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One of the five Kedars, Tunganath, at a height of 3865mts nested in the Garhwal range of the Himalayas, is the highest temple in the world.

'Chandrasila, legend says, is where Rama used to meditate'

How to Reach:
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 stop.
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 bhai’s eatery for food and hot tea.

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.

Night came early and we finished our dinner at Sujanbhai’s 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.

It 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 I’ll be back there sometimes someday.


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