The Jageshwar Temple Complex

At first glance, the Jageshwar temple complex disappointed me. I was expecting larger complex with taller temples. As I entered inside the complex, the towering trees and the verdant silence, the imposing solitude and the sweet murmuring of the Jatganga stream, brahmins performing pooja rituals and the scholars going through sacred scriptures seeking divine knowledge, the tranquil faith of devotees, in toto the atmosphere around me struck a deep chord in my heart and provided a strong sense of religious serenity. After-all everything depends on one’s belief,

मानो तो महादेव,
ना मानो तो पत्थर|

Jageshwar Temple Complex

Jageshwar Temple Complex

This temple complex situated around thirty kilometers from the city of Almora, sits in the lap of a narrow valley, set in an expanse of undenuded deodar forest, encompassing around one hundred and twenty four temples. The two streams of Nandini and Surabhi that flows down from Artola village meet near this sacred complex. This temple complex is guarded by giant Deodar monarchs that welcome the devotees of their isht – Mahadev – with affectionate might and majesty of their ages.

Giant Deodar trees guarding the Jageshwar Temple complex

Giant Deodar trees guarding a temple in the Jageshwar Temple complex

This site is considered sacred since ages even before the construction of these stone temples.
7th century AD – Buddhism had established deep roots in this region of Kumaon and some scholars believe that before this complex came into existence a Buddhist monastic center of meditation existed here. Its tranquil and secluded location suited the spiritual and esoteric pursuits of its resident monks.

The decline of Buddhism is attributed to the arrival of Adi Shankaracharya and his reformist awakening. Shankaracharya was a reformist saint of early eighth century. He traveled all over India and restored the practice of getting divine knowledge directly from Vedas. He arrested the decline and disintegration of Hinduism and put it back on the forefront. He reformed Hinduism, founded monasteries and introduced the worship of five main deities – Ganesha, Surya, Vishnu, Shiva and Devi. He explained that these deities are different forms of the one invisible Supreme Being.

Those who believe in the theory of Buddhist monastery center believe that it was he who converted the Jageshwar into a Shaiva-cultic center. This phase when Kumaon and Garhwal were passing through a deep cultural and religious fervor under the influence of Shankaracharya, coincided with the rise of Katyuri kings, who were devout followers of Brahminical faith and great builders of temples. Their zeal and enthusiasm towards constructing temples rivaled that of Chalukyas in South.

The Katyuri dynasty lasted from eighth century till eleventh century. At the peak of their power their kingdom was stretched from Nepal in the east to Kabul, Afghanistan in the west. The last known Katyuri king of significance was Bhudev and in one of his inscriptions he mentioned himself as the enemy of Buddhism. It shows that even in eleventh century Buddhism had significant presence in the region.

Jageshwar Temple Complex

Tandeshwar Temple in Jageshwar Temple Complex

It was difficult for any dynasty to keep hold over such a rugged terrain for long and by twelfth century the area under their influence fragmented into numerous principalities, prominent among them were the Chand Kings who eventually displaced Katyuri Kings completely from the Kumaon region. The kings of the new dynasty also shared the enthusiasm of Katyuri Kings in building temples and continued their patronage to the temple complex.

When the Katyuri Kings were cementing their position in the region, post Gupta renaissance, the stone temple architecture was flourishing in the Gangetic Plains. It caught attention of the Katyuri Kings and the local Dhaniks (rich merchants), probably after witnessing and realizing the vulnerabilities of wooden temples to fire. This temple complex represents a complete shift from vernacular wooden architecture to early medieval stone based architecture. The stone blocks used for the construction of these temples were held together by iron clamps. As the region only had skilled wooden craftsmen, the stone craftsmen were invited from plains. The wood continued to be used for making other vital structural parts – the ridgepole and the door-panels of the sanctum. The wood used for construction in temple was necessarily to be of Deodar tree (Dev-God’s Daar-Tree). The region is prone to heavy rains and so to avoid the seepage of water through the fissures caused by weathering, wooden canopies were constructed over Shikharas.

Temples with Canopies in Jageshwar Temple Complex

Temples with Canopies in Jageshwar Temple Complex

While the scholars believe that there existed a Buddhist monastery here, the popular belief is that the Jageshwar was the first place from where the worship of “Shivalinga” started and Shivalinga here is worshipped from time-unknown. In this region of Kumaon, there are many Nag temples and the isht of all of these Nag-Dev is the Nagesh of Jageshwar. Local people believe that prayers to Jageshwar is incomplete without prayers to these Nagdevas. The reverence of Nagdevas is so pronounced in the area that one can notice the name of several snake gods, like Vasuki, Sheshnag, Takshak, Kaliya Nag and Moolnarayan, painted at the rear of many four-wheel vehicles. This is the reason for a strong belief that the eighth Jytorlinga mentioned as Nageshwar in the shlokas of twelve Jyotirlinga (Dwadasa Jyotirlingas-the twelve resplendent lingas of Shiva established by Vishnu) refers to Jageshwar.

सौराष्ट्रे सोमनाथं च श्रीशैले मल्लिकार्जुनम् ।
उज्जयिन्यां महाकालमोकांरममलेश्वरम् ।
परल्यां वैद्यनाथं च डाकिन्यां भीमशंकरम् ।
सेतुबंधे तु रामेशं नागेशं दारूकावने ।
वाराणस्यां तु विश्वेशं त्रयंम्बकं गौतमीतटे ।
हिमालये तु केदारं घुश्मेशं च शिवालये ।
ऐतानि ज्योतिर्लिंगानि सायं प्रातः पठेन्नरः ।
सप्तजन्मकृतं पापं स्मरणेन विनश्यति ।

Rekha Deul Temple Architecture, Jageshwar

Rekha Deul Temple Architecture, Jageshwar

According to a legend, Pandavas performed their last rites here and cleansed themselves of their mortal sins. Since then dead bodies are brought from long distances to be cremated here. The cremation ground of Jageshwar were also the cremation ground of the Chand dynasty and there are records of queens committing Sati there.

While travelling towards Jageshwar, at several places we saw funeral pyres near river beds, sometimes in the dry river beds as well. As we are struggling to keep our rivers clean, this is a practice I would like to be abandoned. In his book “The man eaters of Kumaon”, Jim Corbett narrated how half burnt bodies and during epidemics, tradition of keeping a coal in the mouth of dead and putting them in holy streams, was one of the main reasons in converting leopards to Man-Eaters.

At the entrance, a family was performing Yagna at the Yagna-Vedi. It is believed that Luv-Kush, the son of Lord Rama, also performed Yagna here and worshiped Shiva.

Yagna Vedi, Jageshwar

Yagna Vedi, Jageshwar

In the first look with non-discerning eyes, all the temples appeared similar but careful and closer look revealed variations in temple architecture from early and late Rekha Deuls, to early and late Khakhara Deuls. The number of temples in the complex is large, but many of them are really small. The size of temples in the complex varies from 40 meters to barely reaching my own height; to emphasize my observation, I noticed a priest performing pooja for a man and woman, who were barely inside the temple; with three of them inside the temple, the temple was already over-crowded.

Jageshwar Temple Complex

Jageshwar Temple Complex

The Yagna Vedi is facing Maha-Mrityunjaya temple. This east facing temple of Mahamrityunjaya belongs to early Katyuri dynasty and is the oldest and the largest among all the temples in the complex. It was constructed by the Katyuri king Nirbhat Dev in eighth century. This temple is around sixteen meters high and has a curvilinear spire unique to Rekha-Deul architecture; the sanctum-sanctorum is square shape and houses a stone lingam with an eye shaped opening. Shiva is worshiped here as Maha-Mrityunjay – the savior from premature, untimely deaths.

In front of a Devi Temple at Jageshwar Temple Complex

In front of Temple at Jageshwar Temple Complex

The recital of sacred and powerful Maha-Mrityunjay mantra here, increases one’s self-esteem, helps in self-realization and to get over all kinds of fear and negativity. Even prolonged illness and all ill and evil effects get thwarted here. Below is the Maha-Mrityunjay Mantra,

ॐ हौ जूँ सः
ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः
ॐ त्रयंबकं यजामहे सुगन्धिम् पुष्टिवधर्नम्
उर्वारूकमिव बन्धनान्मृत्यॊर्मुक्षीय मामृतात्
ॐ स्वः भुवः भूः ॐ
सः जूँ हौ ॐ

[Translated as – We pray Lord Shiva, the All-Seeing One, three eyed, who bears grace of all-pervading divine fragrance and enricher of all kinds of powers and viguour by His enormous prosperous bestowals. May He release me from the grip of premature untimely death, but not from immortality like pumpkin or watermelon separates after ripening from its vine].

A small shrine at Jageshwar Temple Complex

A small shrine at Jageshwar Temple Complex

The second set of the temples is dedicated to Goddess Navdurga, Goddess Mahishasur Mardini, Lakulisha and Natraj. These temples are believed to be built in 900-915 AD.

The presence of Lakulisha temple in the complex indicates the popularity of Lakulish Shaivism during that period. Lakulisha was born in a Brahmin family in Vadodra. Lakulisha unified different Shaivism faith that survived in semi-secrecy at his time. He founded Pashupati Sect and is considered to be the creator of Yoga. He is believed to be the twenty-eighth and the last Avtar of Shiva.

Lakulisha as carved on a temple, Jageshwar

Lakulisha as carved on a temple, Jageshwar

The frontal pediment of Lakulish temple depicts him seated in lotus posture, as a naked yogi carrying prayer beads, a club, a cup of human skull with an aroused linga that represents life-force and total self-control. In all his images, Lakulisha is shown as ithyphallic (urdhavarita).

Similar to Lakulisha temple, on the Natraj temple, Shiva is shown in a graceful dancing pose. Shiva is worshipped as the Lord of Dance in the form of Natraja. Shiva sustains existence with his dance of sublime and graceful energy. At the same time Shiva destroys the life with his Tandaav.

Shiva Family, with Shiva carved as Natraj, Jageshwar Temple Complex

Shiva Family, with Shiva carved as Natraj, Jageshwar Temple Complex

The principal temple of the complex is of Tarun Jageshwar. This west-facing temple enshrines the sacred Jyotirlinga. It is guarded by armed Nandi and Skandi carved at the entrance. Inside the sanctum-sanctorum, the Shiva-Linga worshipped here is divided into two parts – the larger part of the linga depicts Shiva and the smaller part represents Parvati. There is an Akhand-Jyoti believed to be burning continuously and uninterrupted from ancient times. Along with the Akhand Jyoti are the statues of Raja Deepchand and Raja Tripal Chand in attendance to the Siva-Linga as if to ensure that the arrangements for prayers in the temple would continue forever.

Tarun Jageshwar Temple in Jageshwar Temple Comlex

Tarun Jageshwar Temple in Jageshwar Temple Comlex

Seemingly, the assurance has not gone vain. There is a legend, how the temple survived the Rohilla Plunderers in 1743. It is believed that a when a section of Rohilla iconoclast were advancing towards the temple, they were attacked by a swarm of honey bees, who repulsed them and saved the temple.

Jageshwar’s shivalinga is worshiped as Ardhanarishvara. Among the Indian religions, the Jain Tirthankaras and Shiva sits on extreme opposite of each other. Jain Tirthankaras are considered totally detached from the world and it also reflects in the way their statues are carved. They are always depicted as expressionless, with a serene youthful body unperturbed by the physical charm of their close attendants as well.

While Shiva is considered as the most passionate one. He is so passionate about his spouse call it by the name Parvati/Sati/Shakti that he willingly converts half of his body as hers. In my opinion, this reflects the empowerment, the trust and the bond. Shiva shares such a strong bond with his spouse that the two powerful individual appears inseparable. In this context, I see the bond even stronger than between Ram and Sita.

My thoughts wander!
Here I see a reason why the young girls keep fast on Monday to be blessed with a husband like Shiva. The ash smeared, matted hair, ferocious Shiva also portrays an ideal husband as he empowers and unifies with His better half like no-one else do. And together they create a state of absolute being.

In between these two extremes lies the ordinary human beings who are unable to go to the extreme of limitless enjoyment, and complete attachment and the other extreme of total detachment and limitless calmness.

Brahmins at Jageshwar Temple Complex busy in disussion

Brahmins at Jageshwar Temple Complex busy in disussion

There is a legend about the temple of Tarun Jageshwar, and it goes like this, after the suicide of Sati in the Yagna Vedi of her father Daksha, because of unbearable insult furled at her and her husband Shiva by Daksha, Shiva got extremely angry and killed Daksha; finally after lot of destruction when his anger subsided, he came to perform penance at a place where today the temple of Vridh Jageshwar is situated, at three kilometer uphill trek from Jageshwar.

Shiva After killing Daksha, collecting the half-burnt body of Sati from the yagna Fire (National Museum, Delhi)

Shiva After killing Daksha, collecting the half-burnt body of Sati from the yagna Fire (National Museum, Delhi)

The place at that time was inhabited by seven rishis, who used to live around with their wives
Atri – wife – Anusuya
Bharadvaja – wife – Susheela
Gautam – wife – Ahalya
Jamadagni – wife – Renuka
Kashyapa – wife – Aditi and Diti
Vasishta – wife – Arunthati
Vishwamitra – wife – Sruti

One day the wives of these seven rishis went into the forest to collect firewood. They saw the meditating yogi Shiva there. His persona was so magnificent that they couldn’t take their eyes away from him and tired all of them got unconscious one by one. The rishis were hungry and were waiting for their wives to return and cook food for them. When the ladies didn’t return for long, they formed a search party and reached at Vridh Jagshwar. When they saw Shiva and saw their wives unconscious around him, they thought him as a sorcer who hypnotized their wives. They cursed him that his Linga will break into pieces.

Till that time Shiva was in meditation. Listening the curse he opened his eyes and realized the situation and then to clear the doubt of the rishis, he turned himself into a kid – a Tarun. Rishis realized their mistake, but the damage was already done. Shiva accepted the curse of the Rishis, but as they acted in haste, he also cursed them that they will hang forever in the sky. This kid form of Shiva is worshipped in Jageshwar as Tarun Jageshwar.

It is believed that earlier Tarun Jageshwar was so willing to give that anyone could pray here and get their wishes fulfilled, these wishes could be for the well-being of someone and they could even be for harming somebody. Shankaracharya realized the power of worshiping here and its potential misuse. He then pushed the Shivalinga a little in the earth and after that only wishes for wellness are granted here.

On the back side of the Tarun Jageshwar temple, there are two pyramidal shrines. The shikhara of these two temples is composed of receding horizontal course of projected and sinking moldings called pidha, also known as pidha-deuls.

A beautiful small temple at Jageshwar Temple Complex

A beautiful small temple at Jageshwar Temple Complex

Along with the Shiva temples the complex also encompasses temples belonging to Shakti cult. There are temples belonging to PushtiMata, Chandikama, Lakshmi, Narayani, Sheetlamata, Navadurga and Mahakali.

Pushtimata temple is a small temple of Goddess Durga and its height range from eight to nine meters. It is rectangular with two massive square pillars at the entrance and pilaster all around the wall portion. There were two squatted lions facing the cardinal points. Navdurga Temple has Vallabhi style Shikhara.

The late Katyuri and Chand kings built the temple of Surya, Navgriha, and Neelkanteshwara between eleventh to fourteenth century. Many of the shrines built here are also built by people whose wishes got fullfilled here. As a gratitude towards Lord Shiva’s blessing they build those small shrines.

A canopy of tree over Kuber Temple Complex, Jageshwar

A canopy of tree over Kuber Temple Complex, Jageshwar

After looking at the Jageshwar temple complex as I came out, I saw a board indicating the direction of Kuber Temple Complex. This temple complex is around three hundred to four hundred meters away from the main temple complex. The two main temples of this complex are the Kuber Temple and the temple of Goddess Chandika.

Kuber Temple at Kuber temple Complex. Lakulisha can be seen carved on the outer wall, Jageshwar

Kuber Temple at Kuber temple Complex. Lakulisha can be seen carved on the outer wall, Jageshwar

The Kuber temple is constructed on a raised platform and follows Rekha-Shikhar architecture, in architectural style it resembles Maha-Mrityunjaya temple. It enshrines a rare ek-mukh lingam that is dated tenth century AD. The temple of Goddess Chandika of Shakti cult is built in vallabhi style.

A temple in the Jageshwar Temple Complex

Chandika Devi temple in the Kuber Temple Complex

There was not much possibility of further exploration. Knowing the condition of Rachit, I was more than satisfied with the opportunity I got. I returned, Rachit was feeling better. Fifteen minutes before eleven’o clock (the check-out time) we were reminded by the hotel staff about the check-out time. And we ensured to meet the requirement.

While we were leaving more drama happened. The complete KMVN staff was out requesting us not to complain about the Manager. Though I complained as the attitude of the manager was rude and intimidating, but as all the staff was out requesting not to do so, I wonder, was he a good man or they were out to protect their manager.

Apart from Jageshwar Temple complex, Kuber Temple complex and the Vridh Jageshwar temple complex, there exists Dandeshwar temple complex, situated around one and half km from Jageshwar. While returning back we crossed this temple complex, but the conditions of Rachit and Vinodji did not permit us to stop.

In Almora, there were many medical shops and with single pill each, by the time we reached Saat-taal, both Vinodji and Rachit recovered completely.

Series Navigation<< Experiences Good and Bad at Jageshwar

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *