Patal Bhubaneshwar: A Limestone Temple

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Patal Bhubaneshwar is a unique limestone cave temple located in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand, 14 kilometres from Gangolihat. It is at an altitude of 1350m and on the confluence of rivers Ramganga, Saryu and Gupt Ganga. The presence of these rivers is so sacred and meaningful, they keep flowing in their best form touching the height of skies at times to get Amrita or elixir of heaven on earth. The temple has Puranic references, as Skandpurana speaks of many verses dedicated to this temple. The association of mythology, folklore heightens its character and mysteries continue to be its major content. The temple is in an underground cave where limestone rocks have assumed fascinating shapes with effect of water erosions, somehow confirming the belief that Lord Shiva chose this secluded adobe with 33 crore . Archana takes us through this quaint temple, tucked in the , in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

During one of my earliest trips to hills when the lifelong with the silent sentinels was waiting to be formed, I was too curious to know about the places to be seen around Bageshwar. There is something mystical and magical about hills that an aching crave descends to explore places hidden. The shy, fair, thin-mustached waiter after a lot of interrogation said a must visit is Patal Bhubaneshwar Temple. There is a definite opportunity of the encounter with a tiger, who guards this cave temple.

I was thrilled and overjoyed and immediately wanted to go there but was unable to extend the trip. On return kept devouring all the literature available on the net, books and whatever I could find related to the temple. I must have spoken at length to many locals as well. Till date haven’t been able to see it yet it seems have already been there many times. It’s high on my wish list.

This is a unique limestone cave temple located in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand, 14 kilometres from Gangolihat and is in village Bhubaneshwar from where it gets its name. It is at an altitude of 1350 meters and on the confluence of rivers Ramganga, Saryu and Gupt Ganga. The presence of these rivers is so sacred and meaningful, they keep flowing in their best form touching the height of skies at times to get Amrita or elixir of heaven on earth. The temple has Puranic references, as Skandpurana speaks of many verses dedicated to this temple. The association of mythology, folklore heightens its character and mysteries continue to be its major content. The temple is in an underground cave where limestone rocks have assumed fascinating shapes with effect of water, somehow confirming the belief that Lord Shiva chose this secluded adobe with 33 crore gods and goddesses.

Hindu gods and goddesses have been great nature lovers and always chose to reside in Himalayan lap amidst dense forests and life bearing rivers. Their choices of adobe keeps me flabbergasted as they can’t be approached easily. The driveable road ends half a kilometre earlier and there are many steps to be covered before reaching the narrow tunnel shaped cave.

Remember the movie, Journey to the centre of earth it gives you the same feeling when you are inside this tunnel. Each stone has taken a form and has splendour of its own and is a divine representation. A believer in mythology and folklore like me seems to be lost blissfully in the stony static company of these gods and goddesses.

Meticulously nature crafted stone carvings of Shiva, Shesh Nag, Ganesh, Jatayu, Kam Dhenu, Garuda, and many more Devi, Devas keep you awestruck. Your eyes keep surveying all the nooks and corners. The attached to the temple flashes in mind which says that in Tretayug Raja Rituparna was the first person to go inside this cave. Also Nala was looking for a safe hiding place to escape from his wife Damyanti’s punishment that Rituparna advised him to hide there. Rituparna had the opportunity to tour deep inside the cave and witness all the 33 crore gods while seated majestically on the hood of Shesh Naag, who took him around like a proficient guide. After his visit door was locked with a prophecy of being opened in Kalyug. Adi Shankaracharya visited it in 1119 and since then worship started by the Bhandari family. Pandavas association with Himalayas runs deep and they also visited this cave and meditated for long.


There are two gateways seen today out of four referred as Dharamdwar and Mokshadwar inside the cave. The other two gateways of earlier times are known as Paapdwar and Randwar. Paapdwar was closed after death of Ravana who committed sin or paap. Randwar or the door of war was shut after the Great War of . How beautifully each silent structure has an intriguing tale to tell.

The cave as believed staunchly by locals has an underground passageway to Mount Kailash used by Lord Shiva to commute exclusively. A villager narrated an interesting tale which was passed on to him by his and has stayed from various generations. Once a dog ventured inside the cave unmindful that he could be lost. His owner tried to catch him but the dog ran deep inside and the man had to give up his search as it was too dark inside. When the man reached home a surprise awaited drawing away all his wit, dog had reached home after being found at the Sangam. It remains a mystery as to how this dog waded through the pitch darkness and reached the river. A dog tale only has a divine interpretation when the divine intervention came to protection. It’s all so that where all strategies fail nature paves the way.

Many stories, many legends surround but they are beyond reasoning and logical thinking. They are to be felt within. Patal Bhubaneswar temple is worth visiting. The tales to be savoured with tea at road side stalls and warmth of pahadis swell. Also remember probably we can’t have all the questions and we don’t have enough answers as well.

©Archana Sharma

Photo sourced from the internet.

Archana’s resume speaks of a career in HR, armed with a Management Degree, and a career which spanned for more than 15 years. Now, she is following her heart’s pursuit on a journey from being a writer in closet to a published writer. Publications include articles in leading national newspapers and online blogs. An avid traveller seeking refuge and solace amidst Himalayan magnificence and sublimity.