Dr. A K Chatterjee is a seasoned writer with more than 330 blogs in English and Bengali and 10 books mostly on travel, trekking and temples.
Koteshwar : The Westernmost temple of Lord Shiva in India
Koteshwar : Lord Shiva with The Pakistan connection
What can be the connection between two temples which are situated wide apart in remote regions two separate countries? The temples and the countries in this context are respectively Koteshwar Shiva temple in Koteshwar, Gujarat, India and Hinglaj Mata temple in Balochistan, Pakistan.
Yes, there is a connection, and that a deep rooted too.
As per Hindu scriptures, Goddess Sati (an incarnation of Goddess Durga) the divine consort of Lord Shiva, committed suicide on hearing abuses hurled on her husband by her own father King Daksha. Shiva was extremely infuriated and He began dancing Tandava, the dance of destruction carrying the corpse of Sati on His shoulder. Alarmed by this, to protect the Universe, Lord Vishnu started cutting the corpse silently into pieces and scattered those into various places.
When Lord Shiva realised that the corpse was no more, His anger cooled off, and He went back to His abode in Kailash.
Now, where were those body-parts?
Altogether there were 51 pieces, and the 51 places where those body-parts fell became highly sacred places called "Sati/Shakti Peetha".
Of those 51 "Shakti Pitha"-s, one where the 'Bramharandhra' or the centre of the top of the head fell is at a place called Hinglaj, a town in the Lasbela district of Balochistan in present day Pakistan , the site of Hinglaj Mata or Hingula Devi temple, affectionately called "Nani Mandir" by the locals.
Every Shakti Peetha is associated with a Bhairab temple, Bhairab being an aspect of Lord Shiva. The Bhairab of Hinglaj Mata is Bhimalochana, and his temple is the Koteshwar Shiva temple in Gujarat.
For this reason, Koteshwar is a must see temple for the devout Hindus.
Koteshwar : where is it?
Koteshwar is situated in the Lakhpat Taluka of Kutchch district of Gujarat at the mouth of the Kori Creek of the Arabian Sea. Koteshwar is about 170 km from Bhuj, a big city and the headquarters of Kutchch district.
It's geographical co-ordinates are 23 degrees 42 minutes North, 68 degrees 32 minutes East. Koteshwar is the western-most Shiva temple in India.
Incidentally, the location of Hinglaj is 25 degrees 30 minutes North, 65 degrees 30 minutes East.
Koteshwar : Mythology
We've already heard the Shakti Peetha story, but there is another mythological story associated with Koteshwar Shiva. As per this, once Ravana, the King of Lanka of the Ramayana fame, and a great devotee of Lord Shiva asked permission to take Lord Shiva to Lanka so that he became invincible. Lord Shiva was reluctant, but could not refuse His ardent devotee's prayer. He agreed, but on one condition -- Ravana would neither stop nor place Him on the ground en route.
Ravana agreed, and started the long journey carrying the heavy Shiva Lingam on his shoulder (though why did he choose a route over the desert of Gujarat is not clear to this author).
Anyways, the journey was long and tiring, and Ravana was thirsty too. He tried with all his might, but failed to complete the journey without stopping. He stopped at this place to take rest and placed the Shiva Lingam on the sea beach.
Shiva was highly displeased and to test Ravana's devotion, created one crore ("Koti" in vernacular) Shivalingam looking exactly the same as the original one and asked Ravana to choose the right Shiva Lingam.
Ravana failed the test. He chose a wrong Shiva Lingam, and went away with that.
The original Shiva Lingam stayed there, and the place came to be known as "Kotishwar", meaning "Lord of Koti". In course of time, "Kotishwar" became "Koteshwar".
Koteshwar : A touch of History
The famous Chinese traveler Xuanzang (602 - 664 AD) who came to India in 630 AD, visited the temple of Koteshwar and described this as "Kai-tsi-chi-fa-lo".
Local tribe of "Ker" people claim that the original temple of Koteshwar was built by their forefathers in ancient times. Incidentally, the "Ker" people are Muslim by religion now.
It is often said that Alauddin Khalji, the Sultan of Delhi, destroyed the original temple in 13th century CE.
The present day temple was built by two "Seth"-s or businessmen belonging to the Bramha-Kshatriya community in 1820 AD.
However, renovation work was done later by tha "Rao"-s, the rulers of Kutchch.
Koteshwar : Now
Koteshwar : Now
The temple of Koteshwar is located on a hillock at the end of Indian landmass. It is said that few decades ago sea-water during high tides encircled the temple thus separating it from the mainland.
The temple is built upon a 64 x 49 feet stone built platform 5 feet high. A flight of stairs leads to the temple.
Actually, there are two adjacent stone-built temples here. The bigger temple is of Koteshwar Shiva, and the smaller one is dedicated to Kalyaneshwar Shiva.
Both the temples are constructed similarly in Nagara style with an veranda-like Antrum with a small dome, a Mandapa or hall with a bigger dome and the sanctum with a tall Shikhara (spire).
Koteshwar : inside the main temple
Koteshwar : inside the temple
When one enters the main temple, a veranda type space is the first place one sees. On the left side of the space is a decorated standing idol of Lord Hanuman-ji, on the right side is a decorated sitting idol of Lord Ganesha and at the centre, below the dome is a sitting idol of Nandi the Bull made of brass. In front of the Nandi idol on the floor there is an idol of the Sacred Tortoise.
Beyond the verandah is the Mandapa or hall which houses idols of Lord Hanumana-ji and Lord Ganesh-ji. The circular roof of the Mandap has eight humanoid figures arranged concentrically.
Beyond the hall is the sanctum housing the Shiva Lingam of Koteshwar Mahadeva. The entry to the sanctum is guarded by a heavy door , which has decorated silver covering. The sanctum is few feet below the floor of the hall.
At the centre of the sanctum is the Shiva Lingam made of black stone. The receptacle-like "Gauri Patta" / "Yoni Peeth" which holds the Shiva lingam is made of silver. Just behind the Shiva Lingam is an idol of Goddess Parvati, and on left there is an silver idol of a standing figure of Bhairab with big moustache.
Koteshwar : the jetty
Koteshwar : the jetty
From the land's end a 520 feet long jetty extends into the sea. The jetty becomes partially submerged during high tides.
There is a small Shiva temple at the middle of the jetty. It is dedicated to Nilkantha or Sharaneshwar Shiva. This temple was constructed by Gode Queen in the 13th century and renovated by Queen Maha Kunwar, the wife of Rao Deshal-ji, the ruler of Kutchch in the 18th century.
There is a small tank or "Kund" here where religious rites for the deceased ancestors are performed by the devotees.
The road to Koteshwar
Koteshwar : How to go?
Koteshwar is only 4 km from Narayana Sarovar, one of the five most sacred lakes ("Panchsarovar") to the Hindus.
Narayan Sarovar is about 170 km from Bhuj and connected to the latter by very good State Highway, and it takes about three and half hours to reach Narayan Sarovar from Bhuj. The road passes through vast stretches of sandy fields full of thorny shrubs and dotted with a large number of wind turbines, and if you are lucky you may see flocks of wild peacocks crossing the road hurriedly.
Bhuj is well connected with all major cities of India by rail, road and air.
Koteshwar : Conclusion
Both Narayan Sarovar and Koteshwar are major Hindu pilgrimage sites. A trip to these two places can easily be combined with a trip to Lakhpat, a historical place with several tourist attractions. The journey to this point in the western end of the country is definitely worthy.