By Swami Harshananda
Bindu-mādhava literally means ‘Mādhava associated with Bindu’.
Taking bath in sacred rivers has been considered as a highly meritorious act since the ancient days. The Gaṅgā at Vārāṇasī (Banaras) is one such sacred river. On the banks of this sacred river, several bathing places have been provided with steps leading from the bank right up to the water. They are called ‘ghāts’.
The Pañcagaṅgā-ghāṭ is one of the five ghāṭs. Here, four rivers—Kiraṇā, Sarasvatī, Yamunā and Dhutapāpā are believed to join the Gañgā in their subtle forms, unseen by the naked eye. Hence it is named as Pañcagaṅgā or five Gaṅgās or sacred rivers. One of the temples situated at this ghāṭ is a small Viṣṇu temple without the śikhara or tower. A small image of dark color is established on a large simhāsana or throne. The deity is called Bindu-mādhava.
The story goes that once Lord Viṣṇu visited Vārāṇāsi and sat down at the Pañcagaṅgā-ghāṭ since he liked it very much. A brāhmaṇa, Agnibindu by name, who was practicing severe austerities there recognized the Lord and prayed to him with a long devotional hymn. Pleased with it, the Lord granted his wish which was twofold. The Lord had to stay there permanently and his image should be known as Bindu-mādhava, thus perpetuating the name of the brāhmaṇa. The sacred water of the river at this ghāṭ came to be known as Bindutīrtha.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore