Madmaheshwar or Madhyamaheshwar (Madhya=middle and Maheshwar=Shiva) Temple in Uttarakhand, India, is one of the 5 pilgrimage sites of the Panch Kedar Circuit of India. However the beauty of the Garhwal Himalayas make the place beyond religion. Situated at 11.5 K feet, it involves a trek or horse ride of 16 kilometers up and down each. This place is not yet touched by maddening commercialism and the natural beauty is soul stirring. Let us first begin with the mythological story behind Panch Kedar before moving on to the tale of Madmaheshwar trek.
I intend to share about all the 5 chapters of Panch Kedar. To read about another chapter of Panch Kedar please click https://www.monkatforty.com/the-kedarnath-temple-and-how-it-changed-my-life/
The Mythological Story of Panch Kedar and Madmaheshwar
With reference to the Hindu Epic, the Mahabharata, after the Battle of Kurukshetra, the Pandavas were searching for Lord Shiva in the Himalayas. Even though they won the battle of good over evil, they had to ask for forgiveness from Maheshwar (Shiva) for killing their cousins, the Kauravas, in the battle. Bhima, the second of the 5 Pandavas, identified Lord Shiva, who disguised as a bull, grazed around Guptkashi region. He tried to catch him and so the bull dived into the ground. When Bhima tried to force him out of the ground, the bull grew magnificently large and his body divided into parts which came out of the ground in various other places later. In Madmaheshwar remained the belly or the middle part of the bull with four other parts appearing in Kedarnath, Tunganath, Rudranath and Kalpeshwar. The hump appeared in Kedarnath, the face in Rudranath, the arms in Tunganath, the belly at Madmaheshwar and the mane like hair of the bull at Kalpeshwar. These form the Panch Kedar circuit of Uttarakhand, Dev Bhoomi. It is also believed that the fore portion of Shiva as the bull appeared in Doleshwar at Bhaktpur, Nepal. According to myths these temples were built by the Pandavas.
The Soulful Trek
The trek starts from Ranshi, a dainty Himalayan hamlet, 20 kilometers from Ukhimath. You can drive for 3 kilometers from Ranshi to Agtolidhar for saving time. From there you need to depend on your legs and/or ponies. One can start from Ranshi at 8-8.30 am and reach Madmaheshwar comfortably by 4.30-5 pm in the evening. 7-8 hours are required for the trek. Gaundar, Bantoli, Khatrakhal, Nanu, Maukhamba and Kunchatti are little hamlets on the trek routes which are best for a little bites and rest. Bantoli onwards, the stretch is steep. The route to Madmaheshwar is breathtakingly beautiful and is a part of Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary. It’s one of world’s richest and most diverse ecology with varieties of flaura and fauna. The trek can prove itself heaven for birdwatchers and if you are in luck, you may spot Himalayan Musk Deer amidst the rocky terrains or the conifer forests.
The Madmaheshwar Temple
The temple stands on pristine meadow surrounded by the majestic Himalaya, the abode of snow. Madmaheswar is far from the madding crowd and that’s what makes it dramatically serene. 360 degrees unrestricted view from the temple is mesmerising. Madhyamaheswar Ganga flows along the trek route and the streams that we see on top all meet the Madhyamaheswar Ganga. The temple is ancient, 1000 years old. Behind the main temple there are two other small shrines — one dedicated to Parvati, Lord Shiva’s consort and the other dedicated to Ardhanarishwar, a statue of half Shiva (half male) and half Parvati (half female).
The Stay at Madmaheshwar
There are absolutely basic rooms and tents available for night stay, both run by locals and Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), a Government of Uttarakhand Enterprise. On such high altitude and in such unpredictable weather, what else can we expect? Warm food for the night and a shelter is more than what we can ask for. And having no hotels or buildings definitely preserves the place. Visitors can carry their own tent and set them up at appropriate location with the help of a guide and a nominal charge of Rs.150-200. Evening aarti at the Madmaheshwar temple is beautiful but photographs inside the temple is prohibited. Nights are freezing cold.
Aren’t there places which confuse you about if you are on earth or you are in paradise? Budha Maheshwar is one such place. Don’t miss trekking 1.5 kilometers uphill from Madmaheshwar to Budha Maheshwar. Start as early as possible to see the first rays of the sun on the Chawkhamba Massif. It takes you to a trance. The panoramic view of the magnificent mountains, the tiny temple and the lake weave an experience for a life time. You are shaken spiritually at the beauty and expanse of the earth and feel the same elan running through all. Camps can be set for a night stay or visitors can return back to Madmaheshwar. From Madmaheshwar the returning route and procedure is the same as while climbing up.
When to visit Madmaheshwar
The trek route and the temple remain closed in the winters. Madmaheshwar Shrine is brought down ceremoniously to Omkareshwar temple in Ukhimath (4.3K feet), also the winter abode of Kedarnath Temple. Best time for the Madmaheshwar and Budha Maheshwar is end September to end October. If you want to see some snow and smell rhododendrons visit in April. May and June are good too. Avoid monsoon (July to mid September).
You may like reading the following to know about the winter abodes : https://travelogueofkuntala.com/winter-char-dham-an-indian-pilgrimage-circuit/
How to Reach?
The trek ideally begins from Ranshi which is 20 kilometers from Ukhimath. Ukhimath is 186 kilometers from Rishikesh, a popular town of Uttarakhand. Rishikesh is easily accessible from Delhi and Chandigarh by road. Jolly Grant Airport at Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand, is just half an hour from Rishikesh, a distance of 21 kilometers only.
The Significance of Madmaheshwar Trek
Besides religious or historical significance, the Madmaheshwar trek has terrific spiritual impact. I personally feel, one should take up this trek to be one with nature and that is the best spiritual experience one can have. In fact, most people who did this trek has been stirred spiritually. One such person is my friend, Tapas Chowdhury. I am grateful to him for sharing such amazing photographs which are attractive enough to make people chalk up plans. Preparing for this trek is not very tough but requires a healthy body and mind.
Let’s all gear up. Om Namoh Shivay.