Continuing the Pañc-Kedār Yātrā, Nardeep Dahiya walks us to Tungnath, which at 12,073 feet above mean sea-level, is the highest Hindu temple in the world. Far from the madding crowd of the Char-Dham*, you'll find a bracing trek (a picture of the writer gives a good idea of the gradient!); and an enduring if not very elaborate example of a 'Nagara' style of temple architecture, with its characteristic curvilinear shikhara (tower).
Readers may recall the legend of Pañc-Kedār: Seeking absolution for fratricidal genocide, the Pānḍavās come looking for Shiva. He, keen to avoid them, disguises himself as a bull and melts into the mountain, whereupon Bhima grabs his tail to stop him. Shiva subsequently re-emerges in five different spots across Garhwal. Tungnath is where his shoulder is said to have appeared.
The silence is eerie, the bustle of the big city not 18 hours behind you, and the last sound you heard was a solitary bus groaning its way in first gear up the mountain road. It stuns you at first, then distances itself as your city-calibrated ears sing an electronic whine in numbed protest. Finally it leaves you to your great peace at these great heights, as you adjust to the crunch of your footsteps on the pine needles, the buzz of crickets, the odd trill of a birdsong. And the cleansing mountain air you are gulping in.
Now the track stops weaving, there are no more switchbacks as it goes straight across the face of the mountain. There's one long final stretch, a stony gash leading relentlessly higher to what appears to be a little cluster of huts, undefinable yet from this distance. Closer still, and the grey stone cone of the temple is discernable. An old man dressed in ochre overtakes you, mumbling under his breath about being late. He is the priest of the Tungnath temple, a local Rawal Brahmin in contrast to the South Indian Namboodri Brahmins appointed by Adi Shankaracharya as caretakers in perpetuity of all the other Kedar temples in Garhwal.
Some of the pictures are Nardeep's, the others are taken from google images.