Known as the Golden Temple because of the gold plate on its spire—a gift from the Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab in 1835—this is the most sacred shrine in Varanasi. It's dedicated to Shiva, whose pillar of light is said to have appeared on this spot. Foreigners are only admitted through Gate 2, and are required to bring passports and register prior to entering. Various forms of the arti prayer ceremony are performed outside at 2:30 am, 11:30 am, 7:30 pm and 11:30 pm. It's located in the Old City above the Ganges, between Dashashvamedh and Manikarnika ghat: to get here, walk from Dashashvamedh Road down the relatively broad, shop-lined lane (Vishvanath Gali, the main sari bazaar) to Vishvanath Temple. The lane turns sharply right at a large idol of the elephant-head god Ganesh, then passes the brightly painted wooden entrance to the 1725 Annapurna temple (Annapurna was Vishvanath's consort), on the right. On the left, look for the silver doorway, which is usually
manned by a police officer—this is the entrance to the Kashi Vishvanath Temple. The present temple was built by Rani Ahalyabai of Indore in 1776, near the site of the original shrine, which had been destroyed by the emperor Aurangzeb. Nearby is the Gyanvapi Mosque, built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb after he destroyed the temple that stood here: the building's foundation and rear still show parts of the original temple. As a result of Hindu revivalist attempts to reconsecrate the site of the former temple, the area is usually staffed with police and fenced with barbed wire. It's normally very sedate, however, and is an important starting point for Hindu pilgrims. Non-pilgrims aren't allowed into the inner sanctum.