WORLD JOURNEYS IN HACKTREKS
of the five Kedars, Tunganath, at a height of 3865mts nested in
the Garhwal range of the Himalayas, is the highest temple in the
legend says, is where Rama used to meditate'
Kedar and Badri are connected by a route, which breaks off from Kund
(in the Rudraprayag - Kedar route) and connects to Chamoli (in the Rudraprayag
Badri route) through Ukhimath, Chopta, Mandal and Gopeswar. About
70 kms from Kund is Chopta. The trek to Tunganath starts from here.
Chopta is a small tourist spot, serene and green all around with the
grey tarmac bus route dissecting it. Buses are few and far between.
There are a few food shanties & accommodation adjacent to the bus
Chopta has sprawling valleys stretching a couple of kilometres. It was
very cold in the last week of October. We took out dinner around 8.30
pm and went back to our rooms.
Next morning we started on our trek around 7.30 in the morning after
a breakfast of bread and butter and a boiling cup of tea with some biscuits.
The skies were clear that day. There is a small gateway indicating the
start of the trek at Chopta with a bell hanging from it and it is customary
to ring the bell and let lord Shiva know of your imminent arrival. Tunganath
is a short trek of about 4 kms but a very steep one. Hardly can one
find a slope downwards. But what makes you forget the hardship is the
sprawling bugyals and the white frozen snow peaks all through the way.
There are a couple of tea stalls in the way, run by the local garhwalis,
which also offer warm water and small titbits too. There are places
to rest on the way and we took our time to enjoy the valley.
Our last rest was about a km away from Tunganath at the last wayside
tea-stall. Hands were feeling numb, faces were taught with the chill
and noses were getting moist and running by then. I was getting out
of breath every couple of minutes, and had to take a breather at every
corner and turn.
At about 10am we ultimately reached Tunganath. And God!!! What a place!
A small temple by most standards, with a full rock structure Tunganath
lies nested in the Himalayas with Chaukhamba, Kedarpeak, Hati parbat
and other ranges bordering it. The temple inspires mixed feelings of
reverence, love and piety in your heart. And no doubt it surely represents
the abode of Lord Shiva.
On one side of the temple runs a valley and the other side a rocky mountain
peak. Nestled amidst this, lies the small temple compound with adjacent
Mandir committee rest house (you can hardly call it so) and other deities
and a few shanties for food and shelter about a hundred mts away. The
skies had just started to turn a little misty and cloudy when we reached
and so we parked ourselves at Sujan bhais eatery for food and
We had already decided to stay at Tunganath for the night, as our plan
was to enjoy the sunrise from Chandrasila the next morning. Pujas over
after a steaming hot bath in the chilling cold, we took our time to
explore the surroundings. By then we were getting accustomed to the
cold and chilly wind, and feeling a lot better. About a km away one
can see the Himalayan Research Centre.
At about 3 pm it suddenly started to drizzle followed by sleet. Sitting
on our wooden plank beds inside the mandir committee guesthouse, which
allows chilly wind through the cracks of its door, we hugged to our
quilts and peeped outside. The room has a small broken window and something,
which they call an attached bathroom. Even the oil-lamp, which they
provide, was not good enough to let you realise the shape or condition
of it. And after about half an hour the rain stopped and then came the
mesmerising sunset. It is too overwhelming to describe. By then most
tourists had left. Our camera started to work overtime, and one stops
all kinds of conversation to absorb the beauty and serenity of it all.
And with us stood the white gigantic snow peaks watching and presiding
over the whole show. The horizon slowly dimmed into oblivion, the chill
started making it tougher to move or walk, the mountain peaks started
looking awesome and fearful, and we retreated into our room. There was
not a sound to be heard and it slowly started to sink in that we were
left all alone in the highest temple of the world.
came early and we finished our dinner at Sujanbhais food stall
and went back under our double quilts by 8 pm. The single oil lamp
started throwing black shadows on the walls and one could hardly
carry on conversation in the extreme cold. Lack of enough oxygen
in the air and less atmospheric pressure starts to work on you and
you feel uncomfortable. The night seemed long and lying in the bed
it became painful to turn over, leave alone sleep. Ultimately after
about a couple of hours I dozed off. The next morning we had a plan
to reach Chandrasila which is about a kilometre and a half away
and a couple of hundred metres higher.
was 5.30 in the morning when we were ready to go. The sky was lit up
with hundreds of stars. It was still dark and we had about an hour or
so to reach Chandrasila before the sun peeped out. A very broken track,
and with torches in our hands we lost our way in the initial stages
but made good soon. The blades of grass and moss had turned white with
layers of flaky snow and breathing was troublesome. The path was risky
too at stages with the torchlight being the sole help in the dark The
going was tough and slow and we finally managed to reach the top around
6.30.The sky was turning bright by then.
Chandrasila, legend says, is where Rama used to meditate. A small mountaintop
measuring about 1500 sq mts, there were only about 10 of us waiting
huddled for a fantastic show to begin. There stood eleven peaks in the
distance, milk white, slowly rising out of slumber to welcome us. And
welcome they did.
Sunrise at Chandrasila is a dream-come-true. It was like watching an
artist starting to work on the biggest piece of canvas and changing
his mind every minute or so and repaint them again in a brighter hue.
Time stops as does words. And you stand a puny creature in front of
nature worshipping the moments and thankful for what life beholds to
you. One by one the tips of the ranges started to peep out to the sun
and we stood there gazing at the immense layers of snow and ice slowly
forming shape in the new light and welcome a new day. And then I felt
my soul whisper softly to me "This is nature. This is God."
It was time to come back. We were there for about half an hour absorbing
all there was around us. By then the dew on the road had become slippery
with the morning sun and I slipped a few times hurting myself a little
on our way back. Finished our breakfast at Tunganath by 8.30 am and
then it was back again to Chopta. Had our lunch there at Chopta, which
we had reached by 11 am and it was time to look for transport to Ukhimath.
And still today when I think back of Tunganath, nestled there amidst
the white mountain ranges and Chandrasila, calm and serene, I still
hear my soul whisper within me, and I promise myself that Ill
be back there sometimes someday.
© SAMIT BHATTACHARYA
Updated Feb 2009
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