Baijnath: The Abode of Shiva 16 Kilometers from Palampur, on the Palampur Mandi road, is the picturesque temple of Shiva, one of the famous shiva temples in the country. While driving from Palampur one can see from the Paprola Bridge the shikhra of the temple seeming to touching the clear skies above. On one side of the river Binwa is an ashram that used to attract me since my childhood because of a strange architecture—a natural feat of architecture. A house with a big stone as a roof! I have seen it intact since last as many years as I have starting noticing queer feats of nature around me. And on the other side is another feat of architecture that makes one wonder at the artisans and craftsmen at work to have erected such a structure.
The Nature’s Architecture…
When I first saw this temple as a child, my father told me that Ravana, the king of Lanka, placated Lord Shiva by his devotion and as a boon asked Lord Siva to live in Lanka for all times. The boon once granted, could not be taken back and lord Shiva acceded. He gave a large Lilngam to Ravana and asked him to carry it to Lanka, without ever putting it on the ground till he reaches Lanka, otherwise Lord Shiva would settle at the place where the Lingam is put! Ecstatic at taking Shiva to Lanka, Ravana started journey home. The folklore says that at Baijnath, Ravana suddenly had an urge for a natural call and he handed the lingam over to an old Brahmin directing him not to put the Lingam on the ground. But when he returned, he found the Lingam on ground and hard though he tried, he was not able to extricate the lingam from the ground and there it has been ever since.
The Serpentine Beauty that Captivates…
Listening to the story would make me wonder at the mighty Ravana passing this land and the image of Ravana that my mind carried was one of a ferocious looking King the kind I had seen in the Ramleela in Shimla! I would feel like touching the Lingam and seeing for myself how deep it is buried in the earth but the wrath of Shiva and the watchful eye of the Pujari in the temple would stop my hands from doing so. I was full of awe for the truth held in the folklore but my mind could and would not think beyond.It was during my subsequent visits to the temple that other facts like historical, architectural and religious started to make impact on my inquisitive-to-know-more mind.Critically watching the temple and collecting material about it from various books I came to know very interesting anecdotes and facts about the temple. The temple, as it stands today, was built in eighth AD but the Lingam was worshipped in the open since much earlier to that.
I imagined the Lingam out in the open, under the sky, the majestic Dhauladhar ranges providing it shade and the crystal clear water of the Binwa River washing the Lingam!! The present day crowded market near to the temple seems to have robbed the temple of its beauty. But once I entered the premises of the temple, suddenly everything transformed to a different world, a world of peace and sublimity where human mind bows in front of supreme power. Suddenly the crowded market outside seemed to evaporate and life became still and tranquil. I was mesmerized by the sheer workmanship of the artisans of the eras gone by who had constructed a master piece. An immortal piece of work!Whenever I used to visit the temple earlier it was as a matter of routine as how could I pass Baijnath without paying obeisance to the Almighty Shiva. Little did I know about the architectural importance of the heritage building. The placards put by the Archeological Survey of India at many places made me aware of the historical importance of the temple and now I wanted to study and capture all those points. My whole perspective towards the structure had changed.The Baijnath in those days was known as Keer Gram. According to the inscription in Sharda script found inside and outside the temple, the structure came into being in eighth century of Vikram Era. Though, it was in the open place that the Lingam was established much earlier. According to one of the folklores about the construction of the temple, the credit for getting this temple constructed goes to two brothers Mayuk and Aahuk. These two brothers got the temple constructed as they had made a lot of money in the iron business. One of the two craftsmen engaged for the construction work belonged to Kangra. The local wealthy people, too, contributed liberally for the temple.
Some scholars are of the view that the temple was reconstructed seven times and Raja Sansar Chand of Kangra had been instrumental in getting its present form.
The Shivalingam is considered to be one of the twelve Jyotirlingam in the country. The walls of the temple depict sculptors of various gods and goddesses in different ways. The sculptor of Ma Kali with one foot atop Shiva and an expression of embarrassing on her countenance is worth watching. It is awesome to capture such expression on a stone sculptor and the craftsmanship of the artisans can well be imagined by this rare feat.The temple has four doors and four “dwarpals” stand guard on these doors. The idols depicting the scenes of Shiva marriage are wonderful to watch. There are so many idols of various gods and goddesses, in different postures, inscribed in the temple. The six-armed statue ofGanesha is awesome! The pillars outside the temple have the “Navgrahas” inscribed on them. The Nandi’s imposing idol, in the outer courtyard, captures the pilgrims’ attention. Though the Kangra earthquake in the year 1905 brought about severe damage to the temple but it was resurrected to its present form and is under the protection of the archeological survey of India these days.When Rishi Ved Vyasa writes in the Mahabharata about Artha, Kama, Dharma and Moksha as the four main basis of our very existence, we think philosophically about the purpose of life. Within a broad spectrum of religious practices, Hinduism accommodates both material and spiritual needs. However, as material benefits are temporary, most traditions consider eternalmoksha the ultimate goal. It is strange that the same truth is inscribed on the four doors leading to the inner sanctorum. The first has Moksha, the second Artha, the third Kama and the forth Dharma related creations that make us really wonder about the Mahabharata connection of the temple. But another thought came to my mind that do people really understand the importance of these four basics of Hindu view of life? Or did I understand them till a few years back when studying Hindu philosophy? Or even today? It is appreciable that the society in that period wanted to convey through temple architecture the basic tenets of Hindu view of life but are we capable enough to read them today, leave alone appreciate? The Hindu philosophy attributes human existence at four levels. Hindu texts detail four sequential aims – dharma, artha, kama, and moksha. Dharma recommends righteous and regulated living, so that one is able to acquire wealth, artha. With prosperity one can then enjoy
kama, sensual pleasure. When one realises the futility of temporary gratification, one eventually seeks moksha (liberation). Observing this sad plight of the people, Vyasa says in the Mahabharata:
“Artha and Kama, which all people desire so much, can be attained from Dharma itself. Why then do they not follow Dharma?”
Enjoying reading these famous lines from the Mahabharata, never did I realize that this universal truth of the Hindu View of life would be inscribed on the stone rocks in the temple of
Shiva. I think that the society at that time encouraged the tenets of Hindu philosophy to reach the common people so that a society of virtuous people could be established. The message aimed at not only the individual welfare but also the common welfare. But unfortunately do we listen to the message made immortal in the stone inscriptions of the temple? It is no surprise that i came to know about it reading a book by Mr. Harnot and it was after that I critically analyzed the archtecture of the temple. Thanks Harnot for making me appreciate something that I overlooked.
The Flow of Life Continues….