Patal Bhuvaneshwar is the place where we are in today. As told in the previous blog entry we have got the best accommodation that we could expect. We had that great view of the Himalayan Mountains. Only thing is the weather that is playing the spoil sport with us. Last night we were told that may be today morning we can see the snow capped Himalayas if we wake up early in the morning at 5AM. I hardly slept as I was so curious to see those snow mountains. Finally today I got up at 4.30 AM. I took my camera and the tripod and went up the hotel room. I was waiting for the best shot to come. The clouds were clearing and the excitement in the group was growing as we were almost close view the Himalayan Mountains.
Meanwhile the sun was also coming out of the clouds. I could get some wonderful pics of the Sunrise. I also took the pics of the group members. Now the time was almost 6.30AM and still we were not able to see the Snow Mountains and once again the clouds started covering the whole scene of mountains. This disappointed us a lot. I took some more pics of those mountains and the beautiful blue sky and went back to the hotel room. Even though we were disappointed for not seeing the snow capped mountains, we all enjoyed the beautiful view of the sunrise, the clouds and also the cool morning breeze.
At around 8 AM we all had some very good break fast of Aluparota. We also had some tea that was served for us. Here in the hill station, tea is served in large quantity near ¾ of big glass or full cups. We were all set to leave for Patal Bhuvaneshwar temple. We took some group photos using the tripod and setting the timer.
History of Patal Bhuvaneshwar
Let me first give some introduction to you all about this temple. Amidst of the beautiful mountains of Uttarakhand is this village in total silence, distinctively confronting the Himalayas. Inside this village is a divine temple which would depict the work of Nature and give some inside truth of Hindu mythology.
I was told that the earliest reference to this Patal Bhuvaneshwar temple was made in the Manaskhand 103rd Chapter of Skandpurana. Veda Vyasa, gave an elaborate description of this auspicious cave in the realms of earth where gods and goddesses rest. It is said that at this place gods from other heavens visit Patal to worship Lord Shiva. It is said also said that this is the only place on earth where such a large gathering of gods takes place. This would include a huge number of Gandharvas, Apsaras, Vidhyadharas, Yogis, Rakshasas and Nagas.
In this chapter it is very clearly described that the first human to discover this cave was Raja Ritupurna who was a king in Surya Dynasty who was ruling Ayodhya during the Treta Yuga. The story starts with Ritupurna playing a game of dice with his counterpart, King Nala. It is said that once, King Nala was defeated by his wife, Queen Damayanti. In order to escape his wife’s prison Nala requested Ritupurna to hide him. Ritupurna took him to the forests of the Himalayas and placed him there. While going back home he became fascinated by a deer which ran into woods and went after it. He could not find it and took rest under a tree. In his dream he saw the deer and it told him not to chase him.
Suddenly he woke up and went to a cave where a guard was standing. After enquiring about the cave he was allowed to go inside. Right at the entrance, Ritupurna met Sheshnag. It agreed to take him through the cave. It carried him on his hood. He saw the marvels of gods taking place inside. He also saw all the 33-crore gods and goddesses including Lord Shiva himself. It is said that after his visit, the cave was closed for ages with a slight prediction in the Skandpurana that it will be reopened again in Kaliyuga. Shankarcharya in Kalyug, during his temporary visit to Himalayas re-discovered this cave. Since then regular worship and offering are being done at this place.
Our Journey Inside
As the original entrance was very narrow and dangerous an artificial entrance with some form of staircase was built. We felt even that was dangerous. I and my brother both guided the whole group inside the cave. The entrance was a narrow doorway, leading to the inside of the earth. Steep stairs and chains were there to balance along the narrow passage down to the Patal which was nearly hundred feet inside. We had a guide who was directing us in the right path. With out any local guide it is very difficult for someone to actually go into the cave and understand what is what inside. Along the route, we saw the claws and jaws of Lord Narsimha emerging out of the cave in natural rock. This was signifying the story Lord Narsimha and Hiranyakashipu. Each and every rock structure in the cave was narrating some or other tale of the Hindu mythology. The amazing part of these structures was that they all have been formed out of natural rock inside that dark cave.
I could see the happiness in the eyes of mom and dad as they were able to complete this difficult journey of 100ft. At the end of this staircase we saw a spacious hall. Here there were myriad rocks which were directly exposed to the eye. Just the bare glance didn’t really reveal the significance of these rocks. The guide explained us the mythology embedded in every piece of rock here. He showed us the jaws of Shesnag on the roof. As told in the story we walk over a stair-like path which was nothing but the back of this mighty snake.
When we went further we saw the place where we could see the story of the son of King Pareekshat. It depicted the curse that he had and the place he was killed by the snake Thakshak. We them came across a rock which was in the middle of the pathway. It was representing the body of Lord Ganesha without his head. Here we can see that the water drips down over the head of this idol from the lotus that comes out of the rock. This signifies the legend about Lord Shiva cutting the head of Ganesha. So before the head of elephant was replaced, the body was supposed to be preserved by the holy water of Sastradal Kamal (lotus flower).
We then came across the replicas of the idols of the famous pilgrim centers of Kedarnath, Badrinath & Amarnath. It is believed that one visit to this cave is equivalent to the famous Char Dham Yatra. Even these idols were emerging out of the rock inside the cave. We also saw the cave in shape of mouth of the dog of Lord Kalbhairav. It is said that this is the route to moksha and if a person enters into cave and reaches to the tail, he would attain moksha from the cycle of birth. However, nobody has ever succeeded in doing so and we were not even allowed to try that. We also saw the idol of Goddess Bhuvaneshwari which was around three metres high. Her face, body and her weapons could be clearly pointed out.
Then the guide showed us the 4 entrances which were ‘Randwar’ ‘Paapdwar’, ‘Dharamdwar’ and ‘Mokshadwar’. We were shown that Randwar and Paapdwar were closed. Only the Dharamdwar and Mokshadwar are open. It is believed that the Paapdwar was closed soon after the death of Ravana and the Randwarwhich was the road to war, was closed down after the great Mahabarata war.
We then saw a tree- shaped rock which was a representation of Kalpavriksha, which is supposed to grant wishes. We were also shown the udders like structures which were believed to belong to Kamadhenu. The water drops coming out of them are whitish, it is a fine representation of milk. These drops fall over ‘Bharamkapali’. This is the representation of Brahma’s Skull. We were told about the legend behind this. The water was in white colour before it touched the earth. This was because the swan that was appointed by Brahma to separate water from the elixir got greedy and tried to drink the elixir. It was cursed to turn into stone with head turned side wards. A perfect head turned side ways can be seen with great clarity in this stone. The head of the rock is exactly like that of a swan.
When we went further inside the cave on one of the walls of the cave we were able to see something similar to the entire universe. It has been represented including the ‘Sapthrishimandal’ (the Seven Rishis). A huge number of small stones projecting out of one of the cave walls represent the 33 crore deities of the Hindu pantheon. The games played by the Pandavas are shown in one of the corners of the caves. The Pandavas during exile used to meditate here under the ‘jatas’ of Lord Shiva. They also visited Badrinath through a secret passage of this cave. Since water keeps seeping through the jatas of Lord Shiva, it is considered to be a representation of the river Ganga falling from the heavens and Lord Shiva trying to withhold her waters in his jatas.
While returning back from the cave we were shown four projections coming out of the rock which are believed to be Satyayuga, Tretayuga, Dwapar, and Kaliyuga. However, the first three projections have stopped their growth, indicating the end of those eras. But the stone representing Kaliyuga is gradually growing in its height. It is believed that once it touches the roof of the cave it would be the end of the world. On the way back at the entrance we saw some stony projections coming down from the roof. It is referred to as the thousand feet of elephant Airavat.
There are further so many caves within this main cave leading to different far off places. Each route has its own significance. The mystery continues, and you can see that there are many unsolved questions in the cave. Veda Vyas, while describing this cave had said, this cave is as old as the earth itself and its beginning and end are not known. They are all sculptured in those shapes from the natural rocks.
We were not supposed to take any pictures inside the cave. So we took some outside the temple and around the cave. Though the journey inside the cave was very painful to mom dad and all elders, they were very very happy that they did it successfully. We from there proceeded to have lunch. After lunch we started off to the main destination of the tour which is Bageshwar. On the way we took the darshan of Berinag temple which was 50 km away from Patal Bhuvaneshwar. On the way to Berinag we also saw a temple which was also very famous for Naga Pratista. But when we reached the Naga Pratista temple it was locked and it seemed as if there was no activity for a long time in the temple. Here one of the vehicle had to replace its punctured wheel.
We then reached a beautiful place called Chakori. This was one more place where we can have a very good view of the himalayas. But because of the dense fog even on the road we could hardly see anything. It was even difficult to see the road and the turnings properly. But still we managed to cross this place and were able to get some very good pics of the fog filled road.
We further started off journey to Bageshwar which was in middle of a big valley which was covered by mountains from all sides. As it was already 4th day and we are descending down the mountains and we couldn’t see the snow capped mountains everybody was disappointed. On the way at a small Hanuman temple we were very lucky to see the snow capped mountains. Everybody was so excited about that as we were waiting for a long time for that beautiful view of the Himalayan range. We then tried reaching the people in the other vehicle over phone and couldn’t reach them as they were out of the coverage area. We were feeling bad that they may miss this scene. But once the other vehicle arrived they were more excited than what we were because they have already got a better glimpse of snow capped mountains than what we were seeing there.
We reached Bageswar at 7 PM and all took rest after dinner