During our annual visit for our summer holidays cum spiritual entourage, we visited Pithoragarh with an intention to visit Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave. We were not aware of such unbelievable God’s marvel inside. “This awesome cave is believed to be as old as the earth itself” is written as an inscription outside the temple of Patal Bhuvaneshwar.
The earliest reference to the cave is found in the ancient Hindu text known as Skanda Purana which has origins dating back to the 6th century CE. We started our fascinating journey with many dropping down with a firm NO! The mouth of cave was so small and path so narrow that we had squeeze inside and every breath was tough with fear and anxiety. We held the iron chains on the side and slided down to be surprised at the sight of magnificent beauty of the nature.
Skanda Purana besides having divine stories of Shiva and Parvati, also carries details of many strange travels, which gives detailed geographical locations of many pilgrimages. The section of the Skanda Purana known as Manas khanda has a description of Patal Bhuvaneshwar. Legend and folklore say that Lord Shiva along with thirty three crores demigods are present here. It is not one cave, rather a series of caves within caves.
The Patal Bhuvaneshwar cave temple is not one cave but a series of interconnected caves which hold unknown mysteries. There are four entrances inside the cave and these are known as Randwar, Paapdwar, Dharamdwar, and Mokshdwar.
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 saw all the 33-koti 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 Kali Yuga. Shankarcharya in Kali Yuga, during his visit to Himalayas re-discovered this cave. Since then regular worship and offering are being done at this place.
What an adventurous trip it was!