Tunganath, one of the auspicious ‘Panch Kedars’ cradled amid the lofty snow wrapped peaks of Uttarakhand draws thousands of pious pilgrims who wish to feel the deep spirituality that pervades the ambience of this truly sacred Shiva temple. To know more about Tungnath.
Uttarakhand is the Land of Gods. More specifically it is Shiva country. Lord Shiva made Kailash his abode and Kedarnath is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas to be found in Uttarakhand. Uttarakhand is also home to the Panch Kedars located in Tungnath mountain ranges at a height of 3680 meters. Of the Panch Kedars, Tungnath claims pride of place as being the highest Hindu temple of Lord Shiva and it is also 1000 years, second in importance to Kedarnath.
History & Legend
The Tungnath temple has a rich history and mythological legends linked to it. Lord Rama is said to have meditated at Chandrashila, a mountain peak close to Tungnath. Ravana, himself a Brahmin and a devotee of Lord Shiva, meditated in these mountain ranges. The Pandavas came here seeking Lord Shiva to pray for his forgiveness for having killed their cousins in the war. Lord Shiva, however, avoided them and assumed the form of a bull and went into hiding underground at Guptkashi where the Pandavas pursued him. Shiva decided to de-materialize his form and scattered the bull in five different locations that are today known as the Panch Kedars. The hump fell at Kedarnath, the head at Rudranath, the hands at Tungnath, the hair at Kalpeshwar and his mid portion at Madhyamaheshwar. Lost to humanity since it was situated so high and at so remote a location, it was discovered by Adi Sankaracharya during his travels.
The fame and reputation of the Tungnath temple may lead one to believe it is a large structure. It comes as a surprise when visitors arrive at this place to find a small stone structure surrounded by other small shrines dedicated to various gods. It is said Arjuna constructed the temple with the lingam representing the arms of the Lord accommodated in the garbha griha or sanctum. The temple is constructed in typical North Indian Hindu architecture style.
As stated above Tungnath is the place where it is believed the hands of Lord Shiva manifested themselves. It is ranked after Kedarnath in importance as a place of pilgrimage. As the highest Lord Shiva temple in the world, Tungnath gives you yet another reason to visit it during your chardham yatra or when you visit Uttarakhand.
Worshipping at the Temple
A priest of the Maku village officiates over ceremonies. The Temple is located so high that access is difficult or impossible in rains and winter so it remains open only from April to October. The best time to visit is before the rains start when pilgrims may come up unexpectedly against landslides that make travel hazardous. An alternative is September-October but it can be chilly at this time of the year. In order to reach the temple you can arrive in Chopta from where you have to cover the 4 km distance on foot, a journey of about 3 to 4 hours. Arati here is feast for the soul.
Places to Visit in the Vicinity
Tungnath is located in the beautiful Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Chamoli is a beautiful and scenic place you will fall in love with. Trekkers will love the desolation of Tungnath and might consider going off to Chandrashila. There is a small shrine atop Chandrashila, at a height of 4000 metres and the view of the countryside is simply fantastic. Another place you must visit is Deoria Lake. At a height of 2387 metres, Deoria is on the Chopta-Ukhimath road and the limpid waters of the lake reflect the snow covered peaks in a beautiful picture-postcard view. You can camp by the lakeside and spend a day basking in the lap of nature. About 7 km from Chopta you can come across the Kanchula Korak Musk Deer Sanctuary, home to one of the rarest species on Earth. Apart from religious significance, Tungnath is now becoming known as a trekking destination with pilgrimage to the temple itself constituting a beautiful trek as you admire the Nandadevi, Kedarnath and Neelkanth mountains in the distance.
There are plenty of places you can visit around Tungnath if you have the time and inclination. Augustmuni is one such place, Dhari Devi temple is another. Kalimath, Kalpeshwar and Kanakchauri are all in the vicinity. Nature lovers will love Deoriatal and Gandhi Sarovar, while trekkers will love the scenic paths from Chopta to Tungnath to Chandrashila, reminiscent of Switzerland.
The journey to Tungnath and surrounding places itself becomes the destination as you travel in another place, another time and another dimension.
Chopta is the starting point to reach Tungnath. Chopta is about 63 Km from Rudraprayag that can be reached from Rishikesh. You travel on the Kund-Gopeshwar road from Rishikesh, a journey of 212 km. If you travel by air you land at Jolly Grant airport near Dehradun, about 232 km away. From Chopta you have to walk to reach the temple.