With its rakish, mysterious lean, the Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple draws a lot of attention from pilgrims and tourists visiting the holy city of Varanasi in India. The temple was built extremely close to the Ganges River and has developed a nine-degree slant. By contrast, the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy tilts just four degrees.
No one knows, exactly, why the temple has developed such a severe lean. Like so many buildings and monuments in India, legend and history do not match up when it comes to Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple. The lean could be the result of a structural problem, or because it was built on silt, or because of a curse.
According to a popular legend, a man built the temple in honor of his mother, and proudly boasted that he had paid his debt to her. However, she cursed the temple, stating that the debt to one’s mother can never be paid.
No one knows why the leaning temple was built so close to the river’s edge, either. In fact, the temple is so close to the Ganges that part of it is actually underwater for much of the year. In the 19th century, the priest used to dive in the water to conduct worship when the temple entrance was submerged, according to some reports.
Also called the Kashi Karvat (Kashi is the ancient name for Varanasi and karvat means leaning in Hindi), the temple was probably built in the mid-19th century, either by the Queen of Gwalior or the Amethi royal family. Photos of the temple from the 1860s show that it was not leaning at that time.
Visit India withAtlas Obscura Trips
Northern India’s Colorful Cities, Villages, and Celebrations
Visit towering forts and palaces, explore local villages, experience Diwali with an Indian family, wander centuries-old ruins, learn to cook in a family home, and witness the sunrise over the Taj Mahal and the River Ganges on this immersive tour of Delhi, Rajasthan, and Varanasi.