|• Body||Patna Municipal Corporation|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
The Agam Kuan is known to be the oldest and the most important archaeological site in Patna. Agam Kuan, which means "unfathomable well", is said to date back to the period of Maurya emperor, Ashoka (304–232 BCE). The well is located east of Patna, Bihar state, India, south-west of Gulzarbagh Station. The well is circular in shape and is encased by brick lining up to half the depth and the balance depth up to the bottom is lined by rings made of wood.
Within the precincts of the Agam Kuan is the Shitala Devi temple where Shitala Devi is venerated. Inside this temple the pindas of the Saptamatrikas (the seven mother goddesses) are worshipped. The temple is widely revered for its potency in curing smallpox and chicken pox.
The Agam Kuan, meaning the "unfathomable well", and the Shitala Devi temple within its precinct's are situated close to the Gulzarbagh railway station, on the way to Panch-Pahadi, on the outskirts of Patna.
History and legend
During the 1890s, the British explorer, Laurence Waddell, while exploring the ruins of Pataliputra, identified Agam Kuan as the legendary well built by Ashoka for torturing people, a practice reported by Chinese travellers (most probably Fa Hien) of the 5th and 7th centuries A.D. The well is stated to have been used to torture convicts by throwing them into the fire that used to emanate from the well. The well is presently covered with moss and visitors throw coins into it. Ashoka's Edict no. VIII makes mention of this well, which was also known as "fiery well" or "hell on earth". It is also a myth that the subterranean link of the Kuan is with the Patala (netherworld) or hell based an incident that a heavy log of timber that was lost in the sea was located in the well by saint. Another plausible subterranean link is mooted as with the Ganges river.
Another popular legend states that this was the well where Ashoka threw ninety-nine of his elder half-brothers after killing them to obtain the throne of the Mauryan Empire. But this well of torture is stated to have been built by Emperor Ashoka before he embraced Buddhism, as part of Ashoka's Hell chambers.
The site is also connected with several Jain legends, the most famous of them being that of a Jain monk Sudarshana who, when thrown into the well by a king named Chand, floated to the surface and was found seated on a lotus.
The well's is still considered auspicious and a site for many religious ceremonies, especially Hindu weddings, but it is never used for drinking. It is also said that the offerings of worship in the form of flowers and coins are usually done during summer months as the well's history is linked to "heat and hell". Even during the Mohammedan rule, the Mughal officials are stated to have offered coins of gold and silver to the well.
Agam Kuan is 105 feet (32 m) deep, circular in plan, with a diameter extending over 4.5 metres (15 ft). The well is brick-encased in the upper half of its depth (down to 44 feet (13 m) and thereafter, to a further depth of 61 feet (19 m) to its bottom, secured by a series of wooden rings. The surface structure, which now covers the well and forms its most distinctive feature, has eight arched windows.
Shitala Devi temple
Next to the Agam Kuan lies the Shitala Devi temple, dedicated to Shitala Devi, which houses the pindas of the Saptamatrikas (the seven mother goddesses). The temple is widely venerated for its potency in curing smallpox and chicken pox, as with all Shitala Devi temples, and is also visited by devotees for wish fulfillment. An unusual scene here is the presence of a lady priest.
The site also has several ancient and medieval sculptures, out of these at least one as reported by A. Cunningham, who visited the site, in 1879–80, was of the Yaksha of the Mauryan art period. This statue, standing guard outside the Shitala Devi temple but fixed with a new head and outline features of a pair of breasts, is conjectured to have been found in the Agam Kua. Based on the features of this image, A. Cunningham has inferred that two similar statues he had seen in the museum at Calcutta may be from the same location. This artifact is not traceable now.
- "Agam Kuan". Directorate of Archaeology, Govt. of Bihar, official website.
- "The Explorations and Excavations at Patna: Agamkuan, Khaaunia & Stone Trough". National Informatics Centre.
- Sinha 1999, p. 59.
- Vishnu 1993, p. 173.
- Sinha 1999, p. 34-35, 59.
- O’Brien, p. 17.
- Kapoor 2002, p. 4741.
- Sinha 1999, p. 34-35.
- O`malley 1924, p. 193.
- British Library "A. Cunningham (Alexander Cunningham) wrote (after his 1879-80 tour), 'When I saw the two statues in the New Indian Museum at Calcutta, I then remembered that a broken statue of a similar kind was still standing at Agam Kua, just outside the city of Patna, adorned with a new head and a pair of roughly marked breasts, so as to do duty for the great goddess Mata-Mai...The Agam Kua is a very large and very old brick well...The broken figure is said to have been found in this well, and it seems probable therefore that the two statues were also found either at or near the same place."
- O’Brien, Derek. Derek Introduces: 100 Iconic Indians. Rupa Publications. ISBN 978-81-291-3413-4.
- O`malley, L.S.S. (1924). Bihar And Orissa District Gazetteers Patna. Concept Publishing Company. ISBN 978-81-7268-121-0.
- Sinha, Nishi (1999). Tourism Perspective in Bihar. APH Publishing. ISBN 978-81-7024-975-7.
- Vishnu, Asha (1993). Material Life of Northern India: Based on an Archaeological Study, 3rd Century B.C. to 1st Century B.C. Mittal Publications. ISBN 978-81-7099-410-7.