Patal Bhuvaneshwar - The Gates To Char Dham - Kailasha On Earth

char dham idols inside patal bhuvaneshwar
Amarnath, Badrinath, Kedarnath Idols inside Patal Bhuvaneshwar (Image: Source)

Patal Bhuvaneshwar, one of the most fascinating places of the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, is a limestone cave temple 14 km from Gangolihat in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand state in India. It is located in the village Bhubneshwar. Legend and folklore have it that this underground cave enshrines Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu, Lord Bramha, Ganesha and thirty three crore (33-koti) Gods & Goddesses of Hindu religion. The cave is 160 m long and 90 feet deep from the point of entrance. Limestone rock formations have created various spectacular stalactite and stalagmite figures of various hues and forms. This cave has a narrow tunnel-like opening which leads to a number of caves. The cave is fully electrically illuminated. It is built due to the flow of water. Patal Bhuvaneshwar is not just one cave, rather a cave city. Caves within caves, steps leading to another, each one unmasking deep secrets from within. It has some cave opening and it is believed that these opening will be close as the centuries pass on. The scientific fact is that it's still being developed due to crystallization of the minerals which are dissolved in the water. As per belief, some doors which are now closed were opened thousands of years back. The total distance that a visitor can travel 70 ft below the surface is about 400 ft, with constant fear of falling down on the slippery passage. Humidity is very high and oxygen low. It is believed that only a small part of this cave system has been explored and major portion remains hidden in darkness and mystery (It's yet to be fully explored).

ganesha head on patal bhuvaneshwar
Ashtah Kamal and Ganesha Idol (Image: Source) 

Throughout the cave, the carvings are made on limestone rocks. As stated above, each god is seated in this cave. A general belief, that the worshiping in this cave is equal to the worship of Char Dham of the state. The great cave has four gates (Dwar) to access. The names of these gates (Dwar) are as Randwar, Paapdwar, Mokshadwar and Dharmdwar. It is said that the Paapdwar was closed after Rawana was no more and likewise Randwar was closed after the great war of Mahabharata. In this cave, the hairs of Lord Shiva, the Arawati of Lord Indra and the tongue of God Kali Bhairav, are kept.

hairs of shiva in patal bhuvaneshwar
Shiv Jata (Hairs of Lord Shiva) - Image: Source

Legend of the Cave:

The first human to discover this cave was Raja Ritupurna who was a king in Surya Dynasty who was ruling Ayodhya during the Treta Yuga. The story starts with Ritupurna and King Nala. It is said that once, King Nala was defeated by his wife, Queen Damayanti. In order to escape his wife’s prison Nala requested Ritupurna to hide him. Ritupurna took him to the forests of the Himalayas and asked him to stay there. While going back home he was fascinated by a deer which ran into woods and went after it. He could not find it and took rest under a tree. He had a dream where the deer was asking Ritupurna not to chase him. His sleep broke and as he woke up and went to a cave where a guard was standing. After enquiring about the cave he was allowed to go inside. Right at the entrance, Ritupurna met Sheshnag who agreed to take him through the cave. It carried him on his hood. He saw the marvels of Gods taking place inside. Here were all the 33-crore gods and goddesses including Lord Shiva himself. It is said that after his visit, the cave was closed for ages with a slight prediction in the Skandpurana that it will be reopened again in Kaliyuga. Shankarcharya in Kalyug, during his temporary visit to Himalayas re-discovered this cave. Since then regular worship and offering are being done at this place.

Shesh Naag (Image: Source) 


According to belief King Rituparna of the Sun dynasty (Surya Vansha) discovered the cave in ‘Treta yug’. It has been described in the ‘MANAS KHAND’ of ‘SKAND PURAN’. Adi Shankaracharya visited this cave in 1191 AD. That was the beginning of the modern pilgrimage history, at Patal Bhuvaneshwar. The journey inside the cave has to be carried in feeble lights, holding protective iron chains. The Stone formations of Sheshnag can be seen, holding earth, heaven the world beneath. ‘Havan’ (fire sacrifice) is performed in a dimly lit, solemn atmosphere, under the spell of holy chants. You’ll also be impressed by theto visit these parts form the celestial heights of His abode in Kailash. The cave, it is believed, is connected by an underground route to Mount Kailash. it’s believed that Pandavas, the ‘Mahabharat’ heroes proceeded towards their last journey in the Himalayas after meditating here, in front of Lord Shiva.

patal bhuvaneshwar cave
Kund Inside Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave (Image: Source)

The Bhandaris are the priest of this cave from very old time and more than 20 generation since the time of the Adi Shankaracharya. They are the resident of a nearby village called Bhuvneshwar. That is why this place called Patal Bhuvneshwar. It is also believed that this cave is internally connected to the four abodes /seats (Char Dham).

patal bhubneshwar
Shiv Linga  (Image: Source)

Inscription outside the Temple:

"This awesome cave is believed to be as old as the earth itself. It has been mentioned in detail in the 103rd chapter of Manaskhand of "Skanda Purana". The first human who entered this cave was king "Rituparna" of Suraya Dynasty during the "Tretayuga". It is said that during his visit, he had encountered several demons and "Sheshnaag" himself acted as his guide. In "Duaparyuga" this cave was rediscovered by the Pandavas. In Kaliyuga, Adishankar Acharya consecrate this cave and since 1191 AD, this has been a place of visit, both for sightseeing and worship."

pandava idol inside patal bhuvneshwar
The Pandavas (Image: Source) 

Places to visit:

The motorable road ends half a kilometer away from the cave entrance. You have to descends nearly 100 steps into this narrow cave, to reach the sanctum sanctorum, which gives an overwhelming feeling that you’re entering the centre of the earth.

Each stone, each stalagmite within each cave or doorway, in magnificent erection revels the story of Hindu pantheon in the shapes of Gods, Goddesses, saints and known mythological characters.

patal bhuvaneshwar cave
Patal Bhuvaneshwar - Cave Entrance (Image: Source) 

Place to visit near Patal Bhuvaneshwar:
  • Gangolihat is 14 kms away from Patal Bhuvaneshwar. Gnagolihat is rich in folk culture, music and religious traditions and had been chosen by Shankaracharya for the installation of Mahakali Shaktipiaeeth.
  • Berinag & Chaukori is 27 and 38 kms away from Patal Bhuvaneshwar, these places offer the breathtaking views of the Himalayan peaks Nanda Devi and Pachchuli.
  • Gwaladham A sleepy Himalayan town surrounded by apple orchards. The base for the trek to Roopkhand.

How to reach Patal Bhuvaneshwar:

By Air:
The nearest airport to Patal Bhuvaneshwar is Pantnagar Airport. Pantnagar Airport is situated 244kms from Patal Bhuvaneshwar. Taxis are easily available to Patal Bhuvaneshwar from Pantnagar Airport. Patal Bhuvaneshwar is well connected by motorable roads with major towns of Kumaon.

By Rail:
Tanakpur serves as the nearest railway station to this small town located at a distance if 154 kms. This station is well approached by many major cities of India such as Delhi, Lucknow, Kolkata and Agra. Buses and taxis are easily available outside the station for a ride to Patal Bhuvaneshwar.

By Road:
Patal Bhuvaneshwar is well connected by motorable roads with major destinations of Uttarakhand state. Buses from ISBT Anand Vihar are existing to Tanakpur, Champawat, Pithoragarh, Lohaghat and lots of other destinations from where you can easily hire a local cab or bus to reach Patal Bhuvaneshwar.

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