Shiva temple in Baijnath, India

Shiva temple

Shiva Temple in Baijnath is a 13th century Hindu temple dedicated to God Shiva, the place where Shiva danced, India.

Not far from the small overcrowded town of Baijnath is the Shiva Temple, attracting tourists from all over the world. This temple is one of the most famous and ancient shrines of Shiva in the world.

Legend has it that this temple was built during the time of the Mahabharata and was built by the world’s first Shivaite. Since Shivaism is the oldest of all religions in existence today, it can be said with some certainty that the shrine at Baijnath is one of the first temples in the world.

In fact, from the first version of the temple only the altar with the stone lingam, the sacred phallic symbol of Shiva, remains. This sculpture, according to historians, was made more than five thousand years ago.

The temple took the appearance it has today in 1204 thanks to the efforts of two local merchants who decided to restore the dilapidated temple of Shiva. Around the lingam a nagara-style building was erected, which was very popular at the time. The main sanctuary is also shaped like a phallus, which is remarkably preserved from those times. The restorers were not lazy to make tablets on which they recorded the past history of the temple – in particular, the fact that the first temple of Shiva was built on this very spot many thousands of years ago.

According to some researchers, it was in this temple that the tradition of lingam worship originated, which later spread throughout India and the world. The Eastern Slavs, for example, are familiar with a highly transformed version of one of the Shivaite rituals consisting in the symbolic eating of the lingam – this is the well-known Orthodox holiday of Easter.

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Around the large lingam yoni there are also small cells for the ritual smoking of hashish in complete privacy. Speaking of hashish: this temple can literally be found by smell. Shivaite pilgrims burn hashish with incense in exorbitant quantities in front of the stone phallus, and therefore the smell of cannabis can be heard several hundred meters away. The effect is further enhanced by the fact that cannabis grows literally everywhere in this place, despite the fierce struggle against it by the secular authorities of India.

These small smoking lingam temples are wrapped in symbolic Kundalini snakes. While the lingam symbolizes the masculine, the kundalini symbolizes the feminine. When they unite, they bring enlightenment to the shivaite-tantrivas. The ritual of smoking hashish at the shrine is mandatory for every pilgrim.

At the entrance to the temple stands a statue of Nandi, a riding bull of Shiva, who is considered the sacred guardian of the sacred bell. By striking this bell, each pilgrim notifies Lord Shiva of his arrival at his abode. The building, both inside and out, is profusely decorated with statues in wall niches. Most depict Shiva in various guises, but Durga, the consort of Shiva, Vishnu, Ganesha, the son of Shiva, and other deities are also found.

In addition to the statues of deities, the temple is also generously decorated with ornaments and stucco depicting plants, animals and various natural phenomena. Such motifs are not uncommon in the temples of Shiva, symbolizing cosmic balance and thus unity with nature.

The temple was also formerly adorned with frescoes depicting the dance of Shiva to be performed by pilgrims, but only unrecognizable remnants of them have survived to this day. Nevertheless, the zealous Shivaites leave here illustrated manuals, thanks to which anyone can, without prior preparation, praise Shiva in his cosmic dance.

This temple is a kind of Shivaite Mecca – every worshipper of Lord Shiva is obliged during his earthly life to visit the house of the Destroyer and personally testify his reverence before him.

Those who are no strangers to the beliefs and customs of the Guardians of Equilibrium will appreciate this trip. However, a visit to the temple will also be of interest to devotees of Indian history, theologians and simply tourists who wish to taste India in its entirety.

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Shiva temple

Shiva Temple

Baijnath is a small town in northern India, in the state of Himachal Pradesh. It would probably be one of thousands of other inconspicuous settlements in the country were it not for the famous 13th-century Shiva Temple, a place of pilgrimage worship and a tourist attraction.

It is not known exactly when the first temple of the god Shiva was built on this site in Baijnath, but its lingam is estimated by researchers to be at least 5,000 years old. The old temple was probably destroyed, and in the early 13th century two local merchants accidentally stumbled upon its ruins. They could not leave the sanctuary as it was and set about restoring it. In 1204, the new temple began accepting pilgrims and since then, for over 900 years, they have been coming here to worship Shiva. The temple is also called “Vaidyanath”, which means “lord of doctors”, one of the hypostases of the god, and therefore many visitors hope for a miraculous recovery from illnesses.



The temple stands on the northern slope of the mountain, with a river running beneath it, making the structure itself even more picturesque. The entire complex, surrounded by a wall, measures 36.5 m long and 21 m wide. Square halls for rituals with beautiful balconies are located in its northern and southern parts. The main entrance, after a small staircase, has no door, as in all Shiva temples. It is guarded by statues of Ganapati and Hanuman. The sharp dome of the main building towers over the Kangra valley and can be seen from afar. The facade of the temple is decorated with numerous bas-reliefs, slightly erased by time, but quite distinguishable. Most of them are floral ornaments, as well as images of animals. In small niches installed statues of Shiva, his wife, children and other Hindu gods.

Previously, there were frescoes of Shiva’s dance on the facade, and pilgrims were supposed to replicate it. Now they are barely visible, but for those who want to dance enterprising Shivaites prepared booklets with detailed illustrations of all the pas. In addition to the main temple building, there are several smaller shrines in the courtyard, in particular Nandi mandapa with a seven-tiered pyramidal roof topped by an amalaka supported by four columns.

Hawa Mahal or Palace of the Winds, photo and description


According to legend, Shiva at times rode on a bull named Nandi. He is revered as a sacred animal, and the temple, in addition to his own mandapa, also has a beautiful sculpture of a bull in a pose of worship to his master. This sculpture is the first thing a visitor to the temple sees as he enters the path leading to it. It is believed that Nandi guards the bell, which must be struck by every pilgrim who comes here. Considering that there are always plenty of visitors here, the sound of the bell is almost incessant.

Nandi Bull

The main place in the temple is its sanctuary, the garbhagriha. In the temple of Shiva at Baijnath, an ancient lingam, a phallic symbol of the god’s presence on earth, is placed here. Its ceiling is decorated with drawings of lanterns with a lotus rosette in the center. At floor level, a white marble jonipita is made around the lingam with a drawing of a snake on the outside. It leads to the holy water spring overlooking the north wall. A silver figure of a snake with a raised hood wraps around the lingam. The interior of the temple also includes many bas-reliefs and images of the gods. The builders of the temple were not lazy to reflect its history in the stone inscriptions carved on the walls, so if you are familiar with Sanskrit, you can try to read these writings. There is plenty of space for prayers, despite the temple’s modest exterior, and fresh air and daylight enter the hall through the mandapas.


Smoking Rooms

Not everyone understands the purpose of the tiny cells around the temple, and yet they are the rooms for smoking hashish. Not long ago, every visitor to the shrine was obliged to take a puff. Now the rules have been relaxed, but it is not at all clear how these cells continue to exist in spite of the fierce struggle of the secular authorities against smoking hashish.

Lost Temples of India, photo and description

Smoking Rooms

How to get there?

The town of Baijnath is located on the route of the Pathankot-Chakki-Manali Highway 20, halfway between Kangra and Mandi, so it’s very convenient to get here by car. By public transport to the temple of Shiva in Baijnath have to go through the town of Pathankot, it has a railway station and a small airport. From Pathankot, there is a train and a bus to Baijnath.

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