Uttarakhand is a land of myths and the majestic beauty of the Himalayas. Popularly described as “Dev-Bhoomi” – the Land of the Gods, Uttarakhand is the most remarkable of places with respect to religious pilgrimage in India. Nestled among the serene heights of the Garhwal (Western Uttarakhand) region, the holy shrines of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath welcome lakhs of pilgrims during the summer months. Collectively they are called the Chhota Char Dham, which forms the epicenter of religious tourism. Beyond these, the Panch Kedar (5 temples dedicated to Lord Shiva), Sapta Badri (7 temples dedicated to Lord Narayan), and many such popular temples are spread across the breadth of Uttarakhand. Timmersain Mahadev Temple is perhaps the least popular of them all. Enshrouded in mystery, the cave of Timmersain Mahadev is nestled within the remote region of Niti Valley.
Niti is a remote valley located in the northernmost region of Garhwal Uttarakhand. Niti Pass was an ancient trade route between India and China before it was sealed after the 1962 Sino-India war. Lata, Kaga, Dronagiri, Malari, Bampa, and Gamshali are villages situated in the Niti Valley of the Chamoli District. Nestled within the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Niti is the last village in the Indian Territory that offers pristine beauty waiting to be explored. At a height of 3600mt above sea level, Niti village is approximately 85 km from Joshimath, the winter seat of Lord Badrinath. The highlight of this quaint hamlet is the Timmersain Mahadev Temple.
The road between Joshimath and Niti village is peppered with scenic beauty that soothes the eyes and the soul. The first major destination is Tapovan, located 14 km from Joshimath. Tapovan is popular for its hot spring. People believe that the hot water coming out of the hot springs is medicinal and that it heals skin diseases.
Around 36 km from Tapovan, Dronagiri Parvat Viewpoint enchants tourists with mesmerizing view of the Dronagiri Peak. Located 12000 ft above sea level, Dronagiri is an ancient village with a population of not more than 100 people. Mythology is not merely a fragment of fables, but an intrinsic and inseparable portion of the lives of the residents. During the battle of Ramayana, Lord Hanuman traveled from Lanka in search of the life-resurrecting herb, Sanjeevani Booti to revive the life of Lakshman, who was gravely injured during the battle. Lord Hanuman is believed to have lifted the whole mountain at Dronagiri when He couldn’t identify the particular herb. For the residents who considered the mountains and the forests sacred, this was a condemnable act. Hence, worship of Lord Hanuman is prohibited here.
The second last village on this route is Gamshali, located around 32 km from the Dronagiri Viewpoint. Uneven, unmetalled roads lead from Gamshali to the last Indian village, Niti, which is just 5 km from Gamshali. Based on the banks of the Dhauliganga Rivers, this tiny village lies in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, which is a World Heritage site. Given the extreme isolation of the village and the heavy snowfall it experiences in winters – the village is inaccessible during the harsh winters. Hence, the Bhotia tribe that inhabitants Niti, spend their time here between April and October and migrate to lower altitudes before the onset of snowfall.
Niti boasts of a pilgrimage site that is scarcely visited by tourists. Located between the villages of Gamshali and Niti, Timmersain Mahadev temple is a cave that houses a lingam formed by ice. Much like the Amarnath shrine in Jammu and Kashmir, ice takes the form of a lingam and the deity is worshipped as Lord Shiva. During the Hindu calendar month of Shravan (July-August), lakhs of devotees undertake an arduous 40km Yatra to pay obeisance to the ice stalagmite lingam at Amarnath Cave. The highly revered Timmersain Mahadev temple is also thronged by locals during this period. The cave requires a mild trek of about a km from Niti village to reach. The ice accumulates in the cave during the winter months and pilgrimage starts once the villagers return to their homes. During March and April, the deity adorns the cave in full glory. Lord Shiva’s trident and chain of colorful flags fluttering in the air make this otherwise unassuming site a beautiful destination.
After summer, the ice around the cave starts to melt. Devotees pass under the water trickling down along the edges of the cave to offer their prayers and puja to the deity. Shravan is considered a holy month when hundreds of pilgrims visit the cave to seek the blessings of Timmersain Mahadev.
Tourism is scarce at the Timmersain Mahadev Temple. Tourists are required to fill up an application form at the Tourism office at Joshimath to travel to the cave. Currently, only a handful of people are given permission to visit the shrine each day. A trip to Timmersain Mahadev Temple is best enjoyed as a day tour from Joshimath. For travelers seeking to soak in the enchantment wholly, Hill View Homestay (Contact- 7819028284) offers decent accommodation and food at Niti village. Hotels and resorts are not present in the vicinity of Timmersain Mahadev Temple.
Sharp bends with frighteningly steep gorges to the left, beautiful mountain streams, and amazing views of the Himalayan peaks make the route thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable. Settlements that are few and far between, with little houses hanging precariously upon cliffs make this destination truly offbeat. Travelers looking for serenity and solace may appreciate this hidden gem for the uncharted trails and unexplored beauty. For devotees of Lord Shiva, Timmersain Mahadev Temple is an extraordinary experience that should not be missed.
An honest SCORPIO who is crazy about movies, and overly passionate about travel.
Believes in immortalizing the moment, either by way of the photograph or literal documentation of the journey.