As soon as the musk of flourishing deodars mixed in with cool air enters into your lungs through a deep breath, you know you have arrived in Jageshwar. The cluster of temples dated back to Chand dynasty who ruled during the 8-9th century, are dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is also said that Jageshwar or as known as Jagnath Mandir is one of Jyotirlinga, of the total 12. However for me, history concerns less and the feeling of being one with the nature matters the most.
It was a friend's marriage at Moradabad. After much difficulty me and Saurabh managed to hook onto one Uttarakhand roadways bus that was going to Ramnagar from Anand Vihar. Initially the conductor refused to take Moradabad passengers and asked us to cough extra indirectly or take ticket till Thakurdwara, which we agreed too. But soon after as the bus prepared to leave at 4 p.m, the flock of desperate people got into the bus and we found it hard to breathe; but thank God we had the seat.
Jageshwar Jyotirlinga Temple, Almora
After much ado, the driver facing the ire of standing mob, started to pick up with speed but to our fate, it was all jammed in Garh Mukteshwar. We got down in Moradabad around 9:30 p.m. Mohit, saw me and his good ole' smile touched with warm sense of gratitude. But we both were too hungry for smiles and greetings. I called up my other friends, Anup (curie), Rajendra (ravs) and Deepak (pahari tota) to enquire about their status. Soon all arrived and before the baraat could start, we decided to have some quick snacks, eaten really quickly except for Ravs who preferred enjoying the pegs.
Deepak dropped me and Saurabh to Rampur and left for Barreily. Enroute we saw a corpse with its head chopped and no blood stains on the highway. It was enough to leave us desperate for some moment. Rest the traffic jam got us sulking. We reached Rampur around 3:40 a.m. Roadways bus dropped us to Haldwani after 1.5 hrs around 5 a.m. We took shared jeep service to Almora, who drove really fast and in another 2.5 hrs we were at Almora, the heritage city of Kumaon.
Anand Vihar Bus Terminus
Next we took another shared jeep to Aartola from where Jageshwar is 3 kms on foot along the neat and fine road or one can opt for paid jeep service. We decided to walk and stretch. Afterall this is what we were there for - to take big long walks amidst the deodars or daruvan. We found ourselves a comfortable place within our budget - Jagadamba lodge, for Rs. 100 a room (N.K. Joshi Ji, 05962-263026). We bathed ourselves in the warm soothing sun and under the cold water from the tap, to prepare to visit the temples that were some 200 mtrs away. We saw fair amount of lodges, and restaurants to our surprise spread within some 500 mtrs towards the temple. This was quite disappointing but then we did not see much people around. And, Saurabh remarked "off season"!
Temples, no doubt, were more than a beauty and much more than delight. A declared national heritage, the temples looked very pious with fine grain of stones chiseled into different pictures of Shiva, all on one single piece of stone, which are nowhere to be found now. We offered our prayers in all the 4 main temples - Mahamrituanjaya, Kedarnath, Hanuman and, most important, Jageshwar Jyotirlinga - alongwith clusters of other temples devoted to the god Sun. We came back to our lodge after taking a hearty meal at a near restaurant for Rs. 35 a plate, and slept like monster. It was when Bisht Ji announced the dinner, at 9:15 p.m we got up and dozed off again. But since we slept early around we got up in the middle of night. First at 2:30 a.m, then at 4:15 a.m, it was still dark; and finally at 6.20 a.m out of bed.
Florishing Cedar (Deodar)
We clicked photographs and offered our last prayer before leaving Jageshwar to reach Vradh Jageshwar. The Vradh Jageshwar temple was some 3 kms straight up to the top of the hill. The route was clean, a bit steep and passes though the thick jungle. It was most beautiful - the feeling of nothingness. And Saurabh remarked "this is the place to be"! I nodded to show my agreement to the statement. We reached Vradh Jageshwar temple around 10:10 a.m in some 1.5 hrs without resting but we occasionally joke about things, with Saurabh caught up in dilemma - whether it was 3 kms, which seemed to him nothing less than 5 kms. But we reached there without any special effort. We met Chokidar, with whom we again confirmed the story of Jyotirlinga of Jageshwar temple. In his words, story goes like this.
"After Parvati dedicated herself to Yagya-Kund, Shiva got depressed and started to roam in the daruvan (deodar) of Jageshwar as a nude sage. Saptkeshwar's wife who was collecting the kandmool phal (beat roots) got horrified at the sight of nude sage and reported this to husband. The sage Saptkeshwar agitated on this and without knowing that it was Shiva, cursed the nude sage. This place is called Dandeshwar Mahadev - a km before Jageshwar temples. Though it didn't affect the lord Shiva but then to honour the Saptkeshwar's word, Shiva himself disintegrated his linga. The 12 jyotirling's are where Shiva's linga pieces fell. One of which is here in Jageshwar Mahadev".
Itinerary we followed
Friday (evening): Delhi (NH 24) - Moradabad - Rampur - Haldwani (260 kms).
Saturday (morning): Haldwani - Bhowali - Almora (100 kms), took shared jeep @ Rs. 100 each. Again, the shared jeep from Almora to Aartola (35kms) @ Rs. 70 for two. Aartola to Jageshwar 3kms on-foot. Night Halt at Jagadamba Lodge.
Sunday (early morning): Vradh Jageshwar (3kms on-foot), and to Panwanaula (some 8kms on-foot), along the road. Shared jeep to Almora.
Cluster Of Jageshwar Temples