The beauty of this place is beyond words, you have to see it believe it! Snow-clad mountain ranges, blue sky, fresh air is a trekkers’ dream comes true. It is one of the most adventurous and audacious trails you can tread in Uttarakhand. Towering at 13000 feet, adorned with mists, coniferous, and snow, this is one heck of a trek you must take.
Tungnath is the highest Shiva temple in the world, Located at an altitude of 3,680 m (12,073 ft). It is the highest of the five Panch Kedar temples located at Chandranath Parbat in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. Tungnath temple is the highest Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is the third (Tritiya Kedar) in the pecking order of the Panch Kedars.in the order of Kedarnath, Tungnath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheswar and Kalpeshwar. ThisTrek is a moderate and sometimes steep climb (2,926–3,658 m), the trek path is stone paved with benches provided en route at intervals to rest and enjoy the alluring views of the Chowkhamba, Nanda Devi, Neelkanth and Kedarnath peaks.
The trek to Tungnath was a sudden plan. One of my friends Saral came to visit Chopta and Tungnath from Dehradun. I reside at Srinagar Garhwal which is in middle of these two places. So he called me up, told me his plans and asked me to join. I asked my other friends if they were interested. Who shall miss such an opportunity? We planned to join him at chopta the next day.
Gunjan, Herdyesh, Raghu and I left early morning from Srinagar and reached chopta via Karan Prayag, Gopeshwar, and Mandal. The Kedarnath sanctuary was filled with white and mauve Rhododendrons also known as a Buransh tree. This sanctuary is famous for its Musk Deer. As we reached in the evening, the first task was to search for a good camping site to stay. We got two tents at the Eco Pristine Camp in Chopta. It is a luxury campsite with a stunning view. The shades of sunset were mesmerizing. As we reached late so we decided to trek to Tungnath next day morning. We came back to the camp after the sunset and lit a bonfire. 3 people from Delhi, Rohit, Aparna, and Chaitanya, joined us. It was an evening well spent under the twinkling stars with lots of conversation on random topics from all over the world with hot pakoras and rum.
Late night, we went to our respective tents assuring each other that we will wake up early to start the trek. After a while, Gunjan and I heard some roaring sound. Terrified, we lit the lamps praying that we don’t become a midnight snack of a wild animal. Managing the night somehow, when in the morning we asked others about the noise they all claimed innocence pretexting the rum.
We had our breakfast at the camp and left for the beginning point of the Tungnath trek. We 8 started the trek from Chopta(2,926 m) at our own pace. It was an incredible experience to climb those mountains, overcoming our limits. Of all the Panch Kedar trek routes, the route to Tungnath is the shortest: only 4 km from Chopta. Enthralled by the view, it took us 4 hrs to reach the temple. It is an ancient temple built in the North Indian style of temple architecture. The architectural design of the temple is similar to the temples at Guptakashi, Madhyamaheshwar and Kedarnath. The temple enclosures are made of stones with beautiful paintings depicting tall towers.
At the entrance of the temple, there is a Nandi stone image facing towards the sanctum where Shiva’s idol is deified (Lord Shiva is a part of Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh and is associated with Moksha which is relief from the cycle of life and death and Nandi is depicted as a bull, who serves as the mount (Vahana) and Gana of Lord Shiva and is a gate-guardian deity in Hinduism.)To the right of the temple entrance, there is the image of Ganesha(Son of Shiva and also known as Elephant Face God). As the doors were closed at that time so we couldn’t see the sanctum of the temple. The temple opens during April or May every year.It is closed during the winter season, the deity and priests move to Ukhimath, which is 19 km from here.
Due to snow, we couldn’t climb to Chandarshilawhich was just 1.5 km from the temple.
According to the local beliefs, Tungnath temple was built by Pandavas to appease Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva resides at Mount Kailash with his wife Parvati. After the Mahabharata war sage Vyas advised the Pandavas that since they were the culprit of slaying their own relatives, Kauravas during the war, their act could be pardoned only by Lord Shiva. The Pandavas went in search of Shiva who eluded them for he was convinced of their guilt. In order to keep away from them, Shiva took the form of a bull and went into hiding in an underground safe haven at Guptakashi. The Pandavas try to pursue him. But later Shiva’s body in the form of bull’s body parts rematerialized at five different locations that represent the “Panch Kedar” where Pandavas built temples of Lord Shiva at each location, to worship and venerate, seeking his pardon and blessings. Each Kedar is identified with a part of his body; Tungnath is identified and worshipped as the place where the bahu (hands) were seen, the hump was seen at Kedarnath; head appeared at Rudranath; his navel and stomach surfaced at Madhyamaheshwar and his jata (hair or locks) at Kalpeshwar.
According to another legend, Lord Rama meditated at the Chandrashila peak, which is close to Tungnath.
The trails of Garhwal Himalayas induce excitement and thrill. Lofty terrains leading to the summit make for an incredible experience and the surrounding beauty leaves you enchanted. Right in the heart of the Uttarakhand, Tungnath is a year-round adventure. Here, you walk the snow trails and live in delightful campsites with some of the most picturesque backgrounds. It is one of those places that take you closest to nature and your escape the details of a humdrum life in no time in the shape of a memorable excursion. Walk the trail and get yourself some of the most memorable moments ever!
P.S I would like to Thank Kritika Dhyani for being such a good critic and helping me out in improving my write-up every time.