Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple is famous for its leaning figure, often compared to the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. The temple is located in the holy city of Varanasi (also known as Banaras and Kashi) and it was built close to the Ganges River, but the exact reason for the proximity is unknown. Garbhagriha, the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, is underwater for much of the year. According to some old reports, the priests would even dive into the water to conduct worship when the entrance of the temple was submerged.
Ratneshwar Mahadev has a lean of around nine degrees while the Leaning Tower of Pisa only has four.
The temple is 15 meters tall. According to the early photographs and paintings of the temple, there were other leaning temples close to the Ganges as well, but all of them vanished in time except for Ratneshwar Mahadev. The same photographs show that the temple was not leaning in the 1860s, but from the 20th century onwards, it has developed a nine-degree slant. The exact reason for the leaning is unknown.
The temple was probably built in the early 19th century but the exact date is not certain. The founder of the temple is also unknown but there are many legends about the origins of it.
The temple is also known as Matr-rin Mahadev. According to a legend, a servant of Rajan Man Singh built the temple for his late mother Ratna Bai, and declared that his debt was paid. Since a debt to a mother can never be paid back (”Matri-rin” means ”mother’s debt”), the temple was cursed. Another legend states that Ratna Rai, a servant of Ahilya Bai, built the temple and named it after herself. But the queen got angry since it wasn’t named after herself and cursed the temple.
The temple is constructed in the ancient Indian temple architectural style with a shikhara and mandapa.
Unlike other temples built on the banks of the Ganges, Ratneshwar Mahadev was built at a very low level. During the monsoon season, when the waters rise, the temple gets submerged. In 2016, a bolt of lightning struck the Shikhara and destroyed a part of it. Local artists wanted to restore the destroyed part but did not receive any funding from the government. So the pieces of the broken shikhara were lost.