Thursday, October 9, 2008

Lord Of The Physicians

If you are ever in Baijnath in the Kangra Valley make a point of going to see the Baidyanath Temple. It is one of the loveliest temples in northern India and the only one in the country dedicated to Siva as the ‘Lord of Physicians.’ It was built in the early 9th century and is set in well-kept gardens. Unusual in India, the temple is clean, the atmosphere within it is peaceful and the Brahmin pujaris do their jobs without badgering you for money. In the past a great fair was held at the temple at the beginning of each winter. Hindu swamis and sannyasis would spent the spring and summer in the Himalayas collecting medicinal herbs, minerals and resins and as the winter approached would come down to Baijnath to sell them. Healers or their agents from all over northern India would attend the fair to buy the ingredients they needed for their medicines. By the middle of the 20th century the fair had petered out as doctors came to rely more and more on modern medicines. Last time I was in Baijnath I went to pay my respects at the temple and then went for a walk around the town to see if any healing herbs were on sale. I found only one swami selling his wares. He told me he was from Jothimath.

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