Baijnath group of temples is located at Baijnath[ the place came to be known as Baijnath due to the temples group) in Bageshwar distt. of Uttarakhand. The place is hardly 17 to 18 Kms away from Kausani, a famous and very scenic hill station of uttarakhand. The airport nearest to Baijnath is Pantnagar and the nearest railway station is Kathgodam. Pantnagar is about 184 Kms away while distance of kathgodam is about 150 Kms. From both the places Baijnath is easily approachable by road.
We have been to Baijnath two times but the interval between the two trips was of about 14 years. Obviously, in 2002 the place had more of its pristine beauty intact but even during our second visit we found that the aura, the serenity of the place was palpable enough to touch the soul.
The place was much neater, well kept, the way downwards from the main road to the temples was well paved with boundary wall, nearby lawn too appeared to be well looked after. But I missed my solitary walk on the side of river Gomti on whose bank this temple group is located. From our first visit I clearly remember a jungle of tall trees standing on the bank of the river and a long and wide stretch of well-rounded smooth pebbles between river and the trees. I remember walking cautiously on those pebbles, listening to the soft obscure rustling from the vegetation and the accompanying notes of slowly flowing river. Or both of them were exchanging secrets of their hearts which though I was unable to understand filled my heart with a longing, inexplicable in words. That was the time of reel camera, so Sunder had to be very cautious about pressing the shutter. Hence, I don’t have many pictures to share from our first visit. Whatever I am sharing here is with my scribbling in the diary I had with me at that time and my memory. I don’t know how but I had not written a detailed travelogue of our visits to Baijnath. This is the first time I am sharing my experiences in detail.
During our first visit we also visited a nearby village. People informed us about some heritage temples in the area and we decided to explore them. Leaving our vehicle on the side of the road we walked on the narrow strip running through the paddy fields and reached the village. That walk in itself was very enjoyable. A farmer working in one of the fields showed us a small structure of stone and said that it was Satyanarayan temple. The structure was small but definitely belonged to centuries bygone. All around it were swaying green paddy field and sitting midst them the small temple was connecting us to a page of history, not much talked about.
In the village, Tallihat, we came across two big temples – Raksha Deul and Laxmi Narayan but none of them had any idol in them. Big ornate exteriors of temples standing erect bearing the ravages of time but without an idol filled the heart with sadness. The structures felt like body without soul. As per villagers none of them have seen any idol in those temples though many idols, images in stone were found by them scattered all around the surrounding areas and they had started keeping those sculptures on a platform in the mid of the village. Every period of time has its own story and every one of us listens to it in our own favoured way.
While walking through the lanes of a village we met this lady, Smt Parvati Devi Joshi. She was sitting on her doorsteps and called out to us to talk. Sunder clicked her and she was all smiles. She told us that it was her first ever photograph and requested us to send the print to her. We did so but had no way to find out whether it reached her or not. But i believe it must have after all God had a purpose behind everything. I still have her address with me. She also wanted us to find a job for her younger son. In those days, these small villages were not well connected to plains. Now of course things have changed a lot. Tourists’ influx has increased. Internet has connected even remote areas to wide world and lives of people have changed a lot, for better or worse is altogether a different subject. But then nothing is absolutely good or bad. It all depends upon maintaining the proper balance.
Our second visit to Baijnath was in 2016. This time our visit was confined to the temple premises only. In fact, while returning from Chakauri we stayed there for a good part of the day. As I said earlier the place still retains its mystical beauty which touches the spiritual core of heart. Though after construction of barrage an artificial lake has been created in the vicinity and Gold Mahaseer fish abounding in great number is a great tourist attraction yet rhythmically flowing Gomti retains its elegance.
This temple complex was built by Katyuri kings who ruled In Uttarakhand between 9th to 12th century. It is said that Katyuri kings built this temple group when they shifted their capital from Joshimath to Kartikeypur. The main shrine is dedicated to Vaidyanath (lord of vaidyas) form of Shiva. Over the period Vaidyanath was transformed to Baijnath. Besides main shrine of lord Shiva there are seventeen other shrines dedicated to different deities. The shrines are of Kedareshwar, Laxaminarayana, Brahmini devi, surya, chandika, Ganesha, Kuber, Bhairava etc.
Though the main deity here is Lord Shiva but the main attraction of this temple group is the standing statue of Goddess Parvati made of grey schist stone with 26 miniature images around it. Idol of Kal Bhairava sitting in a meditative posture outside the main temple too is a unique one.
Another unique feature of Baijnath used to be a big, heavy round stone in the lawn of the temple. It was known as Bheem Gend, ball with which Bheem one of the Pandvas played. It was said that nobody could lift it. Indeed, many people tried but in vain. However as per news reports in Aug. 20 the stone was found desecrated. One morning when priest arrived at temple premises it was found broken in two pieces. I have read experiences of some other tourists that if nine people with the first finger of their right palm tried to lift it together while chanting some mantras told by the priest it used to get lifted and people holding it did not feel any weight at all. I too heard about this but have no firsthand experience of it and now the ball of Bheem is no more there.
Baijnath group of temple holds a special significance as It is believed that wedding of Shiva and Parvati took place nearby at the confluence of Gomti and Garud Ganga.
The folk lore, the mythological stories woven around our religious destinations help us in transporting ourselves to a different level, connect us to a world unseen yet deeply felt. Once in a while an escape from routine to such serene, sacred places steeped in divinity help us in connecting to ourselves. This group of temples though conveniently connected to popular places is like an island of peace. On the earlier occasion we visited there with our school going boys and on later one we both, when boys were at their respective workplaces. In between we ourselves were changes internally too as happens with all of us but on both the occasions spending time there healed us, rejuvenated us. Whatever might be the phase of life, worries, turmoil and turbulences are an integral part of our journey. Running through the daily milieu we all feel tired once in a while. I feel such spiritual hibernation period, how so ever short it might be brings much needed solace to us.
Presently life in term of routine feels to be standstill yet the upheaval and havoc caused by pandemic all around us tire us mentally. Spirituality, connecting to inside core is one thing that acts as soothing balm to jittering nerves.
I love this quote by Paul Gauguin, “I close my eyes in order to see.” And Places like Baijnath help me in doing this.
All the above pictures are from our 2002 trip and now to few from 2016 trip.
look the premises are neater, cleaner but greenery has lessened. Maintaining a place has it’s own cost.
The ball of Bhima
All pictures @Sunder Iyer
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