Alighting from the car, we feel as if we have turned back the
wheel of time some five centuries!
Frenzy, hectic, deadline, tension – all these familiar urban terms are
blissfully forgotten and are quietly replaced by tranquil, serene, laid-back,
enchanting – as we land in Jageshwar. A
small temple town some 40 kms from Almora, nestled among dense deodars at a
height of 1875m above sea level it lies completely at peace with itself,
quietly compelling the rare tourist to extend his stay there, and few can
resist its charm.
A cluster of 124 lingams,
the oldest (Mrityujay Mandir) dating back to the 8th century AD and
the latest to the 15th, make up the complex. At the entrance we noticed a large bell with
the lower half broken away, still being tolled to herald the arrival of the
devout in the abode of God. One of the
12 Jyotirlings of our country is located here in the Jyotirling Jageshwar
Mandir. One can sit undisturbed in the
shrine without the intrusion of cacophonous aartis
or marauding priests.
Jageshwar comprises of the temple complex and the U.P.
government-run Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam (KMVN) hotel bang opposite the
temple. There are about a dozen daily-needs
shops along the only road that passes
through this little temple town. That’s
all of Jageshwar for you! This scenic
town is enveloped on two sides by lofty mountains most of which we can see
Climbing the uninhabited one behind the hotel to the very top
was exhilarating to say the least. The
absolutely breathtaking scenery from the summit ensured that our exhaustion magically
melted away! The mountains and valleys
rolled on from one into the other, receding away from us in shades ranging from
a lush verdant green to a sedate silent blue-gray and finally into a faint
haze. How strangely peaceful it was up here – away from the deadline-infested
pace of the mortal world below. A lonely
pine was vainly trying to reach up into the wispy cloud that was scurrying away
in a tearing hurry. Those mountains must
know every little bit of history that ever happened in these areas, but they
have kept them a closely guarded secret.
There is a wonderful magic in the mountains that cleanses us, even if
only temporarily, of all materialism that we invariably harbor as we climb the
corporate and social ladder. These petty
feelings simply vanish as we experience the sublime and are transformed into a
brand new and clean person.
On the opposite hill the needle-shaped leaves of the deodars glistened
in the sunlight. Below us the sprawled
terraced fields of potatoes and spinach; and some peach and plum trees heavily
straining under the weight of the fruits.
Way down below us we caught the silvery sparkle of a babbling brook as
sunlight danced on its little ripples. I
became an island of ecstasy amid all this beauty; and I strongly suspect each
of the others was also experiencing a similar wondrous moment.
A climb up the deodar-studded mountain on the other side of
the road was not without apprehension.
In this dense forest dwelt kaakar
(barking deer), and tigers. Terrified
but not the ones to sit hotel rooms, we steeled ourselves before venturing
forth into the thick grass and bush covered paths, brushing against and getting
stung by the leaves of the bichchu plant
(stinging nettles), attractting the attention of nothing more than a baby leech
on the way! Icy chills raced up and down
our spines as we dreaded coming face to face with India’s national animal. The
woods were indeed lovely, dark and deep, but less than half way up and
paralysed with fear, we decided to let the sleeping tigers lie and sheepishly
trudged back to a clearing near the foot of the hill, from where we were content
with immersing ourselves in the picturesque beauty of this quaint Kumaoni hill
When it was time to go away, we each took a little piece of
the treasure that was Jageshwar and tucked it away in the depths of our heart
to access it at any time we willed, in the heat and dust of our mundane lives.