Tungnath - The third Kedar and Chandrashila (By Raghav Arora)

We started off from Rishikesh in the wee hours of a Saturday morning when dusk was about to break. Took the Garhwal Parihavan bus, a frequent service between the town and all the major areas in the Garhwal region. The mountains of Uttarakhand seem more rocky and a river would always accompany you down the valley, changing it's name at various places. The first halt was after 70 kms, at Devaprayag, where the rivers Alakananda and Bhagirathi and  - convulge. A clear distinction of different shades of water can be seen merging into one. Another 70 kms from there is Rudryaprayag, another district of Uttarakhand, about 30 kms from Srinagar.

From Rudraprayag, we took another bus to Ukhimath, where lies the famous temple which is the winter seat of the Lord Kedar. Another forty kms to Ukhimath and a different River was a co-traveller. This is the same route for Kedarnath which diverges at Kund. Ukhimath is like a beautiful and calm village.

The Ukhimath temple is at the valley of the village. The way is well paved and houses, small schools and terrace farming can be seen all around. A lot of kids with their red sweaters on were jovially climbing up discussing their day's examination. The temple is very old and there is a different and strong vibe to it. There were not many visitors as the official pilgrimage had not started yet. The priest was very warm and welcoming to my surprise. He opened the sanctum sanctorum and described the entire history and importance of the place. The Tripund he blessed us with rejuvenated us. After a homely lunch of pahadi dal and rice we hired a jeep as the bus service to Chopta had not commenced yet. It's about 20 kms from Ukhimath to Chopta. The path changes to a lot green and red owing to the famous Bauransh tree, the state flower of Uttarakhand. Chopta was more of a meadow place amongst mountains with travellers camping and tents all around. The weather was getting cloudy so we decided to put up for the night without any further climb.

Early morning at 4, we started on the 3.5 km trek to Tungnath, the third of the five Kedar. The path is very well paved with stones. But the slope is constant and steep. Mule service is also available for those who would not choose to walk.

The sun had started to shine on the icy peaks of Kedarnath mountains and all the surrounding Himalayas.

Another kilometer form Tungnath is the Chandrashila peak. The melting snow made it a bit difficult to scale up to the top. 

We reached at about 8 am. And there was not a soul up there. Me and my friend we rested well, he even took a nap on top of that peak.

Everytime you realize you're on the top of the world, a cloud would uncover the view in front and around to reveal the mighty and unimaginably massive icy peaks and make any jaw drop open.

Nanda devi and other mountains were too beautiful and overwhelming. We stayed up for about an hour and then trekked down to Tungnath - the highest Shiva temple in the world. It was the close season for the Temple as the Lord resides in Makkumath in winters. Nevethless, we were amazed at the energy the temple radiates. It was built thousands of years ago by the Pandavas after the Mahabharata war. 

The structure and the stones haven't been touched or changed and that adds to its strength. Even outside of the closed doors, one is filled with homage and respect for the Divine and the master of the mountains. After a small session of prayers and circumambulation, we trekked down in awe and amazement. The return journey saw forest fire in the lower himalayan mountains which made us realize we are going back to the summers.   

If you liked this post and found it helpful, I would request you to follow these things when traveling -

- Manage your waste well and don’t litter
- Use dustbins. Tell us if you went to a place and found it hard to locate a dustbin.
- Avoid bottle waters in hills. Usually you get clean water in hills and water bottles create lot of mess in our ecosystem.
- Say big no to plastic and avoid those unhealthy snacks packed in plastic bags. Rather buy fruits.

- Don't play loud blaring music in forests of jungle camps. You are a guest in that ecosystem and disturbing the locals (humans and animals) is not polite 

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