This was my first trip to a small place in Uttarakhad. Just wanted to be away from the everyday city life and be in myself . Also wanted to explore a place. So one day packed my bag and started for this place about which a friend had advised.
After the overnight journey from Delhi, I took the local taxi. The co-passengers were very helpful. They helped me to get on to the right taxi after I got down at Raiagar where from I had to change to another taxi. It was in pieces that I arrived at my destination, yet not at all tiring.
I was nearing the small and sleepy village of Patal Bhuvaneshwar. As the road leads to this small village, amidst the fog and the air filled with the aroma of the flora, sun rays falling through the raising Deodar and Pines, wild birds crossing and the occasional view of the Himalayas, one is left in awe. The turns of the road make you feel as if there is no further way. Then suddenly there comes a part where it appears as if the door is wide open to welcome all and everyone. As you get close you are pulled to a tranquil, easy going life which is extremely soothing for the city dwellers. The slow pace of life is the first relaxing experience. But there is lot more to add to this first encounter.
Got to know that Patal Bhuvaneshwar is situated at the height of 1350 meters to the north of Gangolihat in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. The Almighty has packaged the place with Nature, Spiritual and Adventure qualities which make it a world beyond. It is known for a natural cave that gets its name after the village.
Next day visited the cave and it was a guided tour inside. The cave came out to be a repository of various episodes of Hindu mythology, particularly Shaiva. This cave of the Gods, Pauranic and historical (complete description of Patal Bhuvaneshwar is found in Manas Khand of Skanda Purana) in importance, has a small entrance that leads to the mesmerizing world of natures chiseling. In comparison to the narrow entrance, the inside of the cave is wide. Then begins the wonderful trail explained by the guides. The Hood of the Shesh Nag, the holder of the Mother Earth, is right on top while one walks on his ribs. The four Yugas are seen as small projections. The 33 crore Gods appear as small shiny stars. The King Bhagirath and descent Ganga, the jatas of Shiva, the Hans of Brahma, the head of Lord Ganesh with the life saving Sahastrdal Kamal are amazing and so realistic as if done by a perfect artist, who knows who. The Shiva lingam concreted by the great sage of 8th century, Shankaracharya, is highly venerated. In one corner Shiva and Parvati, with son Ganesh in her lap, are playing Chaupad with five Pandavas. The tongue of Kal Bhairava is seen hanging in another corner. There are more caves within the main cave of Patal Bhuvaneshwar. Such as, the Markandeya cave where sage Markandeya wrote the Markandeya Purana and another that leads to Kashi. (Please insert the pix of hamsa of Brahma and the Shivalinga of Shankaracharya)
The entire ambiance is heightened with spirituality with the view of the HimalayanRange. The dawn and dusk at the peaks-the Nanda Devi and Panchachuli, are another wonder at Patal Bhuvaneshwar that supplement the unforgettable journey to Patal Bhuvaneshwar. These peaks appear as if they have taken Patal Bhuvaneshwar in their lap. The moods of these world-famous peaks are different in different seasons with the rays of the sun, especially monsoon that make rains equally arresting at Patal Bhuvaneshwar.
The ancient as well as the modern route to Kailash Mansarovar passesthrough Patal Bhuvaneshwar.
How to reach: Nearest Rail head is Kathgodam from Delhi and Dehradun. There are shared taxis and buses of Uttarakhand State roadways that go up to Gangolihat. From Gangolihat Patal Bhuvaneshwar is 20 kms and shared taxis are easily available.
Where to stay: There are varieties of accommodations. A tent colony for those who do not want to repeat the concrete and be close to nature while on this trip, traditional houses of Kumaon for those who want to have a close look at the Kumaoni culture. I stayed in a tent, as I wanted to experience it. This was my first time staying in a tent. One feels that in the winter, a tent would not be a very good option. But believe me it was the safest and warmest!!
What can one do there: engage in different adventure sports, such as village walk, rock climbing and trekking. I got myself into a one day trek to the Bhrigutungg mountain. The scenic beauty from there was amazing. On one side was the river Ramganga and in front was the Himalaya, all white in snow. Meditation is another activity for which Patal Bhuvaneshwar is the perfect destination.
What to bring from Patal Bhuvaneshwar: Memories!! Photography is allowed outside and not inside the cave. You can take a lot of pictures of the rising and setting sun, the Kumaon Peaks of Himalayas- the Panchachuli, the Nandadevi etc clad with snow and the changing colour of their garb with the changing colours of the sun.
I enjoyed the hot dal chawal served with bhag ki chatni. This, especially after the trek is extremely tasty. I had it with the local family who served me with utmost love and hospitality.
This was “an experience” of my life and exactly what I wanted!!