Baijnath Kangra

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For clan see Baijnath
Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)
Kangra District Map

Baijnath (बैजनाथ) is a historical town in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. Author (Laxman Burdak) visited the temple on 15.5.1980.

Location

It is about 50 kms from Dharamshala which is the district headquarters. Baijnath is located at 32.05°N 76.65°E. It has an average elevation of 1,314 metres. It is a small township in the Dhauladhar range of western Himalayas, 16 km from Palampur in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh. The town lies on the Pathankot-Mandi highway (National Highway No. 154) almost midway between Kangra and Mandi. The town is located on the left bank of the river Binwa, a corrupt form of ancient Binduka, a tributary of river Beas. Neighbouring towns are Palampur Kangra and Joginder Nagar in Mandi district.

Origin of name

It was Originally known as Kiragrama. [1] The very famous ancient temple of Lord Shiva (Baijnath) is situated here which is believed to be one of twelve jyotirlingas according to popular legends also giving the town its name . The present name Baijnath became popular after the name of the temple.

Baijnath Temple

Baijnath temple before 1905 AD

The main attraction of Baijnath is an ancient temple of Shiva. According to the legend, it is believed that during the Treta Yug, Ravana in order to have invincible powers worshiped Lord Shiva in the Kailash. In the same process, to please the almighty he offered his ten heads in the havan kund. Influenced by this extra ordinary deed of the Ravana, the Lord Shiva not only restored his heads but also bestowed him with powers of invincibility and immortality.

On attaining this incomparable boon, Ravana also requested Lord Shiva to accompany him to Lanka. Shiva consented to the request of Ravana and converted himself into Shivling. Then Lord Shiva asked him to carry the Shivling and warned him that he should not place the Shivling down on the ground on his way. Ravana started moving south towards Lanka and reached Baijnath where he felt the need to answer the nature’s call. On seeing a shepherd, Ravana handed over the Shivling to him and went away to get himself relieved. On finding the Shivling very heavy, the shepherd put the linga on the ground and thus the Shivling got established there and the same is in the form of Ardhnarishwar (God in form of Half Male & Half Female).

In the town of Baijnath, Dussehra festival in which traditionally the effigy of the Ravana is consigned to flames,celebrated all over the country is not celebrated as a mark of respect to the devotion of Ravana towards Lord Shiva. Another interesting thing about the town of Baijnath is that there are no shops of goldsmiths here .

Another version also suggests that while Ravana was descending from the Himalayas with the Shivling Lord Shiva had awarded him after years of worship which was supposed to be established at Lanka, now Sri Lanka, which would have blessed him (Ravana) with undefeatable powers even to the Gods which was not to be placed anywhere during the course of travel, even during resting, Ravana was tricked by one of the Devas (Gods), who posed as a beggar and wanted help from Ravana and promised to hold the Shivling for him while he (Ravana) could fetch some food for the beggar. The Deva posing as beggar placed the Shivling on ground, in absence of Ravana. The Shiva idol or the Shivling at Baijnath temple is the same Shivling which was placed by the Deva after tricking Ravana.


The Baijnath temple has been continuously under worship ever since its construction in 1204 A.D. The two long inscriptions in the porch of the temple indicate that a temple of Shiva existed on the spot even before the present one was constructed. The present temple is a beautiful example of the early medieval north Indian Temple architecture known as Nagara style of temples. The Svayambhu form of Sivalinga is enshrined in the sanctum of the temple that has five projections on each side and is surmounted with a tall curvilinear Shikhara. The entrance to sanctum is through a vestibule that has a large square "Mandapa" in front with two massive balconies one each in north and south. There is a small porch in front of the mandapa hall that rests on four pillars in the front preceded by an idol of "Nandi", the bull, in a small pillared shrine. The whole temple is enclosed by a high wall with entrances in the south and north. The outer walls of the temple have several niches with images of gods and goddesses. Numerous images are also fixed or carved in the walls. The outer doorway in the porch as also the inner doorway leading to the sanctum of the temple are also studded with a large number of images of great beauty and iconographic importance. Some of them are very rare to be found elsewhere.

The temple attracts a large number of tourists and pilgrims from all over India and abroad throughout the year. Special prayers are offered in the morning and evening every day besides on special occasions and during festive seasons. Makara Sankranti, Maha Shivaratri, Vaisakha Sankranti, Shravana Mondays, etc. are celebrated with great zeal and splendour. A five-day state level function is held here on Maha Shivratri every year.

History

Baijnath is famous for its 13th-century temple dedicated to Shiva as Vaidyanath, ‘the Lord of physicians’. The history of the ancient Baijnath Temple is hazy and the two long inscriptions fixed in the walls of the mandapa of the temple gives us account of the temple. The temple was built in Saka 1126 (CE 1204)by two brothers Manyuka and Ahuka in devolution to Lord Vaidyanatha. The inscriptions tell us that a Sivalinga known as Vaidyanatha already existed on the spot but was without a proper house so the present temple and a porch in its front was constructed.

The history of the temple itself is given in the two long inscriptions fixed in the walls of the mandapa of the temple. Accordingly we are told that Kiragrama (modern Baijnath) situated on the bank of the river Binduka was a part of Trigarta (the territory lying between the rivers Ravi and Satluj, roughly represented by districts of Kangra and Jalandhar) under the suzerainty of king Jayachandra, the overlord of Jalandhara. Under him a Rajanaka (local chief) Lakshmanachandra, who was matrimonially related to Jayachandra from his mother’s side, was ruling over Kiragrama. Genealogy of Lakshmanachandra is given in these inscriptions. [2]

At Kiragrama resided two brothers, Manyuka and Ahuka, sons of a merchant named Siddha. Their genealogy up to fourth generation is also mentioned in the inscriptions. They out of their devotion to Siva Vaidyanatha constructed the temple under discussion in Saka 1126 (CE 1204). They also donated a machine for extracting oil, a shop and some land in the village called Navagrama (modern Nauri near Baijnath) to the temple. The Rajanaka Lakshmanachandra and his mother also made some donations to the temple in the form of money and land respectively. [3]

The inscriptions tell us that a Sivalinga known as Vaidyanatha already existed on the spot but was without a proper house so the present temple and a porch in its front was constructed. It clearly indicates that a shrine already in existed on the spot before the construction of the present temple.

What happened to the shrine in the centuries that followed is not exactly known but it appears to have continued under worship, as there is clear evidence of repairs and renovations from time to time. In the 18 th century Sansara Chandra II, the Katoch king of Kangra, carried out extensive repairs and renovations of the temple. Alexander Cunningham noticed an inscription of 1786 in the temple referring to its renovations by Sansara Chandra. An inscription on the wooden doors of the sanctum of the temple provides the date as samvat 1840 (AD 1783) that is very near to Cunningham’s date. [4]

The devastating earthquake that shook the entire region of Kangra on 4 th April 1905 also caused damage to the shrine, which has been reported by J. Ph. Vogel and has since been repaired. At present the temple is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India but the performance of worship and rituals are under a local board at Baijnath with SDM as its chairman. The hereditary priests continue to get a share of the offerings. [5]

Dr Naval Viyogi[6] writes that the mention of the word Kiragrama in the inscription of Baijnath temple shows that Kiragrama was the local name of this village[7]. In the local language meaning of kiragrama is 'the village of serpent or Naga race'. It means in ancient times this village was inhabited by the nagas. The word kir means serpent.

Archaeology of Baijnath temple

The antiquity of the temple and its continuous patronage and worship is attested by a number of inscriptions found within the temple complex. The most important are the two long inscriptions written in Sanskrit language and Sharada script engraved on stone slabs fixed in the northern and southern walls of the main hall (mandapa) of the temple. They provide details of the construction of this temple in Saka year 1126 (AD 1204) by two merchant brothers Manyuka and Ahuka. The genealogy of the local rulers, name of the sovereign ruler Jayachandra, names of the architects of the temple, Nayaka son of Asika and Thoduka both from Susarmapura (modern Kangra) and the genealogy of the donor merchants is mentioned in these inscriptions besides the verses in praise of the god Siva. The text and translation of the inscriptions are available on official site of the temple. [8]

Baijnath Shiva (Viadyanatha) temple Inscription Saka samvat 1126 (1204 AD)

Brief description of names and places appearing in text of Inscriptions is given below for ready reference of the readers. Genealogy of Lakshmanachandra is also given in these inscriptions.

1. Bainath Shiva (Viadyanatha) temple (left hand wall of porch) Inscription Saka samvat 1126 (1204 AD) tells mentions:

  • (V.8 L.9): Two brothers Manyuka (मन्युक) and Ahuka (आहुक)
  • (V.10 L.10,11): Village Kiragrama (कीरग्राम) in Trigarta (त्रिगर्त), rivulet Binduka (बिन्दुक), Rajanaka Lakshamana (राजानक लक्ष्मण)
  • (V.11-18): Genealogy Rajanaka Kanda (राजानक कन्द) → Buddha (बुद्ध) → Uddhura (उदधुर ) → Vigraha (विग्रह) → Brahma (ब्रह्म) → Dombaka (डोंबक) → Bhuvana (भुवन) → Kalhana (कल्हण) → Bilhana (बिल्हण) (wife:Lakshanika D/O Hridyachandra of Trigarta) → Rama + Lakshmana
  • (V.22-23): When Lakshmanachandra's wife Mayatalla was protecting the village Kiragrama, there lived two sons Manyuka and Ahuka sons of merchant Siddha.
  • (V.28) : Four ancestors of Manyuka and Ahuka - Suhila, Pahila, Kahila and Siddha
  • (V.31) : Lakshna mother of Rajanaka donated land from village Pralamba to Shiva
  • (V.34) : Manyuka and Ahuka donated 4 hala cultivable land from village Navagrama for Shiva.
  • (V.37) : Bhringaka's (भृंगक) son created this eulogy, eulogy engraved by Guhaka of the region of Chabedha (चबेढ़), the land of Shiva.

2. Bainath Shiva (Viadyanatha) temple (right hand wall of porch) Inscription Saka 1126 AD (1204 AD) of Jayachandra mentions:

  • V.1-20: Contain eulogy of Shiva and Parvati. No historical content.
  • V.21: Rajanala Lakshmanachadra
  • V.27: Merchant named Manyuka, S/O Siddha, his mother Chinna
  • V.28: His younger brother Ahuka, his wife Gulha
  • V.30: Rich merchant Manyuka
  • V.31: In Susharmapura lives brahman named Ralhana S/O Asuka
  • V.32: Donation of two dronas paddy to Shiva from village Navagrama
  • V.33: Ganeshvara S/O Brahman Govinda donated 2 hala land to temple
  • V.34: Merchant Jivaka S/O Devika and Malhika donate land to temple
  • V.35: Shiva temple constructed by Manyuka and Ahuka
  • V.38: Poet Rama S/O Shrangara and Bhringaka composed eulogy.
  • V.39: On the first Lunar Day of the bright fortnight of month Jyeshtha ,when the 80th year has been completed during the reign of Jayachandra, Eulogistic poem composed by Rama on day of Sun. Elapsed year of the Saka era 1126

Other short inscriptions at Baijnath

Besides these two inscriptions there are a number of short inscriptions engraved on the pillars in the main hall of the temple. Most of them are of late date written in Takari script and local pahari dialect. They record the names of various donors and pilgrims, such as Bhatta Durgadasa, Bhatta Prabhakara, Thakur Parmaaraka son of Thakur Karama Simha, etc. One inscription gives the name of Nagarakota i.e. Kangra. Since the purpose of these inscriptions is not recorded it is difficult to give any definite view. Of special interest is an inscription on the wooden doors of the sanctum dated in samvat 1840 (AD 1783) of the time of Sansara Chandra II, when extensive repairs were carried out to the temple. [9] Besides these two inscriptions there are a number of short inscriptions engraved on the pillars in the main hall of the temple. Most of them are of late date written in Takari script and local pahari dialect. They record the names of various donors and pilgrims, such as Bhatta Durgadasa, Bhatta Prabhakara, Thakur Parmaaraka son of Thakur Karama Simha, etc. One inscription gives the name of Nagarakota i.e. Kangra. Since the purpose of these inscriptions is not recorded it is difficult to give any definite view. Of special interest is an inscription on the wooden doors of the sanctum dated in samvat 1840 (AD 1783) of the time of Sansara Chandra II, when extensive repairs were carried out to the temple. [10]

British Archaeologist Alexander Cunningham noticed an inscription of 1786 in the temple referring to its renovations by king Sansara Chandra. An inscription on the wooden doors of the sanctum of the temple provides the date as samvat 1840 (AD 1783) that is very near to Cunningham’s date. The devastating earthquake that shook the entire region of Kangra on 4 th April 1905 also caused damage to the shrine, which has been reported by J. Ph. Vogel and has since been repaired. At present the temple is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey of India but the performance of worship and rituals are under a local board at Baijnath with SDM as its chairman. The hereditary priests continue to get a share of the offerings.[11]

See also

References


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