Tungnath (12,070) is the third of the Panch Kedar--five Himalayan temples identified with Shiva, of which Kedarnath is the most important.  All five can  still be reached only on foot, and all of these temples are high enough that they close in the winter, when they are snowbound. 

The footpath to Tungnath begins at the little town of Chopta, and is a steep walk, climbing over 3000 feet in only 2.5 miles.  This photo shows the gateway at the beginning of the path, with the Tungnath name painted on the crest of the arch--seemingly promising that it is close by.  As at Kedarnath, one can hire a horse to ride up to the temple. 

This gateway is recent, and was not there during my 2002 visit.  This photo is from June 2005..


This sign identifies Tungnath as the third of the Panch Kedar (supposedly the place where Shiva's trunk came to rest).  The lines underneath list the distance to the temple as 4 km (most other sources say five, so they may be shading the truth a little here), note that anyone who is unable to travel to the temple itself can leave donations in the donation box at the gate, and gives contact information for anyone wanting to do ceremonies there. 

The sign was put up by the Badrinath-Kedarnath temple committee, which administers most of the important temples in the Himalayas, and which  has an office and welcome center just across the street from the gateway.  In most places these offices are staffed with local brahmins, who obviously know about the local sites, and this is a way to get people jobs in their home areas. 

June 2005


As noted, the path up to Tungnath is one uninterrupted climb.  Here's a shot taken reasonably close to the top, the path winds up and finally turns to the right, which is where the temple is. 

Although this was part of the traditional pilgrim road between Kedarnath and Badrinath (or the people at Tungnath obviously had interests in having it seen as such), a British official noted in 1912?? that many pilgrims were reluctant to climb so high, and took a path around it. 

June 2002; photo courtesy of Nick Barootian


Here's a picture of the temple compound showing the two main temples.  Architecturally they show similarities to other Himalayan temples such as Gupt Kashi and Kedarnath--stone construction, painted decoration on the exteriors, tall towers, and a wooden platform over the top of the highest tower.  Note too that the temples are roofed with stone slabs--very sturdy construction!  The man is one of the local brahmins who is waiting for any clients to arrive. 

Tungnath is at over 12000 feet, and even on a summer day the air has a chill to it.

This photo comes from 2002, courtesy of Sarah Helminski.  


Here's a more simple straight-on shot of the Tungnath temple itself.  The 5 Kedars each claim to have been founded over a different part of Shiva's body, and Tungnath claims to have the trunk. 

I'm sure that pilgrim traffic (and thus patronage) would be relatively limited here, given the circumstances.


This photo comes from 2002, courtesy of Sarah Helminski.  



Here's a close-up shot of Nandi--who always sits with his face towards Shiva--adorned for morning worship with flowers and yellow clay.  The three lines (tripundra) are the symbol worn by Shiva's devotees, and the mark above it on Nandi's flank probably represents Shiva's third eye. 

This photo comes from June 2006.



As the Lord of Obstacles, Ganesh is guardian of the threshold, and as at Kedarnath, Tungnath has an image of Ganesh just to the right of the temple entrance (whose painted decorations are visible on the left).  Ganesh has been adorned and worshipped with flowers, but an interesting feature here is the liquor bottle used to hold the liquid for worship (probably oil, although it could be honey).  Liquor is highly proscribed, and seen as polluting, but apparently a reliable container is a good thing, whatever its antecedents.

At right is the edge of the ubiquitous collection box.

June 2006




As at most places, the primary temple (whose wall is on the right) is surrounded by smaller temples.  The center temple is to Shiva's wife Parvati--who as a loving wife is never far from her spouse--and at the far right are group of five small shrines (only three are visible) for the Panch Kedar.  Tungnath is one of the Panch Kedar, and so appears in this grouping too, as well as in the primary temple. 

June 2006


Ansuiya Devi


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