One of the largest battles fought on Indian land was over; Pandavas were victorious but Kurukshetra was filled with bloodied bodies of their kith and kin. Pandavas had sinned- they had killed their own brothers. They had to atone their sins and soon after the great victory they left for Prayag (Current day Varanasi) to pray to Lord Shiva and ask for forgiveness. However, Shiva was too upset with them to accept their repentance and he went off to the Himalayas when the Pandavas arrived in Prayag. The Pandavas followed him to the Himalayas. Shiva took the form of Nandi Bull to hide from them. But Pandavas were too clever and recognized him anyway. Bhima tried to hold on to the bull with all his mighty strength. The bull was torn apart and five of his pieces fell in Uttarakhand. These five places are known as Panch Kedar (five Shiva).
The hump of the Bull landed in Kedarnath, his arms in Tunganath, his midriff in Madyamahesh. His face appeared in Rudranath and his head and hair in Kalpeshwar. Each place worships the part that fell there. Only Pashupatinath Mandir- in Nepal, worships the whole body of Shiva and is considered to be the sixth Kedar by some. It is said that the Pandavas built temples at each of these places and they form a route next only to Char Dham pilgrimage in priority.
The order in which these temples are to be visited is fixed and Rudranath has to be the third temple to visit and by far the most difficult of these five treks. It is situated at the elevation of 3600 meters, in the midst of thick forests full of pines, oaks, and rhododendrons. Even the common grass here is so tall!
The closest village Sagar is 25 kilometers away and there is no motorable road after that- you have to walk! There are alternative routes, one from Helang and a third from Urgam village.
We once traveled to Rudranath and chose the Sagar route.
It is a long and arduous winding climb. Steep climbs over mud and rocks, sometimes it is dangerously slippery. Even if you are not a mountaineer, you have to be quite fit to do this trek. However, every time you stop to catch your breath you are gifted with picture perfect views of one of the snow-clad peaks – Nandadevi, Hathipahad, Nandaghanti, Trishul or Devasthan. The serene blue sky smiles at you warmly and eggs you on. The forest canopy offers cool shade and walking through the gorgeous giant brown barks gives you a different perspective on size.
The day ended quickly and we had to make a stop for the night. Our guide had already planned for the night halt in five-star luxuries.
The modest hut did feel like luxury after the exhaustion of the strenuous day- simple but wholesome, with hot food at offer and a warm bed. Before I knew I had drifted into a deep slumber. The second day seemed a little less hard only because we knew what to expect. Wildflowers were blooming in the patches of meadows. The views continued to be celestial.
Finally, we spotted the stone temple at a distance, A 100 meters before the temple is an idol of Narada Muni. Just outside the Rudranath Temple is a Temple of Pandavas and other idols like Dattatreya and Hanuman. The temple is surrounded by water bodies. They have names like Suryakunda, Chandrakunda, Tarakunda. Right behind the temple, the sacred river Baitarni flows noisily.
The Temple of Rudranath is so cool inside. It is made in natural stone. Built without cement or mortar in 8 AD and still standing string defying all the natural calamities.