Nageswar, the 8th Jyotirlingam of Lord Shiva
Nageswar temple; Jageswar, Almora
Jyotirlingams of Lord Shiva
The Lingam (Phallic symbol of Lord Shiva) is the form in which Lord Shiva is worshiped by billions of Hindus world over. Of the countless millions of temples having Shiva Lingams, twelve are bestowed great importance by the scriptures, & they are the twelve Jyotirlingams (literally meaning Lingam of Light). These twelve Jyotirlingams are praised in a hymn called Jyotirlinga Stotra which goes thus :
Sourashtre Somnatham cha Shri Saile Mallikarjunam
Ujjayena Mahakalam Omkaram Amaleswaram
Paralyam Baidyanatham cha Dakinyam Vimashankaram
Setubandhe tu Ramesham Nagesham Daruka vane
Varanaishyam tu Visheswaram Trambakam Gotami tate
Himalaye tu Kedaram Grishnesham Shivalaye.
This Stotra or hymn gives the names of the twelve Jyotirlingams & the places where they are located :
- Somnath : at Sourashtra (Gujarat)
- Mallikarjun : at Shrishailam in Andhra Pradesh;
- Mahakaleswar : at Ujjain in Maharashtra;
- Amaleshwar : at Omkareswar, Madhya Pradesh;
- Baidyanath/ Baijnath : at Parali/Parle in Maharashtrra
- Vimashankar : in Maharashtra;
- Rameswar : at Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu;
- Nageswar : at DARUKA VANE (in Daruka forest);
- Vishweswar : at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh;
- Trambakeswar/ Trimbakeswar : at Nasik, Maharashtra;
- Kedarnath : in Himalayas &
- Grishneswar/ Ghushmeswar : at Shivalaya.
Controversies regarding the location of Jyotirlingams
Though the abode of the nine of the Jyotirlingams are clear & accepted by all, there are controversies with three :
- Grishneswar/ Ghushmeswar : there are two claimants of the coveted honour, Ellora in Maharashtra & Siwar in Rajsthan.
- Nageswar : three places claim to be the original one : Aundh in Maharashtra, Dwarka in Gujarat & Jageswar in Uttarakhand.
- Baidyanath/ Baijnath : though according to the Stotra, Parali/Parle in Maharashtra is the place of this Jyotirlingam, Deoghar in Jharkhand also makes a claim.
There are points for & against of each of these places. However, the common devotees or persons interested in the subject usually avoid these controversies. They either believe in one particular claim, or believe in all.
Nageswar at Jageswar, Uttarakhand
The Jyotirlingam Stotra mentions “Daruka Van” as the abode of Nageswar Jyotirlingam (please mind that there are several, may be hundreds of other Nageswar temples in India, but they are not given the status of Jyotirlingam). Daruka Van means Daruka forest. So, the key to the solution of the controversy is this word Daruka.
Now, what is Daruka?
Daruka is the Sanskrit/old name of Deodar or Cedar tree. So, Daruka Van means Deodar/ Cedar forest, & the Nageswar Jyotirlingam should be in or near a Deodar forest. And at Jageswar, it is exactly like that. The temple complex at Jageswar which includes the Nageswar temple, is situated amidst dense forest of majestic Deodar trees, & so, an ordinary person, devotee or not, may take it as the original Nageswar Jyotirlingam.
Daruka trees & Nageswar Jyotirlingam
Jageswar temple complex
Jageswar is a tiny hamlet in Almora district in the Kumaun region of the hilly state of Uttarakhand. It is situated about 36 km north-east of Almora. The picturesque place is reached from Almora by a good metalled road. As one enters the beautiful valley of Jata Ganga river at Aartola, suddenly there looms a tall temple on the right side of the road by the side of a small hilly stream called Jata Ganga. That is the temple of Dandeswar Shiva. A little beyond, the road turns right & enters into a market area with small shops selling curios & things needed for Puja (worship). On the right side, there are several temples in an enclosed area. That is the temple complex of Jageswar, containing about 124 temples in all. The area is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
Glimpses of Jageswar temple complex
The Nageswar Jyotirlingam temple
This west facing temple, built in Nagara or North Indian style with a tall curved spire on the top which is the capstone called Amlok Shila, is situated at the south-east portion of the basically square temple complex area. The entrance is flanked by two tall stone figures – they are the Dwarpal or doorkeepers, called Nandi & Skandi. There is a figure of a huge snake, placed transversally just above the main door, probably to emphasize the fact that it is The Nageswar (literally meaning God of the Snakes) temple.
Inside the sanctum, there is the Shivling ( The Lingam of Lord Shiva) at the centre of the floor. The Lingam is divided in two unequal parts, the smaller one representing Goddess Parvati & the larger one representing Lord Shiva Himself. Behind the Lingam, there is a huge snake made of brass, a feature which can be seen in many other Shiva temples too.
There are two brass figures behind the Lingam. Both are male figures, about 4 feet tall, said to be of two kings. One of these is carrying a large lamp, again made of brass, with a bright flame burning. It is the famous Akhand Jyoti ( meaning the flame that never dies). The priests told that it was burning from time immemorial. They also told that the hands of the figure carrying the lamp are gradually coming down from a high position above the shoulder. They are now at the level of the heart. The priests also told that when the hands will go down to knee level, the earth will come to an end!
The outer surface of the temple contains some decorative carvings, some representing Lord Shiva. There is no definite dating of the construction of this temple (or other Jageswar temples). According to the ASI, the present temple is about 450 years old, probably built by the early Katyuri kings.
Nageswar temple, Jageswar
The Daruka Van
The whole area is surrounding by dense forest of tall Deodar trees. Some are inside the complex also. Huge & majestic ancient Deodar trees, extremely tall, dwarfing the temples look down upon the visitor. It is an awe-inspiring scene. It will definitely remind us how small we are.
While you are at this serene place, the question that whether this is the original Nageswar Jyotirlingam or not does not matter. The quiet place with the ancient temples, the swift flowing Jata Ganga river, the majestic Deodar trees, the smell of perfume , the occasional chanting of the Vedic hymns by the priests, the chirping of the birds all will have a mesmerizing effect on you. The feeling this place gives you is just awesome.