Tungnath is the highest of the five Panch Kedar temples located in the mountain range of Tunganath. Tungnath is at the top of the ridge dividing the waters of the Mandakini River (raising from Kedarnath) from those of the Alaknanda River (raising above Badrinath). The Tungnath peak on this ridge is the source of three springs, which form the Akashkamini River. The temple lies about 2 km (1.2 mi) below the Chandrashila Peak (4,000 m (13,123 ft)).
The temple is believed to be 5000 years old and is the third (Tritiya Kedar) in the pecking order of the Panch Kedars. It has a rich legend linked to the Pandavas, heroes of the Mahabharata epic.
The Tunganath is indelibly linked to the origin of the Panch Kedar temples built by the Pandavas. The legend states that sage Vyas Rishi advised the Pandavas that since they were culpable of slaying their own relatives (Kauravas, their cousins) during the Mahabharata war or Kurukshetra war, their act could be pardoned only by Lord Shiva. Consequently, the Pandavas went in search of Shiva who was avoiding them since he was convinced of the guilt of Pandavas. In order to keep away from them, Shiva took the form of a bull and went into hiding in an underground safe haven at Guptakashi, where Pandavas chased him. But later Shiva's body in the form of bull's body parts rematerialized at five different locations that represent the "Panch Kedar" where Pandavas built temples of Lord Shiva at each location, to worship and venerate, seeking his pardon and blessings. Each one is identified with a part of his body; Tungnath is identified as the place where the bahu (hands) were seen: hump was seen at Kedarnath; head appeared at Rudranath; his navel and stomach surfaced at Madhyamaheshwar; and his jata (hair or locks) at Kalpeshwar.
It is an ancient temple built in the North Indian style of temple architecture. It is small in size and can barely accommodate ten people in the sanctum. Surrounding this temple, there are a number of small shrines (about a dozen) of several gods. The sanctum part of the temple abuts the hills where the sacred standing black rock (swayambu or self manifest linga) with tilt to the left, of 1 ft (0.3 m) height, denoting the form of arms of Lord Shiva is worshipped. The construction of this temple is credited to Arjuna, the third of the Pandava brothers, who also worshiped here.
The temples inside the enclosure are made of stones with decorations painted on the outside and they depict tall towers. The highest dome has a wooden stage at the top. The dome has sixteen openings (pictured). The temple roofs are also made of stone slabs. At the entrance to the temple there is a Nandi stone image facing towards the sanctum where Shiva’s idol is deified. The Nandi’s flank is normally sanctified for worship with flowers and with three lines (tripundra) in yellow clay, with a mark denoting Shiva’s third eye, which is symbolic to Shiva’s devotees. At the right of the temple entrance there is the mandatory image of Ganesha. In the main sanctum, ashtadhatu (made of eight metals) idols of sage Vyas and Kala Bhairav (demi-god), disciples of Shiva, are also installed in the sanctum sanctorum. The temple also houses the images of the Pandavas and silver plaques of other four Kedar shrines.
Among the smaller shrines, the central temple is of goddess Parvati, Shiva’s consort. Away to the far right there is a group of five small shrines dedicated to the Panch Kedar, which include Tungnath also as one of the Panch Kedar, in addition to the main Tunganath temple.
Just at the entrance, at the end of the trek path to the temple, there is a gateway with name Tungnath painted on the top of the arch, which is of recent construction. A signage at the gate entrance gives distance to the temple as 4 km and also states that pilgrims unable to undertake the trek could leave their donations in the box (kept next to the gate).
During the winter season, the temple is closed and the symbolic image of the deity and the temple priests are moved to Makkumath, which is 19 km (12 mi) from here.
Legend also states that Lord Rama, the chief icon of the Ramayana epic, meditated at the Chandrashila peak, which is close to Tungnath. It is also said that Ravana did penance to Shiva, the lord of the peaks, when he resided here.
From Dehradun Airport, Dehradun the temple is 225 KM. It is 207 KM from Rishikesh Railway Station and 71 KM from Rudraprayag Bus Stand.
The temple lies about 2 km (1.2 mi) below the Chandrashila Peak (4,000 m (13,123 ft)). The road to Chopta is just below this ridge and hence provides the shortest bridle approach path for trekking to the temple from Chopta, over a short distance of about 4 km (2.5 mi). Vehicles can go up to Chopta only and devotees need to trek about 3.5 KMs from Chopta to reach Tungnath.
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