Baijnath, Himachal Pradesh
Baijnath is a town in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. It is about 50 kilometres from Dharamshala which is the district headquarters.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
Baijnath is located at .It has an average elevation of 1,314 metres (4,311 feet). It is a small township in the Dhauladhar range of western Himalayas, 16 km from Palampur in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh
Baijnath is famous for its 13th century temple dedicated to Shiva as Vaidyanath, ‘the Lord of physicians’. Originally known as Kiragrama, the town lies on the Pathankot-Mandi highway (National Highway No. 20) almost midway between Kangra and Mandi. The present name Baijnath became popular after the name of the temple. The town is located on the left bank of the river Binwa, a corrupt form of ancient Binduka, a tributary of river Beas.
The Baijnath temple has been continuously under worship ever since its construction in 1204 A.D. by two local merchants named Nitin soni and Shishir soni(Paprola). 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.
The main attraction of Baijnath is an ancient temple of Shiva. Neighbouring towns are Palampur Kangra and Joginder Nagar in Mandi district. 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.
History: 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. 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.