Rudraprayag: The Misty Abode Of Shiva’s Five Rupas


Taking the road less travelled to Mahadev and His continued worship.

Shiva’s home in Devbhoomi. Nestled in the calming presence of Alaknanda and Mandakini, and their furious flow, is the sacred seat of His five forms. Here, Shiva looks upon His continued worship, awakening the devotees, from Bhairavi to Bhairav. Here, the clouds and snow touch and smear His locks. Time shifts, slowly, between rain and snowfall; between the morning sun and greying amber of temple-dhooni; between accessible and inaccessible.

Uttarakhand is currently in the midst of pilgrimage and tourist season. While pilgrims make their way to the four Dhaams — Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath, some ancient temples in Rudraprayag district, Garhwal, remain distant for many devotees.

Lavanya (@thesignoffive) introduces a few. All photos are by Raj (@_antithesis_1).



Situated in the shadow of Kedarnath, Ukhimath’s Omkareshwar temple is the winter abode of Sri Kedarnath and Madhmaheshwar (two among five different forms of Shiva, together known as Panch-Kedars, the other three — Kalpnath, Rudranath, and Tungnath), for six months.


Kedarnath Peak


Ukhimath is where Aniruddha (grandson of Lord Krishna) and Usha (daughter of Banasur) were married. It was originally called Ushamatha.


Omkareshwar BW


At the temple, there is a stone statue of Mandhata, who gave up his empire and came to Ukhimath for penance. Here, he stood on one leg for 12 years. Shiva appeared in “Omkar”, its sound, and blessed him. The temple came to be known as Omkareshwar. Ancient idols line the worship paths along Omkareshwar. The sculptures, including those of Surya, Navadurga, Shiva, Parvati and Nataraja, are well known.




This ancient but newly-painted Krishna idol on the outer wall of the garbha griha establishes the connection with Aniruddha and Usha.


Temple Path


A priest watches devotees in the lukewarm afternoon.


Namboodari Priest


Omkareshwar is home to the Rawals of Kedarnath, who are Namboodiri Brahmins from Kerala, assisted by Garhwali pundits.




The evening aarti is one of its main attractions. The aarti is attended by locals as well as a small number of pilgrims who visit this temple during winter months.


Garhwali Priest


The main temple houses idols of Shiva, representing his five different forms — the Panch Kedars. The idol facing the main door to the temple is that of Rudranath.


Young Devotee


For people of the region, maintaining continuity, harmony and coexistence with the deities is a matter of pride and dharma.

A little bhakta touches the Nandi facing Shiva.




Rakeshwari Devi Temple 1


Located in Ransi village (about 20 km from Ukhimath), this temple with white lime-washed stone walls is where Chandrama prayed to Parvati, to rid himself of leprosy. The Goddess granted the boon. She is known as Rakeshwari or Goddess of the Night.


Rakeshwari Devi Temple 2


According to the temple priest, Goddess Rakeshwari is also known as the consort of Lord Madhmaheshwar. A grand fair is organised here, when the idol of Lord Shiva is taken back from its winter abode of Ukhimath to Madhmaheshwar temple, during summer.


Village Kids Playing


The temple contains numerous idols depicting Shiva, Shakti and other gods and goddesses. The temple premises — playground for village kids during day time.


Idols with Kumkum


The delicate faces stolen from these ancient stone friezes and idols are restored by the smearing of haldi-kumkum-bhasma — a mark of bhakti.


Akhand Dhooni


The main hall of the temple contains akhand-dhooni, said to be burning undisturbed for nearly 600 years. Maintaining the akhand-dhooni is the responsibility of Ransi and other nearby villages. Every year, devotees walk barefoot, over the dhooni, and then, to the Valley of Flowers, to bring the Barhmakamal.

The single skylight peering into the akhand dhooni alternately floods and dims the light into the temple — over the sleeping Devi.




Triyugi 2


A Vishnu temple in a Shiva abode. Located about 15 kms from Son-Prayag (the confluence of the Mandakini and Son-Ganga rivers), the Triuginarayan temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Nestled in a small village and facing the majestic snow-clad peaks of the Gangotri group, it is said to be the place where the divine marriage of Shiva and Parvati occurred.


Triyugi Temple 1


The bride’s brother, Vishnu, led Parvati to Mahadev Shiva, while Brahma officiated as priest.


Shiva Parvati Vivah Sthan


The Brahmashila or Shiva-Parvati Vivah Sthan marks the exact spot on the garbha-griha where the divine marriage was solemnised. The Gods are believed to have bathed in three kunds (pools) — Rudra, Vishnu, and Brahma — located in the temple premises, before attending the ceremony.


Shiva Parvati


The idols of Shiva Parvati have features specific to the region.


Akhand Dhooni 1


At the time of this divine marriage, the Devi-Devatas combined their Shakti and lit the fire in the yagya pedi  — Dhananjaya. It has not stopped burning since. Pilgrims are encouraged to offer a log at the time of their visit and its bhasma is considered auspicious for conjugal bliss.


Akhand Dhooni 2



Tungnath is the highest Shiva temple in the world. Against the stark snowscape of Tungnath mountains, the temple stands, linked to the Pandavas’ penance.


Old Devotee


It is under snow and remains inaccessible during winter.


Tungnath Trek


The force in the devotees’ faith compels Shiva to awaken and the cycle of life to begin.


Tungnath Temple



Located in the valley of the Mandakini, in Rudraprayag district, on the right bank of the Kali river (called Sarasvati and described सर व या टटेसौ येकालीती मथितत रति, in the Kedar Khand), is the famous Siddhipeeth of Kalimath, where Kali destroyed Shumbha-Nishumbha and Raktabeeja, and went into antardhyan. Kali agreed to be under the Shri Yantra in a kund. The Goddess is taken out of here on the Ashtami of the Shardiya Navratri and a pooja is performed at midnight with only the chief priest present.




Kalidasa is said to have been born here. The village was called Kaviltha (Kalimatha, its present name). There is palpable and unsettling energy at the temple. The surroundings are scattered with Shri Yantras and temples dedicated to Shiva, Bhairon, Lakshmi and Saraswati.

Legends of Shiva are linked to this kshetra. He becalmed Kali’s rage at Shumbha-Nishumbha and is worshipped through this shivalinga and akhand Hari-Gauri sculptures.


Kalimath Siddhpeeth


Of the famous Katyuri period, akhand Hari-Gauri sculptures are renowned for their beauty. Shiva is depicted in Chaturbhuja Lalitasnath and Gauri in Dwibhuja Bhu-Dhar-Suta forms, in their respective temples in the complex.


Temple Complex