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As we approached the gate of the enclosure inside which stands the cluster of Jageshwar group of temple, we could hear the Sholakas, mantras echoing in the premises. A family was conducting pooja in Mahamrityunjay temple. Mahamrityunjay temple is  the oldest and the biggest one in the group. Stately Devdars on the other side of the river gliding behind the temples stood silent and meditative. Dotted with many Nagara styles of temples of different sizes, the place enticed me to travel into the era long back. Why so many shrines were erected in such a small area? The temples are said to be erected between 8th to 18th century i. e. from Katyuri king’s time to Chand dynasty period. Did different kings built different temples to pay homage to God? Did they get it built for fulfillment of their wishes or to commemorate their victory in any battle? Did any of them got erected any of the temples as penance? These Devdars, the river, the mountains…are they witness of the those times? So many questions rushed through my mind but none of them lasted more than a second. They evaporated sooner than they were generated. Such was the magical impact of the tranquility spread all around that all thoughts and curiosity vanished and calmness spread within.
There are about 123 temples in the cluster and every shrine has a shivlinga inside it. Though the stone plaques in front of some temples displayed the names of Surya temple, Navgrah temple but these too looked like other temples. Some of the statues found here are now kept in the museum at Jageshwar. The museum has two galleries and some rare sculptures are displayed here. The temple of Navdurga and Pushtidevi were locked at the time we visited so could not see them from inside.

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Bal jageshwara/ Tarun Jageshwar temple in the premises is considered to be one of the 12 Jyotirlingas.

सौराष्ट्रे सोमनाथं च श्रीशैले मल्लिकार्जुनम् ।
उज्जयिन्यां महाकालमोकांरममलेश्वरम् ।
परल्यां वैद्यनाथं च डाकिन्यां भीमशंकरम् ।
सेतुबंधे तु रामेशं नागेशं दारूकावने ।
वाराणस्यां तु विश्वेशं त्रयंम्बकं गौतमीतटे ।
हिमालये तु केदारं घुश्मेशं च शिवालये ।
ऐतानि ज्योतिर्लिंगानि सायं प्रातः पठेन्नरः ।
सप्तजन्मकृतं पापं स्मरणेन विनश्यति.

In the above shloka mentioning all the jyotirlingas, the eigth one— Nagesham Darukavane is said to be referring to Nageshwar/ bal jageshwar at present day Jageshwar in Almora district of Uttarakhand. Darukavane means forest of devdar and the dense forest  of devdars around the temples justifies the explanation.
This temple faces west. Outside the entrance on either side are two well sculpted images of dwarpals Nandi and Skandi with all their arms and armaments.

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The Shivling in the sanctum sanctorum is swayambhoo and appears to be divided in two parts.  The larger part depicts Lord Shiva while the smaller one devi Parvati.  There are two Ashtdhatu statues of Chand kings Deepchand And Tripal Chand in standing posture behind the Shivlinga. There is a burning light[jyoti] in cupped hands of the statue of King Deepchand, reputed to be burning  incessantly from times immemorial.

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Mahamrityunjay temple is perhaps the only temple of Shiva called by this particular name. As is evident from the name devotees come here to perform the life saving pooja. This is east facing temple and the unique Linga here has an eye shaped opening. God here is worshiped as savior from death. Chanting of mantras and their reverberation leave a very powerful impact.
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Almost all the temples have carved stone gate with images of dwarpals on both sides. On the shikharas of temples various images of Gods, mainly Shiva with ganas are etched.

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The temple has an interesting legend attached to it. It is believed that Lord Shiva had come to this site for meditation. So when the women folk of the village came to know that  a young yogi with haloing aura  has come to meditate, they all gathered to catch a glimpse of him, making the men folk infuriated and to control the situation Shiva converted himself into a child and since then he is worshipped  here in his child avatar.
Many years ago Jageshwar used to be a pilgrim halt enroute to  famous Kailash Mansarovar yatra. It is also said that Adi Shankaracharya stayed here and worked towards restoration of the temples before moving towards Kedarnath.
Though normally in the month of march it is not very cold in the valley but this year weather showed different patterns of  mood. We were told that till a week ago the road to the temple was covered with snow.  Thunderous rain and hailstorm two days ago too contributed in  bringing the temperature considerably down. It was very early in the morning. The sand stone floor of temple premises was bitingly cold. The carpets spread to make pradikshna easier for devotees were drenched with the moisture, water literally oozing out.
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Logs burnt in open courtyard. One  pujari sat near it. Yellow, orange flames leapt and danced in air. Harmonious echo of chanting of prayers, blowing of conch, peeling of bells, murmuring of river Jat ganga transported me in a trance like state. Rising column of smoke as if invited to accompany it to the mystique horizons.The Devdars around the temples stood close giving ample shade to let the silky , tender blades of green grass flourish while few sunrays haltingly stepped in to kiss the glistening dew drops and droplets on leaves and grass.
If at all the moments could be frozen………………….
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All the pics by Sunder Iyer
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