The leaning temple of Varanasi is associated with several legends.
When boating around in the river Ganga in Varanasi, you are likely to notice the Ratneshwar Mahadev temple a.k.a. the Leaning Temple near the Manikarnika Ghat (the Burning Ghat). This temple is among the iconic structures of Varanasi due to being largely photographed. A large part of the temple remains submerged into the river making it impossible to perform worship and rituals. During the few months of summer however, the water level is subdued enough to have a look inside the temple.
The temple is popularly known as ‘Kashi Karvat’ due to the leaning (although, the historical Kashi Karvat temple is a complelty different temple). ‘Karvat’ is a Hindi word that refers leaning. The exact time period of the completion of the temple is not confirmed. Some sources believe the temple to be 400-500 years old while some others believe it be built in 19th century.
The leaning is probably the result of a fault in its foundation or the silt; but as it is tradition in Varanasi, there are legends involved. In case of this temple, there are several legends involved. Let’s have a look at some of them:
This legend is the most popular one. According to it, the temple was built by a king named Man Singh for his mother ‘Ratna Bai’ as repayment for everything his mother had done for him. Ratna Bhai did not like the idea, though. She cursed the temple saying nothing could repay what a mother does for a daughter or son. Due the curse, the temple leaned to eventually sink.
According to another legend, the temple was built on the wish of a servant of queen Ahilya Bhai Holkar when she was building various temples and ponds in the city. The name of the servant was ‘Ratna Bai’. The temple turned out to be beautiful when it was completed and the queen was fond of it.
Then, against the wish of the queen, Ratna Bhai named the temple on her own name. This act made the queen angry and she cursed the temple.
It is rather a theory instead of a legend; and quite straight-forward one. According to some sources, the temple was built in the 19th century by Queen Baija Bhai of Gwalior and the temple leaned few years after the completion due to some fault.
2016 lightning strike
The temple was struck by lightning in March of 2016 resulting collapse of a small part of the temple. Several stonework artists have expressed their desire to fix the damaged part.