Jwala Devi temple is a Hindu temple located in the base town of Jawala Mukhi in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh. Dedicated to the Hindu goddess Jwala (flame), the temple is probably one of the most ancient temples in India and also finds a mention in Mahabharata and other ancient scriptures.
The term ‘Jwala’ means “flame” in Sanskrit and ‘ji’ an honorific term used in the Indian subcontinent. Goddess Jwala is also referred to as Mata Jwala Ji or Mata Jwala Mukhi Ji. Unlike other temples, Jwala Devi temple doesn’t have a statue or an image that is worshiped, but instead, people worship the burning blue flames that seems to emerge from the rocks and are believed to be burning incessantly since its known history.
At the Jwala Devi temple, the emanating flames are worshiped as the manifestations of the different forms of Goddess Jwala Maa such as Maha Kali, Annapurna, Chandi, Hinglaj, Vindhyavasini, Maha Lakshmi, Maha Saraswati, Maa Ambika and Anjana Devi.
History behind the eternal flames of Jwala Ji
The legend of the Jwala Devi temple refers to Goddess Sati – the daughter of Prajapati Daksha (son of Lord Bhrama) and wife of Lord Shiva.
According to some legends, Sati immolated herself, bereaved at her husband – Lord Shiva’s insult by her father. In a fit of rage on losing his wife, an angry Shiva performed the fearsome and awe-inspiring Tandava dance, carrying Sati’s charred body on his shoulders. During this fierce dance, Sati’s body came apart and the pieces fell at different places on earth.
According to another popular version, Lord Shiva placed Sati’s body on his shoulder and ran around the world, crazed with grief. Seeing his irrepressible condition, the Gods called upon the supreme god – Lord Vishnu to restore Shiva to normalcy and calm him down. Lord Vishnu used his Sudarshana Chakra (a spinning, disk-like weapon) to dismember Sati’s lifeless body, following which Shiva regained his equanimity.
Both versions state that Sati’s body was thus dismembered into 51 pieces which fell at various places on earth. These places came to be known as Shaktipeeths. It is believed that Sati’s tongue fell at the place where Jwala Ji temple is located, and the goddess manifests as tiny flames that burn a flawless blue through fissures in the age-old rocks.
History of Jwala Ji temple
The original temple is believed to be first built by King Raja Bhumi Chandra who on the complaint of a cowherd, tried to seek the place from where a woman emerged and drank milk from his cow. Since the king was aware of the legend of Sati, he continued his search for the place and finally succeeded. He constructed a temple there and employed priests to perform the puja (prayer). Later, it is also reported that the Pandavas came and carried out some renovation work in the temple.
The modern building of the temple is designed with a gilt dome and pinnacles and possesses a beautiful folding door made up of silver plates, presented by Maharaja Kharak Singh. His father, Maharaja Ranjit Singh is believed to have presented the gilt roof in 1815 AD.
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