Thursday, 17 May 2012

Tungnath (2nd Panch Kedar)

Tungnath is the highest Shiva temple in the world and is one of the sacred Panch Kedar, dedicated to lord Shiva is considered to be more than 1000 years old. It is the highest temple of Lord Shiva in the world perched at an astounding elevation of 3,680mts above sea level located on the Chandranath parbat, 30 Kms. from Ukhimath - Gopeshwar Road in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand, Tungnath. One has to trek from Chopta to reach Tungnath Temple and then to Chandrashila peak. This sacred temple was discovered by Adi Shankaracharya and now the priest of this temple is a local Brahmins of Maku village.
Tung is a Sanskrit name meaning arms and nath is for Shiva. Since this place is worshipped in the form of arms of Lord Shiva hence Tungnath
Legend and Mythology of Panch Kedar
The Mythological background of Tungnath Temple is associated with the epic Mahabharata.

The Pandavas defeated and killed their cousins — the Kauravas in the epic Kurukshetra war. They wished to atone for the sins of committing fratricide (gotra hatya) and Brāhmanahatya (killing of Brahmins — the priest class) during the war. On the advise by Maharshi Ved Vyas to do penance for Lord Shiva for absolving of their sins, they handed over the reigns of their kingdom to their kin and left in search of the Lord Shiva and to seek his blessings. First, they went to the holy city of Varanasi (Kashi), believed to Shiva's favourite city and famous for its Shiva temple. But, Shiva wanted to avoid them as he was deeply incensed by the death and dishonesty at the Kurukshetra war and was, therefore, insensitive to Pandavas' prayers. Therefore, he assumed the form of a bull (Nandi) and hid in the Garhwal region.

Not finding Shiva in Varanasi, the Pandavas went to Garhwal Himalayas. Bhima, the second of the five Pandava brothers, then standing astride two mountains started to look for Shiva. He saw a bull grazing near Guptakashi (“hidden Kashi” — the name derived from the hiding act of Shiva). Bhima immediately recognized the bull to be Shiva. Bhima caught hold of the bull by its tail and hind legs. But the bull-formed Shiva disappeared into the ground to later reappear in parts, with the hump raising in Kedarnath, the arms appearing in Tunganath, the nabhi (navel) and stomach surfacing in Madhyamaheshwar, the face showing up at Rudranath and the hair and the head appearing in Kalpeshwar. The Pandavas pleased with this reappearance in five different forms, built temples at the five places for venerating and worshipping Shiva. The Pandavas were thus freed from their sins. The natural rock formation that is worshipped at Kedarnath resembles the rump of bull. The term Kedar itself means a natural rock formation or a glacial moraine.

A variant of the tale credits Bhima of not only catching the bull, but also stopping it from disappearing. Consequently, the bull was torn asunder into five parts and appeared at five locations in the Kedar Khand of Garhwal region of the Himalayas. After building the Panch Kedar temples, the Pandavas mediated at Kedarnath for salvation, performed yagna (fire sacrifice) and then through the heavenly path called the Mahapanth (also called Swargarohini), attained heaven or salvation.

After completing the pilgrimage of Lord Shiva's darshan at the Panch Kedar temples, it is an unwritten religious rite to visit Lord Vishnu at the Badrinath Temple, as a final affirmatory proof by the devotee that he has sought blessings of Lord Shiva

The other four places where Shiva is worshipped take their appearance from different part of his body - the arm (bahu) at Tungnath, the face at Rudranath, the navel at Madmaheshwar and the matted hair at Kalpeshwar. The five Kedar lies in the valleys between the rivers Bhagirathi and Alaknanda.

It is an ancient temple built in the North Indian style of temple architecture. Small in size it can barely accommodate ten people in the sanctum. The sanctum part of the temple abuts the hills where the sacred standing black rock (swayambu or self manifest linga) with tilt to the left, of 1 ft (0.3 m) height, denoting the form of arms of Lord Shiva is worshipped. The construction of this temple is credited to Arjuna, the third of the Pandava brothers, who also worshiped here.

In the main sanctum, ashtadhatu (made of eight metals) idols of sage Vyas and Kala Bhairav, disciples of Shiva, are also installed in the sanctum sanctorum. The temple also houses the images of the Pandavas and silver plaques of other four Kedar shrines.

The architectural design of the temple is similar to the temples at Guptakashi, Madhyamaheshwar and Kedarnath. The temples inside the enclosure are made of stones with decorations painted on the outside and they depict tall towers. The highest dome has a wooden stage at the top. The dome has sixteen openings (pictured). The temple roofs are also made of stone slabs. At the entrance to the temple there is a Nandi stone image facing towards the sanctum where Shiva’s idol is deified. At the right of the temple entrance there is the mandatory image of Ganesha.
Among the smaller shrines, the central temple is of goddess Parvati, Shiva’s consort. Away to the far right there is a group of five small shrines dedicated to the Panch Kedar, which include Tungnath also as one of the Panch Kedar, in addition to the main Tunganath temple.
Near the Akash Ganga water fall, close to Tungnath, a temple to Nanda Devi is located to denote that it is descending from heaven. A 2.5 ft (0.8 m) statue of Adi Guru Shankaracharya is installed next to the main deity of Shiva
The priest at this temple is a local Brahmin from Maku village, unlike the other Kedar temples where the priests are from South India, a tradition set by the eighth century Hindu seer Sankaracharya. It is also said that the Khasi Brahmins officiate as priests at this temple. During the winter season, the temple is closed and the symbolic image of the deity and the temple priests are moved to Mukunath, which is 19 km (12 mi) from here. It is near Duggalbitha (10 km (6 mi) before Chopta towards Ukhimath.
The Tungnath temple opens from 6 am to 7 pm. And aarti is performed daily at 6:30 pm
How to Reach
This highest temple of Lord Shiva is ironically easiest one to achieve. Tungnath Temple can be reached by an easy but steep trek of 4km commencing from Chopta (2700mts). The region receives heavy snowfall during winters making Tungnath temple tough to access. The symbolic image of Lord Shiva is moved to Mukunath during winters, situated 19kms away. The trek goes through rocky terrains, green meadows and rhododendron bushes showering us with visual vistas of nature. The invigorating views of the imposing Himalayas boosts with confidence in the heart of the trekkers. Several named and unnamed peaks of the Himalayan range are distinctly visible from Tungnath.
Another 1.5 km steep trek takes to Chandrashila summit which offers a majestic view of snow clad Himalayan peaks including Trishul, Nanda Devi, Chaukhamba
The peak of Tungnath is the source of three springs that form the river Akashkamini. At this temple at 3,680 mts, Shiva's arm is worshipped.

Tungnath is at the top of the ridge dividing the waters of the Mandakini River (rising from Kedarnath) from those of the Alaknanda River (rising above Badrinath). The Tungnath peak on this ridge is the source of three springs, which form the Akashkamini River. The temple lies about 2 km (1.2 mi) below the Chandrashila Peak (4,000 m (13,123 ft)). The road to Chopta is just below this ridge and hence provides the shortest bridle approach path for trekking to the temple from Chopta, over a short distance of about 4 km (2.5 mi). From the top of the Chandrashila peak, picturseque views of the Himalayan range comprising snow peaks of Nanda Devi, Panch Chuli, Banderpoonch, Kedarnath, Chaukhamba and Neelkanth on one side, and the Garhwal valley on the opposite side could be witnessed. The valley between Chopta and Tunganath temple has wooded hills with rich alpine meadows with rhododendron coppices and also agricultural fields. The rododendrons, when they are in full bloom during March, display dazzling colours ranging from crimson to pink. A high-altitude botanical station of the Garhwal University is located here. Nearing the top of the temple, there is a forest resthouse at Dugalibitta, just opposite to the Kedarnath range of hills. The Kedaranth Wild Life Sanctuary, also called the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary, set up in 1972 to preserve the endangered musk deer, which lies in the region, also has a musk deer breeding centre at Kharchula Kharak near Chopta
When to go to Panch Kedar
Due to snowfall and harsh winter, Panch Kedar temples are closed during winter except Kalpeshwar. The temples are open from April to November. However, trained trekkers can go during winters but they have to be well equipped with food and trekking gears.

1 comment:

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