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A Trek to Tungnath

I had visited Tungnath quite some time back and thought of making use of two days available to me to visit the place. As soon I reached Joshimath I called up Indra Singh Rawat and this time I was able to get him on the line. We planned to meet next day at Chamoli and proceed to Chopta via Gopeshwar. As my vehicle approached Chamoli, Indra came into view and as soon as he saw me he jumped forward to receive me. I was happy to see him once again and together we took another vehicle to reach Gopeshwar located on the other side of the river overlooking Chamoli. The sun was out with full might and it was hot, the mighty Trishuli and Hardeol were looking great above the helipad. We were able to get the twelve o'clock last bus plying on the Gopeshwar to Chopta route. The bus ride is one of the best in the area passing through the dense forest. Once I thought of getting down at the deer rearing farm, which was in a small opening in the jungle. If nothing else the ride itself was well worth it. We climbed up quite a lot by the time we reached Chopta. The place has few hotels and restaurants, which are sufficient for meeting the trekkers requirements. It was lunch time and so we sat at the restaurant whose manager was known to Indra. The food was OK nothing great but made us ready for the climb, so I thought. Immediately after food we were on the trail, which is a good cemented path all the way to Tungnath. The initial climb is through the trees and then it moves out in the open. The mighty Chaukhamba comes into view and then it is there with us for the rest of the journey up and back to Chopta. The trail moves up in zigzag way and you feel the gaining of the height. I felt is much more with my stomach being full. So I took more rests till the food had moved down a bit and the lungs were able to function with their full capacity. The Gujjar huts in the opening with Chaukhamba in background made me envious of the the Gujjars who stay there but then their hard work is not for my types. Enjoying the scenic beauty from the path was sufficient for me at present. I moved on the path, which was good with the railing on the valley side providing necessary protection. The trail was climbing at a steady gradient and I was looking for signs of its flattening out. But that was not to be the case. A look up and I could see the railing high up on the slope, indicating that the path lay there and I had lots of climb on the zigzag trail. Well few tea shops were there to provide the pilgrim moving up with tea and food in case it was required. I was struggling with the food already in my stomach and so did not look towards the food. The owners who are the veterans of the trail also seemed to know that it was not worth wasting time to look for the clients moving up the trail after lunch and were busy in their part time jobs of making baskets or folding the big plastic covers in the afternoon sun. I saw a flag fluttering above beside the path and Indra told me that the zigzag would finish at that place, which is known a Dev Darshani. From here a pilgrim gets the first view of Tungnath temple and the vista opens up in front. The zigzag trail is over and a long climbing path lies in front which takes one right to the final steps of Tungnath.

We also enjoyed the view in front and moved on. Slowly walking we reached the small Ganesh temple on the right of the trail. Paying our respects we moved on. The clouds had gathered on the snow peaks and so there was no view of the might Chaukhamba. As we climbed a bit more we came level with the research centre of Garhwal university, located a bit away from the trail on the left side. Shortly thereafter we were at the hotels of Tungnath. The steep path continued to the temple. The owner of Chandrashila hotel and restaurant was known to Indra and so we moved in there. The owner Shri Rana tries to tell me that his is the best place and has been running for long time. The place looks at the Chaukhamba and is in the beginning of the place. I had stayed here during my last visit and so decided to stay there. The place does not have much choice any way. This is the price it has to pay for being so near to the road. The pilgrims' visiting the place come during the day and return back for the night to Chopta or other places near by, thus saving time. The primary interest being a visit to the temple and not the scenic beauty the place offers and the stunning views one gets of the Himalaya from the Chandrashila, 200 meters above Tungnath. The few places running cater to the few people who decide to spend a night here and are also not in very good condition.

We had reached the place in good time and so sat down for tea at the Rana's shop. The sun was about to set and the cloud cover started to settle in the valleys, thus exposing the mountain tops. We decided to go Chandrashila to get some views if possible. The good cemented footpath was over once we crossed the temple and then it rose in a zigzag way to the top. We were actually running with the setting sun. The height of the place can not be taken for granted and so huffing and puffing we reached the top but few minutes late. The sun had set on the big peaks on the other side of Chandrashila and only the mighty Chaukhamba and Kedarnath group were wearing the golden crown. The sun was slowly setting towards the plains and soon it was gone. The place started to chill and so we rushed back to Tungnath. Once the sun is set the place gets cold and it gets dark fast. Preparations for the evening aarti had started at the temple and so we also joined the few people who were there. The pujari performed the rituals and after aarti we came back to the hotel. Rana was ready with food and we had good hot food sitting next to the kitchen fire. Far in the distance the Chaukhamba watched us in silence. The path to Chopta was in darkness and not really welcoming at this hour of the day. The jungle around the road is supposed to be the bear territory. Soon our bodies reminded us of the cold and Rana and his kids also had to have their food and sleep. We moved to our room with big beds and the warmth of the sleeping bag provided me the comfort.

Chaukhamba as we climb to Tungnath 
Trail near Dev Darshani 

The day started well before sun rise. We did not want to land in a situation where the sun would be staring in our face when we reached Chandrashila. getting out of the sleeping bag was much more difficult then getting in, but there was no choice. It was cold outside and on top it would be chilling. All decked up we raced to the top, well in time for a spectacular dawn. It was all quite and chilly. Few more people joined us at the top and we waited for golden moment trying to save from the cold. The light started to increase slowly and I started to take the photos. The scene was changing fast in fact very fast. The outline big Nanda Devi was clearly visible as was the Trishuli and other peaks in the east. The Chaukhamba and Kedarnath waited for the golden light. It was all crazy. One moment you see the Chaukhamba side and the next towards the Nanda Devi. The picture was ever changing. The Chaukhamba became golden and the sun rays were shooting up in the sky from behind the Nanda Devi. In 13 minutes flat the game was all but over. The Chandrashila was bathed in the sun light and drama of the light was over. Some respite from the photo clicking and then some more pictures of the place and the small temple on the top seemed to have satisfied me. I sat at the temple and enjoyed the place and the great view of the Himalaya it offers. The morning aarti time was nearing and we dashed down to the Tungnath temple. The aarti was attended by the people who had stayed there overnight and thereafter I went around the temple.

The temple is a bit higher then the rest of the structures and the complex is made of a number of small temples. The significance of these I did not realise then and came to know about them on my way back. The big archway leading to the complex has number of bells of all sizes and immediately thereafter is the courtyard of the temple. The view from here is very scenic. We came back to our room and packed up our stuff. The allo prathas were being made by Rana for us and after having our fill we said our bye to him and to the lord of Tungnath. Now we were moving down and so there was no strain on the lungs. As we reached Devi Darshani one old panditji was climbing up slowly. I had seen him moving down the previous day when we were climbing up. This time I stopped to talk to him. I came out that he was Shri Maheshanand Mathani the, pujari of the Devi temple at Tungnath. He climbs up every day to Tungnath and comes down by evening as it is quite cold up at Tungnath. Well what a motivation. He handed over a small booklet to me which tells about Tungnath.

According to the booklet, Tungnath is the third in line of the five Kedars. It is believed that the hands and the heart of Lord Shiva are located here. The temple is located in the centre of five peaks which are Ravan Shila, Chandrashila, Narad Shila, Garud Shila and Dhram Shila. It is the highest Shiva temple in the Himalaya at 3800 meters. The temple was built by the Pandavas during their journey to heaven. Shri Shankaracharya also performed the puja at the temple for some time. Close to the big main temple there are twelve small temples. The main small temples are Panchkedar temple, Parvati temple, Bhairav temple and Ganesh temple. Apart from these there are Rudranath temple, Pitrashilla temple, Bhutnath temple and Vanadevta temple. In side the main temple Bhagwan Tungnath's idol is of dusky colour and the other main idols are of Shri Shankaracharya, Vishnu and Bhairav. During the Shringar darshan the worship of Panchkedar, Shivparvati and Vishnu idols is also carried out. The puja at the temple is started with the Bhairav puja, followed by the Dwar puja, Ganesh puja and Parvati puja. thereafter the puja of Bhagwan Tungnath is carried out. Outside the temple puja of Nandeshwar is performed. There is a detailed procedure for the conduct of puja which a yatri attends without much realization as was the case with me. Also I never thought of the five shila's. Thanking Shri Mathani for the booklet I moved down towards Chopta. The scene was changing fast as we approached the tree line. The Beauty of the Chaukhamba was always making us look in its direction and compelling me to click more photos. Soon we were moving in the shade of the trees and realised that the trek was over and now we were again dependent on the vehicles for moving from one place to another. But that is a big problem on this road as there are few vehicles. But as luck would have it we got a vehicle soon which took us to Tala village from where a side road goes to Sari village.    


Tungnath Trek Photos

Chandrashila Top Photos

Tungnath Trek Plan



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Published on: 2010-07-14 (4151 reads)

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