Trek to Tungnath, Chopta
Haridwar - Ukhimath - Chopta - Tungnath
234 km from Haridwar, the bugiyals of Chopta at 10,000ft and above, are a hidden haven in the Garhwal Himalayas.
Chopta is part of Kedarnath sanctuary and home to the snow-leopard, musk deer and monal pheasant besides other fauna and flora.
Chopta’s high altitude bugiyal meadows, which are lined by tall rhododendrons and deodars have earned it the name of India’s Switzerland. Its undulating snow slopes in winter, ideal for skiing, await infrastructural support. Rhododendron blossoms colour the mountains red in spring.
This marigold and sandalwood signature fragrance is part of the ambience here
The millenia old, 4 km mountain track from Chopta to Tungnath, is a scenic delight with snow peaks standing sentinel over rolling meadows dotted with sheep and flowers.
The 2 km trek from Tungnath to Chandrashila peak inspires a one to one chat with the Creator.
It’s a 3000 ft climb from Chopta to Tungnath and takes about two to three hours on foot or pony-back. Accommodation and facilities are available at Chopta, Dogalbitta and Tungnath.
Gateway to the gods
At Chopta, brass bells tied to a gateway, mark the starting point for the trek to Tungnath and Chandrashila peak. The Shiva temple of Tungnath is an important shrine of the Panch Kedar shrines in the Himalayas. The temples of Kedarnath, Tungnath, Kalpeshwar, Madmaheshwar and Rudranath, together form the five important shrines of Shiva worship, Panch-Kedar. At about 13000 ft Tungnath is the highest man-made shrine in the world!
It is also the shortest trek, in comparison with Kedarnath, Kalpeshwar and Madmaheshwar. Tungnath temple is said to have been originally built by the famous Pandav, Arjun, about 5000 years ago.
Tungnath is showered with rain on a daily basis each afternoon. This keeps the place sparkling green and clean. Strawberry runners grow in crevices; bright green, fresh and alive against the grave blue-grey, black-brown and beige rocks that make up the 4 ft wide track.
The path, quite narrow is higher than the surrounding ground level. It is neatly laid with jagged rocks which have lost their sharp edge, being used by pilgrims and nature-lovers for ages.
The thick forest slowly unveils sunbathed meadows which sprawl upto the horizon blending into blue valleys and snow peaks. The air is scented with multi-hued flowers. Tiny papery flowers in pink and white promise never to dry as they nod their pretty heads to the fresh mountain air.
Humans are a minority here. A few tea-shack owners and a shepherd boy or two are all that one can see of humans besides the trekkers. The track goes on, with or without human company. It seems happy on its own, like a mendicant.
The sun loses strength here by 2 pm daily. Willful clouds take over and glide over mountains and meadows. In some places they look as though emerging from trees, while at other places they are high enough to hide the distant snow white Kedar and Garhwal peaks. Sometimes they line the track and follow it right to the temple!
Bushes of wild, pink flowers frame the temple courtyard. Icy waters of Akash-Yamini and Ling-Bodhini springs trickle into a pool near the temple. This water is a tonic for out-of-breath trekkers.
The temple, a simple yet impressive structure in sandstone, has a Sabhagraha and a Garbhagraha the sanctum sanctorum, where Shiva resides in Lingam form. Sri Ved Vyas and Adi Shankaracharya also have a place of honour here. Besides the main temple there are many smaller temples in the courtyard which are dedicated to Parvati, the Pandav brothers, Kunti, Draupadi, Ganesh, Kuber, Dungri devi and Dharudia devi. The Bhootnath temple on a cliff set against the blue sky seems to be hanging in the air. There is a special Pitra-shila for performing rites for ancestors too.
Maithani Brahmins from nearby Makhumath village take their turn at handling the temple’s responsibilities. They grind fresh marigold petals and sandalwood to a wet paste and offer Tilak to the deity and His visitors.
This signature marigold and sandalwood fragrance is part of the distinctly soothing ambience here. Mantras chanted by Purohits echo with a sense of eternity.
Higher up at Chandrashila peak, flags on poles flutter in conversation. The ambience -- strong breeze, scented flowers, the blue sky above frilly clouds and a sweeping view of snow-clad peaks sweeps the onlookers' stick to the perceiver's offers instant Nirvana. There is nothing here to hinder one’s connection with the divine. Nothing absolutely. Except the mind talking to itself, perhaps.
Travel facts: Tungnath
View Larger Map
How to reach Tungnath
Tungnath temple is 30 km from Ukhimath on the Ukhimath-Gopeshwar Road in Uttarakhand India. It is accessible only by road. Haridwar is a convenient railhead, while Dehradun has the closest airport.