Enshrined in mystery and mythology, Patal Bhuvaneshwar is the hidden pilgrimage centre, near Gangolihat the famous Shaktipeeth. Located 91 kms from Pithoragarh on the way to Berinag, at an elevation of about 1350 mts., this highly revered shrine is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The sub-terranean shrine of Lord Shiva is situated with sprawling interiors. Limestone rock formations have created various spectacular stalactite and stalagmite figures. The way to the cave temple is through a long, narrow tunnel. Inside the cave, the limestone formations have taken shape of many Gods and Goddesses of Hindu pantheon. The forms of Ganesha, Shesh Nag, Garurh, Shivling etc. are distinctly visible to the believers.
It's popularly believed that the holiest cave is the abode of 33 crore Gods and Goddesses, amidst the absolute Himalayan isolation.
Patal Bhuvaneshwar is not iust one cave, rather a cave city. Caves within caves, steps leading to another, each one unmasking deep secrets from within.
The motorable road ends half a kilometer away from the cave entrance. You‘ve to descend nearly 100 steps into this narrow cave, to reach the sanctum sanctorum, which gives an overwhelming feeling that you're entering the centre of the earth.
Each stone, each stalagmite within each cave or doorway, in magnificent erection revels the story of Hindu pantheon in the shapes of Gods, Goddesses, saints and known mythological characters.
According to belief King Rituparna of the Sun dynasty (Surya Vansha) discovered the cave in ‘Treta Yuga'. 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) ls performed in a dimly lit, solemn atmosphere, under the spell of holy chants. You‘ll also be impressed by the huge stalactites, called ‘Jatas‘ of Lord Shiva, located at different locations inside the cave.
It's believed that Pandavas, the 'Mahabharata' heroes proceeded towards their last journey in the Himalayas after meditating here, in front of Lord Shiva.
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, lores, anecdotes and information about this holy place.
Beyond Patal Bhuvaneshwar
Gangolihat : 14 kms from Patal Bhuvaneshwar. Gangolihat is rich in folk culture. music and religious traditions, and had been chosen by Shankaracharya for the installation of Mahakali Shaktipeeth.
Berinag & Chaukori : 27 kms and 38 kms from Patal Bhuvaneshwar, these places offer the breathtaking views of the Himalayan peaks Nanda Devi and Panchchuli.
Gwaldam : A sleepy Himalayan town surrounded by apple orchards. The base for the trek to Roopkund.