When you see towering mountains and utter beauty of nature around with colorful flowers you have never seen before then its none other than Patal Bhuvaneshwar (The Abode of Lord Shiva). It is one of the most fascinating places of the Kumaon region where you will experience the most unforgettable and unique pilgrimage of your lifetime, Patal Bhuvaneshwar is a limestone cave temple 14 km from Gangolihat in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand state in India.
It is located in the village Bhubneshwar.
Legends and several traditional beliefs that this underground cave enshrines Lord Shiva and 33 Crores Gods (Devi & Devta’s). This cave is 160 m long and 90 feet deep from the point of entrance and the entrance to the cave is very small and only few slimy stone steps are their to slide down. To enter you have to first ring the bell at the cave entrance, as one does on entering a temple. The entrance (Shaped like the hood of the Shesh Naag) This cave has a narrow tunnel-like opening which leads to a number of caves. The cave is fully electrically illuminated and brightened.
When you will reach the cave, you will get surprised to see such a huge place inside a solid mountain. Due to some volcanic eruptions molten rocks, iron, copper and zinc had carved some beautiful sculptures in the cave. Also looks like several limestone rock formations have created various spectacular stalactite and stalagmite figures of various hues and forms.
There is a traditional beliefs that the Pandava brothers of (Epic Mahabharata) passed their time here during their exile punishment (Vanvaas). It is built due to the flow of water. It cut the rocks in such a fascinating way that it looks like that any artist had made those entire statues within the cave & on its wall. It has some cave opening and it is believed that these opening will be close as the centuries pass on.
The scientific fact is that it’s still being developed due to crystallization of the minerals which are dissolved in the water. As per belief, some doors which are now closed were opened thousand of years back. It’s yet to be fully explored. It is also believed that this cave is internally connected to the four Abodes (Char Dhams).
The guides over there explains how this cave has been mentioned in Skand Puran and show you all around, All mystical images lined against the rocky walls so majestically, like sincere age-old sentinels. The shapes were so clear that you need no explanation. You could easily figure out that it is a peacock, or a snake or a cow. The miniature Amarnath Model was so clear that you’ll recognize it before guide could tell. It looked like a blue prints of all the Himalayan temples. If you’ll go by guide’s version of explanation almost all the pilgrimage places in Himalayas were there, Some you can recognized yourself some were forced into your mind. A 1,000-footed Airavat Elephant in stone confronted me magnificently. Lord Shiva’s wish-fulfilling Kamandal (Water Pot) – a heart shaped rock looks so thrilling.
Just few steps ahead you’ll see the severed head of Adi-Ganesha, an eight-petaled lotus in stone, sheltering and sustaining it with a steady flow of droplets of holy water. Another mystifying sight is narrow stone tongue of Kaal Bhairav – entering through it, reaching the womb inside, and emerging through its tail on the other end, is said to bestow upon one the boon of moksha.
Encounter with Shiva and Shakti:
The most intriguing stone images, however, had yet to come. Moving a few steps ahead, You’ll come face to face with the magnificent long locks (Jataas) of Lord Shiva, adorning an entire wall. On his lofty hair strands, the holy Ganges water dripped incessantly and mysteriously from a rock above. On entering the heart of the caves and reaching the main sanctum, where Shiva and Shakti are worshiped, you will automatically bow your head in reverence. The sacred spot was covered with a copper covering. It is said that at this spot, the divine energy had engendered a massive fire, which was later sealed with a copper lid by Adi Shankaracharya, and thenceforth, human sacrifices to the Goddess Kali were stopped.
Mystique of the Divine:
Stepping out of the haunting dark cave into broad daylight, You will felt dazed for a while. And you will definitely say “It was an experience of a lifetime where i felt the presence of an eternal power”.
Legend of the Cave:
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 and 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 asked him to stay there. While going back home he was fascinated by a deer which ran into woods and went after it. He could not find it and took rest under a tree. He had a dream where the deer was asking Ritupurna not to chase him. His sleep broke and as 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 who agreed to take him through the cave. It carried him on its hood. He saw the marvels of Gods taking place inside. He all the 33-Koti (33 type not 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 visit to Himalayas re-discovered this cave. Since then regular worship and offering are being done at this place.
According to belief King Rituparna of the Sun dynasty (Surya Vansha) discovered the cave in ‘Treta yug’. It has been described in the ‘MANAS KHAND’ of ‘SKAND PURAN’. Adi Shankaracharya visited this cave in 1191 AD. That was the beginning of the modern pilgrimage history, at Patal Bhuvaneshwar. The journey inside the cave has to be carried in feeble lights, holding protective iron chains. The Stone formations of Sheshnag can be seen, holding earth, heaven the world beneath. ‘Havan’ (fire sacrifice) is performed in a dimly lit, solemn atmosphere, under the spell of holy chants. You’ll also be impressed by theto visit these parts form the celestial heights of His abode in Kailash. The cave, it is believed, is connected by an underground route to Mount Kailash. it’s believed that Pandavas, the ‘Mahabharat’ heroes proceeded towards their last journey in the Himalayas after meditating here, in front of Lord Shiva.This hidden pilgrimage situated at 1,350 mts above sea level is mainly dedicated to Lord Shiva.Almost every god that you would have heard of resides in this mystifying cave. It is also believed that you can worship at Patal Bhuvaneshwar is equivalent to worshipping at Char Dham of Uttarakhand.
The priest family, the Bhandaris are performing religious rites at Patal Bhuvaneshwar since the time of the Adi Shankaracharya. More than 20 generations in the line. They are a treasure house of legends, lore, anecdotes and information about this holy place. It is also believed that this cave is internally connected to the four abodes /seats (Char Dham).
Inscription outside the Temple:
“This awesome cave is believed to be as old as the earth itself. It has been mentioned in detail in the 103 chapter of Manaskhand of “Skanda Purana”. The first human who entered this cave was king “Rituparna” of Suraya Dynasty during the “Tretayuga”. It is said that during his visit, he had encountered several demons and “Sheshnaag” himself acted as his guide.One can see the gateway of the great ages in Patal Bhuvaneshwar. There are four entrances inside the cave named as ‘Randwar’ ‘Paapdwar’, ‘Dharamdwar’ and ‘Mokshadwar’. The Paapdwar was closed soon after the death of Ravana and the Randwar, literally, the road to war, was closed down after the great Mahabharata war. At present only two gateways are opened. You can see the tongue of Kali Bhairav, Aravati of Indra, hairs of Lord Shiva and several other wonders inside the caves of Patal Bhuvaneshwar.
In “Dwaparyuga” this cave was rediscovered by the Pandavas. In Kaliyuga, Adishankar Acharya consecrate this cave and since 1191, this has been a place of visit, both for sightseeing and worship.”
How To Reach Patal Bhuvaneshwar:
The motor-able road ends half a kilometer away from the cave entrance. You have to descend nearly 100 steps into this narrow cave, to reach the sanctum, which gives an overwhelming feeling that you are entering into the center of the earth.
- Air: The nearest airport is Naini Saini at Pithoragarh (91 kms). No regular flights are available at present
- Rail: The nearest Railhead is Kathgodam, 192 kms. with train connections from Delhi, Kolkata, Lucknow, Dehradun and Mathura.
- Road: Patal Bhuvaneshwar is connected through metalled hill roads to tourist destination like Almora, Binsar, Jageshwar, Kausani, Ranikhet, Nainital with all the major towns in the area. Patal Bhuvaneshwar is situated about 37 km from Chaukori and 14 km from Gangolihat in Pithorgarh district in Uttaranchal.