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| Last Updated:: 23/07/2021













Nestled in the Almora district of Uttarakhand, the Jageshwar is home to 124 stone temples. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple complex is believed to seat the 8th Jyotirling - the Nagesh Jyotirling of the twelve Jyotirlings. Situated at an altitude of 1870 meters in the Jataganga river valley of Kumaun region, this place is a popular pilgrimage site. It is said that Jagat guru Adi Shankracharya came here and re-established the sanctity of these temples. 









The valley has two major clusters of Hindu temples, and a number of roadside shrines. Of these some 151 temples have been numbered by ASI as protected pre-12th century monuments. The two largest groups are locally called as the Dandeshwar group temples (Dandeshwar samuh mandir, 15 temples) and the Jageshwar group temples (Jageshwar samuh mandir, 120 temples). Of these, temple number 37, 76 and 146 are the largest, all dated to the late centuries of the 1st millennium. In historic text, Jageshwar is also referred to as Yageshvara. 





Jageshwar was once the center of Lakulish Shaivism, likely by monks and migrants who left the plains of the Indian subcontinent from places such as Gujarat and settled in the high mountains. The resemblance between Kumaoni language and Gujarati language probably hints at the fact that followers of Lakulish settled at Jageshwar.  The temples site over time was positioned as and grew as a sacred geography in the form of northern (uttara) Kashi (Varanasi). 






The archaeology followed here is simple yet attractive. All main temples have tall curvilinear spire, shikhara, the central hall of the temple surmounted by a stone crown named amalaka or a stone water pot named kalasa. The biggest temple complex of Jageshwar is dominated by many Shiva temples, with various names all co-existing with other temples dedicated to Kalika, Nava Durga, laxmi, Surya etc. One temple is dedicated to Pushti Devi, the wife of Ganesha. A temple dedicated to the wife of Ganesha is indeed rare in India. Among various names of Shiva, here temples are dedicated to Kedareshwar, Maha Mruttunjay, Baleshwar, Neelkantha and many more. 





Sources confirm that once Adi guru Shankaracharya visited this place while on his journey to rejuvenate Hinduism. A thousand years ago, this place in the lap of Jataganga Valley was a stopover for pilgrims going to Mansarovar. While going to Kedarnath, Shankaracharya found the Nagesh Shiva, one of the Dwadash Shivalinga established by Vishnu as mythology avows. It is called Nagara shivalinga or the ninth shivalinga of Vishnu. With the sacred visit of Shankaracharya, this place came under focus. Shankaracharya stayed here to rebuild a few temples. The story of Shiva is written on every single stone of Jageshwar. Though the ancient text Prasadamandanam describes the place as an abode of Shiva, the legend goes that he came here to escape the cold of Kailash. 





In keeping with this legend, on the first day of Magha month of the Hindu calendar, the stone Jyotirlinga of the temple is bathed with ghee to keep Shiva warm from the extreme cold of the Kumaon winter. This is how heritage co-exists with legend in Jageshwar. The main complex has two big temples. One is known as Jageshwar Mahadeva temple where we can find two massive stone statues of armed sentinels at the entrance called Nandi and Skandi. This west-facing temple is always teeming with pilgrims. An immortal flame burns inside the sanctum sanctorum. 




Here Shiva is worshiped as Balak Shiva, the boy Shiva. One legend has it that Shiva came here for penance and local housewives were attracted to his divine beauty. As they rushed to Shiva for his proximity, their annoyed husbands followed them. Seeing this messy affair, Shiva took the form of a boy to avoid controversy. Thus, till now the deity is known as Bal Shiva or Tarun Jageshwar Shiva. 





The oldest and perhaps the most important temple of this group is the Maha Mrituinjaya Shiva, which is east facing. This is the only temple of “Lord Shiva” in “Mahamrityunjay “Roop in the world. The stone walls are curved with floral designs and human figures. Here, the shivalinga has an eye-shaped opening towards the devotees. As per Skandhapuran and linga Puran, this is the temple from where Dwadash Jyotirlinga was first worshiped by devotees. Chanting of Mahamrityunjay  mantra inside this temple is counted as one of the most sacred desires of a devotee. 




The complex houses a step well not very deep. There is a parikrama path that takes visitors around the complex touching all small and big shrines. The biggest Shiva temple of Jageshwar is situated in a separate and smaller complex with four more temples. Here Shiva is named Dandeshwar Shiva. The huge temple has excellent stone carving on its walls but its deity is not a carved rock. 





Here a natural rock is worshiped as shivalinga and that is again decorated by another legend. This legend says that this place was once known as Dwarkaban where 18,000 rishis did penance. Their wives, who were settled near villages, complained to their husbands that in their absence Shiva appears here incognito. On their third attempt, Shiva was indeed captured by them and the women cursed him. A repentant Shiva turned himself into a solid piece of rock. It is the one linga with four heads and another shivalinga with multiple figures embellished on its outer surface starting from bottom and moving in a spiral row. 





Another group of temples is known as the Kubera. Locally, this temple is called Dhanadesa, which is situated at the highest level along with smaller temples like Chandika and Shiva. The Chandika temple enshrines an image of Durga Ashtabhuja, while Kubera temple has an eklinga image. A three-km trek up the hill will take one to another dilapidated temple called Bridha Jageshwar, while Vinayak Khetra temple stands hardly 200 m from the main temple complex. The Jageshwar Monsoon Festival is celebrated from 15 July to 15 August during the Hindu holy month of Shravan. Devotees come from all over the country to offer their prayers to Lord Shiva.