Piety in a picturesque ambience
FORMING the arm (bahu) of the prestigious Panch Kedar tradition, the Tungnath temple is situated at a height of 3680 metres above mean sea level in the Garhwal Himalayas. Together with Kedarnath, which forms the hump of the twelve most revered jyotirlings in the country; Rudranath, which represents Shiva's face; Madmaheshwar, which conforms to his naval and Kalpeshwar which represents the Lord's hair, Tungnath, which forms the arms of the Lord, is held in high esteem by those in the quest of spirituality.
It lies about 30 km from Ukhimath, roughly between Kedarnath and Badrinath, the place from where most of the learned pandas of Kedarnath hail. It is a trek of about 3.5 km from Chopta. Tungnath offers a panoramic view of the Panchchuli, Nanda Devi, Dunagiri, Nilkanth, Kedarnath and Bandarpoonch ranges.
Set in the midst of temperate forests in the Chamoli district of Garhwal, the origin of the Tungnath temple is shrouded in myths and legends. One of the most credible myths associated with the Tungnath temple is that it was built by the Pandavas on seeing the wrath of Shiva at the carnage they had wrought at the battle at Kurukshetra. It is said the Pandavas dedicated this temple to the enraged God of destruction, as much as an act of appeasement as also for their own salvation.
Chopta, at over 8000 ft above sea level, is the base camp for a trek up to Tungnath. It rains in such abundance here that travellers have often nicknamed it the Cherrapunji of Uttarakhand. Chopta is easily approached via a motorable road from Rishikesh via Rudraprayag and Chamoli. One can also access it from Ukhimath on the Badri-Kedar route. There is a GMVN rest house here for the convenience of trekkers and pilgrims. Though one must bear in mind that accommodation is limited and hence it is important to book well in advance.
The trek from Chopta to Tungnath is hardly 35 km, yet one ascends a compelling 3000 ft. in that distance, which calls for a fairly steep climb. Wild rhododendrons, chirping birds and nature keeps you company all the way. On reaching Tungnath, at roughly 12000 ft. above sea level, the tree-line gives way to alpine meadows — Bugyals — strewn with tiny wildflowers. Acres and acres of heaven engulf you in their fold, even as cascading waters surround you and birds in flight keep their vigil. Apart from the religious import of the place, one cannot deny the reprieve it offers to stressed-out souls.
This probably explains
why, despite there being no facilities whatsoever at Tungnath, tens of
thousands of pilgrims visit this divinity year after year. Besides which
the solid granite structure of the temple itself instils one with piety
and reverence. A little away from the Tungnath temple is the shrine to
the moon mountain, Chandrashila. The trek to Chandrashila offers a
panoramic view of the Himalayas in all their splendour on one side and
the valleys of Garhwal on the other. Truly, the gods must co-exist in
these mountains, as just visiting this place completely redefines one’s
own understanding of life even as it alters one’s view of existence
and the relationship between one’s body and soul.