Jageshwar Dham - Shiva Jyotirlingam in Kumaon, Uttarakhand

Beautiful Jageshwar Dham Uttarakhand

सेतुबन्धे तु रामेशं नागेशं दारुकावने

~ Shiva Purana

In the forests of Daruka (another name for Deodhar trees), lies the Jyotirlinga Nageshwar.

This shloka or verse was written in one of the prominent Hindu Scriptures many many eons ago. With time came differing perspectives and varied voices, and in a land like India, boasting of a rich history with many ancient and medieval temples thriving across almost all the nooks and crannies, it came as no surprise that ownership to the said temple Nageshwar was swooped upon by not one, not two, but by 3 different temples located in 3 different states of the country.

Shivlingam and ancient ruins in Jageshwar Jyotirlinga dham, Uttarakhand
Ancient ruins in Jageshwar Dham

The arguments put forward were from Nageshwar in Dwarka at Gujarat (stating that Daruka is Dwarka), Nageshwar in Aundh at Maharashtra (similarity in names) and Jageshwar in Uttarakhand (stating that Nageshwar is actually Jageshwar).

The big question then, in my mind, was  … which Jyotirlinga is the original one?

We leave our place of stay at Kasar Alhito Café after breakfast to explore one of the most ancient temples of the town – Jageshwar Dham. The great pines blow in the wind as our car snakes its way to a land steeped in myth and mysticism. Soon enough, the slopes start descending, replacing the pines with majestic deodhars, standing so tall almost obscuring the azure blue sky beneath the canopy of trees. I roll down the windows – the air is clean and sweet. Overwhelmed, I breathe in deeply… it’s a world away from my own.

Shikhara with the deodhars in the background Jageshwar Uttarakhand
Under the canopy of the majestic Deodhars - the ancient Jageshwar Dham

We are at a height of 6135 feet, in the forests of Daruka (Deodhars) providing a rich thick green cover for the cluster of around 130 stone temples (some claim the number to be around 200 or so) of various shapes and sizes, ranging between 7th to the 18th century AD built from cut stone in Nagara style of architecture, mostly by the Katyuri Kings. Later from the 15th century, the temples were maintained and protected by the Chand rulers. The Inscriptions inside the temple also talk about the Malla rulers.

Sunrays at Stone Temples Jageshwar Uttarakhand
Most of the temples are built in Nagara style of architecture

Stepping on the land instantly envelopes me with a feeling of calm, positivity and peace. Is it the magic of the deodhars or is it the exquisite antiquity and the rich history of the temple… I wonder.

Maze of temples at Jageshwar Dham Uttarakhand
There are around 130 stone temples in the Jageshwar cluster

The beautiful temples enshrine the sacred seat of the Syambhu Lingam (self manifested Shiv Lingam) known as Nagesh Darukabane or Jageshwar Mahadev in addition to other temples like MahaMrityunjay Mahadev, Kedareshwar, Nav Durga, Pushti Devi, Kalika, Baleshwar, Lakulisha, Dakshinmukhi Hanuman and the Navagrahas. The temple complex lies at the sacred confluence of two streams Nandini and Surabhi in the Jataganga valley.

Devi at Jageshwar Dham Uttarakhand
Devi Temple in Jageshwar Complex.

Proof exists that this place was the ancient pilgrim route to Kailash Mansarovar, and Jageshwar has also been mentioned in the travelogues of Huan Tsang. As per the local stories, it was on the banks of the Jatganga that the pandavas on the way to Swargarohini performed their last rites and cleansed themselves off their sins. So hallowed is this valley! Till date, villagers use the riverbed for cremating their near and dear ones.

Carved facade at Jageshwar UttarakhandIntricatey carved sculpted panels at Jageshwar Dham Uttarakhand
Intricately carved panels on the temple facade

A dry riverbed runs alongside the main temple complex parallel to the road leading to the main temple area. I stop for a moment and look around to see how urban development, natural beauty and ingenious faith coexist in perfect harmony with one another - a spattering of village houses, shops and dharamshalas perched on small rock cut slopes is neatly juxtaposed with the natural resources of the mountains: deodhar trees standing as sentinels on all the sides with magnificent stone temples peeping in between. As you keep walking on the main road, the shikharas or the temple spires keep getting closer and closer.

Way to Jageshwar Jyotirlinga Uttarakhand
Way to the Jageshwar Temple in the Kumaon Hills

The first temple cluster we visit is the ancient Shri Kuber Temple and Chandika Temple, the way of which passes through a bridge opposite the Jageshwar group of temples.

Chandika Temple Jageshwar UttarakhandKuber Temple, Jageshwar Uttarakhand
Chandika Devi Temple in the Kubera cluster

A few steps ahead is the main gate of the Jageshwar Temple Complex – due to Covid 19, we were required to take a pass after showing our government ids (adhaar or pan card) from a booth set up near the car parking slot.

Mist hangs low in the air as I enter the temple, caused by the smoke rising from the havan being performed in the premises, lending a mystical touch to the entire atmosphere. The entrance immediately leads us to a huge, and perhaps the most prominent temple in the complex, the Mahamrityunjay Temple built bang in the middle of other smaller shrines and lingas.

Myhtical misty Jageshwar Uttarakhand
It is said that the entire Jageshwar Dham was built at night
guess that's where it draws its magic and mysticism!

There is a small queue before we were allowed to take the darshan at this 1st millennium temple which is protected by the ASI along with some other temples in the complex.

Mahamrutyunjaya  temple, Jageshwar Uttarakhand
Mrityunjaya Temple dedicated to Mrityunjaya form of Shiva, or the one who conquered death.

The second large temple prominent in the complex after the Maha Mrityunjay Temple is the Jageshwar Mahadev Temple which is mired in controversy surrounding its name. The temple, dedicated to Nageshwar / Yageshwar / Jageshwar Mahadeo, is situated behind some of the smaller temples, and if the claims are to be believed, this is the same temple that appears in the Hindu Scriptures enlisting the 12 Jyotirlingams as the 8th Jyotirlingam.

Jageshwar Mahadeo Temple, Jageshwar Dham Uttarakhand
Jageshwar Temple - Home to the debated Shiva Jyotirlinga

The temple has 2 dwarpalas standing outside as guards (besides the scores of deodhar trees and mountains of course!), one holding a skull while the other holding a serpent. Go past the dwarpalas and beyond lies a sanctuary of infinite calm. It’s perhaps the effect of this calm that I see a man peacefully meditating right in front the door, absolutely undisturbed by my frail attempts to capture a slice of his serenity.

Dwarpala guarding the Jageshwar Mahadeo Temple, Jageshwar Uttarakhand
Dwarpala outside the Shiva Jageshwar Temple

 The temple walls and pillars are  inscribed with text written in  Brahmi and Sanskrit dating back to different time periods celebrating the work of the kings and belief of the people.

Ancient Illustration Jageshwar Uttarakhand
Inscriptions in the Jageshwar complex


The sanctum sanctorum of Jageshwar Temple has a lingam installed with a serpent displayed on its kavach (covering) around the pindi. There are two ashtadhatu figures in the background, which the locals told me are the kings who established the temple. Lord Shiva is flanked by his consort Goddess Shakti and the immense appeal that radiates between the two is reflected in an Akhand Jyoti (eternal flame) that flickers in the foreground.

Jageshwar Mahadeo temple, Jageshwar UttarakhandCluster of temples Jageshwar Uttarakhand
There are two tall deodhar trees close to each other near the Tarun Jageshwar -  their branches look like hands outstretched in protection of the Lord Gods residing here.

We circumambulate the temple precincts and bow our heads in the few more temples around. There is a Hanuman Temple, a Navgraha temple, a Devi Temple and some more Shivlingams – The Kedareshwar Temple. The temples are built in Nagara style of architecture with high rising shikharas crowning the temple structure. Some temples also have a protective wooden pahari roof without the shikhar inside. Some Buddhist influence is noticed in the carvings and styles.

Pahari Roof shikhara Jageshwar Uttarakhand
Pahari rooftops indicate a Buddhist, Nepalese influence in the construction.

But what charms me no end, are the mischievous monkeys! Monkeys keep jumping from one rooftop to another. At other times, they come down to gorge on the sweets or flowers offered by the devotees in the open stone temples. Intermittently, flocks of pigeon flutter by.

Monkeys at Jageshwar Dham Uttarakhand
The Gods feel alive and breathing in the Jageshwar Temple Complex.

The drive to this ancient temple together with the 2 hours we spend in the temple complex is an experience which is beyond this world, unearthly. The air is of utmost sanctity, the history immense and the Gods here feel alive. Not just in the stone temples, not only in the deities installed but in the tiniest of specks that cover the whole blessed land.

Huge temple at Jageshwar Dham Uttarakhand
The intricacy in carvings and eye for perfection speaks volumes
about the faith, creativity and dedication of the people who built Jageshwar Dham 

A stone’s throw from the Jageshwar temple complex, is the Dandeshwar Temple near the confluence of the Kiroli Ganga and Niroli Gad. It is said that the Saptrishis were punished by Lord Shiva here, hence the name – Dandeshwar, the one who punishes. Shiva is seated her, in the biggest and the tallest temple of the region, as an uncarved natural rock. There are 14 temples in this cluster which we couldn’t see up close since we were extremely tired and running out of time but they looked beautiful even from a distance.

Dandeshwar Mahadeo Temples, Jageshwar Dham Uttarakhand
Dandeshwar Temple Complex - The place where seven rishis were punished and turned into stars

By the time I am filing out, the controversy surrounding the originality of the Jyotirlinga doesn’t matter even a bit. What matters is faith. That I am touched by faith, conviction and devotion – faith of the people who envisioned and created this wonderful heaven many centuries ago, conviction of the devouts who offered their prayers and breathed life in the structures, devotion that still keeps drawing thousands of pilgrims in its folds, each and every single day.

“Jyotirlingam” or not a Jyotirlingam – Hah! What’s in a name?

Where to eat in Jageshwar?

There are many hole in the wall pure vegetarian dhabas or eating joints in the lane leading to the temple. By the time we came out of the temple, we were really hungry and our nose started leading the way. We picked a joint which had some pilgrims already seated and one that seemed reasonably good to us.

Eating joint at Jageshwar Dham Uttarakhand
Local dhabas serve good food at Jageshwar

The puris came straight out of the cauldron right in front of our eyes and along with the potato curry, it was delicious. The plate of chole and rice was nice as well.

A delectable end to a fulfilling Jageshwar yatra!

How to reach Jageshwar:

Jageshwar is well connected to all the major cities by rail, road and train.

By train: Kathgodam is the nearest railway station which is just 125 kms. You can find trains from your destination to Kathgodam which is well connected with many major cities of India. Local buses and taxis ply from Kathgodam to Jageshwar.

By air: Pantnagar is the nearest airport around 150 kms. There is an international airport too for foreign visitors who wish to discover Jageshwar.

By road: Jageshwar is very easy to reach from all important roadways in the Uttarakhand region like Haldwani, Almora, Kasar Devi, Pithorgarh, etc. It is only around 35 kms from Almora and Kasar Devi and around 400 kms from Delhi. Government buses ply on a frequent basis to and fro from these cities. Alternatively, you may hire taxis which are easily available once you enter the Kumaon region.

Fairs and festivals of the Jageshwar Temple:

The Jageshwar fair held in the month of Shravan (rainy season) is the most significant fair celebrated in honor of Lord Jageshwar with much pomp and gaiety attracting a lot of crowds during the time.

Other tips and information while visiting the Jageshwar Dham:

- There is an archaeological museum near the temple where many different very ancient idols from the temples of Jageshwar are carefully preserved. Best part? Entry is free!

ASI Museum Jageshwar Uttarakhand
ASI museum near the Jageshwar Temple housing ancient relics belonging to the temple.


- There are a few guest houses at Jageshwar. The most popular amongst them is the KMVN guest house which offers rooms at reasonable rates with a view of the temple.

- Along with Dandeshwar Temple, there is one more temple cluster called Vridhh Jageshwar Temple. This one is located on the higher slopes and can be reached on foot by walking.

- The timings of the Jageshwar temples depends upon the season and changes a bit during occasional and festival days. On normal days, the timings are 6 AM to 8 PM.

- If you are a history lover or a curious explorer, make sure to keep atleast 2-3 hours in your hand when visiting Jageshwar. There is a lot to admire, discover and just walk around the complex.

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I and hubby have created a new you tube channel 'Zen Yatras' where we are creating short you tube videos documenting our journeys together. Do honor us by checking our page and following and liking our channel. It will encourage us to keep learning and producing content there!


You Tube Link to the Jageshwar Dham Video on our channel: https://youtu.be/S50C_88uSj0

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Check out my complete Uttarakhand Yatra (Dhanachuli, Kasar Devi, Jageshwar Shiva Temple, Katarmal Sun Temple, Almora, Jim Corbett) by clicking the link here:

My Uttarakhand Yatra Diary

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Incredible India Jageshwar Shiva Jyotirlingam Kumaon


Comments

  1. As always absolutely fascinating. Thank you for yet another unforgettable journey.

    ReplyDelete

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