Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Baijnath - An Old Shiva Temple

Mahashivaratri - the great night of (worshipping) Shiva is just over.  This is apparently Shiva's favourite  night - the night of no moon, in the waning fortnight of Phalgun (around February-March); the night when Shiva performs his tandava - the fearsome primordial dance of destruction (and also creation and preservation).

A week before Shivaratri, I was in the hills of Kangra, and I happened to visit a very old Shiva temple - the temple of Baijnath.  Shiva is worshipped here as Baijnath (Vaidyanath - the Lord of Physicians).

I like old hill temples for their simplicity and accessibility; they often have an earthiness and directness that modern and urban temples lack.  In Baijnath, Shiva is depicted in various forms, by himself or along with his consort Parvati atop Nandi - the mythical bull that he rode.  The temple was built around the 12th century (and was partially destroyed, as was much of Kangra architecture, in an intense earthquake in 1905).

According to mythology, this temple houses the Shiva linga that the king Ravana worshipped and carried with him on his journey to (Sri) Lanka before he was tricked into leaving it behind in India .  Here are a few pictures from the temple niches, of Shiva.  Shiva carries a trident in one hand, a drum (for his tandava) in the other.  A crescent moon adorns his hair and a necklace of skulls lies round his neck.  The river Ganga emerges from his matted locks and flows earthward.  He is the Lord of dance, the Lord of physicians and the prime Yogi.  In these carvings, he looks benign - almost happy.

The last carving is one of Shakti (symbolizing a divine, dynamic feminine creative force, also worshipped as Kali - the slayer of demons).

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