Rudranath is one of the Panch Kedar temples, located in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. The celestial temple is located deep into Himalayas amongst the forests and meadows.
This temple is the toughest one to reach in comparison with other temples of Panch Kedar. Its surrounded by beautiful himalayan peaks of Nanda Devi, Trishul and Nanda Ghunti.
After I came to know about Panch Kedar temple, immediately I thought of covering all. After visiting Kedarnath in 2012, I could visit Tungnath in 2018 and then Rudranath in 2021.
This cave temple is located at about 3555 metres above sea level. Here the face (mukha) of Lord Shiva is worshipped as "Neelakantha Mahadeva".
After postponing a few times, it was decided to undertake this trek around Dussehra time. Ideal number of trekkers in a group, in my view should be 3 to 4. Though we were only two but decided not to postpone any further.
The trek starts from Sagar Village which is approximately 3 km away from Gopeshwar. This can also be trekked from Mandal which is 12 km away from Gopeshwar. This trek via mandal goes through the Anusuya Devi Temple.
The trek is quite hard with a distance of approximately 24 km one side. Ideal duration to take this trek is 3 days.
In general people take the trek via Sagar. Some trekkers return via Anusuya Temple and Mandal. Initially when we were planning along with Vishal, this route was considered. But when we were at Rudranath, being highly tired and exhausted we decided to return via Sagar only. The route via Anusuya is not properly demarcated and so need help of a guide.
We decided to take trek via Sagar only.
Like other Panch Kedar temples, Rudranath Temple is also believed to be established by the Pandavas. The Pandavas defeated and slayed their cousins — the Kauravas in the epic Kurukshetra war. They wished to atone for the sins of committing fratricide and Brāhmanahatya during the war. So they left in search of Lord Shiva to seek his blessings. First, they went to the holy city of Varanasi (Kashi), believed to be Shiva's favourite city and known for its Kashi Vishwanath Temple. But, Shiva wanted to avoid them as he was deeply incensed by the death and dishonesty at the Kurukshetra war and was, therefore, insensitive to Pandavas' prayers. Therefore, he assumed the form of a bull (Nandi) and went to the Garhwal mountains.
Not finding Shiva in Varanasi, the Pandavas went to Himalayas. They saw a bull grazing near Guptakashi. Bhima immediately recognized the bull to be the Lord. Bhima caught hold of the bull by its tail and hind legs. But the bull-formed Shiva disappeared into the ground to later reappear in parts, with the hump appearing in Kedarnath, the arms appearing in Tungnath, the face appearing at Rudranath, the nabhi (navel) and stomach appearing in Madhyamaheshwar and the hair appearing in Kalpeshwar. The Pandavas pleased with this reappearance in five different forms, built temples at the five places for venerating and worshipping Shiva.
From Haridwar, we took taxi for Gopeshwar. In general we try to book taxi for entire duration. It does not cost much than booking only for to and fro Taxi.
This time we booked it for 5 days, one day Haridwar to Gopeshwar and Sagar. Then 3 days of trek and then 5th day to return. As we came back to sagar on 3rd day of trekking by noon itself so we returned back to Hardwar same day, thus completeing it in 4 days, haridwar to haridwar.
5 days are more comfortable though, that I realized.
Weather was quite good as we started from Haridwar, excellent roads have now come up here to traveller's delight. Breakfast we took at Reasi on the way.
Most of the town on the way are getting crowded. There are big tunnels being constructed for Railways to reach Karnaprayag from Rishikesh. This development work, increasing tourism and exploding population is taking a heavy toll on fragile himalayan eco system. Nature tries to compensate it in its own way. Unfortunately that results in high losses in the form of lives and investment.
The route is via Devprayag, Srinagar, Chamoli and Gopeshwar.
Devprayag is confluence of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers, which meets here to form Ganga.
Dhari Devi is said to be the guardian deity of all the sacred places in Uttarakhand. Her blissfull temple is just after Srinagar at Kaliachaud. Its now in middle of Alakananda river as the original temple place is inundated by dam at Srinagar.
By around 4 PM, we were at Gopeshwar. Its a small town famous for Gopinath Shiva temple. First we took our late lunch at a restaurent near bus stand and then proceeded to the sacred temple.
In winter, after Dusshera a symbolic image of Shiva is brought from Rudranath to this Gopinath Mandir and worshipped here till its again taken back to Rudranath sometime around May.
The temple is build in typical Garhwal style and resmbles with that of Kedarnath Temple. We worshipped the almighty lord and prayed for our successful trek to his sacred abode of Rudranath.
There is a trident, in the courtyard of the temple, about 5 meter high, made of eight different metals, which dates back to the 12th century. It boasts the inscriptions attributed to Ashokchalla, the king of Nepal who reigned in the 13th century. Legend is that the trident got fixed in this spot, when Lord Shiva threw it at Kamadev. The metal of the trident is not weathered even after centuries!
From temple, we took the road to Sagar village. We were in double mind, whether to stay at Gopeshwar or at Sagar. As we had some dayligt left, so we decided to go to Sagar and find some suitbale accomodation or otherwise retrun back to Gopeshwar for night halt.
As we had to start the tough trek from next day early morning, so a good and comfortable sleep was a must.
There are some decent accommodation available at Sagar, so its logical to stay there only.
The food and the stay was good and reasonable.
As evening descended, the temperature dipped. The dinner was quite good, simple, hygienic and tasty. In general, I always prefer to take food from small eatery, where one can get the food with local taste. Bigger restaurants, the food tastes alike all over the world!
As the dawn descended, we got ready. I took some essentials in a smaller bag, rest all left in car. Must carry items are good woolens, including thermals, Jackets, woolen cap and Sun glasses as well as torch. Water bottle is absolute must along with dry fruit items. It will also be good to carry a sleeping bag. Rain coat is another must carry thing along with all necessary medicines including paracetamol.
Make sure that among above items also, carry only minimum things. For example, if you are wearing good thermal, sweater and jacket then no need to have spare of those. But carry the raincoat to save yourself from fury of Lord Indra.
We carried all the above items, along with water bottle and camera, these were having significant weight, which slowed our speed, but these were minimum things that we needed.
Our target was to reach Panar Bugyal by late afternoon and stay there for night, then start in morning to reach Rudranath temple and return back to Panar or somewhere further and then to descend to Sagar on third day.
We have to get registered at Forest department office at Sagar. An official was there at the gates, from where the trek starts, to note down the essential details including government id card and also to charge forest entry fees.
He also informed us that the next day is the last day of this season when temple is open, after that it will be closed for winters.
So we were there at right time. Thanks to Vishal, because of whom, we had preponed our trip by a day!
Day 1 of Trek:
With name of Lord, we started our trek.
The trek starts from midst of beautiful Sagar village and passed through village fields for about a KM, then village leaves us behind and we enters into the forest area.
Ladies were busy in the fields. I have observed that in the villages of Himalayas, mostly women works. They are very hardworking and one can only guess that how they can manage the entire household things along with agriculture work.
Weather was good and we were ascending slowly, so that not to tire us unnecessarily and not to race with anyone. One thing to note here is that because of woolens etc, we may feel sweating sometime after we start trek, but dont remove caps or any other woolen, otherwise it will make the trekker sick. Let it sweat for some time and then it will be normal. Make sure keep taking small quantity of water at regular intervals, preferably with glucose or electrolyte powder.
There are not many eateries or stay options enroute, so be prepared to drink water and fill water bottles from streams on the way. Maggi is universal item to get to eat. We may get partha or rice/Lentils for dinner.
The number of stops or halts are only a few as I mentioned. These are Pung Bugyal, then Kaliyasaud, Mauli Kharak, Lyuti Bugyal, Panar Bugyal and then at Temple.
Other then these, there is no eatery or stay option available enroute.
The route though tough, is very scenic and blissful. With greenery everywhere, sound of stream and birds, makes one happy and light. All earthly worries started disappearing as one starts indulging deeper into the beauty of nature.
It took us around two hours to reach the first halt of Pung Bugyal.
It was bright sunny morning. We decided to take some rest there and also asked for a plate "vegetable" maggi. Though our hotel owner at sagar had helped us with a quick breakfast early morning, but we were feeing a bit tired and hungry now.
Bugyal means the grass meadows.
We were there for about half an hour, Shashank also took some shots with his drone camera and then we left the meadows and entered into even tougher trek zone. This strech atleast till Kaliasaud is quite dense forest. The Jungle lore was everywhere, the sound of moth and cricket. There must be some wild animals in that forest though we didn't encountered any.
Feet by feet we were ascending, breathing was heavy and feeling a bit tired with all luggage that we were carrying, but we continued with small rests in between.
The satisfaction to be on the trek is that Baba Neelkanth will overcome all tiredness.
At around 12 we were at Kaliasaud. The dense forest zone was behind us now. We stopped at the small eatery and again took maggi.
One thing to note here is that its continuous ascend. Mental and physical preparedness is necessary to take this trek. Practice a daily walk of 5 to 6 KMs in an hour to prepare yourself for this trek for atleast a month. Also make sure that you are not overweight. Keep your BMI in check.
If you follow above two rules, you will enjoy the trek!
From Kaliasaud again we started the trek. As we were ascending further, our speed was reducing as tiredness was slowly taking over. At some points we could see the distant Sagar village and the roads, which we left that morning!
I met a few trekkers on the way, a few were ascending and a few descending, but most of time we were alone on the way.
It seemed like unending path. It is not properly laid and lot of loose stones everywhere. Also at some places the steps are quite high so one has to be very careful.
This path is like a meditation, it let one forget everything, cool breeze, bright sun, jungle lore, heavenly surroundings and above all, no mobile phone connection...
What else is required to be in peace!
And slowly we reached the third stop of Mauli Kharak.
Its again a small eatery. I asked for a packet of biscuit and maggi.
It was well past 2 PM or perhaps around 3 PM. I was calculating where we can reach today. Target was Panar Bugyal but it was after Lyuti Bugyal, so I was trying to guess, if we can reach Panar or have to stay at Lyuti. After Panar for about 10 KMs or so till temple there is no eatery or accomodation possible. At Mauli Kharak I came to know that there is some rush at Panar as well as at Temple because next day was last day of this season when temple is open and we may not get any place to stay at Panar and at Temple.
Note that at such treks, Stay option means a hut covered with tarpaulin. Its with all eatery points. These are places where most trekkers stay or otherwise one need to carry the tent!
Anyways, we started our ascend further. Slowly moving, we reached Lyuti Bugyal at around 430 PM.There are two options (huts) to stay there. I decided to halt at the first one. The owner Kishan Singh Bisht, first declined and asked us to try the next option, but I was feeling badly tired by now so requested him to arrange something there only. After a couple of requests he agreed.
So we took halt there.
We had covered about 14 KMs today and about 10 KMs further we had to go to reach temple. I was skeptical if we can cover that 20 KM to and fro tomorrow or not as stay option at temple probably not available due to some rush.
One thing to note here that at such places, having more than a couple of dozen people is a rush. As stay and eating options are limited, in one or two "rooms" a dozen people needs to be accommodated.
As dusk arrived the distant peaks were glowing. There was a small temple of "Vandevi". I paid my reverence to the almighty mother who protects the area and inhabitants.
There was another such temple near Panar Bugyal also and then further at the main Rudranath temple.
As darkness descended, Bishtji prepared the roti, daal and aloo curry along with rice. The food felt like heavens after whole day of maggi!
I opened my sleeping bag and laid down. That coziness of sleeping bag gave lot of comfort. A dozen more people were sharing the "room" with us so space was very less. I could sleep barely.Among those people, there were a few "Doliwala". They were going to temple to take the Doli of Lord as day after tomorrow the temple will be closed for winter. That doli will be taken to Gopinath temple at Gopeshwar for the winter season.
Night was spend with some difficulty with very little sleep. It was very cold outside and I was eagerly waiting for dawn.
There was a makeshift toilet also here, otherwise its a luxury on the treks and one has to go in open.
Day 2 of Trek:
It was still dark, when we started our trek further towards temple.
Slowly we started our ascend and Lord Anshumaan quickly came put of heavens to lighten our path. We gained further height quickly and it was like being on top of the world. Distant peaks and valleys all were like bathing in sunlight and mist!
This Bugyal is bigger than Pung or Lyuti. Though stay options are very limited and I felt that it was right decision to stay at Lyuti itself.
From Panar the ascend is mild so we moved with much enthusiasm. Trees were now replaced by bushes and it was an indication that we had gain good height. Though we had not felt any issue with oxygen level.
Highest point during this entire trek is Pitradhar at about 3700 meters. So in general there should not be any issue with oxygen levels, which is generally felt beyond altitude of 4000 meters.
We spotted one Himalayan Griffon Vulture enjoying Sun at a boulder. These vultures are quite big in size and now comes under endangered species.
Slowly we moved ahead. Though ascend was mild but tiredness of yesterday, lack of sleep and continuous walk today had stated showing its effect and it reduced our pace.
The entire route is very scenic. Particularly the Himalayan ranges including Trishul, Chaukhamba and Nanda Devi, all were mesmerizing with heavenly beauty.
Stretch of about a couple of KMs before Pitradhar is a bit narrow and needs some care.
We took some rest at Pitradhar. Here people do worship for their ancestors.
From here, there is a bit descend towards temple, which is still about 4 to 5 KMs away!
Slowly we started covering the distance. At Panchganga we filled our empty bottles again. At this place the route from Mandal via Anusuya devi meets.
Hills after hills we covered, it seemed like a never ending walk till, we reached Dev Darshini.
Though it was visible now but still seemed away, we had to cross a couple of hills to reach the holy abode.
It was descend now so there was no difficulty except the thought that we have to ascend it soon while returning.
Finally I was there.. in the lap of Mahadev. I felt overwhelmed.....I made it with your help O merciful Lord. You only wanted me to be there so I was there!
I visited the temple and prayed to almighty. Then we took some shots of beautiful surroundings.
Its a cave temple. From outside the cave, its given a structure of Temple. Next to the main sanctum is temple of VanDev, who is the protector and guardian of the place. Further there are small temples, believed to be established by Pandavas.
Yellow and Red flags were waving in all directions. Lord Mahadev is Lord of all including those of Yakshas, Gandharva, Rakshas and Ghosts. Its said that they like these colours and so those were waving there. I was also told that humans are discouraged to wear cloths of these colors while visiting this holy abode.
Heaps of white flowers were there. I enquired about those. The priest told me that next day morning after the prayers, Shivalinga will be covered with these flowers and then temple will be closed. In summer after about 6 months when the temple will reopen, one can find these flowers as fresh as now and then these will be distributed to devotees who visit on that day to see the temple opening ceremony.
We spend some time at that blissful place indulged in beauty of nature and blessings of merciful Lord.
Here we took Maggi again. Badly tired and exhausted, we started to plan the return journey. Any further ascend seemed very difficult and then we saw a few horses coming with a group of pilgrims.
I enquired if they can drop us to Lyuti/Panar though they refused initially but agreed to drop us till Pitradhar against a handsome amount.
We agreed as we were in no position to ascend any further.
Its advisable to stay at Temple the second day and then return on third day. If one start from temple the third day, it can reach Sagar by evening. This is better option. This was a flaw in our planning.
It took more than an hour for horses to drop us back to Pitradhar covering a distance of about 4 to 5 KMs.
We took some rest here and clicked some videos and photos.
Then the return trek started again. On the way we were discussing if we should stay at Lyuti or descend down further to Mauli Kharak or even down. I was not sure if we can walk any further. So I suggested to stay that night at Lyuti only. Though Shashank was not very happy with that but agreed to me.
At around 3 PM we were back to Panar Bugyal. We took some rest there and some clicks followed by drone shots of Shashank.
Then we descended to Lyuti, reaching there by around 4 PM.
Next day the rain was predicted, perhaps that's why Shashank was in hurry to get down the same day as much as possible. But in my view it was too late to move any further. The next place to find shelter was minimum an hour away and what if we found that place full. I didn't liked the idea to roam there after dark!
Happy and satisfied with Darshan today, we packed our bags and took rest. Surprisingly Airtel and Vodafone were working in some patches so I called Vishal to book our train ticket for next day. Our existing return ticket was of day after next day.
Today only Shashank and myself were there in hut of Kishan Singh Bisht so we took Khichdi in dinner and slept peacefully.
Day 3 of Trek:
Morning we felt fresh after a good sleep.
It was still dark as we started the descend. Clouds were coming from all directions so we had to cover as much distance as possible before rains arrive. Though we had the rain gear, but rains make the path slippery and so its advised to avoid such situation.
Descend proved to be equally challenging as ascend.
Initially we covered distances a bit fast but slowly the pace reduced. As I mentioned already, the path is not good with lot of loose stones and hence it was proving quite challenging. One wrong step will bend the ankle and no medical help is expected there!
By the grace of Merciful Lord nothing untoward happened.
We took Maggi at Mauli kharak and then again at Kaliasaud. Lord Neelkanth had blessed us, there was no rains so far.
Happily we ate maggi at Kaliasaud. The distant Sagar village was visible from here.
Then we started descend again and the dense forest zone started.
Slowly we covered the distance, legs were becoming heavy now, clouds were agin descending so we continued without stopping anywhere and by 10 AM, we were at Pung Bugyal.
Again a plate of Maggi and some rest and some clicks including drone shots of Shashank!
I predicted that in next one hour we will be at Sagar but descend proved to be quite challenging. We had taken two hours to ascend from Sagar to Pung Bugyal and almost same time we took to descend!
Just before reaching the village, there was a small eatery, where we took a couple of glass of "Buransh" (Rhododendron) flower juice. Its quite tasty and healthy. Dont miss it when you are in Uttarakhand during summers.
As we reached village, it started drizzling. I thanked merciful Lord for holding the rain god till we reached safe distances!
By now each step had become heavy. I crossed village very slowly as legs were badly tired with descend of 14 KMs in last about 5 hours!
Ah! I made it...thanks to merciful Lord for allowing me to visit his holy abode.
I called our Cab, who was waiting for us. I changed my cloths at roadside. Last three days, I was in same cloths.
And we took the road to Haridwar. It now started raining heavily.
Lord has blessed us.
It was about 9 PM as we reached Haridwar. We took a bus to Roorkee as our train was from there.
Dinner we took at Roorkee and waited for train.
Morning we were at home, sweet home!