“The sparkling water like the minds of good people, excessively sweet like the divine nectar, pleasant to the touch like the limb of a cow, scent excelled the sweet smell of lotuses…”. This is how Skanda described the water of Jñānavāpī or the Wisdom Well to Agastya in Skand Mahapurana. It is not about a regular well, it is about the well that was dug by Shiva himself. The well, that has the wisdom and insight in the form of liquid, the water.
It is believed that the original Shiva Linga that was at Kashi Vishwanath Dham now resides at the bottom of Jñānavāpī Koop. The priest of the temple sacrificed his life and jumped into the well with the Linga before Aurangzeb’s army could destroy the temple. The Koop is now again part of Kashi Vishwanath Dham. It took 352 years for someone to take the initiative and bring back the glory that was lost due to countless attacks on the temple. In the past, when the temple was demolished and the Gyanvapi mosque was built by barbarians, the Koop was a part of the mosque complex itself. Now, however, the historic Koop is a part of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple corridor.
The continuous destruction of Kashi Vishwanath Dham
The temple stood tall for centuries before it became the eye sour for the Mughals. The Islamic rulers, who were on the mission to destroy anything that was against Islam, saw Kashi Vishwanath Dham as one of the main targets. On April 18, 1669, Islamic ruler Aurangzeb gave the order to demolish Kashi Vishwanath Temple. In his order, he had written that the temple was the place where “the foolish Pundits teach evil knowledge from junk books.”
But he was not the first Mughal ruler to order destruction at the site. Baba Vishwanath, who is believed to be the residing place of Bhagwan Shiva and Mata Parvati in Kashi, remained in its original shape until the 11th century. The first mention of the temple has been found to be from 10134. Later, in 1194, Mohammad Gaori looted and destroyed the temple.
The people of Kashi rebuilt it as per their own accord at that time. However, more destruction was to be followed. In 1447, it was torn down by Sultan Mahmud Shah of Jaunpur. In 1585, Pandit Narayan Bhatt rebuilt it with the help of Raja Todarmal. However, it did not see another 100 years without destruction. In 1632, Shah Jahan sent the Mughal army to destroy the temple. The main temple was saved by the Hindus, but during that course, 63 temples were destroyed.
Then came Aurangzeb, who issued a decree to demolish the temple. He also passed the order to convert Hindu priests to Islam. One of the reasons for his anger was the education provided at the temple premises. Dara Sikhoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan, who was defeated by Aurangzeb, used to study Sanskrit on the premises. On September 2, 1669, the emperor was informed that not only the temple had been destroyed, but a mosque had been built at the place. The ruins of the temple are clearly visible from outside the mosque.
The significance of Jñānavāpī Koop or the Wisdom Well
The Skanda Mahapurana has two chapters dedicated to the significance of Jñānavāpī Koop or the Wisdom Well. Skanda tells Agastya in detail how Jñānavāpī Koop came to existence and why it is important for those who follow Sanatan Dharma. He said in Sata Yuga, Isana, the Rudra form of Bhagwan Shiva, was roaming here and there. When he reached Kashi, also known as Mahashamshana or the Great Cremation Ground, he came across the Swayambhu Shiva Linga.
Isana, in order to bathe the Linga with water, dug up the Jñānavāpī Koop with his Trishul or Trident. The cold water came flowing out of the well. The water was sparkling with colours like the minds of good people. Its lustre was as beautiful as the moonlight. It was holy and pure, like the name of Bhagwan Shiva.
The water of the well was sweet like the divine nectar. It was pleasant to touch, just like the limb of a cow. The scent of the water was like the sweet smell of lotus. Even the touch of the water would give the devotees the ‘punya’ of Ashwamedh Yagya. The sins would perish by the holy water of the well. The Shiva resides in the well in the form of Jñāna, having assumed the liquid form, who would destroy Jāḍya (sluggishness, ignorance) and impart knowledge. Vishveshra (name of Shiva) said, “If a highly intelligent man bathes the Liṅga with the waters of Jñānodatīrtha, it is certainly on a par with having got it bathed with the waters of all the Tīrthas.”
Skanda praised the Wisdom Well and said, “Jñānavāpī is the Cosmic Form of Śiva himself. It generates Jñāna (perfect knowledge). There are many Tīrthas that sanctify (devotees) immediately. But they are not equal to even a sixteenth part of Jñānavāpī. If anyone listens to the origin of Jñānavāpī with great attention, his knowledge does not become extinct even on death anywhere.”
The Kashi Vishwanath Corridor holds a lot of significance and will be talked about extensively in the future. History has its own starting point. The construction of the corridor is the third start point of the construction of Baba Vishwanath Dham. Whenever history mentions the reconstruction of the complex, Maharani Ahilya Bai Holkar, who renovated the temple, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who decorated its summit with gold, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who returned the temple to its historical, religious and cultural aura, will be remembered.
The indestructible idol of Nandi Maharaj
According to legends, after the priest jumped in the Wisdom Well with the Shiv Linga, the Mughal Army attacked the temple. During the attack, they tried to destroy the huge idol of Nandi Maharaj installed outside the temple. However, even after all the efforts, they could not break the idol. Even today, the idol, though it has become part of the corridor, it still looks towards Gyanvapi Mosque, the old complex of the temple.
Before the construction of the Baba Vishwanath Corridor, the Wisdom Well and Nandi Maharaj Idol remained away from the Vishwanath Temple complex. Now, they have become part of the complex after 352 years of separation. Notably, the direction and vision of Nandi Maharaj have been kept the same. It is a symbol of the calling for the liberation of Baba Vishwanath Dham in its original form. Nandi Maharaj would wait till he saw his Mahadev.