My life was set with a clock; I literally started behaving like a robot. Home to office and office to home—life was taking me nowhere. There was no inner peace, but only a rush to meet everyday challenges. At the same time, I was undergoing extensive medical treatment. My spiritual Guru, guide, and friend, whom I call Bapu, was visiting Mumbai at the time and requested that I take some time off. On his earnest request, I agreed to pay a visit to Rudranath because, most of the time, he resides there. I thought I would go there to seek darshan and return the next day. We went to Delhi by flight; from there, we went to Dehradun; and again, from Dehradun, by road, we went to Gopeshwar. Chamoli Gopeshwar is a township in the Garhwal hills and a municipal board within Chamoli district.
Gopeshwar is a very beautiful place; here I was treated like a princess. I checked into a hotel owned by Vedprakash ji, who is a temple poojari. The hotel was surrounded by small shops and lovely pastel-colored houses. I took enough rest at night and in the morning visited a temple. This temple was built somewhere between the 9th and 11th centuries by the wealthy Katyuri kings. The engravings present on the divine trident placed in the temple date back to the 12th century. After the Panch Kedar shrines, this is the most respected Shiva temple in Uttarakhand. Its architecture resembles that of other Shiva temples in Uttarakhand, such as Kedarnath and Tungnath. It is a Swayambhu Shivling, which is known as Gopinath. It is placed inside the sanctum sanctorum and has 24 doors. The famous Shiva’s trident, 5 meters long, is placed in the temple’s courtyard. One can also find partially damaged idols in temple premises that were restored by the architectural survey department.
There are several stories behind this temple. One story is that when Lord Krishna organized Ras leela at Vrindavan, Shiva dressed as a Gopika (a female disciple of Krishna) to participate in leela, but Parvati caught him, and that’s how Gopeshwar came into existence. There is another belief that says the trident in the temple enclosure belongs to Lord Shiva. Shiva hurled his trishul in order to kill Kamadeva (God of Lust) when he tried to interrupt Lord Shiva’s meditation. The trident got fixed in that spot and has been there ever since. It is believed that only the slightest touch of a true devotee can shake the trident, which otherwise remains unmoved even with strong force. Another belief is that when Lord Shiva turned Kamadeva into ashes, his wife Rati did atonement at Gopeshwar. Pleased with her devotion, Lord Shiva assured her that her husband would come back to life.
The Shiv Linga here is very beautiful, and the temple treats eyes and souls. After seeking darshan from Gopeshwar, we traveled 5 kilometers to Sagar village (सगर). Sagar is the start point for the Rudranath Trek. This charming little place is one of those pahari-style villages’ in between the mountain peaks and beautiful valleys. We started our trek at noon, and it was scorching hot. I walked a few steps, but my body was melting in the sun. Somehow, after walking a few kilometers, I took a small break. From here, we were interested in a semi-forest, beautiful trees, a breeze, and chirping birds. Those furry dogs on the way made me forget all the pain that I was carrying. In the meantime, Bapu and his disciples were another breather; they were very supportive and kind. The journey became easy just because of them.
After walking for 5 kilometers, we took our first halt at Pung Bugiyal, which means open spaces in between the mountains. Here we found a nice stay in the tent and good food made by locals. We had a bonfire because it was chilly outside. We had a lot of fun here at Pung Bugiyal. The stay, washrooms, food—everything was just awesome, clean, and hygienic. What I loved the most was the approach of localities towards yatris. The next day we took a bath, had a nice breakfast, and started our journey. From Pung, it’s a straight upward walk. If you don’t have control over your breathing, you might get very tired quickly. This walk teaches you to be in sync with your breathing. This walk teaches you to be composed. The trees, flowers, and jungles have a lot to give you.
To be continued…