Varanasi Again – 43: A well, a bull and a tree

Historical picture of the Nandi Bull at Kashi Vishwanath Shrine

There on the northern side of the quadrangular enclosure around the temple was a tree – a Ficus tree!!

Is it……?? My thoughts trailed off……my eyes scanning the area for the other two objects.

Yes, there they were – the bull and the small octagonal enclosure, a low, latticed railing made of stone……

I must pause now, and explain to the reader what I am talking about for, of course, my talk must seem irrelevant to the unsuspecting readers upon whom I have suddenly foisted this strange issue of these three objects.

The devout, the curious and the aficionado will, of course, realize what I am talking about.

These three objects are, or rather were, an integral part of the ancient Kashi Vishwanath temple till the temple was definitively demolished, and rebuilt as a mosque. These structures, thereafter, became a part of the mosque complex and became inaccessible to the devotees visiting the ruins of the erstwhile temple (at first), and later the relocated temple which was built in the 18th century by Queen Ahalya Bai Holkar. For over three and a half centuries these ‘things’, integral part as they were of the temple complex, remained off bounds to the people visiting the KV shrine till recently, when the Kashi Vishwanath Dham project reacquired them from the mosque complex (thanks to the trust that runs the mosque) and integrated them into the newly built corridor, much to the delight of the devotees.

That the structures remained unharmed even inside ‘hostile territory’ (so to say) is a testimony to the spiritual importance attached to these structures by the general populace, and the high esteem in which these structures were held, and which inspired a stiff resistance to any move to alter or destroy them even while they were officially outside the purview of the temple administration, or even secular authorities.

These three structures are, of course, the Gyanvapi kupa, or the well of wisdom, which we have talked about earlier, and which I had dreamt of before we left for Varanasi, the statue of the Nandi bull, companion, attendant, devotee, and, in effect, ADC of Mahadeva Shiva, the primordial ascetic with three eyes, and the centuries old Ficus tree adjoining these two and revered by the devotees in a way that is difficult to explain.

The story of the Gyanvapi kupa we have already visited in the previous blogs so I will not dwell on that here. The Nandi bull, however, is another matter altogether. This figure is always an integral part of all Shiva temples all across India, and the bull in the statue always sits facing the shrine, inside which resides its master – Shiva.

The image of the Nandi bull in the Kashi Vishwanath temple, however, sits facing the Gyanvapi mosque (the mosque is known after the sacred site it stands on, and the kupa or the well that gives the site its name). Why?

To be continued ……………………….

Check out these Amazon Bestsellers from the author –

The Battle of Panchavati and Other Stories from Indian Scriptures
Daffodils: A Bouquet of Short Stories

By Divya Narain

Additional Professor in Plastic Surgery, doting father, loving husband, newbie author. Love travel and literature. Love reading religion, politics and history!

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