Wonders of Uttarakhand: Patal Bhuvaneshwar
A natural wonder of the subterranean world
Patal Bhuvaneshwar is a limestone cave temple 14 km from Gangolihat in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand state in India. It is located in the village Bhubneshwar. Legend and folklore have it that this underground cave enshrines Lord Shiva and thirty three crore Gods. The cave is 160 m long and 90 feet deep from the point of entrance. 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, Sheshnag, Garurh, Shivling etc are distinctly visible to the believers. Its popularly believed that the holiest cave is the abode of 33 crore Gods and Goddesses, amidst the absolute Himalayan isolation Patal Bhuvaneshwar is not just one cave, rather a cave city. Caves within caves, steps leading to another, each one unmasking deep secrets from within. The motor able road ends half a kilometer away from the cave entrance. You have to descend nearly 100 steps into this narrow cave, to reach the sanctum sanctorum, which gives an overwhelming feeling that you are entering into the center 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.
“He who wants to feel the presence of eternal power should come to the sacred Bhuvneshwar situated near the confluence of Ramganga, Sarayu and Gupt-Ganga.”
-Manaskhanda, Skandapuran, whose 800 verses refer to Patal Bhuvaneshwar
Legend of the Cave
According to belief King Rituparna of the Sun dynasty (Surya Vansha) discovered the cave in ‘Treta yug’. It has been described in the ‘MANAS KHAND’ of ‘SKAND PURAN’. Adi Shankaracharya visited this cave in 1191 AD. The story starts with Ritupurna and King Nala. It is said that once, King Nala was defeated by his wife, Queen Damayanti. In order to escape his wife’s prison Nala requested Ritupurna to hide him. Ritupurna took him to the forests of the Himalayas and asked him to stay there. While going back home he was fascinated by a deer which ran into woods and went after it. He could not find it and took rest under a tree. He had a dream where the deer was asking Ritupurna not to chase him. His sleep broke and as he woke up and went to a cave where a guard was standing. After enquiring about the cave he was allowed to go inside. Right at the entrance, Ritupurna met Sheshnag who agreed to take him through the cave. It carried him on his hood. He saw the marvels of 33-crore gods and goddesses including Lord Shiva himself. It is said that after his visit, the cave was closed for ages with a slight prediction in the Skandpurana that it will be reopened again in Kaliyuga. Shankarcharya in Kalyug, during his temporary visit to Himalayas re-discovered this cave. Since then regular worship and offering are being done at this place.
How to Reach:
By Air: The nearest airport to Patal Bhuvaneshwar is Pantnagar Airport, situated 244kms from Patal Bhuvaneshwar. Taxis are easily available to Patal Bhuvaneshwar from Pantnagar Airport.
By Rail: The nearest railhead to Patal Bhuvaneshwar is Tanakpur situated at a distance of 154kms.
By Road: Patal Bhuvaneshwar is well connected by motorable roads with major destinations of Uttarakhand state. Buses from ISBT Anand Vihar are available to Tanakpur, Champawat, Pithoragarh, Lohaghat and many other destinations from where you can easily hire a local cab or bus to reach.