Samuel Bourne took this view inside the mosque of Gyanvapi in Varanasi (formerly Benares), a city on the banks of the Ganges in northern India. Named for the well of knowledge within its precincts, the mosque was built by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb on the site of a former Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva. Bourne’s photograph illustrates how Gyanvapi was a palimpsest of religious faiths: inside the mosque, ornately carved pillars surround the central statue of Nandi, a seated bull that is a fixture of Shiva temples. The sculpture on the far wall represents Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god.


  • Title: Well of Knowledge
  • Creator: Samuel Bourne
  • Date: 1863 - 1870
  • Physical Dimensions: w24 x h28.9 cm (sheet)
  • Type: Photographs
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Albumen silver print from glass negative
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Mrs. Efrem Kurtz

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