Towering high above Nepal, Tibet, India, and Bhutan are the majestic Himalayan Mountains, home to the highest and most magnificent peaks on Earth. To the people of the region, these mountains are not just majestically beautiful but highly sacred.
Since ancient times, the mighty Himalayas have been revered as the abode of divinity. Hundreds of shrines dot the Himalayan foothills and the lofty ice-clad peaks. Most of these shrines are closely associated with the epics that form the backbone of Hindu culture and ethos.
1. Badrinarayan Temple
Badrinath Temple is located in the state of Uttarakhand in India. Nestled between the Twin Mountains of “Nar” and “Narayan,” the holy Badrinath pilgrimage is visited by scores of devotees yearly. It is mentioned in the Hindu Scriptures, and its holiness is emphasized by a saying, “There may be many sacred pilgrimages in the heaven, earth and the nether world, but there has been none equal to Badrinath, nor shall there be.”
This lovely temple is located around 10,250 feet above sea level, and the surrounding landscape provides breathtaking visuals. The temple is open only six months every year (between the end of April and the beginning of November) due to extreme weather conditions in the Himalayan region.
The temple is mentioned in ancient religious texts like Vishnu Purana and Skanda Purana. It is glorified in the Divya Prabandha, an early medieval Tamil canon of the Azhwar saints from the 6th–9th centuries AD. It is believed that once the Shraddha Karma is performed here, the descendants need not perform the yearly ritual.
Badrinath is one of the most esteemed Hindu Temple around the world, and so are its legends.
Nestled amongst the mighty Himalayas of Nepal is the small yet very powerfully revered temple of Sri Muktinath. As per Hindu beliefs, Sri Muktinath Temple stands for masculine as well as feminine divinity. On the one hand, it is considered the most ancient temple of the God Vishnu and the Vaishnava tradition in Nepal, as well as one of the 108 Divya Desam, or holy places of worship of Lord Vishnu, and it is also one of the 51 Shakti Peetha goddess sites.
Muktinath is a pilgrimage shrine located 140 miles from Kathmandu in the snow-clad Himalayas. It is located near the Gandaki River, famous for the Salagrama stones. River Gandaki is also known as Narayani or Salagrami.
3. Pathibhara Devi Temple
Pathibhara Devi is also known by the name Mukkumlung; as mentioned in Mundhum of Limbu people is one of the holiest places for Limbu and Hindus in Nepal. It is located on the hill of Taplejung. Worshippers from different parts of Nepal and India flock to the temple during special occasions, as it is believed that a pilgrimage to the temple ensures fulfillment of the pilgrims’ desires.
After the Gorkha invasion of Limbuwan, the holy temple of Limbu people (Manghim in Limbu language) was also included into the mainstream Hinduism and is also worshipped as one of the Hindu Shaktipeeths without changing the earlier belief or the practices of the Limbu people.
The Goddess at Pathibhara temple is believed to possess supernatural powers and diligently answer devotees’ prayers. She is considered a manifestation of the divine feminine, also determined with other names as AdiKali, Maha Maya, Maha Rudri among many other of her divine forms.
The pilgrims offer animal sacrifices, gold, and silver to please the goddess. It is believed that local shepherds lost hundreds of their sheep while grazing at the same place where the temple stands today. The distressed shepherds had a dream in which the Goddess ordered them to carry out the ritualistic sacrifice of sheep and build a shrine in her honor. When the sacrifice was offered, the lost herd supposedly returned. The ritual of offering sacrifices inside the temple is believed to have started after the incident.
The hill goddess Pathibhara is believed as a fierce goddess who can be easily pleased with a simple and selfless acts of compassion, prayer, and sacrificial offerings (sacrifice in Hinduism denotes sacrifice of ego and greed), while is unmerciful and severe to one who has malicious intentions beneath.
4. Kalinchowk Bhagwati Temple
Kalinchowk Bhagwati Temple is a Hindu shrine in the Dolkha district of Nepal. The Kali temple is situated in Kalinchowk VDC in Dolkha at an altitude of 3842m from sea level. Kalinchowk Bhagwati can be promoted as a destination for both religious and Entertainment mongers types of tourists. The temple is taken as a place where all the wishes of the devotees’ are fulfilled Kunda (Pond) of Bhagwati mai lies at the hilltop.
Two natural springs originate from this area which is called Sundhara and Tama, which are the main source of the very big two rivers, the Sunkoshi and Tama Koshi rivers. From the highest altitude of Kalinchwok, one can get an excellent view of Annapurna, Lamjung, Manaslu, Ganesh Himal, Shisha Panga, Langtang, Dorjee Lakpa, Jugal Himal, Amabamori, Gauri Shanker, and Namburi Himal.
5. Amarnath Cave Temple
According to the legend, Shiva has given Gods immortality by blessing them with the celestial nectar. Hidden (and lost and forgotten during the Middle Ages) in the tough region of the Himalayas, Amarnath cave is the place where Shiva explained the secret of immortal life to Parvati.
Every yogi and Shaiva desiring to conquer Maya, get freed of illusion and become immortal dreams of worshipping the Lingam of Amarnath. Until recently, this yatra was considered the most dangerous in the Himalayas – few people had been able to perform it and for many sadhus, this had been the last desired one-way life’s trip.
Inside the cave of Amarnath are ice stalagmites: increate Shivalingam, to the left there is a block representing Ganesha, and to the right – Parvati and Bhairava. They often change in size, reach the largest size during the full moon and begin to wane during the new moon.
6. Kedarnath Mandir
This temple is located in the snow-covered area of the Himalayas. One can only visit this temple for six months; the rest of the month, the snow and extreme cold do not permit devotees to enter. As such, the Kedarnath temple remains closed to pilgrims.
Due to the extreme snowfall of Kartik, the Sri Kedarshwar idol is brought out of the temple after lighting a ghee lamp, “Nanda Deepa, ” which is closed for the winter. This idol is shifted to the Urvi Math in the valley. The temple only opens later in Baisakh. People visit here to see the Nanda Deepa; when they see this, they consider themselves blessed.
Another major site of the sacred Chota Char Dham path is named after King Kedar, whose daughter Vrinda was an incarnation of Lakshmi, Goddess of beauty, love, and prosperity. The shrine was built in the 8th century and is one of the twelve temples housing a Jyotirlingam, which is believed to release everyone who sincerely worships Shiva from misery.
This temple is very old, even mentioned in Mahabharata, in the episode where the Pandavas were trying to please Shiva with their austerity to atone for their sins. There is a spring near the temple called Udar Kund, and its water is believed to be a mixture of 5 oceans and to stay fresh for many years. This sacred water is often used in absolution rituals.
8. Gangotri Temple
Gangotri Temple stands on the origin of the Ganges River. Most Hindus believe it to be the home of Ganga, Goddess of Wisdom, and the sacred soul of the river Ganga. It is on the Greater Himalayan Range, at 3,100 meters (10,200 ft).
According to popular Hindu legend, it was here that Goddess Ganga descended when Lord Shiva released the mighty river from the locks of his hair. It is another important point of the Chota Char Dham yatra route. The temple was originally built by the Nepalese general Amar Singh Thapa in the XVIII century.
According to Hindu sacred history, King Bhagiratha meditated at this place to earn Goddess Ganga’s blessings and absolve the sins of his predecessors. After austere penances, Ganga took a form of a river to free their souls and grant them salvation.
Every April, Goddess Ganga returns to Gangotri from her winter shelter. This day has been celebrated for almost 700 years, carrying the palanquin the Goddess’s Idol in red and green clothes.
9. Yamunotri Temple
The temple in Yamunotri is located on the left bank of the river Yamuna named after the river Goddess Yamuna. The temple usually opens at the end of April and can be visited till Diwali (mid-October – November). There are two hot springs near it: Surya Kund with boiling water, where the pilgrims poach the rice for the Goddess, and Gauri Kund with warm water for ablution.
According to an ancient legend, sage Asit Muni bathed all his life in Ganges and Yamuna. When he was too old to go to Gangotri, a stream of Ganges appeared before him in Yamunotri.
10. Kartik Swami Temple
Located in a picture-perfect setting at 3050 m above sea level, Kartik Swami temple is a revered Hindu temple in the Indian Himalayas. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Parvati’s elder son Kartikeya who is known as the commander-in-chief of the deities. The temple stands apart from the other temples for its height and the route leading to the temple premises.
The temple is situated near Kanak Chauri Village of Rudraprayag at a distance of around 40 km from central Rudraprayag. A stone-carved idol of Kartikeya Swami is worshipped here.
It is believed that when Kartikeya got defeated by his younger brother Ganesha in a tricky intellectual confrontation, he sacrificed his bones to his Father Shiva out of anger. This is the place where the incident took place.
In the Mansuna Village of Garhwal Himalayas at an altitude of 3497 m above sea level, Madmaheshwar or Madhyamaheshwar is the abode of Lord Shiva. It is the fourth temple of the Panch Kedar pilgrimage circuit, where the navel-shaped lingam of a disguised Shiva is worshipped.
The temple is believed to be built by the Pandavas, the great heroes of the Mahabharata. The temple is on green meadows above the lofty hill and enclosed by the sky- touching the Himalayan Mountains from all sides. One can feel the spiritual vibe in the air once one reaches the temple premise.
Madhyamaheshwar temple remains closed from November to April as the temple route turns impossible to access due to heavy snowfall. The idols are then transferred to Ukhimath for daily worship. Water collected from the seat of Madhyamaheshwar contains a high spiritual value.
Tungnath is the highest Shiva temple in the world. It is the highest of the five Panch Kedar temples located in the mountain range of Tunganath in the Rudraprayag district in the Indian state of Uttarakhand.
The Tunganath (literal meaning: Lord of the peaks) mountains form the Mandakini and Alaknanda river valleys. Located at an altitude of 3,680 m (12,073 ft) and just below the peak of Chandrashila, Tungnath temple is the highest Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is believed to be 1000 years old and is the third (Tritiya Kedar) in the pecking order of the Panch Kedar.
According to the Legends, the Tunganath is indelibly linked to the origin of the Panch Kedar temples built by the Pandavas. The legend states that Vyas Rishi advised the Pandavas that they were culpable of slaying their relatives (Kauravas, their cousins) during the Mahabharata war or Kurukshetra war, and their actions could be pardoned only by Lord Shiva. Consequently, the Pandavas searched for Shiva, but Shiva avoided them. Shiva took the form of a bull to keep away from them and hid in an underground safe haven at Guptakashi, where Pandavas chased him. But later, Shiva’s body in the form of bull’s body parts was rematerialized at five different locations representing the “Panch Kedar,” where Pandavas built temples of Lord Shiva at each location to worship and venerate, seeking his pardon and blessings.
Each one is identified with a part of his body; Tungnath is identified as where the bahu (hands) were seen: hump was seen at Kedarnath; head appeared at Rudranath; his navel and stomach surfaced at Madhyamaheshwar and his jata (hair or locks) at Kalpeshwar.
Legend also states that Lord Rama, the chief icon of the Ramayana epic, meditated at the Chandrashila peak, which is close to Tungnath. It is also said that Ravana did penance to Shiva, the lord of the peaks, when he resided here.