Jwala Devi Temple – Maa Jwalaji Mandir

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Jwala Devi Temple- Maa Jwalamukhi Devi Temple

The best known Jwala Ji shrine is located in the city of Jawalamukhi, in the lower Himalayas of the Kangra district, in the state of Himachal Pradesh, India. The shrine is about 56 kilometers from the largest city of Dharamsala. The style of the temple is typical of the Jwala Ji shrines: four-cornered, with a small dome at the top and a central square hollowed-out stone well inside where the main flame burns continuously. A fair is held around the temple annually in July or August, during Navratras.

The temple had an associated library of ancient Hindu texts, many of which were translated from Sanskrit to Persian by order of Firuz Shah Tughlaq when the Delhi Sultanate invaded the Kangra area.

According to legend, when Sati’s body split into 51 parts, her tongue fell into the Jawalamukhi area and is still represented by flames. Along with his tongue, the flames of Sati’s yogic power also fell to the spot. Some legends say that Sati’s clothes also fell here; that when they fell they were on fire and the fire has never been quenched. Near this area, the eternal flames continue to burn in a natural cave. Some say that there are seven or nine flames for the seven divine sisters or the nine Durgas.

Besides Vaishno Devi, Jwalaji or Jwala Mukhi is probably the oldest temple mentioned by the Mahabharata and other scriptures.

Maa JwalaMukhi is the family goddess or Kuldevi of Lakhanpals, Thakurs, Gujrals and Bhatias. Dhyanu Bhagat or Bhakti Mein Shakti (1978), an Indian drama film, portrays the local legend of the holy Dhyanu and his conflict with a Mughal emperor who is said to have visited this temple.


The legend

Ancient legends tell of a time when demons ruled the Himalayan mountains and harassed the gods. Led by Lord Vishnu, the gods decided to destroy the demons. They concentrated their forces and huge flames rose from the ground. From that fire a girl was born. She is considered Adishakti – the first ‘shakti’.

Known as Sati, the girl grew up in the home of Prajapati Daksha and later became the consort of Lord Shiva. When her father insulted Lord Shiva, she could not accept this and consequently committed suicide. When Lord Shiva learned of the death of his wife, his rage knew no bounds; and, holding the body of Sati, she began to stalk the three worlds. The other gods trembled at her anger and asked Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu released a sudarshan chakra that struck Sati’s body and broke it into pieces. In the places where the pieces fell, the fifty-one sacred ‘Shaktipeeths’ arose. “Sati’s tongue fell on Jawalaji (610 m) and the goddess manifests as small flames burning flawless blue through fissures in the ancient rock.”

According to legend, centuries ago a shepherd discovered that one of his cows was always without milk. He followed the cow to find out the cause. He saw a girl coming out of the forest drinking cow’s milk and then disappearing in a flash of light. The shepherd approached the king and told him the story. The king was aware of the legend that the tongue of Sati had fallen in this area. The king tried unsuccessfully to find that holy place. A few years later, the shepherd returned to the king to inform him that he had seen a flame burning in the mountains. The king found the place and had a darshan of the holy flame. He had a temple built there by Raja Bhumi Chand and arranged for the priests to participate in regular worship. It is believed that the Pandavas came later and renovated the temple. The popular song titled “Panjan Panjan Pandavan Tera Bhawan Banaya” testifies to this belief.

Jawalamukhi has been a pilgrimage center for many years. According to a legend, the Mughal emperor came to this Jwala Mandir after the battle of Noorpur and Chamba Akbar. Akbar once tried to put out the flames by covering them with an iron disk and even channeled water into them. But the flames overcame all these efforts. Akbar then destroyed the temple and had the priests and other devotees killed. After this, the King of Chamba built the temple. Maharaja Ranjit Singh installed a golden umbrella  and Sher Singh decorated the doors with silver. Thousands of pilgrims continue to visit the sanctuary throughout the year.

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