SUBJECT : Third of the Panch Kedar, Tunganath is where Siva’s chest emerged

Tunganath Shrine | Photo Credit: (C)K.Ramnath Chandrasekhar

By Vrinda and J. Ramanan

November 30, 2017: The Kurukshetra war concluded with the victory of the Pandavas and the crumbling defeat of the Kauravas. But, the five brothers were filled with remorse. They had committed the felony of Gothra hathya (fratricide) and Brahmahatya (execution of Brahmins). Sage Veda Vyasa advised that only Lord Siva could absolve them of their sins. The Pandavas came, therefore, to Kasi.

A dismayed, mighty Bhima stood astride two huge mountains in the Himalaya apprehensively looking for Lord Siva. The Lord of the Himalayas did not approve of the victory won by the Pandavas and so, assuming the form of a bull, Nandi, he stole away to Gupt Kasi (Hidden Kasi).

Bhima, in his sincere search for Gangadhara, recognised the grazing Bull as Lord Siva. He grabbed its hind legs and tail. The bull, buried itself under the earth and reappeared at five places, known today as Panch Kedar — the hump rose in Kedarnath, the arms and chest appeared in Tunganath, the navel and stomach surfaced in Madhyamaheshwar, the face emerged in Rudranath and his matted locks materialised in Kalpeshwar.

The Pandava princes built five temples at these sites and atoned their sins.

Among these sanctified shrines, Tunganath, the third of the Panch Kedar, situated at an altitude of 3,680 metres (12,073 ft.), has the distinction of being the temple located at the highest point in the world.

Exotic birds

Built in the Rudraprayag district of Tehri Garhwal in Uttarakhand, this temple lies in the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, where ungulates like the musk deer, the Indian Boar, the rhesus macaque and the common langur; exotic birds like the Himalayan Monal, the Royale Pika and the Koklass Pheasant; the wild Himalayan Black Bear, the Indian Leopard and the snow leopard find asylum in its thickly wooded forests of oak, pine and bhojpatra trees, alpine meadows and rhododendron shrubs. It is an easy 3.5-km trek from Chopta, an idyllic village that is the road-head for Tunganath and can be done in a day.

Positioned on the ridge between the Alaknanda and the Mandakini river valleys, this historical site also leads to Chandrashila — the Moon Rock, at an altitude of 13,000 ft., 1.5 km from Tunganath. A steep climb up the mountain takes us to another shrine for Lord Siva, consecrated by Sri Rama in the Tretha Yuga, to make amends for the sin of slaying the Brahmin King Ravana.

Chandrashila is a perfect place from where one can get a dizzy panoramic 360 degree view of the snow capped peaks of the Greater Himalaya — Chowkambha, Nanda Devi, Dunagiri, Kedarnath, Neelkanth, Sumeru, Bandar Poonch, Janoli (all Himalayan Giants) and many unnamed peaks as well.

This temple is open from April to October. When winter arrives, the Lord’s Doli is brought to Ukhimath.

The writers are ace photographers known for their travelogues

Source: The Hindu