India Dreaming
Accounts of previous tours to India by Sundaram



Part Three: Tungnath


Continuing with the serial narration of the high-points of our recent India yatra, the following article was written by Colin Kenney, one of our fellow yatris. Four members of our group, who had heard about the famous shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva in the area, called "Tungnath," decided to hire a car & go there. It is one of the five great shrines related to Kedarnath, the most famous Shiva temple in the Garwal Himalayas. Tungnath is associated with many great Shaivite siddhas (perfected beings) & the great master, Bengali Baba, the guru of Sri Swami Rama, took his mahasamadhi at this location. Here is a brief description in Colin's own words:


"At about 12,000 feet elevation, Tungnath is the highest Shiva temple in India, renowned for its panoramic views of the Himalayan peaks. We hired a taxi and went to the small village of Chopta, which is right in the middle of the most heavily forested part of the Garwal Himalayas. From Chopta (elevation 9,500), the 4 km. ( 2 1/2 mile) trail to the temple begins. The hike took about 2 1/2 hours. About 2 hours into it, snow started to fall. Right about then. two young men were headed down the trail. We asked them how much farther to the temple, but their English wasn't that great. They pointed up the hill and said, "Half, half." Our hearts sank. Only halfway! We decided to press on, but we weren't sure if we would make it to the top, especially since the snow was getting thicker & heavier. We eventually came upon a little shack where a man was selling chai to pilgrims. We warmed by his fire & had some hot tea. I noticed a photo of the temple on the wall and asked how much further it was. He just pointed up the hill and said, "Tungnath!" Eventually we realized that he was pointing at the actual temple, not just at the path. We had already arrived! The two young men did not mean that we were halfway. They meant that we were only half a kilometer away! We paid for our chai and climbed the rest of the way. We took off our shoes and walked barefoot across the courtyard (through 3-inches of snow) and entered the ancient temple. The feeling inside was amazing. It had been untouched by the passage of time for centuries: very peaceful and very holy.


"The local pandit chanted the appropriate mantras, gave us a blessing and some prasad (blessed food). Then we began our long, slippery, wet, blissful journey back down the mountain. We all slipped once or twice, but our spirits were soaring. We got to the bottom and climbed into our waiting jeep. We were cold, we were wet, and we were happy. HARA HARA MAHADEV!"


Meanwhile, the rest of us had proceeded from our hotel in Pipalkotii to the Monal Hotel at Rudraprayag, a truly beautiful & picturesque location. The Monal is the only large building in the area, well-landscaped with gardens, bridges & tree-platforms, all with exquisite views of the Ganga river & the holy hills. Rudraprayag is the second prayag along the Alakananda River leading up to Badrinath. "Prayag" means the confluence of two rivers & there are several tributaries joining the Alakananda on its way to Devaprayag where it meets the Bagirathi River coming from Gangotri to form the Ganga. Other prayags on the way to Badrinath are Karnaprayag, Vishnuprayag & Sonaprayag. Each is considered very holy & pilgrims bathe at each location. The next day we had to leave that beautiful place to catch river rafts from Devaprayag to our campsite where we would stay for the next 4-days on the banks of the holy Ganga near Kodyala, halfway between Devaprayag & Shivapuri. On our way, however, came another totally unexpected & thoroughly delightful surprise! Who would have thought that a landslide could bring so much joy!



Part 4: The Landslide & The Love