Rudranath is the highly revered temple of Lord Shiva which is peacefully adorned in the Garhwal Himalayas. According to Mahabharata, when Pandavas were searching for Lord Shiva, he turned himself into a bull to avoid detection. However, when Bheema tried to capture the bull, it disappeared and later reappeared in body parts at five locations, presently known as Panch Kedar. The hump reappeared at Kedarnath, the arms appeared in Tungnath, the navel appeared in Madhyamaheshwar, the face showed up at Rudranath and the hair and head appearing in Kalpeshwar. Rudranath is toughest in comparison with other Panch Kedar’s.
There are three different routes to this temple the longest via the Urgam-Dumak, other from the Mandal-Ansuiya Goddess and the shortest from Sagar.
Sagar is small village close to the Gopeshwar, the district headquarter of Chamoli. The trail passes through the centre of village reaching its upper ploughed field’s steadily gaining ascent into the forest and eases out at the first clearing of Pun bugyal/meadow, a very small opening among the forest. It again enters the forest and after a few meters, a water source appears where fresh drinking water oozes from underground rock. The trail starts to gain altitude after this and the ascent gets steeper and steeper. Walking among the forest and gaining altitude the tree line starts to fall behind, the vegetation changes from dense forest to wild bushes and after some hard-hitting trek of steep ascent and gaining altitude; passing through the Litti Bugyal and the with one final ascent one reaches the Panar meadow.
It is a sight to behold standing at the top of this place with high altitude meadow one could see ranges and ranges of mountains and forest on one side and the Pun bugyal and Sagar village deep down the valley which fills inner self with satisfaction to have climbed such a hard day. The Panar meadow has a small forest check post and a small hut that offers shelter and food to the devotees and trekkers who are on the journey towards Rudranath. Sitting beside them hearing their stories over the dinner cooked over wood, the simplest of food feel delicious. We were lucky to pitch our own tent here for the night.
Waking up to the group of ‘Thars’ gazing around, the day starts with walking around the mountain meadows and sections of the ridge with breathing taking views of the valleys below and crossing Pitar dhar and Panch Ganga, which one again at times test the commitment of the person although begin easy than the day before. These high altitude meadows with little vegetation are home to Thar, Bears and Leopards.
Rudranath temple is a sight to behold situated among the high mountains ranges with Chaumkambha, being the most prominent among all. On a clear weather one could see a magnificent view of major peaks of Garhwal like Nanda Devi and Trishul. The temple is situated around with few small water lakes which most get replenished during the rainy seasons. A small hut few meters before the temple provides the facility of shelter and food; since we were carrying own sleeping gears we got shelter inside the small house just before the temple and ate our dinners at the hut down.
The sculpture of Rudranath is a beautiful sight and face of a black coloured stone with eyes, nose and beautiful smile which makes an impact on every person who sees him. Visiting the night aarti/pooja/offering when the chief priest with his all devotion offers prays to the Lord is one of a lifetime moment. It’s a divine feeling of being here with just not more than twenty devotees of all ages, among the silence and falling light on the mountains. The priest with the utmost devotion offers prayers to lord chanting the slokas in Sanskrit, diyas lit and the sounds of the bells ringing carried to faraway parts of the otherwise silenced mountains.
The final day leg starts early if intended to return to the road head the same day, as it was in our case; with the first rays of light and with a final visit of the lord head back but with a different route via Anushya Goddess temple crossing the Naola Pass. The route back is same till ‘Panch Ganga’ where after breakfast, start the ascent reaching Naola pass and crossing it to the other side. The descent seems harder and never-ending starting from higher reaches, reaching high meadows, entering forest and descending and descending all the way to the bottom of the mountain where after crossing a water stream and an another few kilometers among the forest finally welcomed by the small beautiful settlement of Ansuya with few homes and night stay options and also a perfect destination to camp for the night.
The temple of Goddess Anusya is situated at the centre of the village. It is one of the most important centres of pilgrim among this area and every year during the month of December; it holds a festival where thousands of pilgrims from every corner of the country come to offer prayers to the Goddess.
The road head is still 5 km from this village and another descent which brings off to a level walk takes to the Mandal village road head and way back to the home.
This was a journey of more than a pilgrim, the tranquillity and serenity of the place is an added attraction to this place. Pushing the body beyond its limit and getting out of our comfort zones. It was about looking after each other as a team and living life to the fullest falling in love with mountains in its purest form attaining challenging goals.