Serene hill shrine of Tarkeshwar Mahadev
The searing Delhi heat often makes me behave in an uncharacteristic manner. Last weekend, on a sudden impulse, I packed my bags and drove down to a popular but sleepy hamlet in Uttarakhand called “Lansdowne”. It is a small army town in Pauri Garhwal, at a height of about 1,700 metres above sea level, surrounded by tall trees. Lansdowne is known for its rich flora, pure air, and breathtaking scenery of the Himalayas. From Delhi, it is about 280 kilometres and is best approached via Meerut-Bijnor-Najibabad-Kotdwar. About 40 kilometres from Lansdowne and at a height of about 1800 meters, is a “Sidhpeeth” called ‘Tarkeshwar Mahadev’ – a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. After a day’s rest at Lansdowne, early next morning I drove down to Tarkeshwar Mahadev shrine. After an hour and a half’s drive from Lansdowne, I reached this small but beautiful temple ensconced in thick forests of cedar and huge deodar, oak and blue pine, with each tree about 150-200ft in height and 10ft in girth. The road leading to it is very narrow and is not suitable for timid drivers and the trek up is also steep.
The serenity and the beauty of this place caught me off-guard and for the next hour or so, I simply roamed around the area in a trance. It houses a couple of dharamashalas or ashrams provided by the temple committee for visitors’ meals and accommodation, (make a reservation), with each guesthouse consisting of four-five rooms, with holy ponds located in front. I could also see some people sitting in meditation under the deodar trees. This calm place transported me to a world free of all fears and worries and I learnt ancient sages had also meditated here. As you walk into the narrow lanes of the temple, you see devotees carrying red scarves which they tie near the temple so their mannat is fulfilled, as all wishes are granted here.
After offering my obeisance to the deity, I had an opportunity to talk to the temple priest about the history of this place. The demon Tarkasur worshipped Mahadev at this spot and was granted immortality by Lord Shiva, who told him that he could only die at the hands of Shiva’s son. But when Taraksur grew bold after being blessed and went on a killing spree, the Gods and sages asked Shiva to intervene, and his son Kartikeya, born from Parvati, slew the demon. But Shiva pardoned Tarkasur before his death, and told him he would be worshipped in this temple even in Kalyug, as his name was now joined to Mahadev’s and his devotees would have all their wishes granted. Earlier, a Shivling was worshipped here, but now an idol of Shiva doing the tandav nritya (divine dance), which was mysteriously found here, is worshipped instead. The fact is you need to experience the ‘vibrant energies’ this place possesses to believe in its powers. The dense, silent forest gives it a mystical feel.
There is a trekking trail behind the temple. The temperatures are quite low in winter and the only tea stall here serves maggi and tea. There’s no rush of Priests here to drag you in for some kind of pooja and no hassle of large crowds. Though the place is clean compared to other temples and use of plastic is prohibited, the temple priest was extremely concerned about people’s apathy, as every single ‘deodar’ tree here is worshipped as a living god. Unfortunately, a large section of Indians do not know how to respect the sanctity of such places. It was appalling to see kids and their parents eating chips and drinking cola and throwing empty bottles and plastic wrappers all over the place, not bothered about the damage that such “non-biodegradable” waste can do to the environment.
On my way back from the temple complex to the car park, I made an effort to collect the e garbage and deposit it at the shop selling these items. I must, however congratulate the ‘Save Tarkeshwar’ project for doing its bit to keep this place pristine. The temple priest also suggested that I pay a visit to a unique deodar tree (located 100 mts from the temple), which has naturally assumed the amazing shape of a trident (trishul), the symbol of Mahadev. Deodar trees are mostly single stem trees. My belief is that the ‘positive vibrations’ of such holy places creates these environmental wonders as proof of the existence of higher powers. A secluded, relaxing place, the temple is encircled by numerous bells offered by devotees who flock here during Mahashivratri, and believe Shiva still lies here in deep sleep. Bring your own vehicle or hire a taxi till Gundalkhet village, from where the temple is a 1km trek.
The nearest train station is at Kotdwara (70 kms) or fly in to Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun (177 kms).