Jageshwar Dham(1870m), about 18 miles/ 34 km from Almora, via Bade-China and Panwanaula, believed to be the abode of twelve Jyotirlingas, is situated in densely wooded beautiful narrow Jataganga valley, surrounded by dense forest of magnificent deodar monarchs. A small stream flows nearby and there are a few houses and several dharamsalas . It is an ancient place and has a good spiritual vibration.
From 7th century onwards, there was a great temple building activity under the Katyuri Kings, who rivalled the Chalukyas in the South. During the 8th and the 9th centuries, Kumaon was passing through a deep cultural and religious fervour and a group of shrines were put up, to Lakulisa, Nataraja and the Goddess Durga.
The complex consisting of 124 temples and hundreds of images, is famous not merely for its exquisite craftsmanship but also for it Swayambhu Linga named Nagesh Darukabane. Most Hindus believe that Jageshwar is the place of Nagesh, 8th among the Dwadasha Jyotirlingas (the twelve resplendent lingas of Shiva established by Vishnu ) which is stated to exist in the forest of Deodar or Daruka.
Jageshwar, believed to carry the Nagesh Jyotirlinga dedicated to Shiva, is one of the most important religious pilgrimage town in Kumaon, literally temple city which comprises cluster of 124/125 large and small stone temples, dating 9th and 13th century AD . Many temples now, preserved by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), include Dandeshwar Temple, Jageshwar Temple, Kuber Temple, Mrityunjaya Temple, Nanda Devi Navagrah Temple, a Pyramidal shrine, a Surya Temple, besides a host of smaller temples and broken idols which received rude shocks from the hands of Mohammedan invaders. Mrityunjaya Temple is the oldest temple and Dandeshwar Temple is the biggest shrine. The architecture of this temple is worth giving close examination as the Jageshwar Shiva Temple carries archaeological importance.
Jageshwar was once the centre of Lakulisa Shaivism. Origin and history of Lakulisa, the 28th Avatara of Shiva (with a wooden stick), traverse back to Gujarat region of current India. The resemblance between Kumaoni language and Gujarati language probably hints at the fact that the followers of the Lakulisa settled at Jageshwar.
The Lakulisa and Nataraja temples, built in 8th century, are also 10.5 metres feet high. Though square with plain and simple plinth, they have broad and horizontal moulding all along the Sikhara or roof. There are some fine specimens of sculptures here. The Sukanasa or the frontal pediment is elaborately carved with Lakulisa flanked by his disciples and the Nataraja Shiva in his dancing feet. Unique in the art, history of Kumaon , the representation of the two sculptures brings out the religious fervour of the age.
The statute of Lakulisa, meaning the Lord with staff or mace or club or stick; is back at Jageshwar after almost 50 years. Lakulisa has been stated to have born in Gujarat and propagated Shaivism . The resemblance in Kumaoni and Gujarati are actually an indication of Lakulisa and his disciples visiting and influencing people and culture of not only Jageshwar but entire Kumaon region.
There is no definite dating of the construction of Jageshwar group of temples. History tells that during the 4th and 5th centuries AD, when the Gupta emperors held sway, the Kumaon hills were being governed by an independent dynasty of Katyuri Kings. They selected the site for building temples. The temples originally constructed during the Gupta period were renovated by the rule of the Chand dynasty in the 7th century AD. Numerous temples were constructed or restored during the Gurjara Pratihara era and also in the 15th and 16th centuries.
According to ASI, Jageshwar group of temples belong to the post-Gupta and pre-medieval eras and are estimated to be about 450 years 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 Shalivahandeva. 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 Kumaon were also the patrons of the Jageshwar temples…Full Text PDF