Destinations Covered : Katarmal, Baijnath, Patal Bhuvaneshwar, Binsar Mahadev, Dandeshwar Jageshwar, , Baleshwar
Uttarakhand can really be called the Shiva Country and every village offers tales from the lives of the lord. He resides at the Katarmal temple in Almora which is a Sun temple built during the reign of the second Katyuri King Katarmal Dev. Adorned with intricate carving, this temple has been built on the lines of the Gurjar-Pratihara style of architecture. The east facing temple of Katarmal is the biggest and tallest temple of the Kumaon region and one of the few sun temples of India that has survived the test of time. Besides the sun god, it has idols of Lord Vishnu and Shiva.
Another sacred site close by is the Baijnath temple, 16 kms from Kausani where Lord Shiva resides as Vaidyanatha, the god of physicians. It has idols of not only Lord Shiva, Ganesha and Parvati but also Chandika, Kuber, Surya, Brahma and Mahishasur mardini which portrays the slaying of demon mahishasur by goddess kali. The temple was erected by King Laxmichand around 1450 CE.
Looking for lord Shiva is not easy but it is believed that the Patal Bhuwaneshwar temple, in the form of a limestone cave, offers a secret road leading to the sacred Kailash Mansarovar, the abode of Shiva. Devotees can worship Lord Shiva in another incarnation, that of Bineshwar at the Binsar Mahadev Temple in Almora and drive to the Dandeshwar-Jageshwar temple complex. Legend says that when Lord Shiva was insulted by his father-in-law Daksha, his wife Parvati jumped into fire. An angry Lord Shiva lifted her body and performed the Tandava, the dance of fury. It was here when Lord Vishnu, believed to be the preserver of the universe, had to intervene to restore peace. Using his disc, the Sudarshan Chakra, he dissected Goddess Parvati’s body into several parts which fell at different places across the country. It was only then that Lord Shiva, relieved of her body, realized the destruction he had caused. To perform penance, he settled at Vriddha Jageshwar. Once, the wives of the Saptarishi or seven sages of Hinduism saw Shiva meditating here and looking at his majestic beauty, fell unconscious. When they did not return home for long, their husbands began looking for them and found them here, lying unconscious. Blaming Lord Shiva for their plight, they cursed him. It is said that Shiva suffered the punishment inflicted upon him and darkness fell on the earth. It was Lord Vishnu who gathered the darkness and dispelled it in the shape of the twelve jyotirlingas which are now pilgrimage spots all over the country
The Dandeshwar Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a part of the Jageshwar group of temples. The biggest temple of the group, Dandeshwar, is situated on the foothills of the confluence of rivers Jatganga and Doodhganga amidst a thick cover of deodar forests with most trees being 100 feet tall. It is surrounded by nine small temples and based on its architectural style, it can be dated to around 9th century CE. It houses a lingam which has exquisite craftsmanship and is a swayambhu lingam popularly called ‘Naagesh’. The wall portion begins with a flower and vase motif while the top of the niche portrays Lord Shiva as ‘Trimurti’ (the three faced).
Slightly upstream is the Jageshwar village, a small congregation of houses and the magnificent Jageshwar Dham, a temple complex home to several big and small temples datable to 9-13th centuries. One can park at the museum and walk a few metres towards the complex. The cluster includes Jaganath Temple, Maha Mrityunjay Temple, Vriddha Jageshwar Temple, Koteshwar Temple, Kuber Temple, Navadurga Temple and a temple dedicated to the nine planets (navagrahas). The complex has been named after the Jageshwar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Considered one of the twelve original Jyotirlingams, it was customary for pilgrims on the Kailash Mansarovar route to stop and worship Lord Shiva here.
The area was also the centre of Lakulisha Shaivism, a revivalist sect worshipping Lord Shiva. Lakulisha (his name literally meant ‘Club-bearing Lord’) was a wandering ascetic who is said to have united different sects and revived the worship of Lord Pashupati.
Lord Shiva is worshipped as Baleshwar at the Baleshwar temple at Champawat, an exampleof marvellous stone architecture and temple design. A huge fair is organisec in its premises on the occasion of Mahashivratri.