Vaidyanath Siva Temple, Baijnath
Baijnath (32° 3’ North lat. And 76° 41’ East long.), a small township in the Dhauladhar range of western Himalayas, 16 km from Palampur in the Kangra District of Himachal Pradesh is famous for its 13th century temple dedicated to Siva as Vaidyanath, ‘the Lord of physicians’. Originally known as Kiragrama, the town lies on Pathankot-Chakki-Manali highway (National Highway No. 20) almost midway between Kangra and Mandi. The present name Baijnath became popular after the name of the temple. The town is located on the left bank of the river Binwa, a corrupt form of ancient Binduka, a tributary of river Beas.
The Baijnath temple has been continuously under worship ever since its construction in 1204 A.D. by two local merchants named Ahuka and Manyuka. The two long inscriptions in the porch of the temple indicate that a temple of Siva existed on the spot even before the present one was constructed. The present temple is a beautiful example of the early medieval north Indian temple architecture known as Nagara style of temples. The Svayambhu form of Sivalinga is enshrined in the sanctum of the temple that has five projections on each side and is surmounted with a tall curvilinear Shikhara. The entrance to sanctum is through a vestibule that has a large square Mandapa in front with two massive balconies one each in north and south. There is a small porch in front of the mandapa hall that rests on four pillars in the front preceded by an idol of Nandi, the bull, in a small pillared shrine. The whole temple is enclosed by a high wall with entrances in the south and north. The outer walls of the temple have several niches with images of gods and goddesses. Numerous images are also fixed or carved in the walls. The outer doorway in the porch as also the inner doorway leading to the sanctum of the temple are also studded with a large number of images of great beauty and iconographic importance. Some of them are very rare to be found elsewhere.
The temple attracts a large number of tourists and pilgrims from allover India and abroad through out the year. Special prayers are offered in the morning and evening every day besides on special occasions and during festive seasons. Makara Sankranti, Maha Shivaratri, Vaisakha Sankranti, Shravana Mondays, etc. are celebrated with great zeal and splendor. A five day state level function is held here on Maha Shivratri every year.
Besides this temple there are other ancient shrines in and around the place such as Mahakala temple complex that has recently been renovated, the Sidhanath temple, Mukutanath temple etc. Besides the serene surroundings and salubrious climate of middle range hills of Baijnath, tourists interested in adventure can also enjoy paragliding at nearby (about 10 km) Bir and go for trekking in the region.