Of all the temples dedicated to lord Shiva, the twelve Jyotirlingas are said to be the most important. These twelve temples are spread all over the country, and there is even a sloka which names them all. However, as with most things in
, the locations of some of these temples are controversial, with more than one temple claiming to be the original one. For example, there are two temples which claim to be the fifth Jyotirling – the Vaidyanath temple at Parli in India Maharashtra, as well as the Baidyanath Dham temple in Jharkhand. However, the most controversial one is surely the eighth one – there are no less than 3 claimants to this temple – one is the temple of Nageshwar at Aundh in Maharashtra, the second is the temple of Nageshwar at Dwaraka, and the third is the in Uttarakhand! The controversy arises from the fact that the temple is described in the scriptures as being located in the ‘Daruka Vanam’. This is translated as ‘Dwaraka’ as some, while others consider the area of the temple of Jageshwar Deccan plateau as the original ‘Daruka van’. The temple of Jageshwar comes into the picture, since it is located in a or cedar trees, known as ‘Daruka’ trees too! forest of Deodhar
Of course, when I heard that Jageshwar was only 65 Kms from Binsar, we decided to make a visit. Considering that we have visited almost all other Jyotirlings (Shankar has visited all of them!), this one would be an extra!
The route from Binsar to Jageshwar was very picturesque, passing as it did, along the sanctuary. The 65 Kms journey took us almost 2 hours, and we were just getting tired of the omnipresent pines and rhododendrons, when suddenly, as if by magic, we entered into a different world – full of Deodars, reaching to the sky! Samhith was all excited – “Amma look, Christmas trees” he yelled! Within a few minutes we were at Jageshwar, and it was easy to understand the reason for its association with the Jyotirlings – after all, the cedar forest extended just about a km around the temple….. There were of course cedars in the other parts of the forest too, but nowhere were they as abundant, or as visible! It was an impressive sight indeed!
The Jageshwar temple is part of a group of around 125 temples of all shapes and sizes, dating from the 7th to the 18th century. The main temples are dedicated to Jageshwar Mahadev, Mrityunjay Mahadev, Nav Durga, Pushti Devi, and the navagrahas.
The temple is located at the confluence of two local streams, and it was a pity to see their condition! The more I see sources of water near temples, the more I wonder at our inclination to abuse the very things we pray to, the very sources which give us life!
The most prominent temple in the complex is that of Mrityunjay Mahadev. This is the first temple we visited in the complex. A family was performing the puja inside, and we waited for a while, soaking in the atmosphere. For once, the priest seemed to be totally dedicated and engrossed in the puja and no one as much as asked us for a penny! Something surprising indeed; and this immediately raised my opinion of the temple!
The next temple was the main one, of Jageshwar Mahadev. The priest there told us that this indeed was the Jyotirling, and the name ‘Nageshwar’ had, sometime in the past, been corrupted by the locals to ‘Jageshwar’ and pointed out the kavach, or covering to the main lingam, which had a snake prominently displayed on it, as proof. However, I absently nodded to his story, fascinated not by the deity, but by two figures next to the deity – these were two figures – a man and a woman – about 4 feet high, made of brass/bronze, holding lamps in their hands. Such female figures are common in the south, and are called ‘Paavai Vilakku’, but I had never seen a male one before. I barely waited for the priest to complete his story before asking him who they were. He answered that they were the king and queen who had commissioned the temple, but had no more details. I was itching to take photographs, but photography was strictly not allowed inside the temples, so I regretfully curbed my temptation and moved ahead.
The temple to the Nav Durga was next in line, and looked very different from the other temples, probably owing to the fact that it contained more deities than any other!
The next shrine was that of Pushti Devi. Pushti literally means nourishment or confirmation, and Pushti Devi refers to the goddess who nourishes or gives us what we need. There is a figure of the goddess inside the sanctum, but just as we entered, another family hailing from this region arrived, and explained that the important thing here was not the idol, but the yantra – the symbol of the goddess. He made the priest take the yantra out and showed it to us, explaining the Sri Yantra etched on it, with the goddess Kali depicted as standing on lord Shiva. According to mythology, when Kali defeated her enemies, she was so drunk with power and blood that she danced all over the battlefield in a frenzy. No one was able to bring her to her senses, and finally, lord Shiva arrived and simply lay down on the ground. As Kali danced all over, she stepped on the lord, and at once, she regained her senses and came to herself. This was supposedly one of the few such instances where the goddess was so depicted on the yantra, and this one was found here during an archaeological survey. Unfortunately, the yantra is slightly chipped off at the corner, something which is believed to lessen its power. “What a pity!” was the main thought in all our minds as we moved on to the other temples.
A small shrine dedicated to Lakulisha caught my eye, especially for the details depicted in the sculptures. I had just recently heard of Lakulisha, thorough a fellow blogger, and was stunned to see his temple here. Apparently, Lakulisha was one of the earliest teachers of Pasupata philosophy, and was considered the last avatar of Lord Shiva. Literally, his name means ‘the lord with a club’ and this is how he is depicted in this temple. Inside, though, is just a small Shiv ling, for nothing much remains of the original deity.
There were other shrines too, dedicated to some other forms of Shiva, as well as the nine planets or navagrahas.
A bit away from the main complex is the temple complex of Dandeshwar, which is the largest temple here. This temple was closed, and there was no sign of a priest, so we were unable to have a closer look.
Most of the sculptures and idols found in the Jageshwar temple complex have been housed in the Archaeological museum just outside the main temple complex. In all, it houses around 174 sculptures, each of them beautiful beyond words! Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the museum, and photographs of the sculptures are not available either. But if you happen to visit this place, please do visit the museum. It is too wonderful for words. For more details, you can check out their website, which gives a few more details.
Jageshwar is 125 Kms from Kathgodam, 35 Kms from Almora and 88 Kms from Pithorgarh. The temple is on the Kailash – Manasarovar Yatra route. There are a few options for accommodation at Jageshwar itself. There are a couple of small hotels in the town, apart from the KMVN guest house, which seems to be the best option. However, it is quite easy to drive down from Almora/Nainital, as the roads are very good.
There is also another temple about 5 Kms up the hill, known as Vriddha Jageshwar, which is supposed to be even older. We were unable to visit this temple, though apparently, it is now possible to drive there. If anyone has visited the temple, please leave your suggestions about whether it is worth a visit.
Here are some more images from the temple
P.S. I have put up photos taken by Samhith at Binsar on his blog... Check it out here and please leave your comments.