Temples of Uttarakhand

Maa Chandi Devi Temple – Haridwar 

Introduction

From ancient times, temples have been the hub of community life where all major events and festivals in an individual’s life have been celebrated. The structure and symbolism in a temple is deeply rooted in Vedic traditions. A temple forms a sacred link between man and God, a place of peace and tranquillity where the individual can get away from the trials and tribulations of daily life and concentrate on the indweller God. It encourages reflection, purification of mind and devotion. Temples in India showcase the architectural splendour of various dynasties. Most of the temples were patronised by the various rulers who ruled at that time. There are many famous temples in the state of Uttarakhand which are visited by pilgrims from all over the country. One of them is the Chandi Devi temple of Haridwar which is dedicated to Goddess Chandi Devi. It is located in the Eastern summit of the Shivalik hills of the Himalayas on top of the Neel Parvat and is one of the Panch Teerth or five pilgrimages located within Haridwar.

History

The temple was built in 1929 by the King of Kashmir Suchat Singh though the main idol is said to be very ancient and installed by Adi Shankara himself in the 8th century. It is considered a Siddha Peetha along with two other temples namely Mansa Devi temple and Maya Devi temple where pilgrims are said to get fulfilment of all their desires.

Goddess Chandi Devi

In the Devi Mahatmya, the Supreme Goddess is referred to as Maa Chandi. She symbolises the violent or fierce form of the Goddess and her legacy is said to have originated in Bengal which was the seat of the Shakta traditions and tantric sadhana in ancient times. There are various legends regarding the incarnation of Goddess Chandi.  She is said to be the most spellbinding personification of Cosmic energy, born from the combined energy of the male gods when they were unable to conquer the asuras in the battlefield. The light born out of this energy was overwhelming and dazzling with her body effulgent and blazing with the light of a thousand suns. She is said to be three eyed, seated on her vehicle the lion, with multiple arms holding auspicious weapons, garlands, jewels, beads and emblems, all offered by the Gods. According to the Markandeya Purana, the demon Kings Shumbha and Nishumbha had ousted the Gods from heaven and captured the kingdom of Indra, the Lord of the Devas. They began praying to the Divine Mother for succour and hearing their prayers, from the body of Goddess Parvati appeared Devi Chandi (or Chandika) said to be one of the nine forms of Durga (Navadurgas). Shumbha and Nishumbha sent the demon chiefs Chand and Mund and Goddess Chamunda is said to have emerged from the eyebrows of her third eye and killed them. Chandi then killed Shumbha and Nishumbha and rested for some time on the top of Neel Parvat. There are two peaks in the mountain range that are called Shumbha and Nishumbha.

Features of the temple

The temple high atop the mountain has a beautiful arch with the idol of Lord Ganesha and a lion which is the vehicle of Maa Chandi at the entrance. The ochre colour idol of Goddess Chandi adorned with garlands is placed in a small shrine on top of which is a silver umbrella. At her feet is a statue of her vehicle, the lion.  Very close to the Chandi Devi temple is the Anjana Devi temple dedicated to Anjana, the mother of Hanuman.  The temple is a major pilgrimage destination and can be reached by following the 3 km trekking route from Chandighat with steps to the shrine or one can use the cable car ropeway service (Chandi Devi Udankhatola). This ropeway service carries the pilgrims directly to the temple which is at a height of 9500 ft from the lower station near the Gauri Shankar temple on the Nazibabad Road.  On either side of the hill and the ropeway is a dense forest which offers scenic views of Haridwar and the River Ganga.

Worship

Daily pujas and arathi take place at the temple and it is run by the Mahant who is the presiding priest of the temple. Alcoholic drinks, leather accessories and nonvegetarian food are strictly prohibited in the temple premises. Thousands of pilgrims visit this temple during pilgrimage to Haridwar or during the Kumbh Mela pilgrimage. Festivals of Chandi Chaudas which is celebrated for fourteen days (chau meaning four and das meaning ten) and Navratras are celebrated here with great fervour.

How to Reach

Air – The Jolly Grant Airport at Dehradun is the closest airport at a distance of 37 km.

Rail – The closest railway station is the Haridwar railway station at a distance of 4 km.

Road – The bus stand is close to the temple at a distance of 3 km. There are taxis and cars plying to most of the nearby towns.

Accommodation

The Govind Bhawan Dharamshala, a short distance away provides accommodation to pilgrims. Besides this, there are hotels to suit the budget of the pilgrims.

 

  Temple of Golu Devta  – Chitai (Almora)

Introduction

This famous temple also referred to as Shri Kal Bisht Golu Devta Mandir located in the Kumaoun region of Uttarakhand is dedicated to the legendary mythological God Golu or Golu Devta and is the deity of the Kumaoun region. There are many temples dedicated to Golu Devta all over Kumaoun. The temple is at Chitai which is a village on the Almora Pithoragarh highway and is 6 km from Almora in Uttarakhand. Lord Golu is said to be an incarnation of Gaur Bhairav (Lord Shiva) and considered to be the Lord of Justice as devotees make ‘manauti’ or individual pledges to make an offering to God if their desires are fulfilled. Requests are written for divine intervention on pieces of paper which are then hung from a wire inside the temple. Being the local Lord of retributive justice, the petitions include litigations on stamp paper, applications for jobs and resolving of family matters, cure from illnesses and all other matters, civil, personal and financial. Bells are a common offering if requests have been granted.  Golu Devta’s icons are sold in marketplaces, his name is emblazoned on shop fronts and trucks and his stories are told in folk songs.  The number of bells hanging proves the number of desires that have been fulfilled thus reiterating the truth that faith and devotion alone is the hallmark of a true seeker as exhorted by the sages and not the size and grandeur of the temple or idol.

History

The temple is at a distance of 2 km from the main gate of the Binsar wild life sanctuary. According to legends, Golu Devta was a General in the army of Baz Bahadur the Chand King whose dynasty ruled the region from the 7th to the 18th century. Golu died fighting with exemplary valour at war and the temple was erected in his honour. According to another legend, the King of Binsar had him killed on some false doubt and his severed head and body fell at the place where the temple now exists. Another legend states that there was a local King who once while hunting, sent his servants in search of water. They disturbed a woman who was in prayer. She then separated two bulls who were fighting and the King who was impressed decided to marry her. She later gave birth to a son but the other queens of the King in jealousy, placed the child in a cage and put the cage in the river. In its place, they placed a stone stating that the queen had given birth to a stone. Meanwhile, the child was brought up by a fisherman. The boy grew up and became aware of his true identity. One day in the presence of the queens, he took a wooden horse to the river and began forcing it to drink water. The astonished queens asked him as to how that was possible. He then replied that if a woman could give birth to a stone, then surely a wooden horse could drink water. The King who heard about the incident became suspicious and on questioning the queens realised their treachery. He then punished them and crowned the boy who went on to be known as Gwalla or Golu Devata. Golu Devata is seen in the form of Lord Shiva, his brother who is Kalva Devata is seen in the form of Bhairava and Garh Devi is seen in the form of Shakti. In the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand he is referred to as Goreel Devata. There are other Golu Devata temples at Ghorakhal, Udepur, Ghagas, Hawalbagh and other areas of Uttarakhand.

Worship

Golu Devata is the Kula Devata of many people in the Kumaoun valley. Pooja and worship are done for a duration which ranges from three days to nine days.

Offerings of ghee, curd, milk and preparations like Poori, Halwa, Pakori and in certain cases animal sacrifice (Bali) of goats are made to the deity.  Cloth, Pagri and shawl, all white in colour are offered to him.

How to Reach

Air – The nearest airport to Almora is the Pantnagar airport which is at a distance of 124 km.

Rail – The nearest railway station to Almora is the Kathgodam railway station which is at a distance of 94 km.

Road – The temple can be easily connected via the Jageshwar Dham road by taxi or bus.

Accommodation

Pilgrims come from all over the country to worship and request Golu Devta for a solution to their problems. There are budget hotels for the convenience of the pilgrims.

 

Triyuginarayan Temple – Rudraprayag

Introduction

This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is located in the Triyuginarayan village in the district of Rudraprayag in Uttarakhand. This temple is also called the Akhanda Dhuni temple as it is said that Lord Shiva’s marriage to Goddess Parvati took place here and was witnessed by Lord Vishnu and from that time a sacred perpetual flame burns in front of the temple.

Etymology

The name of the temple implies that the temple and the divine Lord have existed for three Yugas (time cycles). The flame is also referred to as Dhananjaya Agni. Pilgrims visiting this temple take back the ash from the perpetual flame as holy and carry it back with them. It is also believed that the ash from this holy fire promotes conjugal bliss and a happy married life.

Legend

Sati, the daughter of Daksha married Lord Shiva against the wishes of her father. When her father insulted Shiva in a huge religious gathering, unable to bear the insult Sati self-immolated in a fire and was reborn as Goddess Parvati, the daughter of Mount Himavat. After rigorous penances at Gauri Kund which is a few miles away from the Triyuginarayan temple and dedicated to Goddess Parvati, she won Lord Shiva. He is said to have proposed to her at Guptakashi which is on the road to Kedarnath and finally they got married at the Triyuginarayan village at the confluence of the Sone Ganga and Mandakini Rivers. Lord Vishnu is said to have acted as the brother of Parvati in the ceremonies and formalised the wedding. Lord Brahma is said to have acted as the priest of the wedding and it was witnessed by Gods, heavenly beings, saints and seers. The holy fire that still burns was said to be the Agni Kund or Havana Kund, a four-cornered fireplace on the ground which was the holy fire at the wedding. The Sthala Purana eulogises the greatness of this holy place.

Location

The temple is located at a height of 6500 ft and is at a distance of about 5 km from Son Prayag. It can also be accessed by trekking from Mussoorie right up to Kedarnath passing through thick forest areas.

Features

The temple is believed to have been built by Adi Shankara who is said to have built many temples in the Uttarakhand region. The architecture of the temple is similar to the Kedarnath temple. The sanctum sanctorum of the shrine has a two feet silver image of Lord Narayan (Vishnu) accompanied by Goddess Lakshmi on his left and Goddess Saraswati on his right. There are idols of Badrinarayan, Lord Rama and Sita and Lord Kubera and an Akhand Jyoti burning inside the sanctum sanctorum. In front of it, there is an idol of Shiva and Parvati in newly wedded form blessing the pilgrims. Just outside, there is a Saligrama Shila (black holy stone associated with various Gods) of Lord Vishnu in sleeping posture with Goddess Lakshmi and Lord Ganesha. The eternal flame (the Havana Kund) is situated in front of the temple. Sacrificial offerings of wood (Samidha) are made by the pilgrims and the ashes are collected as blessings. In front of the temple, a stone called Brahma Shila is said to mark the exact location of the wedding. To the right of this Shila is a place to perform Godaan where the cow which was gifted as Daan in the holy wedding was said to have been tied. Ritualistic Kanya Daan is also said to be performed at this place by pilgrims. The holy ponds of Vishnu Kund, Brahma Kund, Rudra Kund and Saraswati Kund are situated near the temple. In the courtyard of the temple a water stream called Saraswati Ganga originates which fills all the holy ponds in the vicinity. The waters of this Kund is said to cure infertility as according to legends the River Saraswati is said to have originated from Vishnu’s navel. Outside in the Prakara there is a small temple dedicated to Goddess Annapurneshwari, Lord Hanuman, Lord Ishaneshwar and Lord Shiva and on the Dwara is the idol of Lord Ganesha. Garuda with folded hands is below the flag, right above the Dwar on the Gopuram.

Festivals and fairs

Triyuginarayan Mela is annually held on the 12th day of the waxing moon in the month of Bhadrapad (Aug/Sept).

How to reach

Air – The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant airport at Dehradun which is at a distance of 244 km from the temple.

Rail – The nearest railway station is Rishikesh which is at a distance of 261 km from the temple.

Road – There are bus services from the village and shared jeeps can be taken to the temple. One can hire cars and taxis up to the temple.

Accommodation

There is a Dharamshala and PWD inspection house for overnight stay. There are also budget hotels for the convenience of the pilgrims.

Conclusion

Uttarakhand is known as Dev Bhoomi as it is on the Southern slope of the Himalayan ranges which is dotted with famous pilgrimage centres and temples. One of the holiest cities of the Hindus, namely Haridwar lies in this state. The name ‘Hari ka Dwar’ implying gateway to the Lord indicates the start of a pilgrim’s journey to reach Mount Kailas, the eternal abode of the Lord. The region has been mentioned in the scriptures and is home to many famous holy shrines. Pilgrims visit this Himalayan state from far and wide seeking salvation and self-purification. Many legends from the scriptures narrate stories of saints and seers who have attained liberation in these hallowed holy places. These temples are seats of devotion and power which are transmitted to all pilgrims who pay obeisance with faith and devotion.

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