Tungnath – the kingdom of Lord Shiva

Tungnath, at 12,073 above mean sea level, is the world’s highest built temple dedicated to Shiva, discounting perhaps the Amarnath Cave shrine near Srinagar, Kashmir, which is situated at an altitude of 12,756 feet. Tungnath is second in importance among the five mountain shrines collectively known as the Panch Kedar. The temple opens for worship after winter snows melt in June and remains open until late October when snowfall cuts off access to the temple. At this time the deity is moved ceremoniously to the Ukhimath, thousands of feet below. Besides its majestic location against a backdrop of cliffs, peaks and snow-clad mountains, Tungnath is also popular with trekkers, who make it a point to witness the sunrise from Chandrashila, a nearby peak at 13,123 feet. To reach Tungnath from Delhi, drive or take an overnight train/ bus to Rishikesh (236 km) and drive/ take a bus to Ukhimath (170 km/ 6 hours). Halt overnight and catch the morning bus for Chopta (17 km/ 1 hour), a roadhead at 9,500 feet. Tungnath is a 4-km trek from here. The nearest airport is Jolly Grant, Dehradun (258 km).

Tungnath Temple Uttarakha …
Tungnath, a stately and serene temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, is the second of the five Kedars, the others being Kedarnath, Madhyamaheshwar, Kalpeshwar and Rudranath. The legend behind the temples is rooted in the Mahabharata. It is said that the Pandavas, after the Great War at Kurukshetra, wished to atone for the sins of fratricide and the killing of Brahmins. They were directed to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. The Lord, however, was in no mood to pardon them as he was angry at the magnitude of their sins. Taking the form of a bull, the Lord hid from the Pandavas at Guptkashi in the Garhwal Himalaya.

Tungnath Temple
The Pandavas caught up with Shiva. Bhima, the second of the brothers, spied a large bull grazing and recognized it as Shiva. He grabbed the bull by its tail and hind legs, but it disappeared into the ground. Later, various parts of the bull reappeared at different locations in the Himalaya.

Tungnath Temple
The sacred bull’s hump appeared in Kedarnath, the arms at Tungnath, the navel and stomach at Madhyamaheshwar, the face at Rudranath and the hair and head at Kalpeshwar. In gratitude, the Pandavas, who were then in the Himalayas en route to their passage to heaven, built temples at each of these locations. It is also believed that some of the bull’s fore portions materialized at the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Ukhimath
Terraced fields overlook the valley at Ukhimath. The seat of the Omkareshwara Temple, this town is where the idol of Tungnath is worshipped after winter snowfall renders the mountains inaccessible. On clear days the town offers a breathtaking view of the snowcapped Kedarnath peak. The Mandakini River, a tributary of the Ganga, roars in the valley below. Eventually, it joins the Alakananda at Rudraprayag.

Ukhimath
A short drive from Ukhimath is Deoriya Tal, a picturesque mountain lake surrounded by forests of oak and chir pine. A heart-stopping view of the four-pronged peak, Chaukhamba, is reflected in the placid waters of the lake. To get to the lake, which occupies a small plateau at about 8,000 feet, trekkers must walk a 2-km uphill trail from Sari.

Ukhimath Waterfall
The major rivers rising in the Himalaya are snow-fed, but heavy monsoon rain from June to early September leads to a large number of modest springs and cascades on the hillsides.

Bhotia dog in Chopta
It looks quiet and peaceful in Chopta but one look at this sleeping Bhotia dog told us another story. Notice the spiked metal collar around its neck – this is intended to prevent leopards from killing it. Leopards are opportunistic hunters and frequently prey on dogs with a bite to the throat. The tough metal collars may be uncomfortable for the dogs but its spiky edges have protected them from many a marauding leopard.

Pathway on the mountain
Through veils of mist we looked back at the road we had travelled. The oak trees wore shaggy coats of moss and fern. In the peak of winter, the trees will be bare.

Deodar trees Only the hardy, fragrant deodar trees will resist the snow. Their leaves are modified into hard, tough needles and their barks secrete resin that prevents the snow from freezing the sap.

Temple bells, Tungnath
Finally, we hear bells peal in the distance. And we see the spire of the temple poke out over a sea of mist.

Milestone, Tungnath
A milestone informs us that we have reached our destination.

Main street, Tungnath
These are literally the foggy ruins of time. The stone structures here, weathered by the elements, appear much older than they are.

Shops near Tungnath
Shops selling materials for puja do brisk business. The flowers, coconuts and incense are brought on muleback from Chopta, where they have arrived after a long journey from the plains.

Tungnath - Priest's chair
The priest’s chair is placed invitingly outside the temple but we choose to sit on the cool stones in the small courtyard. The priests of the Tungnath temple are local Brahmins from the village of Maku, a few thousand feet below. In all the other Kedar temples, including Kedarnath, the priests are from Udupi or Kerala, a tradition dating back to Adi Sankara’s reforms.

Courtesy: http://in.lifestyle.yahoo.com

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. jai bhole
    Jan 23, 2013 @ 10:28:38

    Thanks for the story.Nice blog

    Reply

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