G Y A N V A P I: The Well of Wisdom
Gyan Vapi means a Well of Divine Knowledge or Wisdom. Gyan Vapi is a sacred well situated on the southern side of Lord Viswanath temple, in the same temple complex. Kasi is the abode of Lord Vishwanath (Lord of the Universe). As we all know Kasi Viswanath temple is a very sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. The temple is situated near the West Bank of the holy river Ganga. Jyotirlinga and Maa Annapurna Devi are situated in the same temple premises.
As we all know Gyana Vapi is a very sacred well. Water is drawn from the well only for doing Abhishekam to the Vishwanath Lingam. Now, the well is not open to the public. It is covered with tarpaulin cloth so as to protect it from pollution. The Pandits will draw the water from this well and serve the water to the public as sacred Teerth. It is believed that those who drink this water will be freed from all sins and get salvation. It is considered that this water is as sacred as Ganga water. Those who drink this water will get the knowledge (Wisdom) about God, besides being free from all sins. According to History, the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, invaded the city of Varanasi in the year 1664 and destroyed the main temple, and build a mosque on its ruins called Alamgir mosque. The priests of the temple managed to protect the Jyotirlingam by hiding it in the waters of Gyan Vapi well. Hence, Gyan Vapi well had become so famous and sacred. The mosque is now called a Gyan Vapi mosque or Alamgir (Aurangajeb) mosque.
There is a story behind the origin of Gyan Vapi. Once God Eesana, one of the Ekadasa Rudras, had performed a vigorous cosmic dance became so tired and thirsty. He wants to drink water immediately. But no water available anywhere. There was severe drought everywhere. Hot winds were blowing water dried up. No rains and no food to eat to all living beings. All rivers, tanks, ponds, and wells dried out. At that time he thought of going to Kasi and have a Darshan of Lord Vishwanath. Immediately he came to Kasi. The position was the same in Kasi also. He wants to have Darshan of Lord Vishwanath and do an Abhishek to Jyotirlingam. But no water available to do abhiseka. With so much agony he pierced his Trident forcefully into the earth at the southern side of Jyotirlingam. The earth cracked and the water spring came out with force and formed a pond around it. The area filled with plenty of water everywhere. God Eesana happily had Darshan of Lord Vishwanath and performed Abhishek to Jyotirlingam. Satisfied with the Abhishek performed by God Eesana, Lord Vishwanath appeared before him and offered a boon to him. God Eesana bowed before the Lord and asked that the pond should exist there in his name permanently. Lord Vishwanath sanctioned him the boon saying that the well will become famous in three Lokas with the name Gyan Vapi i.e., Eesana Teertam.
The water in the well will be so pure and sacred, that those who see, drink, and bathe in the water will get rid of all his sins and get salvation. Those who take bath and perform Pitru Shraddha will get Moksha. Those who take bath in the early morning and perform Abhishek to Jyotirlingam on Mondays, Ashtami, and Ekadasi days will get one crore times more result than that done on ordinary days. They will get Siva Loka. Those who perform Shraddha to departed elders will get Moksha. The water in the well is so pure and sacred as the water in the sacred river Ganga. Those who drink that water will surely get wisdom or knowledge.
There is a legend behind Gyan Vapi, showing the importance and glory of this well. Once there lived a pious Brahmin by the name of Hari Swamy in Kasi. He was blessed with a girl child who is very beautiful in three Lokas. He named her Susheela. Besides her excellent beauty, she is a good singer and dancer too. Youngsters and rich people of Kasi admired her beauty and her good qualities, liked to marry her. But she never accepted anybody and led her pious life in the service of Lord Viswanath. Every day she used to get up in the early morning, take bath at Gyan Vapi and do Abhishek to Jyotirlingam regularly.
One night when she was sleeping in the open yard of her house, one Vidyadhara saw her beauty and took her away to his abode in Malayaparvath. On the way, one demon by the name of Vidhyunmali saw her beauty and attacked Vidhyadhara with his trident to freed Susheela from his hold. Vidhyadhara fell down with the trident hit by demon Vidyunmaali. He wakes up from the blow and hits the demon with his fist on his chest. Both fought each other for the sake of Susheela, fought and both died instantly. Susheela saw the whole thing with shock and cried for the death of Vidhyadhara, as she considered him as her husband. With a lot of grief and sorrow, she also died after some time.
In the next life, the Vidhyadhara was born as a son to Malyaketu maharaja. His name in the next life is Malayaketu. Susheela was also born as a daughter to a rich person in Karnataka. She was very beautiful in this life also. Her name was Kalavathi in her next life. When they attained the age of marriage both married each other with the consent of their elders. Kalavati became the wife (Pattamahishi) to Malayaketu king.
Even in this life also Kalavati was a devotee of Lord Shiva and lead a pious life, even though she was a Queen. One day a person from Uttaradesa came to the Raja Sabha of Malyaketu and presented him a beautiful portrait of Kaasi, with the temple of Viswanath and Gyan Vapi. King Malyaketu showed it to his wife Kalavati. After seeing the portrait Kalavati went to samadhi state remembering her past life in Kasi. The temple of Lord Vishwanath, Gyanvapi in Kasi Nagaram crept into her memory and became faint. All servants and King Malyaketu afraid of her situation and made all efforts for her early recovery. At loss, she recovered from the shock and expressed her strong willingness to go and stay in Kasi and do Seva to Lord Viswanath, and do Abhishek to Lord with Gyanvapi water, for the rest of her life. She explained about her past life in Kaasi to the king. The king also decided to go and stay in Kaasi, along with his wife Kalavaty, to serve Lord Viswanath for the rest of his life. He called on his ministers and made his sons crown king to Malayachala kingdom, and went to Kaasi and stayed there serving Lord Shiva, along with his wife. He leads a peaceful life in Kaasi.
One day when they were sitting near Gyan Vapi, one Yogi came near to them, gave Vibhuti, and went away. After some time, a Divya Vimaan descended from the sky. Lord Chandramouli came down from the Divya Viman and took them both to Shiv Lok.
The power of Gyan Vapi is so great. It will give Mukti to those who drink its water, and who take bath with its water and perform Abhisekam to Lord Viswanath. The water of Gyan Vapi is so sacred and pure. Those who visit Lord Viswanath Jyotirlinga should also visit Gyan Vapi to get salvation.