Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World

Tripoto
15th Oct 2016
Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

Tunganath, the highest of the Panch Kedar temples, is the highest Shiva temple in the world, located at an altitude of 12,073 ft in the Chandranath Parbat, just below the peak of Chandrashila, in the mountain range of Tunganath in Rudraprayag district, in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is the third Kedar of Panch Kedar. Tungnath temple is said to have been originally built by the famous Pandav Arjun, about 5000 years ago. Besides the main temple, there are many small temples in the courtyard that are dedicated to Parvati, the Pandav brothers, Kunti, Draupadi, Ganesh, Kuber, Dungri Devi and Dharudia Devi.

There are a plethora of tour operators in Uttarakhand that offers the Tunganath trip along with camping at Deoriatal and Chopta. After some research, I decided to sign up with GIO Adventures. It's a five-day trip from Haridwar to Haridwar.

The plan was to reach Haridwar one day before the pick-up day so that I can watch the evening Ganga Aarti in the famous Har Ki Pauri. Accordingly, I reached Haridwar from Kolkata by train a day before in the morning and checked - in a hotel just opposite the Railway Station. After having a sumptuous lunch in the famous Dada-Boudir hotel followed by a midday nap, I was all set to reach the Har Ki Pauri  to watch the evening Aarti.

It was an ordinary October day still, the ghat was thronged with thousands of devotees. Somehow, I managed to get a suitable place and witnessed this beautiful Ganga Aarti for the first time.

Evening aarti @ Har-ki-pouri Ghat

Photo of Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India by Vaswati

Itinerary:

Day 1 : Haridwar to Kund

The next day, I meet our guide at Haridwar Railway Station at 7 a.m. and our journey began……

The journey through the roads of Uttarakhand is always delightful. The winding roads goes through the lush green mountains and deep valleys. We passed by the holy town Rishikesh, then Devprayag, see the confluence - where the river Alaknanda meets with the river Bhagirathi and takes the name Ganga.

Dev Prayag

Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

Himalayan Eco lodge Jayalgarh :

We had a brief stop at Jayalgarh Eco camp. The picturesque campsite lined with luxury tents overlooking the Alaknanda river with well-manicured lawns, four side opened dining hall and a riverside sandy private patch to relax in. We went down to the river bed and took some photos.

Jayalgarh Eco Camp

Photo of Jayalgarh, Chopriya, Uttarakhand, India by Vaswati

Dinning Hall

Photo of Jayalgarh, Chopriya, Uttarakhand, India by Vaswati

Riverside

Photo of Jayalgarh, Chopriya, Uttarakhand, India by Vaswati

After a while, we continued the journey. Then we passed Rudraprayag – where river Alaknanda meets with river Mandakini. We took another stop to had our lunch from a roadside hotel.

Rudraprayag

Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

We reached Kund by 4 pm for overnight stay. It took almost 9  hours to reach there.

Himalayan Eco lodge, Kund

The location is spectacular. From the Parking lot, a narrow slope takes you to the dining hall followed by a flight of steps that takes you to the below small cottages on the bank of river Mandakini.

The cottages are actually bamboo hut. Rooms are neat and clean with westernized toilet. Every cottage has a small balcony in front.

The electricity is available for 24 hours. From the lodge, one can get a wonderful view of the snow-clad Kedar peak that forms the backdrop of the Kedarnath temple. Foods were good.

Himalayan Eco Lodge,Kund

Photo of Kund, Uttarakhand, India by Vaswati

Kund Eco lodge(Inside view)

Photo of Kund, Uttarakhand, India by Vaswati

Day 2 : Kund to Deoriatal via Ukhimath and Sari village

The morning was a bit cold. We started our journey for Sari village after breakfast. On the way, we stopped at Ukhimath to visit Omkareswar temple.

It is located about 8 -10 km from Kund. During the winters, when the temple of Kedarnath and Madhmaheshwar remains closed, the idols are brought to the Omkareswar temple, Ukhimath and worship here for six months.

Omkareswar temple

Photo of Ukhimath Omkareshwar Temple, Kund Ukhimath Gopeshwar Mandal Road, Ukhimath, Uttarakhand, India by Vaswati

Sari Village :

We reached Sari village by 10 a.m. It's located 13 km ahead of Ukhimath at a height of 6554 feet. It's a very small and remote village which considered as the base camp for Deoria Tal trek which is only 2.5 km from here. 

The trek route

The entire trail is paved till the top. Although trek looks easy upfront but it is quite steep at some places. It takes 2 to 3 hours to reach the lakeside depending on your physical ability. There are many shelters on the trail with benches to take rest. The trek route offers a bird's eye view of the Sari village. You will find a beautiful old temple shortly after you start the trek. Pony is available there and I opted for a Pony ride. It took one and a half hours only.  

Small temple on the way to Deoriatal

Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

Bird's eye view of Sari village

Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

Deoriatal is an emerald lake, perched at a height of 7800 feet. But the spacious lawns surrounded by dense vegetation around the lake and Mt. Chowkhamba range on the backdrop makes it an excellent spot for camping. Early morning miraculous reflection of Chowkhamba range in the crystal clear water of Deoriatal is magnificent. You can see the panoramic view of the stunning Chowkhamba range also. There are lots of beautiful Himalayan birds especially Long- tailed-Magpie are found at Deoriatal.

As soon as we reached the lake, we started exploring the place while our guide and his assistants were engaged to pitch the tent for us on the lush green meadows by the lake for overnight camping. We were greeted with rice, dal and aloo gobi sabji by the lakeside. The afternoon was a bit cloudy, although we witnessed a spectacular sunset over Mt. Chowkhamba. The weather was pleasant in the day time but it became quite cold at night. After taking hot & sumptuous dinner, we slipped into the sleeping bag.

Deoriatal

Photo of Deoria Tal, Uttarakhand by Vaswati

Day 3 : Deoriataal to Chopta by trek.

The morning was freezing cold. The view was spectacular. Everyone was busy looking at the reflection of Mt. Chowkhamba in the lake water.

Chowkhamba range on the backdrop of Deoriatal

Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

We had our breakfast by the tent while admiring this heavenly beauty. Soon after we started for Chopta. Deoriataal to Chopta by road is 22 km. But our guide suggested us to take the scenic trek route which is 17 to 18 km.

The Entire trail goes through the dense forest. The natural beauty of the trail mesmerizes you. The mighty Chowkhamba accompanies you at the beginning of the trek. 

Mighty Chowkhamba as seen from Trek Route

Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

Aerial view of trek route

Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

Trek route

Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

There is no food point in the trail but you come across many small streams on the way. You can refill your water bottle from one of them.

At noon we reached a green meadow where we had our lunch with hot rice and sabji amidst the wilderness. Thanks to our tour operator  for that. After taking rest for a while, we started moving ahead again. On the way, we crossed a small bridge over a stream followed by a beautiful waterfall and  a herd of Himalayan goats grazing in the meadows. Although I was totally exhausted as that was my first trek but the beauty of the trail kept me going. Around 5 pm, we managed to reach  Chopta and witnessed a magnificent sunset.

Sunset @ Chopta

Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

Chopta is a little hamlet nestled in the mountains of Uttarakhand at an altitude of 8790 ft and  surrounded by pine, deodar and rhododendron forest. It offers a majestic view of snow-clad Himalayan Ranges. This tiny Himalayan village is known as 'Mini Switzerland' for it's rich natural beauty. It's the base camp of Tunganath trek.

Darkness had descended by the time the tent pitched. We were exhausted after the whole day trekking. Moreover, the temperature was freezing. After having snacks and hot tea, we went inside the tent to relax. We had our dinner early and slipped into our sleeping bag.

Camping @ Chopta

Photo of Chopta, Uttarakhand, India by Vaswati

Day 4 : Chopta to Tunganath and back to Kund

The morning was shivering. I started early without having breakfast to visit the temple. It took 10 to 15 minutes to reach the starting point of the trek route from our campsite by four-wheeler.

Entrance of Trek Route @ Tunganath

Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

It’s a 4 km trek and could be completed on foot or pony. This time also, I opted for a Pony ride and it took almost  2 hours to reach the top. The road is quite steep and paved all the way to the temple. As you keep moving uphill the lush green meadows and snow-capped peaks leave you spellbound.

On the way to Tunganath

Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

On the way, you can see the state bird of Uttarakhand -the Himalayan Monal, one of the most vibrantly colourful birds and other beautiful birds too. When I started. the weather was fantastic. The peaks were visible. On the midway, suddenly weather started getting changed for the worse. By the time, I reached the temple, the peaks had disappeared behind the clouds.

Lord Tunganath Temple

Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

An arch gate with a hanging bell welcomes you at the temple courtyard. I removed my shoes and stepped into the temple. The floor was so cold I felt I had stepped on an icy tray. There are a few stalls selling puja items.  I bought a puja thali and offered puja, poured water on the Silving. The scenario has changed completely by then.

Entrance of Tunganath temple

Photo of Journey To The Highest Shiv Temple in The World by Vaswati

The cloud engulfed the entire temple. Nothing was visible. I treated myself with a plate of hot Maggie from one of the small stalls near the temple. Our guide suggested getting down, so we started moving down amidst cloud.

At Chopta weather was quite clear but the day was cloudy. The temperature was not so cold. There are several roadside dhabas just opposite the gate from where the trek starts. We had our lunch from one of them.

We started our return journey to Kund by 12 noon. And following the same route, we reached at Himalayan Eco lodge Kund by 3 p.m. The weather was pleasant. I had a bath after two days as there was no scope for bathing during camping and relaxed. After having an early dinner retired to bed. 

Day 5 : Kund to Haridwar

The next morning, after breakfast we left for Haridwar. We had lunch from one of the roadside dhabas and reached Haridwar Railway Station by 4 p.m.  and boarded  the train to Kolkata at night.

Best time to visit :

March to May or October and November. December and January are extremely chill. Temperature goes below the freezing point. During the month of April and May, Chopta and Tunganath trek is dotted with  Rhododendrons which is locally named as Buransh.

How to reach :

The nearest airport is Jolly Grant, Dehradun, 41 Km from Haridwar. The nearest rail head is Haridwar. From Haridwar, you have to take bus or private cab.

The route which followed :

Haridwar --->Rishikesh ---- > Dev Prayag --- >Srinagar --- > Rudraprayag --- > Agustmuni --- >Kund ----- > Ukhimath --- > Sari --- > Deoriatal ( 2.5 km trek)---- >Chopta --- >Tunganath ( 4 km trek).

Where to stay :

There is a forest rest house at Deoriatal or you can stay at camp. You can even plan to stay at Sari village but there are limited options available.

At Chopta you can find a few budget hotel or SNOWPOD luxury Eco Resort and Mayadeep Herbal Resort. Camping is also available there.

There are a few home stays around Tunganath temple.

Things to Carry

– Good condition trekking boots

– A pair of thick woolen socks

_ Thermal layers for night

– Keep a thick winter jacket for dealing with the cold

– Trekking Pants are a must for scaling the peaks

– Keep a woolen cap to protect yourself from the biting cold

– A pair of sunglasses to avoid the glaring sun

– Sun Screen

– A two ltr. water bottle

– Trekking pole

_ Thermal layers for night

_ Torch with extra battery

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