Jageshwar is a Hindu pilgrimage town in Almora district, Uttarakhand, dedicated to Lord Shiva, located 36 km northeast of Almora, in Kumaun region. The temple city comprises a cluster of 124 large and small stone temples, dating 9th to 13th century AD, with many preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which include Dandeshwar Temple, Chandi-ka-Temple, Jageshwar Temple, Kuber Temple, Mritunjaya Temple, Nanda Devi or Nau Durga, Nava-grah temple, a Pyramidal shrine, and Surya Temple amongst which the oldest shrine is the 'Mrityunjaya Temple' and the biggest shrine is the ' Dandeshwar Temple'. Once the centre of Lakulish Shaivism, Jageshwar is located at an altitude of 1870 mts, in the Jataganga river valley near a Deodar forest (Cedrus deodara) starting from Artola village on Almora–Pithoragarh highway, where two streams Nandini and Surabhi flow down the hills in the narrow valley and meet near the sacred spot.
The nearest rail head is Kathgodam 125 km. Jageshwar has direct road links with Almora (35 km), Haldwani (131 km.), Pithoragarh (88 km) and Kathgodam. State transport, and private jeeps and taxis ply from these place for Jageshwar regularly.
Jageshwar is believed to be the site of first of the twelve Jyotirlingas, Nageshvara Jyotirlinga. The 'Jageshwar Monsoon Festival', held between 15 July to 15 August takes place at Jageshwar during the Hindu calendar month of Shravan, Fairs and Festivals of Almora - 'Jageshwar Monsoon Festival] and the annual 'Maha Shivratri Mela' (Shivratri festival), which takes place during spring has an important place in the calendar of the entire Kumaon The ancient treatise Prasadmandanam describe this place as an abode of Lord Shiva- हिमाद्रेरूत्तरे पार्श्वे देवदारूवनं परम् पावनं शंकरस्थानं तत्र् सर्वे शिवार्चिताः। There is no definite dating of the construction of Jageshwar group of temples but according to the ASI, they belong to the post-Gupta and pre-medieval eras and are estimated to be about 2500 yrs old. These temples range in the period from the 8th century (early Katyuri Dynasty) to the 18th century (Chand Dynasty). The temples were renovated during the reign of Katyuri King Shalivahandev. There is an inscription of Malla Kings on the main temple premises indicating their devotion to Jageshwar. The Katyuri Kings also donated villages to the temple priests for its maintenance. The Chand Kings of Kumaun were also patrons of the Jageshwar temple.
Numerous Jageshwar temples were constructed or restored during the Gurjara Pratihara
It is believed that Adi Shankaracharya visited Jageshwar and renovated and re-established many temples before leaving for Kedarnath. The Samsan ghat of Jageshwar is also the cremation ground of the erstwhile Chand Kings. It is possible that sati, the act of self-immolation, may have been performed here. The temples architecture belong to the Nagarastyle, characterized by a tall curved spire surmounted by an amalaka (capstone) and a kalasha crown. Most of the temples enshrine a stone lingam, surrounded by stone sculptures of various deities. The pilgrimage to Jageshwar was considered as sacred as the famous chardham yatra.
Before the construction of roads, pilgrims passed through Jageshwar en route to Kailash and Mansarovar. Due to the restrictions on pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar in the past, pilgrims were diverted towards Kedarnath; however, this center has re-attained its past glory.
Over 25 inscriptions of different periods are inscribed on the walls and pillars of the Jageshwar temples. Most of these belong to the period between the 7th century AD to 10th century AD. The dialect of inscriptions is Sanskrit and Brahmi. These are studied by D.C. Sarkar in Epigraphica indica.
The main temple in the temple complex at 'Jageshwar Mahadev' is dedicated to ‘Bal Jageshwar’, or the Child Shiva. There is also a temple dedicated to Vridh Jageshwar, or Old Shiva, situated on the higher slopes. According to tradition, Lord Shiva came to meditate here, and when the women of the village came to know of this, they immediately left their household chores to have his darshan. When the men of the village heard of this, they were infuriated and came to see who is this sadhu who has captivated their women. Seeing the commotion, Shiva took the form of a child, which is why he is still worshipped in his child form here.
Tarun Jageshwar is one of the principal temples situated in the temple premises. The temple has two dwarapalas (door guardians) in the form of the armed Nandi and Skandi. This is a west facing temple of Lord Shiva. Here, Shiva is worshipped in the form of Nagesh/Jageshwar. In the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, the Shivlinga is divided into two parts. The larger one depicts Shiva and smaller one his consort Parvati. An Akhand Jyoti, (an immortal flame) burns in the temple. There are two Asthadhatu statues of Chand Kings Deepchand and Tripalchand in the standing posture behind the Shivlinga.
Sri Mahamritunjaya Mahadev
The Mahamrityunjay temple is the largest and oldest temple in the Jageshwar temple complex. This temple of Shiva is eastern facing and the Linga is worshipped as the saviour from death - महामृत्युंजय. The unique linga has an eye shaped opening. Pilgrims believe that reciting the Mahamritunjaya Mantra (महामृत्युंजय मंत्र) is a fruitful, auspicious and powerful method of self realisation, removal of evil effects, and freedom from all kinds of fears, illness and negativity. The Mahamritunjaya Mantra is attested in the Sukla Yajurveda Samhita ॐ हौ जूँ सः ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः ॐ त्रयंबकं यजामहे सुगन्धिम् पुष्टिवधर्नम् उर्वारूकमिव बन्धनान्मृत्यॊर्मुक्षीय मामृतात् ॐ स्वः भुवः भूः ॐ सः जूँ हौ ॐ}} (We pray Lord Shiva, the All-Seeing One,three eyed,who bears grace of all-pervading divine fragrance and enricher of all kinds of powers and viguour by His enormous prosperous bestowals. May He release me from the grip of premature untimely death,but not from immortality like pumpkin or watermelon separates after ripening from its vine.)
Dandeshwar Shiv Temple Complex
Situated slightly upstream from the Jageshwar temple complex, the Dandeshwar temple complex is in a dilapidated condition. The stone lingam is a natural rock, and, unlike the lingams of the Jageshwar complex, is not carved.
This place is 200 mts from Artola village from where temples of Jageshwar starts. From this place Vinayak Kshetra or sacred area begins. This place lies between Jhanker Saim temple,Vrudhh jageshwar and Koteshwar temples.
Jhanker Saim Mahadev
This temple is situated south of Jageshwar. Legend has it that during the Tapasya by Lord Shiva, Demons obstruct His penance. Then God Jhanker Saim come into being as Trinetra and send His Ganas to kill the demons.
Sri Briddha or Bud Jageshwar
This temple is situated three km north to Jageshwar.This temple is situated at the top of the hill and comes after a uphill trek. It is contemporary to Jageshwar group of temples.
Pushti Devi or Pushti Bhagawati Maa
It is the temple of Goddess Devi. The temple enshrines the full murti of Goddesses. This temple is situated in the Jageshwar main premises.
Other Places of Interest
The Archeological Museum run by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), houses idols and statuettes removed from Jageshwar shrine dating 9th to 13th century AD.