Jageshwar, a beautiful temple town amidst dense deodar forests in Uttarakhand, was a last-minute by-chance addition to our itinerary. We had earlier planned to drive directly from Kathgodham to Pithoragarh and stay there for the night. But this drive would have been very long and late into the night (it is not advisable to drive in the hills in the dark), so our cab service advised that we stay at Jageshwar instead. We reached Kathgodham by train, found our car for the trip and after slightly unwanted issues with car quality commenced our long , winding and beautiful drive in the hills. The entire drive in the Himalayas is mystical, with winding roads and blind turns, pine and deodar forests, a river racing along and paying hide and seek, small villages making occasional appearances, beautiful green terrace farms donning the mountain sides and numerous birds either flying solo or in beautiful symmetry.
We reached Jageshwar by late evening and were quite surprised by the beauty and serenity of the place (since this was a last-minute addition to the trip and more like an overnight halt, I had not paid much attention to it or researched about it). I am not sure what I was expecting but I definitely did not expect a stunning group of stone stacked Temples amidst a beautiful towering green deodar forest along the bend of a stream running alongside the road and monkeys dancing all around.
Jageshwar is famous for being a temple town believed to have the Nagesh Jyotirlinga (dedicated to Shiva) and for lying on the ancient route of Kailash Mansarovar. The Jageshwar temple complex comprises of a cluster of approximately 125 large and small stone temples, dating back to the 7th to 18th century AD. All the temples here are dedicated to Lord Shiva in the form of a Linga and the main temples are the Dandeshwar Temple (the biggest), Chandika Temple, Jageshwar Temple, Kuber Temple, Mritunjaya Temple (the oldest temple), Nanda Devi or Nav Durga (nine manifestations of the goddess Durga), Navagrah temple (dedicated to the nine planets), a Pyramidal shrine, and Surya Temple (dedicated to the Sun God). These temples have been built-in the Nagara style with tall curved spires topped by a amalaka (capstone) and a kalasha crown. The bigger temples also have wooden structures like roofs built over them (we saw quite a bit across this region).
We reached the temple really late in the evening and pretty much had the whole place to ourselves (apart from the many resident monkeys). The temples are beautiful with their very Stonehenge style architecture (they just seem to be stones balanced atop each other) and stunning carving in many places. I just walked around the complex and was really surprised to be left alone and not be harassed to do any pujas or donate money.
There is definitely something in the aura or the atmosphere surrounding this place. The entire setting of these temples within the deodar forests and the water stream kind of just combines together to provide a spiritual calm all around. I loved the serenity of this place and just sat and soaked in the peaceful atmosphere. There are loads of stories and legends surrounding these temples and local guides share the same with you. Apart from the temples, I loved watching the antics of the monkeys around here – one was trying to bring down a really tall tree (many many times its own size), some were enjoying their evening meals of offering at the temples while others were just sitting around observing the people walking in.
Apart from all the temples, there is small ASI museum here that showcases around 174 sculptures from the Jageshwar temple complex. Unfortunately we didn’t have the time to visit this and some of the other temples around here.
For our stay, we chose the Van Serai – an eco forest lodge atop a small hill, surrounded by the tall deodar forests and bordered a small stream on one side. It has been built-in the traditional Kumaoni style with long verandahs, spacious rooms and beautiful wood work and detailing in each room. The food here is entirely vegetarian, because of its proximity to the temples, simple and tasty. The staff is super helpful and accommodating with requests (my mom eats before sunset and they literally made food for us at short notice). The entire surrounding area is really peaceful and the temples are at a convenient walking distance. There are many other options around to spend time including walking trails, birding, caving etc but unfortunately we didn’t have the time for it.
Though our stay here was very short, I loved the place and would love to visit it again someday. Totally recommend it to everyone considering a quick vacation in the hills too.
Filed under: Asia, India, Uttarakhand Tagged: Asia, India, Jageshwar, Shiv Temples, Temples of India, Travel, Uttarakhand, Van Serai
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