The agony of the ancient wells of one of the oldest routes in India

SCORCHING HEAT AND DRINKING WATER PROBLEM As soon as you open your eyes in the morning and take a look at the newspaper, you start feeling the heat. A large part of the newspaper’s front page is devoted to rising temperatures. Every single newspaper, television, and social media page is filled with reports of new … Continue reading “The agony of the ancient wells of one of the oldest routes in India”


As soon as you open your eyes in the morning and take a look at the newspaper, you start feeling the heat. A large part of the newspaper’s front page is devoted to rising temperatures. Every single newspaper, television, and social media page is filled with reports of new records of heat and temperature every day. The summer season is not just a sign of mercury rising. Its most frightening aspect is the LACK OF DRINKING WATER. With the advent of summer, water scarcity starts in parts of the country. Naturally, there are endless sources of water in India, but still, THEY CAN’T QUENCH EVERYONE’S THIRST. HOW??? The water crisis is not a natural problem but a result of the irresponsible attitude of government institutions, bureaucracy, and the declining participation of ordinary people due to lack of awareness.



The four brothers, Kudan, Budhan, Sarman, and Kaurai, get up early in the morning and go to their work on the farm. In the afternoon, Kudan’s daughter would come to the farm, carrying everyone’s lunch. One day, like every other day, she was once again going to the field carrying everyone’s meal, but this time she stumbled upon a sharp stone. She was very angry. She tried to dislodge the stone with her sickle. But the sickle changed from iron to gold as soon as it hit the stone. Picking up the stone, the girl came running to the field and told everything to her father and uncles in one breath. There was no limit to the surprise and happiness of all. Everyone soon returned home. They came to know that the stone they found wasn’t an ordinary one, it was Paras. A special type of stone that turns every item made out of iron into gold. Kudan felt that sooner or later this news will reach the king and then he will just snatch the Paras stone away from them. So wouldn’t it be better if they just go and tell everything to the king straightaway? All four of them thought that this was the most sensible thing to do so all the brothers reached the court and narrated their experience to the king.
The King neither took the Paras stone nor the gold obtained from it He instead said: “Go on doing good deeds with the help of this stone and from the gold obtained through this stone CREATE AS MANY PONDS, WELLS AND WATER SOURCES AS YOU CAN FROM THE HELP OF THIS PARAS STONE.

Focusing on the topic that this tale is scientifically incorrect and that a stone can’t exist that can change articles made of iron to gold is absurd. The only message that the story wants to convey is that WATER IS MORE PRECIOUS THAN ANY OTHER NATURAL RESOURCE, WHETHER IT BE GOLD OR WHETHER IT BE A MAGICAL STONE THAT CHANGES OTHER STUFF TO GOLD.

This is a story from the book Aaj Bhi Khare Hai Talab I read years ago.


The route from Rajghat to Pandeypur has been used to enter the city of Varanasi since ancient times. About two thousand six hundred years ago, Gautam Buddha came to Sarnath following this route. This route is also used in Panchkoshi parikrama, an ancient religious festival of Varanasi. Due to both the ancient and religious importance of this route, many temples and ponds are located on this route. But I believe that due to the modern water distribution system, the wells are neglected a lot of times, so I have decided to focus my attention on the wells in this post. I have walked a lot for gathering knowledge and information about various subjects to write my posts, so it isn’t tough for me to walk long distances.
I started my padayatra (Walk) of about seven kilometers from Panchkoshi Marg at five in the morning.

Immediately after the holy confluence of Ganga and Varuna, a path leads to Sarnath, after going some distance on that path, an old well is present. This well is situated on a platform of about six feet on the ground. At first glance, it appears that this well is not in use for years. Some stairs are also there which are made to go to the platform of the well. Climbing these stairs and peeping into the well, I saw that

1. An iron ladder has been placed in the well which goes to the bottom and is used for cleaning the well.

2. An iron pipe was connected to a motor to draw water from the well.

3. The structure of the well was octagonal.

I came to know that the water of this well is not used for drinking but for some other purposes like washing vehicles, and cleaning the nearby houses. All the nearby houses depend on taps and hand pipes for clean drinking water.

After going some two-three hundred meters ahead, I saw another well that was completely covered. I got to know from the locals that this well has been covered since 1980 as the facility of water in taps and hand pumps has made it so irrelevant.
There was a drain on the platform of the well. A beautiful figure was made at the end of the drain. It got to know from the local people that this well was used for bathing. People used to drag the water of the well with a rope and take bath on the platform of the well itself.

The water that was used in bathing was not wasted, through the drain built on the platform, it was stored in a stone vessel nearby from which the cattle can drink it. This well clearly shows the historical tradition of Hindus of saving every single drop of water.

Going a little further, a holy place of Hindus falls “Kapil Dhara”. This is an ancient religious place where there is also a beautiful pond.

There is an ancient well on the road leading to Kapil Dhara, it has been renovated many times, at present the water of this holy well is not in use. On the opposite side of the road, there are several Dharamshalas (the word Dharamshala refers to a shelter or rest house for spiritual pilgrims.) which were once used as resting places by the pilgrims. Every Dharamshala has a temple and a well of its own. Anyway, the condition of the wells is pathetic as they are not in use for more than a century.


It is difficult to say how ancient the history of Panchkoshi Yatra is, but during the Islamic rule, there were many attempts to stop it. With the strengthening of the Marathas in the eighteenth century, temples began to be built once again in Banaras and the Panchkoshi Yatra came into vogue again. Keeping in mind the convenience of Hindu pilgrims in Panchkoshi Yatra, all these buildings, Dharamshala’s, and wells were constructed and renovated. Most of these buildings were built by the Maratha rulers.
Panchkoshi Yatra was also very famous in South India in the eighteenth century. In South India, the people who did the Panchkoshi Parikrama were considered to be worthy of special merit.

Kapil Dhara Dharamshala and its ancient wells

The famous Vishwanath temple in Banaras was rebuilt by Maharani Ahilyabai Holkar from 1777-to 1780. Many temples were built in Banaras during the reign of Marathas. This Dharamshala of Kapildhara was also built in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century by the Marathas.

Dharamshala Gateway

Shiv temple inside Dharamshala

Ancient wells located in Dharamshalas

Octagonal well inside a Dharmshala. Well, water is no longer in use. Once a year, it is cleaned during the Panchkoshi Yatra.

The structure of this well is hexagonal. This well was built later. The name of the person who built the well is written on its wall. According to the inscription on the wall, this well was constructed in 1890 AD. Some domesticated cattle gather around the well (as can be seen in the image above this one) to get relief from the sweltering heat.

There were pillars on the four corners of this well, out of which one pillar was broken. The shape of the urn can be clearly seen on the remaining three pillars.

Providing information about the deserted Dharamshala and the plight of the holy wells, the priest of Kapildhara Tirtha said that “In the older days, the pilgrimage was a tedious task of months.” Today, due to better means of transport, pilgrimage has become very easy. There are more pilgrims than before but now there is no need for them to stay in Kapildhara. Pilgrims coming from remote parts of the country prefer to stay in main city hotels. They come here by bus, or car and leave after spending some time. The new modes of transport have made the Dharamshala and the wells irrelevant.


I noticed a small Shiva temple on the side of the road. This Shiva temple made of sandstone looked attractive. The Shiva temple on a square platform made of stones is completely safe and preserved even today, but the Dharamshala adjoining this temple is now almost destroyed. The well attached to the temple has been closed and is not in use. Some shopkeepers near the temple told me that a large part of the temple courtyard is part of a school adjoining the temple boundary. I could not see that part of the temple as the school was closed. The temple building dates back to the 18th century.

Partially destroyed entrance of Dharamshala.


Bright red color has been used on this temple. This is also an ancient temple. Throughout my journey, I found that this was the only temple in which the well is still in use and people use its water for drinking.

SWARG BHUMI (paradise Land)

According to mythology, there was a great emperor in ancient times in India whose name was PRITHU. From whom the earth received her (Sanskrit) name Prithvi.”

It is believed that King Prithu performed the Ashwamedha Yagya at this place in Varanasi. Since then this place is known as the holy land in Hindu scriptures. The very ancient, historical Sarangnath pond is located here. (Historians believe that due to this pond, this place is known as Sarnath. Gautam Buddha gave his first sermon in Sarnath itself.)

ancient well of heaven



This was an ancient well, which was rebuilt by Baijnath Ji of Banaras in 1753 AD. In 1851 AD, this well was again renovated by Gopinath Ji, Veni Ram Ji, and Kripa Ram Ji of Maharashtra and the Shiva temple and Dharamshala located on the well were constructed by the Gyani Fateh Ram Ji. Later, the work of repairing this well and the building was completed by other people as well.


This is an octagonal well. The well is located in the middle of a two-story building. There is also a temple on the top floor of the building. This well is also not in use.

Most of the ancient wells on this route are octagonal.
Surprisingly, the local people and especially the youth have no idea about the history of this ancient route. Whereas the ancient religious texts of Hindus, Jataka tales, Buddhist literature mention detailed description of this path. Undoubtedly, local history has found no place in the school curriculum.

Many other wells are also present on this route, which were destroyed or only their remains are left. Images of some such ancient wells.

Author: nitinsingh

Postgraduate in International relations. Experience in writing in various journals, from BBC WORLD NEWS SERVICE to India's one of the oldest hindi daily. I like to write on international relations, religion, religious conflict. Social media has bridged the distance between writing and reading. Now writing is not just the expression of one's own thought, but also knowing the expression of people on various subject.

One thought on “The agony of the ancient wells of one of the oldest routes in India”

  1. This is a well researched post on wells and temples along panchkoshi route. A marvellous piece indeed!

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