We were sure we didn’t want to budge from the premises of Grand Oak Manor when in Binsar, but Sindhu, the owner, insisted we go see the cluster of Jageshwar temples some 60 kms downhill. That discouraged us even more, for 60 kms in the hills is about 2 and a half hours one way. Plus, for us, religion is not about visiting temples, and we get seriously scared by the sea of crowd in the Indian temples. But Sindhu persisted with the reasoning that the temples were known for their architecture and history too. And so we gave in and gave the Jageshwartrip one precious day. And our cab driver told us that enroute we could see a few more interesting places as well. So be it, we said…
Jageshwar Temples: Jageshwar is actually a cluster of about 120 temples dedicated to numerous Gods, chief among them being Shiva. Famous for its Jyotirlings, Jageshwar draws pilgrims from every part of the country. It in fact is regarded as one of the Dhams, pilgrimages, in the country. The temples are one of the oldest in the country, dating back to about 2500 years.
Dandeshwar Temples: And then are the Dandeshwar temples, a little ahead of the Jageshwar temples. A cluster of 13-14 temples only and touted to be one of the biggest and tallest, we liked Dandeshwar more as there was absolutely no crowd here. Upon seeing us, a Purohit did come in the hope that we would offer prayers, but sensing our disinterest, wandered away. We spent a great deal of time loitering around the premises thinking how temples can be a wonderful place without a flood of devotees and the accompanying noise and nuisance. The deohar trees in the hills behind provide a lovely view, and you at one feel like going for a trek. We were told that many tourists come here for the treks too. Once upon a time the temple housed a very popular and expensive bronze status of Pona Raja. It has been shifted to the Museum for safety now.
Archaeological Museum: While at the temples site, make sure you also go to the archaeological museum that houses the actual sculpture of the deities in the Jageshwar and the Dandeshwar temples. The statues have been taken from the temples and housed in the high security museum owing to the risks from smugglers. In fact, the guide will tell you stories how the Pona Raja statue from Dandeshwar Temple had been stolen but had been recovered from the Delhi airport just when it was about to be shipped out.
Early-Man Caves: A half an hour drive from Jageshwar Temple will bring to the hill that has the caves with inscriptions from early man times. Stop by for a quick peek and photo.
Ghanta Mandir: Here was a mandir that was unlike any other we had seen until now– a temple that was full of bells of all sizes….made of brass, of varying thickness, their sounds carry deep into the forests. We went about ringing all of them – big- small, high-low, light-heavy and we’re thrilled by the sounds they produced.
The restaurant opposite Ghanta Mandir is also where we had our lunch. Not clean and good by any standards, but this was the best that we found in the entire route. By then, close to 3pm, we were famished and on the verge of begging. The only good thing about the restaurant, was that food was fresh. Jayanta ate paneer and tandoori roti, while I and our daughter made do with plain rice and anchar.