by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 2,545,880 words
This page describes Description of Jnanavapi which is chapter 33 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the thirty-third chapter of the Purvardha of the Kashi-khanda of the Skanda Purana.
Note: Jñānavāpī (“The Wisdom Well”—BCL) is the most famous well in Kāśī, said to be dug by Śiva. It is a deep well, ten feet in diameter and is near the mosque built by Aurangzeb after destroying the grand old temple of Viśveśvara. Now it is set in a spacious columned arcade with iron bars across its top. Pilgrims start their pilgrimages in and about Vārāṇasī after sipping its water (as Saṅkalpa) at the beginning and end of their pilgrimage. Śiva dug this well of ‘Liquid Wisdom’ with his trident long before Gaṅgā came there. (BCL 125-129)
2. O Pot-born One of great intellect, listen to the origin of Jñānavāpī that removes all sins. It is being narrated now by me.
4-5. Then, even clouds did not rain and rivers (consequently) did not flow (were non-existent). None had any desire for water for drinking or bathing; water could be seen in the oceans of salty or sweet waters. People roamed about over the earth in places here and there.
6-9. Īśāna reached the glorious Ānandakānana (‘the forest of bliss’), the holy spot of Nirvāṇaśrī (glory of Mokṣa). It is called Mahāśmaśāna (‘the Great Cremation Ground’), a barren spot for all seeds (of worldly existence). It is the place that wakes up creatures lying in deep sleep (of ignorance). It is the boat (that takes out) the people falling into the whirlpool of the ocean of worldly existence. It is a pavilion of rest and recreation for creatures, distressed very much due to the frequent travel (in the course of their transmigration). It functions like a knife cutting off the thread (bonds) of Karmas accumulated in the course of many births. It is the abode of Existence and Bliss; it is the great Elixir of Supreme Brahman; it is the cause of the creation of a series of happiness; it bestows the fruition of all the means of the attainment of salvation.
10-11. Īśāna with matted hairs (covering his head) entered the holy spot. There was a profuse lustre of pure rays from his blazing trident. He espied the Liṅga that manifested itself earlier when there was an intense rivalry between Viṣṇu and Brahma as to who was the greater of the two.
12. It was surrounded on all sides by garlands of radiant flowers. It was worshipped by multitudes of gods and sages.
14. It was being served in various ways by celestial damsels through their different types of dances. Nāga females served it with the lamps of their luminous jewels through continuous waving with them ceremoniously.
16. On seeing that Liṅga, there arose an idea in the mind of this Īśāna, ‘Let me bathe this great Liṅga with potfuls of cool water.’
17. Īśāna who was identical with Rudra in a terrible physical frame, dug up a deep pit with terrific speed by means of his trident. The place was to the south of Viśveśa and very near him.
18. Then, O sage, columns of waters covering the earth and ten times its size, came out whereby the whole of the world was inundated on all sides.
19. With those waters as cool as snow, but devoid of Jāḍya (i.e. of the nature of knowledge), which removed clusters of sins and which were untouched by other embodied beings, he bathed (the Liṅga).
20. The waters were sparkling in colour like the (pure) minds of good people. They had bluish tinge like the path of the sky. Their lustre was brilliant like moonlight; they were holy and pure like the names of Śaṃbhu.
21. They were excessively sweet like the divine nectar; pleasant to the touch like the limbs of a cow; had grandeur like the intellect of a sinless person and were sparklingly moving to and fro (fickle) like the happiness of the sinners.
22. Their scent excelled the sweet smell of lotuses; they were delightful with the fragrance of the Pāṭalā flowers. They attracted the minds and the eyes of the people in an unprecedented way.
23. They were, as though, the sole protectors of the vital airs of all living beings, distressed through the heat of ignorance. They were capable of yielding more benefit than bathing with potfuls of Pañcāmṛta (curd, milk, ghee, honey and sugar).
24. They were the producers of three Liṅgas(?) in the hearts of those regularly performing the ceremonious rinsing of the mouth with faith; they functioned like the sun in dispelling the darkness of ignorance; they yielded the benign gifts of wisdom.
25. They caused more happiness to Viśvabhartṛ (Lord Śiva) than even the gentle caress of Umā. They caused more purity than even the excellent bath of Mahāvabhṛtha (valedictory bath after the performance of sacrifices).
26. Extremely delighted in his mind, O Pot-born Sage, Īśāna bathed the Liṅga thousand times through pitchers with thousand streams.
27. Thereby, the holy Lord, the omni-eyed, the omni-souled Śiva, became delighted. He spoke to Īśāna, Rudra of terrible physical frame:
28. “O Īśāna of excellent holy rites, I am pleased with this great rite of yours, never before undertaken by others. It has caused me great delight.
29. Hence, O Īśāna, O great ascetic with matted hairs, engaged in a noble task involving excessive endeavour, tell me what boon (you will have). There is nothing that cannot be given to you today.”
32-33. Those who ponder over the meanings of the word, say that Siva means knowledge (wisdom). Here, due to my greatness, that knowledge is liquified (i.e., has taken a watery form). Hence this Tīrtha has become reputed in all the three worlds by the name Jñānoda. Merely at the sight of this Liṅga, one is rid of all sins.
34. One shall obtain the benefit of a horse-sacrifice by touching the Jñānoda Tīrtha; and that of a Rājasūya and a horse-sacrifice by touching and rinsing the mouth therewith.
36. The performance of Śrāddha here on a day when there is Vyatīpāta Yoga or the coincidence of Thursday, Puṣya star and the eighth lunar day in the dark half, yields ten million times more benefit than that at Gayā.
40. An excellent man who takes his holy ablution in the morning and drinks (the holy) water but observes fast otherwise on the eighth and the fourteenth lunar day becomes one full of Liṅgas within.
41. If the devotee observes fast on the eleventh day and drinks three handfuls of water here, undoubtedly three Liṅgas will rise up in his heart.
42-43. The devotee should take his holy ablution in the Īśāna Tīrtha, especially on a Monday, propitiate the gods, the sages and the Manes and make gifts in accordance with his capacity. Thereafter, he would worship Śrī Liṅga elaborately with all the requisites. Here also he should make gifts of various objects. Thereby he shall have accomplished all his duties (or desired objects).
46. Certainly multitudes of sins shall perish by remembering Jñānoda. By visiting it, touching it, bathing in it and drinking its water, piousness is engendered.
47-48. Goblins, ghosts, vampires, ogres, Ḍākinīs, Śākinīs, evil Planets, evil spirits, Jhoṭiṅga, Kālakarṇīs etc., spirits attacking infants, epileptic fits, tertian fevers, fevers recurring every fourth day, swellings—all these subside by seeing the waters of Śiva Tīrtha.
49. 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.
50. I myself, in the form of Jñāna, having assumed the liquid form, shall destroy Jāḍya (sluggishness, ignorance) and impart knowledge.
51. After granting boons thus, Śaṃbhu vanished there itself. The trident-bearing īśāna considered himself one whose desires were fulfilled.
52. Rudra, Īśāna with matted hairs, drank the excellent water and acquired the great knowledge whereby he achieved bliss of Brahman.
53. Listen, O Pot-born One. I shall recount what took place in Jñānavāpī, the ancient mythological legend of wonderful content.
54. Formerly, in Kāśī, there was a Brāhmaṇa well-known as Harisvāmī. A daughter was born to him. She was unexcelled in beauty in the whole earth.
55. She was clever in all kinds of fine arts. With her (sweet) voice, she vanquished even the cuckoo. No other woman on the earth was equal to her in the excellence of good conduct.
57. She was the abode of all beauty; she was an excellent mine (i.e., resort) of all good features. Certainly, out of fear for the Sun, darkness resorts to her tresses of hairs.
58. I suppose, out of fear of the new-moon day, the moon has sought refuge in her face. Even during the day, it does not abandon her because it is afraid of the sun.
59. Her eyebrows appeared like a swarm of bees moving up and down in the spaces between the cheeks, the decorative markings thereon that resemble a creeper (thus appearing) thereby frequently practising flights.
60. The Khañjana birds always passing through the spheres of her eyes, experience the perpetual autumnal pleasure as they pleased.
61. A golden streak of light has been placed by the Lord of Love in the row of teeth of that beautiful girl. Is there such a fine digit in the moon?
62. Her lips that had the lustre far excelling the coral, are the splendid jewel-set interspaces in the mansion of King Madana (Lord of Love).
64. Her two breasts, I believe, constitute the two tent-houses of King Kama, abounding in valuable jewel treasures.
66. Reaching deep into the cavity of her navel Kanḍarpa became Anaṅga (bodiless). He performs great penance as if to regain (his) body.
67. By her weighty hips, through the initiation of the Lord of Love, many young men on the earth became unable to be independent in (moving) their eyes (All of them got their eyes riveted to her hips).
68. Whose mind was not arrested and fixed firmly like a pillar by her pillar-like thighs round in shape? Even the minds of sages, despite their disciplined good behaviour, got stuck (like a pillar).
69. Whose lustre of discrimination was not destroyed, O sage, by the lustre of the nail of the big toe of the foot of that fawn-eyed girl?
70. She regularly took her bath in Jñānavāpī everyday and attended to the tasks of sweeping the premises of the temple of Śiva with concentrated mind.
71. The deer-like minds of the youths of Kāśī who grazed, as it were, the grass in the form of the lines (e.g. a lotus, a conch) in the imprints of her soles, did not go to any other place.
72. No other creeper, although it had fragrant flowers was resorted to by the swarm of bees in the form of the eyes of young men, excepting her lotus-like face.
73. That girl though endowed with beautiful eyes, never looked at the face of anyone. That maiden, though endowed with excellent ears, did not listen to anyone’s words.
74. She, of good conduct, endowed with chaste habits, was secretly requested by love-lorn youths of excellent handsome features, but she did not love them in return.
75. Her father too was approached with wealth and requested many times by young men. But he was unable to hand over (in marriage), because she had powerful glory accompanied by good chaste habit.
76. Due to her close worship of Jñānoda Tīrtha, that girl Suśīlā (apparently the name) saw everything within and without pervaded with Liṅgas,
77-79. Once, she was asleep in the courtyard of the house. Enamoured of her excellent beauty, a certain Vidyādhara abducted her then. Along the aerial path he was carrying her off to Malaya mountain. But by that time the demon Vidyunmālī also came there. He had a terrible huge body. Skulls made his ear-rings. His limbs were smeared with suet and blood. He had whiskers and his eyes were tawny.
The Rākṣasa said:
80. O young Vidyādhara, you have come within the range of my vision. I shall despatch you to the abode of Yama along with this woman.
81. On hearing these words, she trembled like a hind attacked by a tiger and like a leaf of a plantain tree again and again in her fright.
82-83. The demon hit that Vidyādhara with his trident. The Vidyādhara youth of sweet form, yet of tremendous power, was attacked and pierced in the chest by his terrible Triśūla. Yet he hit back the demon with his adamantine fist.
84. The Vidyādhara, in the course of the battle, hit Vidyunmālī who was intoxicated with human flesh and suet. Shattered by that blow of the fist, he fell down on the ground.
85. The demon fell a prey to death (on being hit) like a mountain with thunderbolt. The Vidyādhara became crippled by the trident that struck him.
86-87. With rolling eyes, he spoke falteringly, uttering half of her name as Sus: “O dear one, you have been brought here in vain.” Then that heroic youth gave up his life in battle, remembering his beloved.
88. Experiencing an unprecedented thrill, thanks to his touch, she considered him alone as her husband and consigned her body to the fire of grief.
89. By the close proximity to that girl whose body contained three Liṅgas that demon acquired a divine body and went to heaven.
90. The Vidyādhara youth who had staked his very life in the battle, remembered his beloved at the last moment (of his life). He was reborn as the son of Malayaketu.
91. That girl who forsook her life in the fire of separation meditating on the Vidyādhara youth, was reborn in Karṇāṭa.
92. Mālyaketu, the son of Malayaketu, who had the glory and splendour of Anaṅga, god of Love, married in due course that Kalāvatī who was given away in marriage by her father.
93. Due to the impression of her experiences in the previous birth, that chaste lady excessively interested in the worship of Liṅgas, set aside sandal powder and honoured Vibhūti (holy ash).
94. That lady of natural beauty considered embellishment with Rudrākṣa beads more esteemable than (ornaments of) pearls, lapis lazuli, rubies and topaz.
95. After marrying Mālyaketu, Kalāvatī, the chaste lady, enjoyed divine pleasures and prosperity and gave birth to three sons.
96. Once a certain man from the north, a painter, showed king Mālyaketu a wonderful picture canvas.
97-98. The king presented Kalāvatī with that picture. She became thrilled on seeing the picture again and again in secret. It contained the picture of her revered god and Lord. On looking at the picture, she forget even herself like a Yoginī engrossed in meditation.
99. For a moment she opened her eyes and looked at the picture canvas. Lifting the tip of her index finger, she spoke to herself:
101. This is the north-flowing celestial river whose touch is eagerly sought after in heaven and which the heaven-dwellers always desire.
102. This is the glorious Maṇikarṇikā which is conducive to the salvation of good men and is spoken of as the inscrutable Mokṣalakṣmī (glory of salvation).
103. This is the glorious Maṇikarṇikā where death is auspicious and life is fruitful and where heaven is as insignificant as grass.
104. This is Maṇikarṇikā where the meritorious ones desire to die and so giving up their wealth and assets, they stay like ascetics with holy rites, eating only roots and bulbous roots (mūla-kanda-bhuk)
105. It is the place where Śaṅkara who holds the crescent moon and Gaṅgā of triple path (on his head) shows the path of salvation to those who die here.
106. It is the place where Śaṅkara annihilates Saṃsāra (worldly existence) though it is difficult to ward off. With Him as helmsman, men, though dead, become immortal (in Mokṣa).
108. It is through much of the merit accumulated in the course of many births, that men obtain Bhava as the whisperer (of the Mantra) and the dispeller of worldly existence.
109. This is Śrī Maṇikarṇikā where men of great intellect adopt Kṣetrasannyāsa (‘renunciation in the form of going away from a fixed holy spot’) and by the strength thereof consider god of Death as insignificant as a blade of grass.
110. This is the place where the excellent saintly king Hariścandra, in the company of his wife, considered his body like a blade of grass and sold it off.
111. This is that glorious Maṇikarṇikā, the sandy soft bed whereof even the dwellers of Vaikuṇṭha desire to have.
112. This is that glorious Maṇikarṇikā where (devotees) become liberated after disengaging themselves from the bondage of Karmas arising in the course of many births.
113. This is that glorious Maṇikarṇikā which is desired for ever for the sake of long sleep (i.e., salvation) by those people who dwell even in Satyaloka.
114. This is that Kulastaṃbha (steady pillar) where Śrī Kālabhairava chastises sinners residing within the holy spot, inflicting severe torture.
115. A sin committed elsewhere may perish on seeing Kāśī. But: for sins committed at Kāśī the torture administered is extremely terrible.
117. This is the Tīrtha Ṛṇamocana which produces sanctity and purity. Excellent men who take their holy ablution here become liberated from the three types of indebtedness to the Devas, to the Sages and to the Pitṛs.
121. This Three-eyed Lord endowed with compassion converts his devotee, even if he is in another country, into a threeeyed one (gives Sarūpatā Mukti i.e. one having the form similar to that of the Lord).
123. For the sake of the fulfilment of the desires of devotees, Maheśa himself became merged here. Hence the name Svarlīna of the Trident-bearing Lord of Devas.
125. This is Lord Skandeśvara. If a man visits this Lord with faith, he obtains the benefit of life-long celibacy.
126. This is Vināyakeśvara who bestows all supernatural powers. By serving him all the causes of obstacles of men perish.
127. This is Goddess Vārāṇasī herself, the splendid deity in personified form. By visiting her men are never born again in a womb.
128. This is the great shrine of Pārvatīśvara Liṅga where Maheśāna accompanied by Gaurī is present forever as the bestower of salvation.
130. This is Caturvedeśvara, the creator of all, who upholds the four Vedas. By visiting this Lord, a Brāhmaṇa obtains the benefit of studying the four Vedas.
133. This is Dharmaśāstreśvara installed by the Smṛtis. By visiting it, one derives the benefit and merit of studying the Smṛtis.
134. This is Sārasvata Liṅga that causes the destruction of all sluggishness and ignorance. This is Sarvatīrtheśvara Liṅga which bestows purity instantaneously.
135. This is the extremely wonderful pavilion of Śaileśvara Liṅga. It has the great splendour of all kinds of jewels.
136. This is the charming Liṅga named Saptasāgara, on visiting which a man obtains the benefit of taking the holy bath in the seven seas.
140. This is Vairocaneśvara in front of Prahlādakeśava. This (Lord) is named Balikeśava and this is Nāradakeśava.
141. This is Ādityakeśava to the east of Ādikeśava. This is Bhīṣmakeśava and this one is Dattātreyeśvara.
142. To the east of Dattātreyeśvara, this is Ādigadādhara. This is Bhṛgukeśava and this is Vāmanakeśava.
147. This is the (stream of Sarasvatī), the elixir of the great Absolute. This is the place where the great river Sarasvatī joins Gaṅgā.
148-151a. Men who immerse themselves therein are not reborn on the earth.
This is Śrī Bindumādhava himself, the great Lord of Lakṣmī. A man who bows to him with faith, will not stay in the abode of a womb. He never suffers from poverty. He is never assailed by ailments. Even Yama bows down to the devotee of Bindumādhava. He is the sole Ātman of Praṇava assuming the form of Nāda and Bindu. The unembodied great Brahman is this Bindumādhava.
151b-152a. This is the holy Tīrtha named Pañcabrahmātman. He who takes his holy dip therein, does not take up physical body consisting of the five (gross) elements.
152b-153. This is that Maṅgalāgaurī in Kāśī, the producer of great auspiciousness here and hereafter by means of her grace.
This Lord is termed Mayūkhāditya, the Sun that has garlands of rays and is the dispeller of darkness.
154. This is the great Liṅga Gabhastīśa that bestows divine lustre. Formerly great penance was performed here by the son of Mṛkaṇḍu.
155-156. (Mārkaṇḍeya) had installed a great Liṅga (before performing penance) named after himself. It is the great bestower of longevity.
This Liṅga named Kiraṇeśvara is well-known in all the three worlds. Even if it is bowed to once, it leads one to the region of Kiraṇamālin (Sun).
This Liṅga Dhautapāpeśvara is the purifier of all sins.
157-159a. This is Nirvāṇanarasiṃha, the giver of Nirvāṇa (liberation) unto the devotees. This is Maṇipradīpanāga with great jewels for ornaments. By worshipping it, a man can prevent an attack by serpents. He is never tormented by them.
159b-162a. This great Liṅga Priyavrateśvara shines. By worshipping this a creature attains the love and favour of all creatures.
This excellent abode constructed with jewels and rubies belongs to the glorious Kālarāja, the remover of the distress of the Kali Age. He is Pāpabhakṣaṇa (‘devourer of sins’) who protects his devotees from sins by punishing sinners causing obstacles in the holy spot. He tortures them in hundreds of ways.
162b-166a. This is the beautiful Mandākinī who has come here to perform penance. Having experienced the pleasure of residence in Kāśī, she does not yearn for heaven till today. By taking the holy dip here, propitiating the Pitṛs and performing Śrāddha in accordance with the injuctions, even a man committing evil deeds can avoid seeing hells.
This is the Liṅga named Ratneśvara that has become the crest-jewel of the thousands of Ratnas present in Kāśī. Who has not obtained salvation which is the great crest-jewel of all the aims of human life, after enjoying innumerable Ratnas by the grace of Ratneśvara?
The Liṅgātmaka Physical Frame of Viśveśvara (167-172)
Of all the Liṅgas, the status of being the head is that of Kṛttivāsas.
173-175. These two, the right hands (i.e., Viśveśvara and Avimukta), are indeed the perpetual bestowers of salvation on the creatures that fall into the ocean of delusion, after granting them freedom from fear.
176. This is Āśāvināyaka. This is the wonderful Dharmakūpa. If a man offers balls of rice here, he will lead his ancestors to the region of Brahmā.
177-180. This is Goddess Viśvabhujā (‘Omni-armed’), the great Goddess Bandī, always revered by the three worlds. On being remembered, she frees from bondage even if the persons be in fetters.
This is the Tīrtha named Prayāga which is the most excellent of all Tīrthas.
This is the Tīrtha named Aśoka. This is Gaṅgākeśava. This is the most excellent gateway to salvation. They know this as the gateway to heaven. (Mokṣadvāra and Svargadvāra are the names of holy shrines.)
Footnotes and references:
VV 100 ff. describe the various prominent places in Vārāṇasī which Kalāvatī had seen in her previous birth as the Brāhmaṇa girl Suśīlā.
Kāmeśvara is just to the east of Macchodarī. It was formerly on the bank of Matsyodarī Tīrtha. It was established by Durvāsas. When Śiva appeared, he vowed to grant all desires of those who worship Kāmeśvara. (BCL 358)