There are many names for Deogarh: Vaidyanath, Haritaki Vana, Ketaki Vana, Ravana Vana, Chitabhoomi, and Hardapeeda. The Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga temple is often known as Baba Dham or Baidyanath Dham. However, there is a dispute where the Jyotirlinga is located. Most claim that it is the Vaidyanath Jyotirlinga in Deogarh, Jharkhand; some school of thought assign it to Vaidyanath near Parali in Andhra Pradesh; others claim it to be the Kiragam in Punjab and Dabhoi in Gujarat.
Adi Shankaracharya has claimed in the Dwadasa Jyotirlinga Sthothram:
Poorvothare prajwalika nidhane
sada vasantham girija sametham
srivaidyanatham thamaham namami
This means that the Vaidyanath is located in a funeral place – Chitabhoomi – in the North-Eastern parts of the country. Parali is in the west, so that’s why many believe it should be in Deoghar as it is located far in the east.
It’s said that Ravana meditated and prayed to Lord Shiva so that he could come to Sri Lanka and make the capital invincible of them all. He even lifted Mount Kailash and took him to the capital. But Lord Shiva crushed him with his fingers. Ravana then sought mercy from him. Having been merciful, Lord Shiva gave him one of the Jyotirlingam with a condition that if it was placed on the ground, then it would be rooted forever.
Ravana thus started to carry the jyotirlinga back to his capital when Varuna, the God of water, entered his body, creating the urge to relieve. Right then, Lord Vishnu came in a form of a boy and volunteered to hold the Jyotirlingam. Ravana agreed. So, he gave the lad the Jyotirlingam to hold for a while. Just then, Vishnu placed it on the ground and the jyotirlinga was rooted to the ground. A very furious and disappointed Ravana then cut of nine of his heads and offered sacrifice to Lord Shiva. Seeing that, Lord Shiva joined all the heads into the body, as if he were a “Vaidya”. Thus, the place was known to be Vaidyanath.
There is another story linking to this Jyotirlinga. A cowherd named Baiju rediscovered this jyotirlinga, and thus, was called Baijnath.
Some say that this is where the heart of Sati fell and thus is one of Shakti Peetha.
The Vaidhyanath Temple in Deoghar
In total, there are 22 temples in the same periphery devoted to different Gods and Goddesses. Among them, Lord Shiva is shown to be the supreme one. The main temple of Vaidhyanath, however, faces the east and is 72ft tall. Religious notes state that the temple was built by Bishwakarma, the architect of Gods himself. There isn’t much history that indicates any king or person build the main temple. But the religious papers state that it was visited since the age of Rama, the then king of Ayodhya.
Even the Lingam is slightly broken, indicating that it got chipped away when Ravana tried to uproot it. Also, it is said that the Chandrakoopa well, which is near the main entrance was built by Ravana himself, and then consecrated with water from several thirthams too.
The temple attracts a lot of visitors during the month of Shravan every year. This is when the Shravan Mela inaugurates, lying between July and August. Reports indicate that as many as 7 to 8 million devotees from different parts of India visit the place. They offer the holy water of Ganga collected from Sultanganj to the lingam. Sultanjganj is 108km far from Deoghar. Today, Kanvarias carry the water in a Kavadi and walk that distance on foot all the way. During the month, one can see a long line of these people carrying water. The pilgrims are called Dak Bam and what’s amusing about them is they do not even stop once in their journey from Sultangunj.