Jageshwar is a Hindu pilgrimage town and one of the Dhams in the Shaivism tradition. The site is protected under Indian laws, and managed by the Archaeological Survey of India. The complex includes Dandeshwar Temple, Chandi-ka-Temple, Jageshwar Temple, Kuber Temple, Mritunjaya Temple, Nanda Devi or Nau Durga Temple, Navagraha temple, a Pyramidal shrine and Surya Temple.
Location of Jageshwar Temples
Jageshwar town is located at an altitude of 1870 meters above sea level. The temple complex is situated 36 km northeast of Almora, in the Kumaun region. The temple clusters begin from satellite road branching off east from the Artola village on the Almora–Pithoragarh highway, at the confluence of two streams Nandini and Surabhi after they flow down the hills in the narrow valley. The site is about 3.5 km long along the Jataganga rivulet.
History of Jageshwar Temples
The history of Jageshwar Temples still remains uncertain. Though there are certain prevailing theories about the temples, yet any textual evidence doesn’t support the theories. The temples show different architectural styles of different centuries, which range from 7th to 12th century. According to ASI, some portion of the temple complex belongs to the post Gupta or the second half of 1st millennium, while the other portion belongs to the 2nd millennium. Some other theories assume that Adi Shankara built some of the temples. But some architectural features of the temples date back to early 7th century, which is about 5 to 10 years before Adi Shankara. For the lack of any textual proof, the actual date and other information of the temple complex is still unknown.
Structure of Jageshwar Temples
The temple complex has two major clusters; Dandeshwar site which has 15 temples in it and Jageshwar site which is 120 temples. In Jageshwar site, among 120 temples number 37, 76 and 146 are the largest. Jageshwara is also known as Yageshvara.
Architecture of Jageshwar Temples
The temples predominantly illustrate North Indian Nagara style of architecture with a few exceptions that show South and Central Indian style designs; most of the temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva, while others in immediate vicinity are dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Shakti goddesses and Surya traditions of Hinduism. The Jageshwar group of temples is similar to some large historic cluster of Hindu temples like Lingaraja group of temples in Odhisha and Batesvar complex in Madhya Pradesh.
Temple 47: Temple 47 is a part of the Jageshwar site. The temple is built with Valabhi Nagara style with a wagon vault from the 7th or 8th century. Its western wall is capped with a Vinadhara Shiva stele (lute bearing Lord Shiva), the northern wall with Ganesha stele, and the eastern wall with yoga performing Saptamatrikas (seven mothers, Shaktism tradition).
Temple 2: This temple is also found in Jageshwar site. It is another early temple with a tiered tower in the curvilinear latina Nagara style. Its square sanctum is preceded by a short vestibule (antarala). The temple also has a 7th or 8th century relief carving showing Lakulisa seated on lotus in water.
Temple 145: Temple 145 is part of the Dandeshwar site and it is also a 7th to 8th century temple exhibiting a different architectural style. Its tower consists of stacked series of amalaka in the form of cogged discs of shrinking diameter. Below is the square sanctum (garbha griya) whose doorframe and mandapa are formed by square pillars. Inside the sanctum is a chaturmukha Shiva Linga, each face of which is looking at a cardinal direction.
Temple 76: This temple of 1st millennium is found at the Jageshwar site. It is dedicated to Mrityunjaya form of Shiva, the one who conquered death. The temple is built in the middle of Shiva Lingas and smaller shrines. Temple 76, also called the Mrityunjaya Mahadeva temple, is a large temple with the latina Nagara style architecture. It has a four pillared entry mandapa, then the mukha-mandapa which leads to an antarala (vestibule) then on to the square sanctum. The tower is curvilinear. The wall of the temple is covered with frieze and niches in a format that belongs to the 850-950 CE.
Temple 37: Temple 37 comes under Jagesvara site. The temple is integrated with four entrances, including intricate carvings on its tower. The sanctum has two unusual dvarapalas added in the 14th-century or later. One four-armed dvarapala holds a skull in the tradition of the Pashupata-Kapalikas in one of his hands, a rosary in other, a fruit in third hand and the fourth hand cradles an object. A bull is situated at his pedestal.
Festivals in Jageshwar Temples
The temple site celebrates Jageshwar Monsoon Festival on the month of Shravan, the Hindu calendar month which falls between July and August. Apart from this, the temple site celebrates annual Shivaratri festival in early spring with a grand Shivaratri Mela (fair).
Jageshwar Temples as a Popular Pilgrimage
The site is popular among pilgrims, which attracts almost 100 pilgrims and visitors everyday. Some visit this place to complete the post-cremation rituals. The temple site is mostly popular during late monsoon season.
Visiting Information to Jageshwar Temples
Pilgrims visit the temple site throughout the year. Summers are mild there with comfortable temperature, winters are frosty with fluctuating temperature and monsoon experiences heavy rainfall in this region. Nearest airport of this place is Pantnagar Airport; railway station is Kathgodam, which is 125 km from Jageshwar town. The town is well connected to all important cities via bus routes; government undertaking buses are also available to reach the place.