The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, January 2, 2000

In the temple town
By Randeep Wadhera

ABOUT 36 km from Almora in UP, among the Kumaon Hills, lies the temple town of Jageshwar Dham, boasting of more than 200 big and small temples, at the height of about 1,900 mt above sea level. The deodar trees and the fragrant sandal wood plantations lend an ethereal aura to the site.

Historians believe that the group of temples, now known as the Jageshwar Samooh (group), was built during the Gupta period, even though the local king was Katyuri. It is not clear whether he was a vassal of the Gupta king or a sovereign. However the temple architecture shows clear influence of the Gupta period. The various temples have either been carved out of huge rocks or big slabs have been used to build them. The entrance has a huge rock on which are sculpted various gods and goddesses. As depicted in the statues of goddess Pushti and of Kuber, iron, stone and Deodar wood have been used in the sculpture. According to the ASI records the temple construction appears to have passed through three distinct phases, viz., the pre-Katyuri phase, the post-Katyuri phase and the Chandra phase when the place came under the sway of Chandravanshi rulers.

  According to mythologists, as inscribed in Sanskrit on a stone slab here, Rishi Markanday had chanted the Mahamrityunjaya incantations at the site of the temple that was then pristine forest. It was here that Ravana performed sacrament to appease Lord Shiva. Again the visit of the legendary Pandava princes to this hallowed site is also mentioned. According to the local priests the Adi Shankaracharya too had visited the place.

The Mahamritunjaya temple is the oldest among the temples here. It belongs to the pre-Katyuri era. The Jageshwar temple is the eighth out of the total 12 jyotirlingas in the country. This temple is believed to have been built by Sali Sahan, a Chandravanshi king. The Pushtimata Temple also famous as Mahishasur Mardini Temple is one of the 52 Shakti Peethas. It is the most popular among the pilgrims because they believe that one gets a desired boon almost instantly in this temple, the Mother Goddess is most generous. The Kuber Temple has beautiful statues. The Vridh-Jageshwar offers you a rare vista; you can see the Himalayan range in all its glory from here. The Dandeshwar Temple comprises a cliff that is considered sacred. Here too the scenery is absolutely charming. Likewise there are other ancient temples here like Batuk Bhairav, Kailashnath, Ashta Durga, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Jagannath etc. Interestingly, according to the Shiv Purana when sun and Jupiter enter the zodiac sign of Aries (Mesh) it is auspicious to take a bath at the Badri Ashram.

Pious or not, one surely comes back wonder-struck after a visit to this small temple town nestled in the lap of the Himalayas. Divinity and Mother Nature are synonyms here.