Varanasi or Kashi has a corner for each community of India. Members of the community come here to worship, to stay as pilgrims, or to be just in a familiar environment. In my last Varanasi trip, I had the opportunity to visit Jangamwadi Mutt or Math. This is a unique Mutt belonging to people who come primarily from Karnataka and Maharashtra. They are the followers of Veer Shaiva philosophy. They worship Shivalingas and nothing but the Shivalingas. You have to visit the place once to know what Shivalinga means to the followers of this sect.
History of Jangamwadi Mutt
It is one of the oldest Mutts in Varanasi. Literature dates it back to Satyuga – first of the four Yugas in Hindu timeframe. The documented historical records date back to 8th CE. However, it is hard to verify the exact date. It is said that Raja Jaichand donated land for this Mutt that has seen an unbroken lineage of 86 Jagatgurus. Present Peethadhipati or the Guru of the Peeth is Shri Jagadguru Chandrashekhar Shivacharya Mahaswami. The Mutt has seen women Gurus like Dharma Guru Sharnamma.
Visiting Jangamwadi Mutt
I entered the gate that announced Shri 1008 Jagatguru Vishwasadhya Gyan Simhasan Jangamwadi Mutt with the words Jangamwadi Math written in Hindi, English, and Kannada. It is also known as Gyan Simhasan or Gyan Peetha. Etymologically Jangam means the one who knows Shiva. Peetha is a word used for an ashram or a place to stay. So, this essentially means those who know Shiva.
I visited their office and spoke to a lady who was supervising multiple things as most women do. She told me that they are the worshippers of the Linga and they do not follow any other deity or path. They follow no caste system or Jaati Bhed.
She told me that when women get pregnant, they tie a small Shivalinga around her belly. This Kajal or Kohl coated Shivalinga protects the baby in the womb. This Shivalinga is then worn by the child after birth. It remains a part of all his rituals like the naming ceremony. She showed me miniature Shivalingas in crystal and stone that they always keep with themselves.
Siddhant Shikamani is the name of the philosophy that Veer Shaivas follow. It recommends Bhakti as the path to salvation. However, the form of Bhakti changes according to the state of Bhakta or devotee. To learn more about this read on Siddhant Shikhamani.
A young swami took me around the premises and very sweetly posed for some pictures. He showed me Shivalingas in every possible corner of the premises. After going around and clicking pictures, he asked me to join them for lunch, that I had to decline politely. Looking back, I think I should have tasted the food there.
I would always remember this temple for its colorful doorways on top of which is always a Shivalinga. Green is the dominant color with some bright blue doors for the contrast. The temple was full of devotees speaking Kannada and Marathi. They looked absolutely at home at the premises. The sanctum of the temple has tall pillars surrounding a Shivalinga. I assume this may have been the only part of its initial days. Everything else got added over time.
Many Sadhus and students stay at the premises, pursuing the Vedic studies.
Shivaratri and Diwali are the biggest festivals celebrated here.
Shivalingas at the Mutt
The premises of this Mutt is full of Shivalingas, mostly small, miniature ones. Once you enter the main part of the premises and walk around, all you see is the rows and rows of Shivalingas neatly arranged on platforms. They are piled one over the other, creating a mountain of Shivalingas. There are rooms full of miniature Shivalingas.
Inside the temple too, around every big Shivalinga, there are thousands of miniature Shivalingas.
If you are wondering, why so many Shivalingas – here is the answer. When followers of this sect meet an accidental or unnatural death a Shivalinga is kept here in their memory. It is the equivalent of Pind Daan in traditional Hinduism. Veer Shaivas or Lingayats as they are sometimes called, donate a Shivalinga at Jangamwadi when someone passes away. Most new Shivalingas are given in the Hindu month of Saavan that falls during the monsoon season. This is the month when devotees of Shiva travel to far off Shiva temples and offer prayers.
How many Shivalingas are there?
No one knows how many Shivalingas are there in this large premises spread over 50,000 sq feet. Some say, no one can count. If I say few lakhs it may be a gross underestimate.
It is located very close to popular Dashashwamedh ghat. That is where the famous evening Ganga Arti takes place. It is not very difficult to locate. Any rickshaw guy would easily take you there.
It is a unique Mutt, do visit it next time you are in Varanasi.
Recommend you read the following travel blog posts on this historical place.