Situated amidst the dense deodar forests, the Haat Kalika temple at Gangolihat in Pithoragarh district boasts an exquisite complex area. It is believed that the Goddess Kali shifted her abode from West Bengal to this place and has been the popular goddess in the area ever since. This Shakti-Peeth established by Guru Adi Shankaracharya is more than thousand years old. Chamunda temple about 2 km from here is another holy site located in the vicinity of Haat Kalika temple.
Religious Significance and legend of Haat Kalika Temple
The Haat Kalika temple has utmost religious significance for the people of Kumaon region, especially the brave soldiers of Kumaon regiment of Indian army. A popular legend goes by that once a turbulent sea storm blew which caused tremors in the ship that was carrying the soldiers of the Kumaon regiment. When all the efforts for saving the ship from sinking failed, the soldiers then resorted to Goddess Haat Kali and prayed her.
By the grace of Haat Kalika, the ship miraculously reached the shore safely. Since then the members of Kumaon regiment consider Haat Kalika as ‘Isht Devi’ or the patron goddess of Kumaon regiment. Many army men visit the Haat Kalika temple and offer their services at the temple. One can see the saga of Kumaon regiment and their accomplishment in the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 painted on the temple walls.
History of Haat Kalika Temple
The Abode of Haat Kalika at Gangolihat finds its mention in the Puranas, the ancient religious texts of Hindus as Guru Adi Shankaracharya chose this place to install the Mahakali Shaktipeeth. A perpetual holy fire burns at the temple site since time immemorial which is considered to be the power of the goddess. In the modern times, Saint Jangam Baba offered prayers at the temple site for years and one day the Goddess appeared in his dream and asked him to construct a temple here. Therefore, the present temple owes the credit of its formation to Jangam Baba.
Narayan Ashram: Narayan Ashram is situated at an elevation of 2734 m. above sea level. It can be reached from Pithoragarh via Ogla (44 km from Pithoragarh), Jauljibi (77 km), Dharchula (94 km), Tawaghat (108 km). Jauljibi is the place where Dhauliganga and Kaliganga meet.
The ashram was established by Sri Narayan Swami in 1936. It can accommodate maximum 40 persons at a time. During winter season the ashram remains closed due to heavy snowfall. And rainy season may cause damage to the road. Ashram keeps on conducting various social – spiritual activities for the members so the visitors are strictly advised to convey about their plan to the ashram well in advance.
Patal Bhuvaneshwar (Hindi पाताल भुवनेश्वर) 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 and thirty three koti Gods (33 crores types of gods in hindu culture). 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. Built by the flow of water, Patal Bhuvaneshwar is not just one cave, rather a series of caves within caves.
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 its hood. He saw the marvels of Gods taking place inside. He all the 33-koti (33 types of god not 33 cror ) 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 visit to Himalayas re-discovered this cave. Since then regular worship and offering are being done at this place.
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.This hidden pilgrimage situated at 1,350mts above sea level is mainly dedicated to Lord Shiva.Almost every god that you would have heard of resides in this mystifying cave. It is also believed that you can worship at Patal Bhuvaneshwar is equivalent to worshipping at Char Dham of Uttarakhand.
The priest family, the Bhandaris are performing religious rites at Patal Bhuvaneshwar since the time of the Adi Shankaracharya. More than 20 generations in the line. They are a treasure house of legends, lores, anecdotes and information about this holy place. It is also believed that this cave is internally connected to the four abodes /seats (Char Dham).