Trek to the beautiful Tungnath Temple has always mesmerized me. I had been longing for my first encounter with the snow and it couldn’t have come better than in the form of the trek to Tungnath Temple and Chandrashila Peak. It didn’t take much time to decide upon the itinerary as I was in Haridwar at the time of scheduling and my friend, Ashish joined me from Mumbai after having an arduous journey in the air and on the rail tracks.
|Deoria Taal and Chaukhamba|
In the first phase, we explored the enchantingly beautiful Deoria Lake. Words were not sufficient to describe the beauty of this place. The mighty Chaukhamba peak with the fabulous Gangotri Range of the Himalaya reflecting in the calm waters of the Deoria Taal was one surreal experience. After spending a night at the Deoria Taal, we returned to Saari village by noon. A sumptuous Pahadi Lunch of rice, vegetables and special chutney filled our guts for our next project – Tungnath and Chandrashila!
For the uninitiated – Tungnath is the highest Lord Shiva temple in the world situated at an altitude of 12073 feet (3680 m). It is also part of the Panch Kedar group of temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. Chandrashila is the summit situated atop Tungnath at the height of 13000 feet.
|Red hue of Buraansh, Chopta|
The trek to Tungnath though is longer than Deoria Taal trek but it is not as arduous as the same. The well constructed pavement makes it little easy in the initial phase as you pass through the thickly forested area dotted with numerous trees of buraansh (Rhododendron). We could see many people coming down as they were about to finish their trek and myself and Ashish were the only souls who were climbing. I didn’t check but many of them must have had a bewildered look in their eyes.
|Bugyal on the trek to Tungnath|
The snow started to appear prominently and vegetation was getting less dense. The air temperature shifted from cool to cold. Frankly speaking, we were not so well equipped for the snow trek and the change in the weather was making it worse. The weather in the mountain is unpredictable. The clear weather by noon changed with dark clouds gathering in the sky and we could see that it was raining heavily at a distance on few hills. I was wearing a simple t-shirt, a pair of jeans and sweater as if I was strolling on the Mall Road of Mussoorie. Ashish was wearing his all time favourite UCLA jacket. All I could vouch for were my all weather shoes.
|Snowy Trek, Tungnath|
The vegetation had now almost vanished and we rested at the last full bloomed buraansh before we proceeded. The pavement was lined by snow though we were yet to see the glimpse of Tungnath temple.
All of a sudden a mild hailstorm approached us. The tiny small ice pellets landed on the exposed part of my hand giving me momentary numbness. I quickly wore the sweater I was just tying around my waist. In the meanwhile, we met a newly married couple who were returning to base and generously offered their stick to navigate through the snow at the top. Other two locals who were coming down warned us of the bad weather (which we could see and experience).
|Tungnath, village buried in snow!|
|Not a single soul, Tungnath|
|Tungnath and Parvati Temple, 12073 feet|
Honestly, the only thing which looked divine in the vicinity was the Tungnath Temple otherwise the whole village had an eerie look. We proceeded to the temple. The newly constructed blue frame at the entrance has numerous bells hanging. I rang the biggest and whoa…the echo was in the atmosphere for at least a minute. That was one amazing experience with sound (Generally we attribute it to the BOSE sound systems! J) Ashish braved and removed his shoes to enter the temple which had snow everywhere and I followed the suit.
Tungnath is the most beautiful temple I have ever seen. Probably absence of human beings took this experience to different level. We could feel the cold surface but we were simply admiring the temple and the surrounding beauty. Built in a typical Garhwali style, where the smaller structure provides the entrance to the main sanctum sanctorum has a striking similarity to the Kedarnath Temple, the main temple of the Panch Kedar group. The doors of the temples (known as ‘kapaats’ locally) were closed and are scheduled to open in the second week of May 2013. We said our prayers. We took a while to sink in the peace and tranquility of the surrounding. However, the fading light and the numbing peak started to give us the signal.
|Evening glory on return, Tungnath|
|Nothing as beautiful as Himalaya!|
Luck was on our side. We spotted a movement up in the snow. A slightly bulky silhouette of a bird. It was joined by a similar bird and both hid beyond a rock covered with snow. I was surprised to find such a bird at this altitude. Then one of them took flight right in front of us and went on another side towards valley. From that height we could see the span of the fluorescent blue wings and the brown tail. We were amazed by the beauty of that bird which looked like peacock. We were also taken aback by its ability to fly steadily looking at the bulky size. We had found the state bird of Uttarakhand, The Himalayan Monal. Similar to the peacock family, this pheasant is found only at an altitude above 7000 feet and is endearingly beautiful.
|Himalayan Mouse nibbling in the snow!|