Tungnath , Uttarakhand
Tungnath is one of the highest Shiva temples in the world, and is the highest of the five Panch Kedar temples located in the mountain range of Tunganath in Rudraprayag district. The Tunganath (literal meaning: Lord of the peaks) mountains form the Mandakini and Alaknanda river valleys. It is located at an altitude of 3,680 m (12,073 ft), and just below the peak of Chandrashila. The temple is believed to be more thatn 1000 years old and is the third (Tritiya Kedar) in the of the Panch Kedars.
There is a legend associated with Panch Kedar temple which sstates that sage Vyas Rishi advised the Pandavas to seek the forgiveness of Lord Shiva as they were responsible for the slaying of their own family and kin (Kauravas) during the war of Mahabharata. Acting on the advise of guru, the Pandavas went in search of Shiva who was avoiding them.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.
The priest at this temple is a local Brahmin from Ukhimath village, unlike the other Kedar temples where the priests are from South India, a tradition set by the eighth century Hindu seer Sankaracharya. During winters, the temple is closed and the symbolic image of the deity and the temple priests are moved to Makkumath, which is 19 km here.
Tungnath is at the top of the mountain ridge dividing the waters of the Mandakini River from those of the Alaknanda River. The Tungnath peak on this ridge is the source of three springs, which form the Akashkamini River. The temple lies about 2 km 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). From the top of the Chandrashila peak, picturseque views of the Himalayan range comprising snow peaks of Nanda Devi, Panch Chuli, Banderpoonch, Kedarnath, Chaukhamba and Neelkanth on one side, and the Garhwal valley on the opposite side could be viewed.
Other than being a religious destination, Tungnath is also a well known trekking destination. The 4 km (2.5 mi) trek starts from Chopta, the nearest place connected through motorable road. Chopta is 63 km from Rudraprayag towards Karnaprayag and is reached from Rishikesh via Devprayag, Srinagar and Rudraprayag.