Guptakashi is located in Garhwal district of Rudraprayag in Uttrakhand. It is situated at an elevation of 1319m. Guptakashi features many sacred places and temples. Vishwanath temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is the most prominent temple in Uttarkashi along with temple devoted to Ardhnarishwara. Ardhnareshwar is half man, half woman form of Lord Shiva. The name Guptakashi is attributed to the place from the time of Mahabharata. Guptakashi is known as temple town and is located on the route to Kedarnath. The route features snow-capped mountains of Chaukhamba and pleasant weather throughout the year.
Legends associated with Guptakashi
The most prominent myth associated with Guptkashi says, during the war between Pandavas and Kauravas, the kith and kin of Pandavas were killed. In order to hide themselves, Pandavas took pilgrimage but Lord Vishweshwara was far away in Kailasa. After knowing this, Pandavas left Kashi for Himalayas via Haridwar. On their way, they saw Lord Shankar but Lord Shankar escaped from their sight. Knowing this Dharamraj cried, “Lord, we know you are near us but are hiding just because we have sinned. One day we will seek you and then only our sins will be washed. The place you are hiding yourself will be named Guptkashi and in future it will become a holy shrine”.
Lord Shankara was recognized by Pandavas in the form of Nandi. Buffalo Nandi hid under the earth’s crust when Bheem tried to pull him through its tail. Nandi later appeared as Lord Shiva but in five new forms. Hump of Nandi reached Kedarnath, face at Rudraprayag, arms reached Tungnath, navel and stomach at Madhyamaheshwar and locks at Kalpeshwar. The name Guptkashi is solely attributed by vanishing act of lord Shiva.
The legend also tells us about Lord Shiva proposing Mata Parvati on the road to Kedarnath in Guptakashi. They married in Triyuginarayan village, where River Mandakini and Sone-Ganga River merge into one.
The Puranic literature affirms Kashi and Kanchi (Kanchipuram) to be Lord Shiva’s two eyes. Pilgrims who are not able to visit the original Kashi, six more Kashis are established in different parts of the country. These Kashi’s are as sacred as the original ones. The holy sites of new Kashi includes Uttarkashi and Guptakashi in Uttrakhand in Northern region of India, Dakshin Kashi in Southern India, Guptkashi in eastern India, Kashi at Nasik in western India and a Kashi in western Himalayas. All the Kashis possess the same spiritual and sacredness as that of the original Kashi at Varanasi.
If you are planning to visit Guptakashi, the following destinations might be of your interest