Tunganath Temple in Uttarakhand, India, stands at 12070 feet above sea level. Did you know that it is one of world’s highest Shiva Temples? After Nepal’s Muktinath Temple at 12467 feet, comes Tunganath which is the third of the five Panch Kedar Temples and is the highest among them. In spite of being the highest, the trek from Chopta to Tunganath is only 3.5 kilometres and is moderate.
I have already shared 2 out of 5 chapters of Panch Kedar. To read about Kedarnath please click https://www.monkatforty.com/the-kedarnath-temple-and-how-it-changed-my-life/ and for Madmaheshwar please click https://www.monkatforty.com/madmaheshwar-temple-a-chapter-from-panch-kedar-garhwal-himalayas-uttarakhand-devbhoomi-india-shravan-monday/
The Story of Tunganath and Panch Kedar
Lord Shiva, disguised as a bull, grazed around Guptkashi. Bhima, the second Pandava, recognized the bull and went to catch him. The Pandavas were already searching for Lord Shiva to seek his forgiveness for killing their cousins, the Kauravas, in the battle of Kurukshetra; even though they won the battle by eradicating the evil. When Bhima tried to catch the bull, it dived into the ground and grew magnificently large. As Bhima tried to pull him up, his body divided into parts which came out of the ground in various places. 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. According to mythology these temples were built by the Pandavas (with reference to the Hindu Epic, the Mahabharata).
The Soul Stirring Trek to Tunganath and Chandrashila
The trek to Tunganath starts from Chopta. The distance of Tunganath from Chopta is 3.5 kilometers and the trek is moderate and takes around 2-2.5 hours on foot. Ponies are also available (Rs.1200-1500). The joy of the climbing the route takes one to the top of the world, well, almost even literally. Remember you are climbing to India’s highest and one of World’s highest Shiva Temples. Another 1.5 kilometres’ steep trek from Tunganath (12070 feet) takes one to Chandrashila at an altitude of 13000 feet. The beauty of the route is unparallel. One must aim at starting the trek as early as 6-6.30 am. On the way take breaks to absorb the scenic view and enjoy hot smoking chai (tea) or refreshing and nutritious Buransh ka juice (rhododendron squash).
The Tunganath Temple
The temple is ancient (1000-1200 years old) and curved out of rocks. The Hindu sage and reformer, Shankaracharya, revived the temple in 8th century. Besides the legend of the Mahabharata, it is also believed that Lord Rama (With reference to Ramayana which is even before Mahabharata) had climbed to this spot to meditate in the Himalayas. The main temple has the Shiva shrine. There are other smaller temples for Devi Parvati, Lord Shiva’s consort, Bhairavnath, Rama, Ganesha and Shankaracharya.
There are a few basic accommodations and eating facilities near the temple.
Even though the trek to Chandrashila from Tunganath is steep, one should not miss it. Chandrashila Top is one of the best places to view the snow covered glistening Chawkhamba Massif, Kedar Peak, Banderpunch, Nanda Devi and Trishul Peak together. The 360degrees view from top makes one feel, that there’s no second heaven; this is it. Every cell in one’s body will feel recharged and every sign of tiredness will vanish. There is a simple rustic Ganga Mata temple at the top. Chandrashila Summit is also called ‘Moon Rock’. If one spends the night at Tunganath, he/she may be able to watch the sunrise from Chandrashila and definitely it’s going to be one of the best experiences of life.
Chopta, the Trek Base
Chopta at 8,888 feet, is a quaint Himalayan hamlet, with gorgeous views of the snowcapped peaks. It is a small region of beautiful lush green Bugyals (meadows) and forests. Being a part of Kedarnath wildlife sanctuary, Chopta village is surrounded by pine, deodar and rhododendrons. Rare species of birds and musk deer are often observed.
Chopta is well connected by road, with most important cities and towns of Uttarakhand via Rudraprayag.
When to visit Tunganath and Chandrashila
Best time to visit Tunganath is between May and June or September and October. Avoid July and August, the monsoon. The temple remains closed in the winters. Tunganath Shrine is brought down ceremoniously to a temple in the village of Makkumath. If you want to see some snow, you can visit from mid-December to mid-January. The trek route remains opened in the bitter winter, the temple remains closed though. A charge of Rs.150 needs to be paid by Indian trekkers in this season.
Sharing some snow covered pictures from the winter visits.
Take Away From This Trek
As I keep saying all the time, Himalayan (temple) treks are far beyond the shackles of religion. The Himalaya is a home for spiritual seekers. The imposing landscape of the Garhwal Himalayas, the ancient culture and the simplest of hill people, leave a life long impression in the mind. I am grateful to my sister https://www.facebook.com/srabanti.chakraborty.58 and my friend https://www.facebook.com/tapas.chowdhury.52 for most of the pictures shared.
Hail Himalayas! Hail Tunganath!