The Gaundar villagers, living in the remote part of district Ruderprayag, continues to carry on the age old tradition of participating in the annual journey of Lord Shiva to his winter abode in Ukhimath. At an average one member from each family take part in the foot march, covering about 38 km in four-days, to take the pilgrimage.
This time 75 persons from Gaundar undertook the trek, which concluded on Friday with the palanquin carrying Lord Shiva idol arriving at Ukhimath for six-month winter stay.
Gaundar is located near the famous Hindu Shiva temple Madmaheshwar. Situated an altitude of 11,473 Ft. above sea level, Madmaheshwar temple recently closed for the winter break and a moveable idol of Shiva reached it final destination Ukhimath-after covering 38 Kms in four days- on Friday.
Villagers gathered in big number at the Omkareshwar temple in Ukhimath, where Lord Shiva will ceremonially dwell for six months. The temple complex was packed to capacity and presented a unique religious event of the region with devotees chanting slogans in praise of Lord Shiva.
Gaundar resident, Shivanand Panwar says, “It is an age old practice in operation since the Mahabharata period. The villagers consider it their duty to take Lord Shiva to his winter home in Ukhimath. One day before the closing of the Madmaheshwar temple we reach there and next day we start our trek.”
Old or young! People of every age undertake the annual trek. Many locals serving in different parts of India come on vacation for welcoming Lord Shiva in the remote village of Uttarakhand Himalayas. From Madmaheshwar the palanquin reaches Goandar on day one, to proceed for Rasi the next day. On day three the procession reaches Gariya to conclude the annual pilgrimage at Ukhimath.
Gaundar resident, Bhagat Singh Panwar says, “Each family sends at-least one member in the ‘Yatra’. We take night halt at Rasi and Gariya and villagers provide us accommodation and food. This is also in practice since ages. We feel proud to carry on the religious tradition.”
It is said that the navel of Lord Shiva reappeared at Madmaheshwar after disappearing at Kedarnath. Shiva is worshipped Madmaheshwar in the form of a navel shaped ‘lingam’. When winter approaches the shrine is closed- as it is inaccessible due to heavy snowfall and the routine prayers are conducted at Omkareshwar temple. In summer, Lord Shiva is taken back to Madmaheshwar for the six month stay.
Gaundar is home to some 75 families. With a small population of about 350, the village was in news in 2013, when many youths from this village lost their lives in Kedarnath flash-flood. The village can be reached from Ukhimath by covering the initial 22 kms on jeep and rest 6 km on foot.