Set among the deodars, the temples at Jageshwar should be an essential part of your itinerary in the Kumaon
There is something about temples in the rains that makes them beautiful beyond words, especially old temples from another era. The temples of Jageshwar in Uttarakhand come into their own in the monsoon. That’s not to say they are not stunning otherwise, but the rain does bring another dimension of otherworldliness into play.
Considered to be one of the 12 jyotirlings of Lord Shiva on the ancient route to Kailash Mansarovar, the stacked-stone temples of Jageshwar in the Kumaon district are gorgeous. You reach them by driving down winding roads flanked on either side by towering deodars, and these trees themselves add to the mysticism of the journey.
The complex at Jageshwar cocoons 125 small and big temples. These were first built in wood between the 17th and 18th centuries by the Katyuri rulers, and restored in stone by the Chand Dynasty. Many of them are working places of worship; priests will perform the ceremonies you would like. Many of the larger structures are topped by metal caps – part of the efforts of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to protect them from snow and rain.
In fact, as part of that conservation effort, many of the idols and sculptures from this complex at Jageshwar and and another group nearby – the lesser-known but striking Dandeshwar Temples – have been moved to the Archaeology Museum Jageshwar in close vicinity to the eponymous set. This simple low-lying structure, set up in 2002, is a treasure trove. Here, you will find such treasures as a Shiva in a seated pose, a striking 9th-century Pona Raja bronze sculpture, and an intricate Nava Gruha panel from the 12th century. The oldest stone sculpture in the establishment dates back to the 8th century.
And, if you are still hungry for archaeological treats, another lies on your way back towards Almora. A group of 44 richly-carved temples is cocooned in the town of Dwarahat, also known as Uttari Dwaraka, after the abode of Lord Krishna. Sited among modern-day dwellings, these temples date back to the 10th and 12th centuries, and are fenced off to keep you from getting too close. But, even through the railings, you cannot fail to be impressed by the detailing and intricacy of the carving.
Where to stay: Van Serai makes a comfortable base to stay overnight while visiting the temples. Expect cosy, eclectic rooms and delicious meals at the conservatory-style dining room, with beautiful views of the deodars.
Getting there: The nearest metro is New Delhi, and the nearest city is Almora. You can fly into New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport, and drive anything from 10 to 12 hours to get to Jageshwar. You also have the option of flying into Pantnagar Airport (149 km away) from New Delhi, and then driving to Jageshwar, but flight options are admittedly limited. Kathgodam Railway Station is the nearest railhead; it takes about four hours then to drive to Jageshwar.
Also Read: Magical In The Rain: Explore Hassan in Karnataka