Himalayan Sacred Walks - Part III12, Nov, 2017, by Seema Bhatnagar
In continuation to Part II.
Guptkashi is a town in Rudraprayag district at a distance of 26 km from Kedarnath, located at elevation of 1,319 metres (4,327 ft) on the banks of river Mandakini.
The main attraction of this place is Vishwanath temple.
There is an interesting legend behind this place. As it was mentioned in part II, that Lord Shiva went incognito and came to Guptkashi in the form of Nandi to avoid meeting Pandavas, it is only due to Lord Shiva’s visit here, this place has become significant.
Mythology also has it that Shiva proposed to Parvati at Guptakashi before they got married in the small Triyuginarayan village at the confluence.
According to ancient Indian literature, Kashi and Kanchi (Kanchipuram) are considered as two eyes of Shiva. Keeping this connotation in view, six more "Kashi"s have been prescribed to be as sacred and spiritual as the main Kashi - Varanasi.
In earlier times, travelling was not as convenient as it is today, it used to be extremely arduous. So keeping this in mind six more "Kashi"s have been prescribed, so those pilgrims who cannot undertake the long journey to the main Kashi, can travel to the closest Kashi. In fact, not just earlier times even today also the journey to hilly terrain is not that easy for aged person or anyone with some health problem.
The six other "Kashi"s cover all the regions of the country. These are: Uttarkashi and Guptakashi in Uttarakhand in Northern Himalayas, Dakshinkashi in southern India, the Guptakashi in eastern India is at Bhubaneswar, the Kashi at Nashik (also Paithan) in western India and a Kashi in Mandi in Himachal Pradesh in Western Himalayas. The Puranas state that all the Kashis have the same degree of sanctity and reverence as the main Kashi – Varanasi
Vishwanath temple in many ways is similar to Kedarnath. The architecture is also same and the color of the stone is also same, somewhat greyish in color. The linga is different here, in a regular ellipsoidal shape of Shiva Linga, while in Kedar it is a pyramidal shape.
Manikarnika Kund, is a tank of water in front of the temple, getting constant supply of water from two sources carved out of brass in the shape of mouth of elephant and cow. The elephant’s mouth represents Bhagirathi or Ganges and cow’s mouth (gomukh in Hindi language) represents Yamuna.
The idea is to simulate this place like Kashi of Varanasi and this kund is actually a near representation of famous Manikarnika Ghat of Varanasi, there also, it is a confluence of two rivers (Varuna and Asi).
Kund in front of the temple.
Reaching Guptkashi from Kedarnath was a short journey of 2 hours. We reached there by 3 pm and settled in our rooms to relax for some time till evening.
In the evening, we visited the famous Vishwanath temple which was just a 10 minutes’ walk from our hotel. After a short walk, there were around 100 steps to climb before reaching the actual temple.
A sathsang session was planned to be conducted within the temple premises. Before sitting for sathsang we were suggested to take a head-bath in the flowing water in the kund. This was to enhance our receptivity towards energy of that place.
An interesting fact about the Manikarnika kund is, the taste of water from both the sources was different. We all tasted but few of us found the difference. My own tasting experience says, water from cow’s mouth was sweeter than what was coming from elephant’s mouth. Well, it cannot be validated and is absolutely a personal experience.
The whole group sat in meditation for almost an hour. It was a good experience of sitting there in meditation.
Attended arti in the evening and made some donation and offering in the temple. After arti came back to hotel for dinner. Some of the group members were having a hard time due to exhaustion of trekking down from Kedar to Sitapur. It was difficult for them to climb steps of temple. Somehow, everyone managed and reached there not to miss an opportunity of visiting a place of significance. I had all my praise for these people as I myself didn’t have that much stamina to make it to and fro to Kedar by trekking.
That was all planned for this place. Next day at 7:00 am we started for our next destination, Badrinath.