Tungnath: World’s highest Shiva temple

Tucked away in Rudraprayag district of the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand is the temple of Tungnath. This is the highest Shiva temple in the world

Tungnath: World’s highest Shiva temple

Ajay Bhola

Tucked away in Rudraprayag district of the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand is the temple of Tungnath. Located on top of the ridge that separates the waters of Mandakini and Alaknanda rivers at an altitude of 3,470 m, this is the highest Shiva temple in the world and is second in the pecking order of Panch Kedar. Legend has it that after the war of Kurukshetra, Pandavas wished to atone for the sins of committing fratricide by seeking Shiva’s blessing. Lord Shiva was insensitive to their prayers and assumed the form of a bull and hid in the mountains.

Bhim recognized Shiva in the form of bull and caught him by its hind legs thereby stopping him from disappearing. The bull-formed Shiva split into five pieces that scattered and appeared in five different locations which formed the Panch Kedar. Arjun constructed a temple at Tungnath, the site where Lord Shiva’s arms fell, and meditated to Shiva for salvation.

The temple is constructed in North Indian Hindu architecture style.

The best time to visit the temple is from April to September. Chopta on NH58 is the nearest point from where the trek to the temple starts. Summers here are pleasant but winters are very chilly and temperatures drop below freezing point frequently. For this reason, the temple remains closed for 6 months.

The temple priest is from Makku village who shifts the symbolic image of the deity during winters to Makkumath which is 30 km away.

The trek from the road head to the temple is approximately 4.5 km long and can be covered in approx. 4-5 hours. The path is steep which is stone-paved with benches provided along the route for resting. Along the path are alpine meadows & forests of crimson and pink Rhododendron that are mesmerizing when in bloom. The scenic views of Himalayan peaks of Nanda Devi, Panchachuli, Banderpoonch, Kedarnath, Neelkanth & Chaukhamba along with captivating flora and fauna makes this trek unique.

A high-altitude botanical station of Garhwal University is also located here. Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary set up to preserve the endangered Musk deer is also located in the region.

There are budget-friendly rooms and hotels available for stay which are clean and offer basic facilities. Chopta has multiple staying options again offering only basic amenities.

The nearest airport is located at Jolly Grant in Dehradun which is around 260 km away and Haridwar railway station is 240 km away.

Ajay Bhola is an adventure sports and travel enthusiast. He can be reached at www.adventureism.in

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