If one were to have even moved heaven and earth, one would not have been able to fill the Lolark Kund in Varanasi with the water that this holy tank has. For, this water has not come from the mountains or the plains or the myriad rivers or the oceans or any other source that exists in the realm of heaven and earth. It is from a world that lives beyond the deep of the deepest sea — the pataal world. And, like in most cases of divine intervention in Varanasi, the Lolark Kund too has a Lord Shiva connect. Indeed, what would Varanasi be without Shiva!
As I move around the precincts of the Kund on a pleasant February afternoon, there is only a smattering of visitors to the sacred tank and the Lolark Kund Mahadev temple. In some seven months, the eyes would behold a different scene. The place teems with tens of thousands of devotees in the Bhadra season (Bhadon) on any given day, wanting a dip into the tank, or at the very least desirous of a sprinkling of the water on their body as a blessing. What makes Lolark Kund so special?
To begin with, this site, located to the south of Varanasi, near Tulsi Ghat and at the confluence the Asi and the Ganga rivers, is considered to be the most ancient of the many ancient sites in the city. It finds a reference in the earliest Puranic Mahatmyas of Kashi — and in a period when few such places were even listed in such texts. It appears that Lolark was known even before Asi, and before the likes of Lords Vishnu and Shiva became household deities of Varanasi.
There is generous praise for Lolark in the Kashi Khand — which is one of the seven sections of Skand Puran. The author of the Khand, perhaps mindful that his profuse compliments may be taken with a pinch of salt, proceeds to ally the fears of the reader of any exaggeration.
Besides, there is the story behind the name. Lolark is another nomenclature for the Sun. It is said that when the Sun beheld Kashi, his heart trembled with ecstasy — Lolark, thus, means the ‘Trembling Sun’. The Shiva connection is that this deity of all deities, the Mahadev, had despatched the Sun as his emissary to Kashi, to spread light, energy, vitality and virility. The Sun then went on to divide himself into 12 parts — called the Adityas, the mythical offsprings of Aditi and Prajapati — and settled across the place. Interestingly, while the Hindu calendar is lunar-based, the 12 Suns later got identified with the months of the solar calendar. Lolark is one of the Adityas.
The Kund is where the image of the Sun shines in glory as a reflection in the water. It is nearly 50-foot deep and is accessed by a series of steps that plunge rather dangerously down. For most of the time, the Kund is covered with a protective shield to avoid people from accidentally or voluntarily falling into it. When the tank is covered, water is drawn by people who manage the site and is made available to the devotees. The Trembling Sun is supposed to slash down, like a divine sword, the sins of people.
But Lolark Kund plays another, equally important role — one which converts the site into a busy region bustling with thousands of devotees, come August-September. Hordes of married couples arrive to come in contact with the sacred water of the tank, praying they be blessed with a child — preferably a son, but a daughter would do as well. It is said that the Sun God rarely disappoints. After a couple takes a dip in the waters or sprinkles it on the body, it leaves its old clothes behind as a remembrance; some couples even discard their jewellery. Other offerings are made too, such as vegetables. A year or a few years later when their wishes are fulfilled, the blessed couples return with their children; the child’s head is tonsured and the hair dedicated and offered to the Sun God.
If there is anything that is missing on the Lolark Kund site, it is a magnificent temple that could have stood testimony to the grandeur and ancient lineage of the place. There is but one small temple. Perhaps there had been one, many centuries ago, but there is no real evidence of that. This, fortunately, is not the case with another major Sun God water tank in the city — the Suraj (or Surya) Kund. There are traces of what must have once been a truly grand temple in the locality — which is in the proximity of the busy Godaulia crossing. Parts of the temple are still visible, and it is said that the structure could date as far back as the fifth or the sixth century.
The study of the Sun temples in India is another subject altogether, quite outside the limited scope of this article. But Varanasi, like many parts of the country, has its share of mythological history relating to the Sun God. The existence of 12 Suns itself establishes the preeminence of Lolark and the 11 other forms in this ancient city.