In Kunjapuri

The Kunjapuri Temple in the beautiful morning light
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Beautiful Morning Light

The Kunjapuri Temple

The next place I want to write about is Kunjapuri, which is close to Rishikesh. My buddy and I drove up one morning to photograph the beautiful morning light. If memory serves, we left our hotel at 4 am, hired a taxi, and drove up the hill. Once we reached our destination, I discovered we had to climb almost one hundred steps to reach the temple courtyard to witness the sun’s first rays. 

I dislike waking up at 4 am, preferring to sleep in: a powerful force must motivate me to get out of bed. Therefore, when people told me that the sunrise at Neelkanth is worth the drive, I convinced my traveling friend to come along for the ride. 

We hired a taxi and drove up the winding path. When I think back, I don’t remember if we drove for 30 minutes or an hour. What I remember is that it seemed a long drive!

The Final Climb

Our friendly chaiwallah!

I was a corpulent person during my time in China. Compared to how I am today, I was fat in 2014 – even though I lost weight since I left China. So, when we reached Kunjapuri, I looked with considerable dismay up at the 100-odd steps we were to climb to reach the temple on the hill. 

Do you recall I wrote about my weight? I regret writing that, but I am committed to the truth or my version of it, anyway! My companion was overweight and unfit, and remains unchanged. Compared with him, I possessed the physique of an Olympian, but I am being unfair! After pausing and considering the task before us, we climbed. While I huffed and puffed, it seemed his heart was about to explode with the effort. 

The sound alarmed me, and I urged him to pause and have some chai at the little shop we passed on the way. We paused but kept the chai for later. Why, you may ask, since we both love chai: too much chai in the early hours of the morning can prompt a desire to pee, and we weren’t sure if the temple had any public toilets. 

When I look back at that climb, I remain convinced that only the prospect of the beautiful morning flight could have motivated me to climb up one hundred steep steps in the blue hour before dawn. 

Story of The Temple

The Kunjapuri Temple in the beautiful morning light

I am a strange person because I had not explored the fame of the temple then and did not do so in the ensuing years. This is a beautiful and peaceful spot, despite its religious importance. Peace drives the energy you experience while at the temple area. Kunjapuri Temple is one of the 52 ‘shaktipeeth’ in India. Uttaranchal has 13 of them, and people have dedicated this temple to the Goddess Durga, even though they should have dedicated the spot to Sati. 

Now is the correct moment to enquire: what is a ‘Shaktipeeth’? A shaktipeeth is a mystical power center, and the origins may seem quite gory. You can read the entire article here, but this summary should suffice. 

The God Brahma’s son was called Daksha. He performed ceremonies aimed at getting Shakti as his daughter, Sati. Sati/ Shakti was Shiva’s wife, and when he performed the ceremony, he invited everyone except the divine couple, Sati and Shiva. Despite his protestations, Sati attended the ceremony and her father insulted her and Shiva. This then prompted her protest, and she immolated herself. 

Disconsolate, Shiva changed into his destructive aspect and chopped off Dakhsha’s head. Next, he danced the Tandava Nritya (Dance), the dance of death, rebirth, the cycle of time. This alarmed the Gods because they could not tame Shiva. To distract him, Vishnu (the second God of the Hindu Trinity) used one of his celestial weapons (the Sudarshan Chakra) and cut Sati’s body into 52 pieces, which fell at different spots in India.

Each spot is a ShaktiPeeth, or Place of Energy.

 The Calm of The Beautiful Morning Light.

I didn’t know the story, and it did not matter, as I stood in the temple courtyard and gazed at the sun’s journey over the mountain horizon. The temple is about 1,650 meters above sea level, and the blue hour turned into the golden hour.

Very few people visited the temple that morning, and the small group stood – or sat – and allowed the sun’s energy to flow through us. That is the best thing to do: enjoy nature without disturbing it with our cacophony. 

My Editing Tools

I edited these images using Lightroom Classic and then in Photoshop. I edited one or two images in Luminar. When I edited the images of the two ladies (in Photoshop), I reduced the saturation in their faces. Not doing so would have made the images incredibly garish, and I wished to avoid this. 


I Have a Question

Even though I often sound like a frog, shall I record a video in which I edit an image? Let me know in the comments below!


Published by Rajiv

I have been around the block a bit. I've lived in four countries, and in many parts of my country. I have been fortunate enough to meet some really good people, and some really lousy ones, all of whom have taught me much. I am passionate about photography, writing, Indian history and continuing on this grand journey towards death.

5 thoughts on “In Kunjapuri

    1. Rajiv – I have been around the block a bit. I've lived in four countries, and in many parts of my country. I have been fortunate enough to meet some really good people, and some really lousy ones, all of whom have taught me much. I am passionate about photography, writing, Indian history and continuing on this grand journey towards death.
      Rajiv says:

      I will. Don’t blame me if you hear a croak, or the voice of a retired gangster!

  1. Sounds like the beautiful view and the ensuing peace were well worth the climb.

    1. Rajiv – I have been around the block a bit. I've lived in four countries, and in many parts of my country. I have been fortunate enough to meet some really good people, and some really lousy ones, all of whom have taught me much. I am passionate about photography, writing, Indian history and continuing on this grand journey towards death.
      Rajiv says:

      Oh yes. It was a magical morning

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