done, and the journey is only complete if they do not repeat their past mistakes. Also, the roads are travelled in harmony by large groups of known and unknown people. Where they learn from and about each other. Pilgrims like these teach people to take care of the others, and this is what makes it special.