Augastamuni Temple was built by Augusta Rishi who was one of the seven direct disciples of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is known as the Adi Yogi- the first yogi to figure out the workings of the universe and the place of human beings in it. This is the one and only thing that sets Hindu religion (and allied religions like Jainism, Buddhism) apart from all the other religions of the world- the goal of human life set as not to seek but become God. The idea is to seek liberation from the cycle of birth and death and ‘go home’ as they say. Mahadeva was the first yogi to understand the human configuration and devised over a hundred ways to become God- omnipresent and omnipotent.
Lord Shiva had seven disciples who learned all there was to learn to become Gods. They are called Saptarishi – Seven Sages. Till date, a constellation of seven stars in the night sky is called Saptarshi and the story of these seven sages is passed on generation to generation.
Augustya Muni was one of the first seven to learn the secrets of the universe after a long and hard penance. Himalayas being the abode of Lord Shiva, he spent many years in this place called Rudraprayag in present Uttarakhand state, in the lap of Himalayan ranges, at over a thousand meters altitude. He is supposed to have stayed here for several years offering austerities to Lord Shiva.
There is no mention of when or where he was born or what he did before he became a Maharishi. There is a saying that goes – don’t ever ask the root of a Rishi. In fact, to date, Augustya is a Gotra. Gotra means a patriarchal lineage or direct descendant of the sage. Agastya is one of the Gotras.
Another legend says that two monsters called Ataapi and Vitaapi were creating havoc in this region. Their modus operandi was unusual. They would disguise themselves and befriend people. Then invite them over for lunch and eat their guests up when they arrived. People were scared and called upon Augusta Muni for help. Augusta Muni went to the devil’s place for lunch and with the power of his spells, he destroyed the devils.
The Augastamuni Temple
The ancient temple he built was flooded and was under water for eons till one local person dreamed that there is such a temple. They found a Kund (built pond) at the place he saw in his dreams and built a temple after consecrating Augusta Muni’s idol here. It is small temple complex, and there are stone carvings of Gods and Goddesses on the walls and a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The temple is situated at the bank of the gorgeous river Mandakini and is blessed with abundant natural splendor Himalayas so generously offers. At Rudraprayag, Mandakini river meets Alaknanda river and the confluence is sacred.
Pilgrims visit this temple on their way to Kedarnath which is about 5o kilometers away. It has a helipad that takes a short 45-minute ride to Kedarnath. This temple is an essential part of the itinerary of the Char Dham Yatra.
Baisakhi is the famous Harvest festival in Northern India and the temple attracts a huge crowd of devotees on Baisakhi. There are big fairs and music and dance through the night to celebrate this learned pious Maharishi who leaned from the Adi Yogi and stayed back on earth to teach the others and spread the message. He gave us more than just a message- he has given an objective to every human life. Liberation from the cycle of birth and death and rebirth. Not just seek God, be God!