Discovering The Myths and Mysteries of Patal Bhuvaneshwar

16 . 11 . 2018

The Mystery Of Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple Uttarakhand, India

 

“I don’t think I can go any further, I want to go back”! That was one from our group who was in front of me.

But there was no going back, as we crawled, squeezed, and slid in single file down a small tunnel holding on to iron chains for dear life. If one lost a foothold and slipped it was sure that the others below would also come down like a house of cards.


Inside the tunnel leading to the Patal Bhuvaneshwar C​ave of Uttarakhand

Of course, there was no going back once you entered the dark entrance to the tunnel that led to a mysterious subterranean world lying 90 feet below. In fact many years ago there was a belief that anyone who entered the cave would not return!

पाताल भुवनेश्वर गुफा के हैरान कर कर देने वाले रहस्य

There was only just enough space in the tunnel for one person to squeeze through and in one place the awning seemed so small, one wondered if a person with slightly greater girth could pass through.

The path that is said to represent the backbone of Adishesha inside the Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple Uttarakhand

We were at Patal Bhuvaneshwar, a very ancient and sacred cave temple located in the northern Indian Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. The descent into the cave temple is in itself a thrilling adventure, an unforgettable experience. Once inside the cave you enter a different world, a world of myth and mystique, a place charged with the vibes of spirituality and history that engulf you in an ice-cold embrace.

But what is Patal Bhuvaneshwar? What is the history of Patal Bhuvaneshwar? What is the mystery behind Patal Bhuvaneshwar? These may be some of the questions that are ringing in your mind at this moment. So before we regale you with our experience at Patal Bhuvaneshwar, here is a little bit of background and history about the place Patal Bhuvaneshwar one of the subterranean wonders of the world.

Patal Bhuvaneshwar History

“This awesome cave is believed to be as old as the earth itself” reads an inscription that one can see outside the temple of Patal Bhuvaneshwar. In a single sentence this probably nicely sums up the history of the place.

The earliest reference to the cave is found in the ancient Hindu text known as Skanda Purana which has origins dating back to the 6th century CE. The Skanda Purana is the largest of 18 Mahapuranas which are odes to the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The Skanda Purana with 81,000 verses is an ode to Lord Shiva though it is named after Skanda who is the son of the divine couple Shiva and Parvati. Skanda is popularly known as Kartikeya, Murugan, or Subrahmanya and is the brother of the elephant-headed God Ganesh.

It is fascinating to note that the Skanda Purana besides having stories about Shiva and Parvati also has a section which in many ways is a travel guide of sorts. It talks about various places of pilgrimage and sacred temples as well as their geographical locations!

The section of the Skanda Purana known as Manas khanda has a description of Patal Bhuvaneshwar. It says, “he who wants to feel the presence of eternal power should come to the sacred Bhuvaneshwar situated near the confluence of the rivers Ramganga, Sarayu, and Gupt Ganga”.

Patal Buvaneshwar is alluded to in various sacred Hindu texts across the passage of time. As per Hinduism the cycle of time is measured as a Yuga and one Yuga consists of four components namely Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dvapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga. It is believed that currently, we are in the Kali Yuga which is estimated to have begun after the end of the Kurukshetra war of the Hindu epic Mahabharata, sometime around 3102 BCE.

Legend has it that Lord Shiva in his abode known as Bhuvaneshwar, more precisely Patal Bhuvaneshwar was worshipped by the 330 million Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu Pantheon. It is believed that even today on the Trayodashi, the 13th day of the Lunar month which is considered very auspicious for the worship of Shiva, the 330 million Gods and Goddesses descend into Patal Bhuvaneshwar to worship Lord Shiva.

First Discovery Of Patal Bhuvaneshwar By Humans

It is believed that a king called Rituparna accidentally discovered the cave temple of Patal Bhuvaneshwar sometime during the Treta Yuga. As he entered the mysterious cave, he encountered Adishesha, the primordial being as per Hinduism who is the king of Nagas or beings who take the form of snakes. Adishesha took King Rituparna around the cave where he witnessed the awe-inspiring sight of different Gods and Goddesses and saw Lord Shiva himself.

After that, the cave temple was again lost in the realms of obscurity only to be re-discovered by the Pandavas during the Dwapara Yuga. It is believed that the Pandavas prayed to Lord Shiva here before embarking on their final journey of ascending the peak known as Swargarohini, a massif situated in the Saraswati range of the Garhwal Himalayas which is about 218 kilometers from Patal Bhuvaneshwar.

In the Kali Yuga, the mysterious cave temple of Patal Bhuvaneshwar was re-discovered by none other than Adi Shankaracharya who lived in the 8th century.

The Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple, Pithoragarh District In Modern Times And Our Experience

A sleepy looking street with eateries on either side led to an arch. We alighted from our vehicle near the arch and we needed to walk from there till the Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple.

Memorial to Major Sameer Katwal near the Patal Bhubaneshwar Temple

The arch has been erected in memory of Maj. Sameer Katwal of the 21 Kumaon regiment who sacrificed his life while raiding a militant camp in Assam in the year 1999. The arch is named as Sameer Dwar in memory of the valiant braveheart. A bust of the Major along with a plaque stands by the side of the arch.

A local Kumaoni woman with her granddaughter in tow smiles enigmatically putting Mona Lisa to shame and poses with her granddaughter for a picture. She sells souvenirs and trinkets at a shop near the arch.

We descend a few steps and stare at a board which proclaims ominously that it is compulsory to visit the Varadh Bhuvaneshwar temple before entering the Patal Bhuvaneshwar temple. We see the top of an ancient looking temple in the distance and enquire about it and the ominous cautionary note on the board with our guide who shrugs it off saying that it is some old belief.

We continue on our way to the Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple. A narrow path snakes through the rim of the hill towards the temple. The valley stretches out languorously below. mesmerizing with greenery and full of Deodhar and Pine trees. The mountains in the distance and the clouds flitting across the blue skies create a mystical aura as we walk expectantly towards the temple.

Soon we reach another small arch which has a lockable grill gate, which is open now, this is the entrance to the Patal Bhuvaneshwari temple.

Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple Uttarakhand

Another board by the side of this gate has a stanza from the Skanda Purana written in Sanskrit along with its meaning in Hindi. It alludes to a person named Valkal who would re-discover this temple and make it accessible to Man, till then it would not be accessible to humans. The guide later informs us in the temple that the person named Valkal being referred to is Adi Shankaracharya.

Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple Uttarakhand

The heavenly peal of temple bells strung across the periphery of the narrow path welcomed us to the precincts of the Patal Bhuvaneshwar temple. There is a counter at the temple which gives information and also provides the guide to visit the temple. Visitors are not allowed to enter without a guide. A board warns that the oxygen level inside the cave temple in the rainy season between the months of July and October is very low. Persons with heart disease and other allied conditions are also advised not to enter the temple and so also senior citizens and kids below the age of 5 years

Photography is prohibited inside the cave temple and all mobile phones and cameras need to be deposited at the counter.

However, our group got special permission from ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) based on a recent order that allowed photography at all Indian monuments under the ASI except three namely the inside of the mausoleum of the Taj Mahal, Ajanta Caves, and Leh Palace.

The pictures and the videos of the inside of the cave temple used here are exclusive and taken by us during our visit and probably one of the first look at the inside of the Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple in recent times

Entering The Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple

Entering inside Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple Uttarakhand

A narrow opening tapers down in the form of a tunnel. A door is now framed against this opening. There are heavy iron chains hanging from the opening that disappear into the darkness of the orifice below.

Entrance to the cave – Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple Uttarakhand

This is the only way to enter and also the only way to exit. Only one person can squeeze through at a time.

We entered the cave gingerly, probing the ground for a safe footing in single file, the guide leading the way.  We bolstered our somewhat waning confidence with loud chants of “Om Namah Shivaya” as we gripped the iron chains by the side which were literally a godsend. We slid down the underground tunnel feet first. The descent is about 90 feet with the tunnel narrowing down at portions. At one point one needs to squeeze through a small awning between the rocks. The good part is that there is lighting available. We could only imagine how it would have been if it were pitch dark!

Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple Uttarakhand

We finally saw the tunnel widen and reached an embankment of rough rock steps that led to the ground.

At Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple Uttarakhand

We were finally on terra firma and looked around in amazement at the unique underground world that spread out in front of us.

The Inside Of The Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple

The feet of Airavat inside the Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave temple Uttarakhand

As soon as we touched the ground,  the first thing we saw inside the Patal Bhuvaneshwar temple in front of us was a strange rock formation that almost touched the ground. They looked like hooves. Our guide explained that these rock formations symbolized the 100 legs of Airavata, the mythical elephant which is the vehicle of Lord Indra according to Hindu Mythology.

The Hood of Adishesha inside the Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple Uttarakhand

The guide gestured for us to turn towards the direction from which we had emerged and look upwards. Above us covering us like a colossal hood was a formation that uncannily looked like the hood of a King Cobra. The guide asked us to bow down to Adishesha who according to Hindu mythology holds the universe on his hood and proceed further into the cave.

The Moksha Dwar inside the Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple Uttarakhand

The Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple is not one cave but a series of interconnected caves which hold unknown mysteries. There are four entrances inside the cave and these are known as Randwar, Paapdwar, Dharamdwar, and Mokshdwar. Of these, it is believed that the Paapdwar was closed after the death of the demon King Ravana and the Randwar was closed after the end of the Kurukshetra war. Currently, only two doors are open inside the cave, the Dharamdwar, and the Mokshadwar.

We continued our fascinating journey inside this strange subterranean world of the limestone cave temple walking carefully as the floor was slippery. Soon we came upon a magnificent sight that took our breath away.

The matted locks of Shiva inside the Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple Uttarakhand

A colossal and silvery stalactites formation rose before our eyes. It indeed looked like the tresses of a giant being. The guide informed us that these symbolized the matted hair of Lord Shiva.

Eight petaled lotus formation inside Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple Uttarakhand

As we move forward the guide pointed out to a beautiful stalactite formation on the roof of the cave from which water dripped onto a rock which was probably a stalagmite formation on the ground.

A rock formation symbolizing the headless body of Ganesh inside the Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple Uttarakhand

The guide explained that the rock symbolized the headless Ganesh on whom water dripped perpetually from the eight-petaled lotus formation above. This was obviously a reference to the birth of Ganesh and how he got an elephant’s head according to Hindu mythology.

Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple Uttarakhand

There were many other formations which included the Saptarishi Mandal, Shiva’s Kamandal, Kamadhenu, Kalpavriksha, the symbolism of the four yugas, Bhagirath and the descent of the Ganga and much more

The Kund that was made for the Pandavas by Vishwakarma at Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple Uttarakhand

In fact, the shapes of Gods and Goddesses of the Hindu pantheon and characters and incidents from Hindu mythology fill the cavernous paths of the cave city that is Patal Bhuvaneshwar. We followed the guide along the slippery path, a little out of breath and feeling the scarcity of oxygen to reach the sanctum sanctorum.

The sanctum sanctorum inside Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple Uttarakhand

Three different stone formations are worshipped here as representing the trinity of the Hindu pantheon, Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwar. Water drips on these stones as if in perpetual benediction. It is believed that the copper plate that covers the deities were installed by Adi Shankaracharya. This place is considered very holy and sacred and a visit here is considered as equal to doing the Chardham Yatra that is a sacred pilgrimage for the Hindus and is a visit to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri. A visit to the shrine at the Patal Bhuvaneshwari cave temple is also considered as meritorious if not more than visiting Kashi also known as Varanasi, the holiest place for Hindus.

The Priest from the Bhandari clan at the Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple Uttarakhand

It is interesting to note that the priest of the Patal Bhuvaneshwari cave temple is from the Bhandari family who have been taking care of the worship at the temple since 18 generations, ever since Adi Shankaracharya re-discovered the temple.

We slowly made our way up the narrow tunnel, hoisting ourselves up by means of the iron chains. Our minds awed by what we had experienced. Thoughts swam in our minds like a billion whirlpools. The myths mingled with facts, natural wrested with the supernatural, and known confronted the unknown as we emerged from the darkness of the subterranean cave to the brightness of the world above the ground.

As we took the narrow path that led away from the Patal Bhubaneshwar cave temple, the white clouds in the distance seemed to take on strange and mythical forms and we felt a strange rush of euphoria. The Kumaon region of Uttarakhand and in fact the entire region of Uttarakhand is not only an indulgence for the visual senses with its ravishing natural beauty but touches one in the different dimensions of mysticism and spirituality too.

How To Reach Patal Bhuvaneshwar Uttarakhand

Patal Bhuvaneshwar is situated in the Pithoragarh district of the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand state in the north of India. It lies at an altitude of 1350 meters above sea level.

  • Patal Bhuvaneshwar distance from Delhi, the capital of India is about 506 kilometers
  • The nearest railway station to Patal Bhuvaneshwar is Tanakpur at a distance of 154 kilometers
  • Kathgodam to Patal Bhuvaneshwar distance is about 191 kilometers and there is a railway station here too
  • Haldwani to Patal Bhuvaneshwar distance is about 198 kilometers
  • Patal Bhuvaneshwar is about 14 kilometers from Gangolihat in the Pithoragarh district
  • The nearest airport to Patal Bhuvaneshwar is Pantnagar Airport at a distance of about 226 kilometers

Patal Bhuvaneshwar Map

Best Time To Visit Patal Bhuvaneshwar

The Patal Bhuvaneshwar weather is pleasant throughout the year and one can plan a visit anytime. However, travel during the monsoon months between July to September can be a little taxing owing to heavy rains and the possibility of landslides.

Things To Know Before Visiting Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple

    • The walking distance from the parking lot to the Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple is not much, however, it is not wheelchair accessible
    • The entrance to the cave temple is through a narrow tunnel which one needs to slide through for about 90 feet to reach the temple
    • Oxygen levels inside the cave can be less especially in the rainy season between the months of July to October
    • It is advisable for persons with ailments like heart disease, Asthma, Diabetes, Hypertension, Anxiety, Claustrophobia, and allied disorders not to enter the Bhuvaneshwar mandir cave
    • Senior citizens and children below 5 years are also not advised to enter the cave temple
      • The Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple is a religious place of worship and hence dress modestly and make sure proper decorum is maintained inside the temple
      • Footwear is not allowed inside the temple and hence be prepared to do some walking on bare feet on slippery terrain inside the cave temple
      • While entering the cave temple make sure your hands are free as you will need to use them to hold on to the iron chains to descend to and ascend from the cave temple

Places To Visit Near Patal Bhuvaneshwar

Though the Mystery of Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Uttarakhand is an engrossing and fulfilling experience in itself, there are many other places near Patal Bhuvaneshwar that are worth visiting. Here are glimpses of a few of them.

Gangolihat

At a distance of about 14 kilometers from the Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave temple, Gangolihat is another sacred place which is famous for its Mahakali Shaktipeeth installed by Adi Shankaracharya. There are a few places near Gangolihat that are worth seeing. Check it out here.

Chaukori

The beautiful and secluded hamlet of Chaukori which is a picturesque getaway in the mountains is about 38 kilometers from Patal Bhuvaneshwar.

Berinag

The town of Berinag is situated about 27 kilometers from Patal Bhuvaneshwar and is known for the larger number of snake temples it has. It also makes for a beautiful getaway in the midst of lush tea gardens with the backdrop of the Himalayan ranges.

Check out our video on Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple Uttarakhand, India here:

Uttarakhand Tourism

How To Get To Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple Uttarakhand, India

Book cheap flightshotelsbus tickets and cars on rent here.

Where To Stay When Visiting Patal Bhuvaneshwar Uttarakhand, India

Uttarakhand hotels – If you are planning to visit Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave Temple Uttarakhand, India, then you must be wondering where to stay in Patal Bhuvaneshwar, Uttarakhand, India or the best hotels in Patal Bhuvaneshwar, Uttarakhand, India. For best accommodation – hotels near Patal Bhuvaneshwar, we suggest checking here. You could stay at Tanakpur or Gangolighat or Lohaghat. Best hotels in Uttarakhand, India can be booked on Booking.com or Skyscanner to save huge and get best deals on booking your stay in Uttarakhand, India. Alternatively, you can also stay at KMVN Tourist Rest House at Patal Bhuvaneshwar.

Driving Around Uttarakhand, India

If you are looking at getting the best deals on car rental in Uttarakhand, India, then look no further. You can rent a car in Delhi to explore and experience amazing Uttarakhand, and in and around areas and embark on a road trip of exploration and discovery of heavenly Uttarakhand. If you have a valid Indian driving license then you could rent a self-drive car from Delhi or Chandigarh.

You could also travel by bus and reach Tanakpur and reach Patal Bhuvaneshwar in Uttarakhand, India. Tanakpur is well connected with major cities of India like Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata, and Agra. Book your bus tickets here.

Have you visited the Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple in Uttarakhand? We hope our post helps you as a Patal Bhuvaneshwari travel guide if you are planning a visit there? Do let us know if you need any further details. In case you have already been there,  do let us know how was your experience? Do let us know through our comments section.

We were hosted by Uttarakhand Tourism. However, the views and opinions expressed here are our own.