Deity: Jwala Devi (a form of Shakti)
Location: At a distance of 34 kms in south of Kangra
Built by: Raja Bhumi Chand Katoch
Also known as: Flaming Goddess, Jwalamukhi Devi
Attraction: Nine flames that are burning without fuel
Significance: One of the 51 Shakti Peethas
Dedicated to the “Goddess of Light“, the Jwala Devi temple is one of the most popular Hindu temples in Northern India, the temple located on a small spur on the Dharamshala-Shimla road at a distance of about 20-kms from the Jwalamukhi Road. Railway Station attracts lakhs of pilgrims every year. In this temple there is a copper pipe through which natural gas comes out.
Recognized as one of the 51 Shaktipeeths of India, the Jwala Devi Temple, tended by the followers of Goraknath, is set against a cliff. The picturesque temple, built in the Indo-Sikh style, is a modern building whose dome is of gilt, gold and pinnacles and possesses a beautiful folding door of silver plates, presented by the Sikh Raja Kharak Singh. It is situated in the town of Jwalamukhi in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.
Ancient legends speak of a time when demons lorded over the Himalayan Mountains and harassed the gods. Led by Lord Vishnu, the gods decided to destroy them. The gods focused their strengths inane huge flame which rose from the earth. From the fire, a young girl look birth. She is regarded as Adishakti the first ‘Shakti’.
Known as Sati or Parvati, she grew up in the house of Prajapati Daksha and later became the consort of Lord Shiva. Once her father insulted Lord Shiva and unable to accept this, she killed herself. When Lord Shiva heard of his wife’s death his rage knew no bounds and holding Sati’s body he began stalking the three worlds. The other gods trembled before His wrath and appealed to Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu let fly a volley of arrows which struck Sati’s body and severed it to pieces. At the places where the pieces fell, the fifty-one sacred Shaktipeeths came into being.
Sati’s tongue fell at Jwalaji (610m) and the goddess is manifest as tiny flame that burns flawless blue through fissures in the age-old rock. Even the Pandavas are regarded to have visited this sacred place. In the early times, people tried to explore the fact behind these burning flames, but nothing substantial was made out. These flames are burning due to some natural jets of combustible gas. The temple came to be known as the Jwala Devi Mandir. In this temple, there is no idol because the Goddess is considered to be residing in the form of flames. This temple has nine ceaseless flames that are named as Mahakali, Annapurna, Chandi, Hinglaj, Vindhya Vasini, Mahalakshmi, Saraswati, Ambika and Anji Devi respectively.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh paid a visit to the temple in 1815 and the dome of the temple was gold-plated by him. Just a few feet above the Jwalamukhi temple there is a six-feet deep pit with a circumference of about three-feet. At the bottom of this pit there is another small pit about one and a half feet deep with hot water bubbling all the time. There is a small platform in front of the temple and a (check usage) big mandap where a huge brass bell presented by the King of Nepal is hung. Usually milk and water are offered and the ahutis or oblations are offered to the sacred flames in the pit, situated in the centre of the temple in between the floor pillars supporting the roof. The building is modern with a gilt dome and pinnacles, and possesses a beautiful folding door of silver plates.
The main attraction of the temple is the Aarti session, which is performed five times a day that begins early morning then at sun rise, afternoon, evening and continues till bed time of the goddesses. Apart from these, the evening Aarti (Shaiyan Aarti), performed before bed time is unique and different. The bed of the Goddesses is piled up with rich dresses decorated with precious ornaments. Tourists from all over the state throng to the temple to attend the grand ‘Puja’. During the Puja ceremony the goddesses are offered Bhog (food) that comprises of milk, sweets, fruits etc.
Legend about Akbar, the Mughal Emperor:
During the ruling period of Akbar, he learned about the legends of Jwalamukhi. In a fit of anger, he tried to douse the flames with a stream of water. The great power of the Goddess, still kept the flames burning. Realizing the power of Jwala Devi, Akbar came with his army to this temple. He brought a Gold umbrella (Chatra) for the Goddess, but on offering, the umbrella turned into an unknown metal suggesting that the Goddess didn’t accept his offering.
Being an important pilgrimage of the Hindus, devotees come to this temple in large numbers. During the days of Navaratri, the temple is thronged by countless number of devotees. Colourful fairs are also organized for the period of Navaratri in March-April and Sep-October. Earlier, this temple was administered by the descendants of Raja. After Independence, this temple was declared as the site of Cultural Heritage and that time onwards, it is under the management of the Government.
How to reach:
By Air: The nearest airport at Gaggal in Himachal Pradesh is 50 km from Jwalaji.Chandigarh Airport is about 200 Kms.National & International Airport is at the national capital Delhi is about 480 Kms.
By Rail: The nearest narrow-gauge railhead is Jawalaji road Ranital at a distance of 20 km from the shrine.
By Road: One can easily reach Jwala Devi Temple by taking regular Buses or by hiring Taxis from Kangra, Himachal Pradesh. This all is hilly area with a beautiful scenic view all along the valley.