Seeking - The mystique of Patal Bhuvaneshwar
by Dr. Aparna Chattopadhyay
How to reach Patal Bhuvaneshwar:By air: The nearest airport is a Pant Nagar in Nainital. Take taxi or local bus to reach Patal Bhuvaneshwar via Nanital and Almora.
By rail: Kathgodam (90 kms) is the
As I stood amidst the lofty
mountains and colourful wild
flowers confronting the
Himalayan range, I had the
feeling that I had just experienced
the most unforgettable and unique
pilgrimage of my lifetime. I had just been to
one of the most fascinating and intriguing places of the Kumaon region – Patal Bhuvaneshwar
– the abode of Lord Shiva. It seemed strange and
ironical to me that Lord Shiva, known to be eternally
dwelling in the Mount Kailash and the snow-white
Himalayas, felt the need to come down from the
celestial heights of his heavenly abode to the
Patal Loka’s dark underground cave for his spiritual
I glanced at the mysterious cave – 160 metres
long and 90 feet deep, a wonder itself – located in
the quiet and serene village Bhuvaneshwar. I was
told by my guide that it enshrined stalagmite figures
of Lord Shiva and 33 crore gods; it was, in fact,
an intriguing cave city, a narrow tunnel-like opening
leading to several other caves. Its earliest reference,
I was told, was traced back to Skanda Purana,
which elaborately describes the story of the king
Rituparna, the ancient king of Ayodhya, belonging
to the TretaYug. So here I was in a cave belonging
to TretaYug – that sounded incredible!
A divine mural
To enter it, as instructed, I had to first ring the bell at the cave entrance, as one does on entering a temple. The entrance (shaped like the hood of the Sheshnag), was narrow and I had to slide down a ladder of 21 slimy stone steps, known to be the throat of the serpent. As my guide helped me down the wet and slippery steps, I felt as though I was going down into an abyss – quite similar to a mother’s womb!
|It was, in fact, an intriguing cave city, a narrow tunnel-like opening leading to several other caves|
A 1,000-footed Airavat elephant in stone confronted me magnificently. As I looked up at the ceiling, I was bewildered to behold the Takshak and Vasuki serpents immortalised in stone, clinging to it. Lord Shiva’s wish-fulfilling Kamandala (water pot) – a heart-shaped rock – shone brilliantly. Just then, as I looked below, there were the amazing crystal-clear ribs of the Sheshnag on the cave floor, on which I had to balance and tread forward. It was an out-of-the world feeling.
The ladder to Divinity: Entrance to the mystical
Patal Bhuvaneshwara cave My next awesome encounter was with that of the severed head of Adi-Ganesha, an eight-petalled lotus in stone, sheltering and sustaining it with a steady flow of droplets of holy water. Another mystifying sight was that of the 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, I came 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 sanctumsantorum, where Shiva and Shakti are worshipped, I bowed my 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
Looking at these incredible structures, I was wonderstruck at the mystique of the Divine. Stepping out of the haunting dark cave into broad daylight, I felt dazed for a while. It was an experience of a lifetime. After walking ahead a few yards, I looked back – Patal Bhuvaneshwar, stood there in all its mysterious glory, overlooking the steep green valleys and the Himalayan foothills. The scintillating view of the distant snow-capped mountains, from Kailash to Yamunotri, looked haunting. In all its tranquility, it looked beautiful. I felt the presence of an eternal power and pondered over my unique experience – so strange and yet so sacred – as though it was a quiet calling of the Divine. Perhaps it was.
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