One of the most interesting and lesser-known temples of Varanasi is the centuries-old Karkotak Nageshwar Mahadev Temple located in Nag Kuan Mohalla in Jaitpura. Also known locally as Nag Kund or Nag Koopa or Nag Kuam, this ancient temple literally means well of serpents.
Interestingly, the Karkotak Nageshwar Mahadev Linga remains submerged under water for the entire year and becomes visible only when the well is cleaned for the auspicious occasion of Naga Panchami. This place has been mentioned in the Kashi Khanda of the Skanda Purana but locals do not have much information on when the well was built.
Hindu authoritative texts state that the pious Patanjali Maharshi spent a great deal of time in penance here and wrote a commentary of Panini’s Ashtadhyayi, a Sanskrit treatise of grammar that is held in high regard by all. It is also believed that the Shiva Linga that is seated in the well was consecrated by Patanjali Maharshi.
The well bears marks of considerable antiquity, a theory that is further strengthened by the name of the colony that derives its name from it. The well is also located in, by what historians deem to be the oldest part of Varanasi.
Steep stone steps on four sides lead down to the well which is square in shape. There appears to be a sheet of iron which acts as a door that leads to a well below this which most likely might have been the original well. An inscription inside the well mentions a king who has extensively renovated it in 1825. The wall was repaired by James Prinsep, who worked as an assay master at the mint in Benares. There are remnants of carvings on the stone steps which are difficult to identify.
The Shiva Linga remains submerged under water even after the well is cleaned for the festivities and puja on Naga Panchami. It has been stated in the Hindu scriptures that one is freed from the deadly Kaal Sarpa Dosha after having darshan of Lord Nageshwar here. People come to have a dip in this holy water and cure themselves of the fear of snakes and planetary afflictions.
The depth of the well is unknown but locals say that there is a door that lies somewhere deep inside the well that leads to Naga Loka. As the main Shiva Linga is submerged under water, another Linga has been placed in the temple for daily puja.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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