Jwalamukhi

Introduction

Jwalamukhi temple is the shakthi peet where the tongue of Sati (Devi) fell. The temple is located in the town of Jwalamukhi, Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. Here Devi is worshipped as Ambika and Lord Shiva as Unmatta. Devi Jwalamukhi is also referred to as “Goddess of Light”.

Location

Jwalamukhi temple is located 34 kms from Kangra, Himachal Pradesh and about 53 kms from Dharamsala in the valley of Beas. The temple’s location provides a panoramic view of the hills that characterise Himachal Pradesh. As this is an important tourist spot, hotel accommodation, rest houses and government guest houses are easily available. Government bus service to Jwalamukhi is very good. Private taxis can also be hired to reach the temple. There is also a musical fountain which is one of the tourist attractions. The nearest railway station is narrow guage at Ranital, which is 20 kms and broad guage at Pathankot which is 100 kms away. The nearest airport is at Gaggal, about 50 kms.

Other places of interest

a)   Nagini Mata is the site about 4.5 kms from the temple where a fair is held in July/ August. This is located on the hill above Jwalamukhi.

b)   Shri Raghunathji Temple is about 5 kms from Jwalamukhi and is popularly known as “Teda” Mandir. Lord Rama, Sita and Laxman are believed to have stayed here. It is also popularly said that Pandavas built the first temple here. The temple houses the idols of Sri Rama, Lakshmana, Sita Devi and Lord Hanuman.

c)   Ashtabhuj Temple is about 1 km from Jwalamukhi. This is one of the ancient temples and as the name suggests “Ashtabhu”, there is a temple dedicated to a deity with eight arms.

d)   Nadaun is a princely state about 12 kms from Jwalamukhi. There are several old temples and ruins of old temples built during the erstwhile princely rule of Karota Rajahs.

e)   Chaumukha temple is about 22 kms via Nadaun. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva with a huge four faced image. Chaumukha temple has four temples, of which three doors are permanently closed.

f)    Panj Teerthi and Mahakaleshwar – these are about 9 kms and 28 kms via Nadaun from Jwalamukhi. These places are located by the banks of River Beas. Panj Teerthi is said to be built by Pandavas during their exile. This place is considered as sacred as Haridwar. People who are unable to visit Haridwar immerse the mortal remains of their relatives in Panj Teerthi tank.  Mahakaleshwar temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Both the temples are located within a distance of few hundred meters from each other.

g)   Bagulamukhi temple in Bankhandi is 36 kms from Jwalamukhi. There is a stone image of goddess Bagulamukhi at the math. This is an ancient temple. Maa Bagulamukhi is worshipped to win over enemies.

h)   Haripur is about 45 kms from Jwalamukhi. There are several attractive temples and an old fort. Haripur was founded in 1464. It is a historic place where the famous Kangra miniature paintings were born.

i)     Mangarh is about 37 kms from Jwalamukhi. There is an octagonal fort named after Raja Man Chand on top of a hill. The place is also known for ancient Lord Shiva temple built by Pandavas during their exile in 6th century.

History

Jwalamukhi is regarded as one of the Maha Shakti peetas. The temple is dedicated to goddess Jwalamukhi, the god of Flaming Mouth. One significant aspect about the temple is the absence of deity. The temple priest lights the natural gas that comes out of a copper pipe in the temple which (the flame) is worshipped as a manifestation of Sati or Jwalamukhi. The most amazing sight at this temple is the eternal burning of the blue flames without any fuel or any assistance emanating from a rock side. Inside the temple, is a three feet deep pit with pathway all around. In the centre of the temple is a hollowed rock, which is the main source from where the flames emanate. This is regarded as the mouth of goddess Mahakali. There are several other places in the pit from which the flames emanate. There are nine flames emanating named after goddess- Mahakali, Anpurna,Chandi, Hinglaj,Bindya Basni, MahaLakshmi, Saraswati, Ambika and Anji Devi.  Eternal burning of blue flames from the rocks must be due to the presence of some natural jets of combustible gases. There are two lions in front of the temple.

In the ancient times, Pandavas are said to have visited this temple. The temple administration was looked after by the princely state of Nadaun, Kangra.  Raja Jodhbir Chand, son of Raja Sansar Chand ruled Kangra- Nadaun. However, after independence, the temple was declared as the site of Cultural Heritage and the temple affairs are managed by the State Government.  Nearly 102 priests are appointed by the government for the management of the temple. In front of the temple is a small platform and a big mandap where a huge brass bell is hung. The bell was gifted by the King of Nepal. The temple was looted and destroyed by Muhmud of Ghazni in 1009.

Legend

According to Legend, Raja Bhumi Chand Katoch*, a great devotee of Maa Durga once dreamt of the holy place, Jwalamukhi.  He then sent his men to locate the place. His men were able to locate the place and then Raja Bhumi Chand Katoch built the temple. The temple was completed only in the 19thCentury. Maharaja Ranjit Singh* visited the temple in 1809 and his son Kharak Singh* contributed gold and silver for the dome and door respectively.  Raja Bhumi Chand of the ruling Katoch family was the first to build a temple at Jwalamukhi.

* Raja Bhumi Chand was the first member of the Katoch dynasty. The Katoch dynasty is believed to be the oldest surviving royal dynasty in the world. We can also find a mention of Katoch dynasty in Mahabhart and Ramayan.  Katoch dynasty is mentioned in the recorded history of Alexandar’s war records. In Mahabharat, Katoch rulers were referred to as “Trigarta”.  A king from Katoch dynasty is said to have fought Arjun during Mahabharat times.

*Maharajah Ranjit Singh (1780- 1839), called as “The Lion of Punjab” is regarded as one of the three “Lions of India”. The other two Lions are Rana Pratap Singh of Mewar and Shivaji, the Maratha.

Maharajah Ranjit Singh is remembered for uniting Punjab as a strong state and for his possession of Kohinoor diamond.

*Rajah Kharak Singh is the eldest son of Ranjit Singh. He succeeded his father in 1839.

 

Another legend about the temple is that once a cowherd found that one of his cows was always devoid of milk. He followed the cow into the forest to find out about the mystery of the missing milk. He then saw a girl who drank the milk and disappeared in a jiffy. The cowherd then complained to the king.  The king was aware of the legend about sati’s tongue having fallen at this place. He searched for the place but in vain. After some years, the cowherd reported to the king that he had seen flames coming out of the rocks. The king had a vision or darshan of the holy flames and was able to locate the place. He built a temple and arranged for the regular conduct of poojas.

There was a time when demons lorded over Himalayan Mountains and troubled gods. All the gods led by Lord Vishnu decided to put an end to the demons. They focused all their energies on earth and huge flames rose from earth. From those flames, emerged a young girl, who is considered as Adi Shakthi the first shakthi, known as Sati or Parvati.

It is also believed that Lord Shiva conquered the demon Jalandhar by burying him in mountains. The flames are believed to come from his mouth.

Dhyanu Bhagat, a well known devotee of Maa Durga spread the word about goddess Jwalamukhi. He lived during Emperor Akbar’s time. Once when Dhyanu Bhagat was on his way to Jwalaji temple, King Akbar summoned him and enquired him about the goddess. Dhayanu Bhagat told Akbar that the goddess is all powerful. Akbar wanted to test the power of Devi. So he cut off the head of Dhayanu’s horse and ordered Dhayanu to get it back through the power of Devi. Dhayanu prayed day and night to the deity, but in vain. So Dhayanu severed off his own head and offered it to goddess. Devi Maa appeared to him riding a lion and she reconnected his head as well as the horse’s head. Devi Maa also granted a boon to him. Dhayanu requested the goddess that it should not be difficult for pilgrims to reach the temple.  Devi said that if someone offered a coconut to her, she would accept it as if he has offered his own head. Thus pilgrims offer coconut in all Devi temples. Akbar, who learnt about the horse’s head having got reconnected to the body, visited the temple. He tried to douse the flames but, in vain. Realising his folly and the power of Jalamukhi, Akbar came with his men and offered a golden umbrella to the deity. However, the umbrella turned into an unknown metal, (some say it as copper) indicating that the goddess did not accept the offering.

Later Akbar’s son Jahangir invaded Kangra valley. On seeing Jwalamukhi he wrote in his memories – Tuzk that the flames are caused due to the heat generated by the sulphur mine located on slopes of the hill near the temple.

Maharajah Ranjit Singh visited the temple in 1809 and he got the dome of the temple gold plated. Just a few feet above the Jwalamukhi temple is a six foot deep pit with a circumference that is three feet high. At the bottom of this pit is another pit about one and half feet deep, where hot water is bubbling all the time.

Festivals, Rituals and Fairs

The Puja at the temple is conducted in phases. Havan is conducted daily and the goddess is offered Bhog of Rabri or thickened milk, misry or candy, apart from milk and seasonal fruits. Aarti is done after the offerings to the deity.  Aarti is done five times a day. The first aarti, called as Mangal aarti is performed at 5.00 am. The next aarti is at sunrise time and is called Panjupchaar pujan. At midnoon, Bhog Ki Aarti is carried out where in fruits, milk etc is offered. The next aarti is at 7.00 pm. The final aarti known as Shaiyan Ki Aarti is at 10. pm. The last aarti is unique to this temple, as the Devi’s bed is decorated with beautiful ornaments and dresses during the aarti. The last aarti is performed in two phases. The first part is conducted in the main temple, and the second part is conducted in sejabhavan. Sankaracharcharya’s Soundarya Lahri is recited throughout the aarti.  Portions from Durga Saptashithi* is recited to the God daily. In the temple shrine, there are several small shrines including Gorakh Dibbi and Chaturbuj Temple. There is a mystic diagram of the goddess which is covered with shawls and ornaments. Shlokas are recited to the deity daily.

Devotees go round the Jwala Kund in which the sacred flames burn and offer milk and water to the sacred flames. People greet the goddess with red silk flags (dhwaj).

*Durga Sapthashithi refers to 700 verses on Devi Durga.

The temple is resplendent with vibrant colours during March- April and September- October. Special poojas are performed during Navaratri.

Many devotees from across the country visit the temple during April and October.