Dev Bhoomi Uttarakhand has several hidden places which make us believe it is truly the abode of Gods. One such place that restores our faith in god is the famous Patal Bhuvaneshwar Cave cocooned in the ethereal beauty of Kumaon.
The Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave is one of the famous pilgrimage sites of Uttarakhand located about 14 km from Gangolihat in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. It is perched at an astounding elevation of 1,350 metres above sea level and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This limestone cave is nestled in a tiny village called Bhuvaneshwar. Many Puranas or the ancient Hindu texts have mentioned the name of Patal Bhuvaneshwar as a holy place.
It is believed that the secret of how the world will come to an end is hidden inside this cave. It has been cited in the Skanda Purana that Lord Shiva along with 64 koti or types of gods and goddesses reside in this cave. It has been mentioned in the Manskhanda, Skandapurana, “He who wants to feel the presence of eternal power should come to the sacred Bhuvneshwar situated near the confluence of Ramganga, Sarayu and Gupt-Ganga.”
This colossal cave is 160 metres long and 90 feet deep forming a maize-like structure guiding to several caves which were unexplored and closed since Great Ages (Yugas). The Patal Bhuvaneshwar was discovered by Shankaracharya, the famous Indian sage and philosopher who enshrined a Shivalinga inside this cave. It has been written in Manaskhand of Skand Puran that Adi Shankaracharya visited this cave in 1191 A.D. It is said that paying obeisance at Patal Bhuvneshwar is equal to visiting Char Dham of Uttarakhand. This cave is currently looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India of the Dehradun circle.
There are a number of steps that leads to a narrow passage which transcends into a mystical world. The limestone rock formations can be seen inside the cave creating stalactite and stalagmite figures, resembling many Hindu Gods and mythological creatures some of which are Lord Ganesha, Bhuvaneshwari, Sheshnag, Sastradal Kamal (lotus flower), Hans(the swan of Lord Brahma), the heavenly tree Kalpavriksha, the udders of Kamadhenu, the Jatas (locks) of Lord Shiva, the Saptahrishimandal (the Seven Rishis), the thousand legs of Airavat the elephant of Lord Indra, the mouth of the dog of Lord Kalbhairav, replicas of the original idols of the famous pilgrim centers of Kedarnath, Badrinath and Amarnath.
According to a famous Hindu mythology, Rituparna, the king of the Sun Dynasty discovered this cave in ‘Treta Yug’. It is said when King Nala was defeated by his wife Queen Damyanti he tried to escape from being imprisoned. King Nala then requested Rituparna for help and he graciously agreed to it. Rituparna took King Nala to the thick woodlands of the Himalayas and told him to hide there. On his way back, Rituparna was attracted by a beautiful deer. He followed the deer into the woods but couldn’t find it. The tired Rituparna then took rest under the shade of a tree and saw a dream in which a deer was begging him not to chase him. When his sleep broke Rituparna advanced to the cave and upon reaching, he was enquired by a doorman about his visit. Being satisfied with his answer the guard allowed him to move inside. On the entrance of the cave, Riturparna met Sheshnag who agreed to carry him on his hood to the cave. Rituparna was spellbound by the cave’s surreal beauty and the marvellous rock figurines of Gods installed inside the cave. It is said, after his visit the cave remained closed for ages while there was a slight mention in the Skandpurana that it will reopen in Kalyuga. A sage called Shankaracharya in Kalyug re-discovered this cave on his prolonged journey to the Himalayas.
It is said that Pandava brothers of the epic Mahabharata did a serious penance in this cave before commencing their last journey to the Himalayas.
The Patal Bhuvneshwar cave is dark, gloomy and mysterious from inside. You can feel the spiritual bliss entering your soul through the celestial beauty witnessed by the eyes. The major attractions of the cave are the rock formations of the Hindu deities. One can see the Sheshnag, holding the earth, heaven and the underworld. Religious puja is conducted in the feeble light of this cave. Prayers and holy chants are ushered by the priest which awakens the inner consciousness. It is believed that Patal Bhuvneshwar is connected by an underground route to the Kailash Parvat, the holy abode of Lord Shiva. There are four entrances to the cave namely Randwar, Paapdwar, Dharamdwar and Mokshadwar. The Paapdwar was closed after the death of Ravana and the other door called Randwar which means the road to war was closed after the war of Mahabharata. At present, only Dharamdwar and Mokshdwar are opened.