Jageshwar is a Hindu pilgrimage town in Almora district, Uttarakhand, dedicated to Lord Shiva, located 36 km northeast of Almora, in Kumaun region. The temple city comprises a cluster of 124 large and small stone temples, dating 9th to 13th century AD, with many preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which include Dandeshwar Temple, Chandi-ka-Temple, Jageshwar Temple, Kuber Temple, Mritunjaya Temple, Nanda Devi or Nau Durga, Nava-grah temple, a Pyramidal shrine, and Surya Temple, amongst which the oldest shrine is the Mrityunjaya Temple and the biggest shrine is the Dandeshwar Temple. Once the centre of Lakulish Shaivism, Jageshwar is located at an altitude of 1870 mts, in the Jataganga river valley near a Deodar forest (Cedrus deodara) starting from Artola village on Almora–Pithoragarh highway, where two streams Nandini and Surabhi flow down the hills in the narrow valley and meet near the sacred spot.
Jageshwar is believed to be the site of first of the twelve Jyotirlingas, Nageshvara Jyotirlinga. The ‘Jageshwar Monsoon Festival’, held between 15 July to 15 August takes place at Jageshwar during the Hindu calendar month of Shravan and the annual ‘Maha Shivratri Mela’ (Shivratri festival), which takes place during spring has an important place in the calendar of the entire Kumaon region.
Jaageshwar was once the center of Lakulish Shaivism(Lakulish is 28th Avatar of Lord Shiva). Origin and history of Lord Lakulish (Lord Shiva with a wooden Stick)traverse back to Gujarat region of current INDIA. The resemblance between Kumayuoni language and Gujarati language probably hints at the fact that followers of Lord Lakulish settled at Jageshwar.
Local folklore still talks about a man who will walk this place with a wooden stick in his hand.
Most Hindus believe that Jageshwar is the place of Nagesh, 8th among the Dwadasa Jyotirlingas (the twelve resplendent lingas of Lord Shiva established by Lord Vishnu), which is stated to exist in the forest of Deodar or daruka (Sanskrit: दारूक वन, transliteration: daruka van) –
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 । – Dwadasa Jyotirlinga Stotra by Adi Shankaracharya
The twelve Jyotirlingas are-
- Somnath at Prabhas Patan, Saurashtra, Gujarat.
- Sri Mallikarjun in Srisailam, near Kurnool,Andhra Pradesh, on the banks of river Krishna.Adi Sankaracharya composed his Sivanandalahiri here.
- Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain(Avanti), Madhya Pradesh.
- Omkareshwar in Omkareshwar, Madhya Pradesh, this jyotirlinga is situated on an island in the course of the river Narmada.
- Vaidyanath temple at Deoghar,Santal Parganas area of Jharkhand.
- Bhimashankar in Dakini and located in the Sahyadri hills,near Pune, Maharashtra.
- Ramalingeswar in Setubandanam, Tamil Nadu.This is situated on vast temple island of Rameswaram.It is the southernmost of the 12 Jyotirlinga shrines of India.
- Nageshwar in Jageshwar.
- Vishwanath in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
- Tryambakeswar Jyotirlinga shrine is intimately linked with the origin of the river Godavari near Nasik, Maharashtra.
- Kedareswar in Kedarnath in Himalayas,Uttarakhand.
- Ghrishneshwar in Devasrovar,near Ellora,Aurangabad, Maharashtra.
The ancient treatise Prasadmandanam describe this place as an abode of Lord Shiva-
हिमाद्रेरूत्तरे पार्श्वे देवदारूवनं परम्
पावनं शंकरस्थानं तत्र् सर्वे शिवार्चिताः।
There is no definite dating of the construction of Jageshwar group of temples but according to the ASI, they belong to the post-Gupta and pre-medieval eras and are estimated to be about 450 yrs old. These temples range in the period from the 8th century (early Katyuri Dynasty) to the 18th century (Chand Dynasty). The temples were renovated during the reign of Katyuri King Shalivahandev. There is an inscription of Malla Kings on the main temple premises indicating their devotion to Jageshwar. The Katyuri Kings also donated villages to the temple priests for its maintenance. The Chand Kings of Kumaun were also patrons of the Jageshwar temple.
Numerous Jageshwar temples were constructed or restored during the Gurjara Pratihara era.
It is believed that Adi Shankaracharya visited Jageshwar and renovated and re-established many temples before leaving for Kedarnath. The Samsan ghat of Jageshwar is also the cremation ground of the erstwhile Chand Kings. It is possible that sati, the act of self-immolation, may have been performed here. The temples architecture belong to the Nagara [this link is not to an appropriate entry] style, characterized by a tall curved spire surmounted by an amalaka (capstone) and a kalasha crown. Most of the temples enshrine a stone lingam, surrounded by stone sculptures of various deities. The pilgrimage to Jageshwar was considered as sacred as the famous chardham yatra.
Before the construction of roads, pilgrims passed through Jageshwar en route to Kailash and Mansarovar. Due to the restrictions on pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar in the past, pilgrims were diverted towards Kedarnath; however, this center has re-attained its past glory.
Tarun Jageshwar is one of the principal temples situated in the temple premises. The temple has two dwarapalas (door guardians) in the form of the armed Nandi and Skandi. This is a west facing temple of Lord Shiva. Here, Shiva is worshipped in the form of Nagesh/Jageshwar. In the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, the Shivlinga is divided into two parts. The larger one depicts Shiva and smaller one his consort Parvati. An Akhand Jyoti, (an immortal flame) burns in the temple. There are two Asthadhatu statues of Chand Kings Deepchand and Tripalchand in the standing posture behind the Shivlinga.
Sri Mahamritunjaya Mahadev
The Mahamrityunjay temple is the largest and oldest temple in the Jageshwar temple complex. This temple of Shiva is eastern facing and the Linga is worshipped as the saviour from death – महामृत्युंजय. The unique linga has an eye shaped opening. Pilgrims believe that reciting the Mahamritunjaya Mantra (महामृत्युंजय मंत्र) is a fruitful, auspicious and powerful method of self-realisation, removal of evil effects, and freedom from all kinds of fears, illness and negativity. The Mahamritunjaya Mantra is attested in the Sukla Yajurveda Samhita III/60 –
“ ॐ हौ जूँ सः
ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः
ॐ त्रयंबकं यजामहे सुगन्धिम् पुष्टिवधर्नम्
उर्वारूकमिव बन्धनान्मृत्यॊर्मुक्षीय मामृतात्
ॐ स्वः भुवः भूः ॐ
सः जूँ हौ ॐ
(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.)
Dandeshwar Shiv Temple Complex
Situated slightly upstream from the Jageshwar temple complex, the Dandeshwar temple complex is in a dilapidated condition. The stone lingam is a natural rock, and, unlike the lingams of the Jageshwar complex, is not carved.
This place is 200 mts from Artola village from where temples of Jageshwar starts. From this place Vinayak Kshetra or sacred area begins. This place lies between Jhanker Saim temple,Vrudhh jageshwar and Koteshwar temples.
Sri Briddha or Bud Jageshwar
This temple is situated three km north to Jageshwar.This temple is situated at the top of the hill and comes after an uphill trek. It is contemporary to Jageshwar group of temples.
Pushti Devi or Pushti Bhagawati Maa
It is the temple of Goddess Devi. The temple enshrines the full murti of Goddesses. This temple is situated in the Jageshwar main premises.