Shiva Dol -- the tallest Shiva Temple in India
India is dotted with countless temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Cosmic Destroyer & one of the three trinities of Hinduism. Some of these temples are famous, some very famous & others are relatively less known or unknown outside the locality where they are situated. These were / are constructed mostly by rich patrons like local landlords or kings in the past.
One of such very famous Shiva temples is SHIVA DOL, situated in the town of Shiv Sagar in upper Assam, the beautiful North –Eastern state of India.
Shiv Sagar was the ancient capital of the Ahom Kings who ruled Assam for six hundred years before the British dethroned them in the nineteenth century.
The town of Shiv Sagar boasts of several very large ponds constructed by the Ahom kings. In the centre of the town is one of such ponds named SHIV SAGAR, literary meaning “the sea of Shiva”. With an expanse of 129 acres, it is really big. On its southern shore is a temple complex containing three tall temples, dedicated to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu & Mother Goddess Durga. The temples are called Shiva Dol, Vishnu Dol & Devi Dol respectively.
Shiva Dol was constructed by Queen Madambika, the queen of King Shiva Singha in 1734.
The Shiva Dol is a huge temple with the main temple or the sanctum sanctorum (called GARVA GRIHA) rising to an imposing height of 180 feet. It is the tallest of all Shiva temples in India.
Like any typical Hindu temple built in the Nagara-style, Shiva Dol consists of four parts – the NAAT MANDIR, the JAGMOHAN, the BHOG MANDIR & the GARVA GRIHA (the sanctum sanctorum containing the main deity).
The Naat Mandir is a large rectangular structure without any special decoration. It leads to the next portion Jagmohan, which is constructed in typical CHAAR CHAALAA style of Bengal temple architecture with a pyramidal roof. The small Bhogmandir with a simple design leads to the main temple or Garva Griha which is a huge structure (height 180 feet & perimeter 195 feet). It is constructed in the typical SHIKHAR style with a central spire rising to the heaven. There is a golden dom at the top, 7 feet high.
The ridged spire contains a large number of decorations including figures of deities of Hinduism, the most notable ones are of sixteen-armed Mother Goddess Durga; Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning riding a swan; Lord Vishnu in His the Boar-headed Avatar Baraha ; Ganesha the Elephant-headed god of Success & Lord Shiva in several Yogic postures.
Inside, the sanctum sanctorum contains the Shiva Lingam, the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva inside a small KUND, or circular depression.
The whole temple bears such an aura that all visitors, be they are devotees or tourists, become mesmerized by the sublime atmosphere of the temple.
Shiv Sagar is easily approached by road (National Highway 37) from other major cities of Assam. The nearest airport is at Jorhat, some sixty kilometers away.