Neelkanth Mahadev Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Nilkanth, an aspect of Lord Shiva. The temple is about 32 km from Rishikesh in the Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, India. The temple architecture is very much influenced by the Dravidian style of temple architecture. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is a popular Hindu pilgrimage site. It is surrounded by dense forests and is adjacent to the mountain ranges of Nar-Narayan. It is enveloped between the valleys of Manikoot, Brahmakoot, and Vishnukoot and is located at the confluence of the rivers Pankaja and Madhumati.
According to Hindu sacred texts, the place where the Neelkanth Mahadev Temple currently stands is the sacred location where Shiva consumed the poison that originated from the sea when Devas (Gods) and Asuras (Demons) churned the ocean in order to obtain Amrita. This poison that emanated during the Samudramanthan (churning of the ocean) made his throat blue in colour. Thus, Shiva is also known as Neelkanth, literally meaning The Blue Throated One.
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The temple has a Gopura or the shikhara as in any Dravidian style temple and is raised high in a tiered way in pyramid style. Motifs and Friezes are carved on these towers. The shikhara of the temple is adorned with sculptures of various Devas and Asuras depicting the Samudramanthan. Neelkanth Mahadev in the form of Shivalinga is the presiding deity of the temple. The temple complex also has a natural spring where devotees usually take a holy bath before entering the premises of surrounded by dense forests.
Maha Shivaratri is the most prominent festival celebrated in the temple and many devotees flock to the temple during the festival. The devotees who pay a visit to Neelkanth Mahadev make an offering of Bael leaves, coconut, flowers, milk, honey, fruits and water to Lord Shiva. The temple observes two fairs that are held annually on the occasions of Maha Shivratri (Feb-Mar) and Shivratri of Shraavana (month of Hindu calendar) (July-Aug) during which the devotees (Kawarias) trek from Haridwar to Neelkanth Mahadev Temple.
Neelkanth Mahadev temple is a brilliant construction and it has a 6-foot-high monolith Shivling which is made out of a single black kasoti stone. Situated in the Kumbhalgarh Fort, the temple was constructed in 1458 and was renovated by Rana Sanga who was a Rajput King in the 16th century. He worshiped Lord Shiva.
Sources say that Rana Sanga was so tall that when he used to pray, his eyes were on the same level as the Shivling. An interesting feature about the temple is the fact that it has entrances from all the four directions and temple with an open-pillared Mandapa. A pillar on the left of the temple bears inscriptions that speak of the renovations done by Rana Sanga.
This poison that emanated during the “Samudra Manthan” made his throat blue in colour. This is how he is known as Neelkanth. However, the story also suggests that while he was in deep meditation and was away from Khailash parvat, Goddess Parvati came looking for Lord Shiva in Manikut. On her request, Lord Shiva agreed to go back to Kailash but before leaving he installed a symbolic ‘Shivaling’ at the site where he meditated. This place is named after that ‘NeelKanth Mahadev Temple’ where worshipers and devotees come to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. Every year in the holy month of Shravan, devotees walk the 17 km path to reach the temple of Lord Shiva and seek his blessings.
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