While returning from remote Jhaltola, we had taken a short break at the unbelievable Patal Bhuvaneshwar caves. I was on a hitched ride with a couple and at the start of the day could never have imagined making it to Jageshwar! They were going to Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary via a different entry point and dropped me on the main road. It was only a big stroke of luck that day for me to reach Jageshwar Dham!
The murky weather had worsened and even though it was only around 3 in the afternoon, the clouds had closed in and it looked very dark and stormy. Since the forest road to Binsar was in the middle of nowhere, there was no habitation around and as I was looking left and right wondering where to go, the skies began pouring down! I was stuck on a downward sloping turn and going down was the easier way.
The rain understood my precarious situation and slowed down enough to reveal a restaurant on the next slope! I rolled down my suitcase and ran towards the structure in the hope of a steaming cup of chai. At the restaurant, when I asked the locals about where would be a good idea to try and reach in the limited daylight that I had; the unanimous answer was ‘Jageshwar’ for the Jageshwar Dham Temples. They said that I was only 20 odd kilometres away and with luck it was possible for me to easily reach Jageshwar.
But first, the rain had to stop. Or did it?
As we were on a bend; all vehicles would slow when they passed. And when a truck actually stopped at the restaurant itself to drop someone; I ran toward it joined by the waiter and the truck driver obliged. He was headed someplace (I can’t remember) and dropped me to the bifurcation place of Artola. It was around 4; the rain had stopped as well and I had only 4 odd kms to cover. There were a few tea shops in Artola where I had another chai while breathing the fresh air and within no time a sumo appeared.
It had a lot of empty seats and I quickly climbed in! The greenery had another shade of colour with the rain and it had began drizzling again. The sumo guy asked me where I wanted to get down and I told him to drop me close to one of the guest houses. In some confusion, I got out near the ASI Museum in Jageshwar and in the rain even the 100m distance to the guest house/hotels seemed long!
I entered the first hotel to the right and asked the young owner to give me a cheap room. He said normally the prices are over 1000 Rupees during the season but because there were no tourists I could have the room for 250 Rupees! I was mighty pleased; it was a huge room with a door on the other side that opened to an endless view of Deodhar trees! It was quite cold and with the incessant drizzle I could only walk around Jageshwar Dham Temples and have a glimpse from the outside.
I roamed around town to realise that Jageshwar is a very small hamlet and serves the primary function of being a settlement around a popular religious place. The tiny hamlet of Jageshwar is completely dominated by the Jageshwar Temple Complex. There were many shops selling colourful beads and religious paraphernalia, and a tiny internet café too! Nothing mattered except the incredible number of temples though; the locals told me that there were 124 temples in total that comprised the Jageshwar Temple Complex.
About Jageshwar Dham Temple Complex
The closest big town near Jageshwar Temple or Jageshwar Dham is Almora which is at a distance of 32 kms. Jageshwar Dham is believed to be the 8th Jyotirling among the twelve sacred Jyotirlings in Hindu mythology. The Jageshwar temples are built in the Nagara style of architecture and among the 124 temples, 108 are dedicated to Lord Shiva. The Nagara style of architecture is distinctly characterized by a tall curved spire with a crown on top of it.
Jageshwar Dham and Vriddh Jageshwar temple are considered among the most sacred temples in the entire Kumaon region of Uttarakhand. The landscape of Jageshwar is pleasing; the temple complex is nestled in an idyllic green valley full of deodhar trees. The deodhar trees were a distinct feature of Jageshwar; in the rest of Kumaon only pine monoculture is observed. In the temple complex; there is also a huge deodhar tree which is worshipped by locals. There is a small water pond with old stone steps in the same complex; I’m guessing thats where the water for the ceremonies is taken from.
A small stream flows behind the temple complex in Jageshwar and the locals said that it is called Jataganga river. There are logs of wood littered near the stream that look like an eyesore and the reason is that funeral pyres are burnt in Jageshwar because it is supposed to be a holy place to die. The oldest temples of Jageshwar Dham date from the 8th Century AD (built by Katyuri Kings) and the recent ones are believed to have been constructed in the 18th Century (Chand Rajas).
The evening aarti in Jageshwar Temple Complex is not to be missed! I was lucky to be inadvertently walking around at the same time and heard the chants of the evening aarti. It was a really divine experience when I went to the temple and became a part of the ceremony.
‘Maha Shivratri Mela’ is the most important festival in Jageshwar when Shiva devotees visit Jageshwar in large numbers. The ’Jageshwar Monsoon Festival’ held in July-August is also quite popular and locals from far and wide come and attend it.
Important Temples in Jageshwar Dham
The main temple at Jageshwar Dham is dedicated to ‘Bal Jageshwar’, or the child form of Lord Shiva. The Mrityunjaya temple is the oldest in the Jageshwar Dham complex. There is an ancient temple at Vriddh Jageshwar, which is at a distance of 3 kms from Jageshwar Dham. A few important temples in the complex are Surya temple, Dandeshwar temple, Chandika temple, Nau Durga temple, Kuber temple, Nava-grah temple.
Mahamrityunjay Mahadev: The Mahamrityunjay Mahadev temple is where Lord Shiva is worshipped as the saviour from death.
Kuber Temple is located in a separate complex in Jageshwar and is hardly 5 minutes walk from the main temple complex. Exquisite temples and in a lovely scenic setting.
Places to Visit in and Around Jageshwar
Dandeshwar temple is on the same Artola – Jageshwar road and is located 1 km away from Jageshwar. When I was leaving from Jageshwar; I walked to Dandeshwar since it was a pleasurable walk and only a short distance.
Dandeshwar Temple is situated in a picturesque space next to a small rivulet and is dedicated to a different form of Lord Shiva. Wild roses grow near the temple, and there’s a small shrine nearby where a hermit (baba) sits and meditates. There are very few visitors at Dandeshwar and no tourist infrastructure here; there’s only a tea stall on the main road.
Vriddha Jageshwar (Also called Budha Jageshwar)
The temple at Vriddha Jageshwar is dedicated to Lord Shiva and dates to 9th century AD. It can be accessed by a uphill hike of 3 kms through beautiful pine forests from Jageshwar Dham Temples. There’s an epic view of Himalayan peaks that can be seen from Vriddha Jageshwar.
Jageshwar Archaeological Museum (Under ASI)
Jageshwar Archaeological Museum houses a fantastic collection of statues collected from Jageshwar Dham Temples and other temples from the nearby region for preservation purposes. The Museum has two galleries that display more than 50 exhibits.
There are some exquisite masterpieces and sculptures on display in this museum. Among the important ones are – metal image of Paun-Raja and Four armed Lakulish. It is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The director of the Jageshwar Archeological Museum was very helpful and told me how to procure an official letter if I wanted to photograph inside museums maintained by ASI.
Jageshwar Eco Park
The eco-park at Jageshwar was a recent addition in 2015 and was accessible by a short walk from Jageshwar. Slow walks inside the eco-park are highly recommended for bird-watchers and nature lovers. The forests around Jageshwar play host to many wild animals such as himalayan monal, leopard, musk deer, chital, goral and barking deer.
Jhankar Saim Mahadev
I had no idea about Jhankar Saim Mahadev but a local had given me a ride to this place. Jhankar Saim Mahadev is a Shiva temple situated 7 kms away from Jageshwar and has a local legend attached to it. It is a highly revered site and an ashram is also constructed near it.
How to reach Jageshwar?
The road to Jageshwar bifurcates from the Almora to Pithoragarh highway at Artola, and the distance is only 3 kms from here. The small town of Jageshwar is charming with traditional old architecture and colourfully carved doors and windows.
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