Geology and religious faith: Tapkeshwar temple in Dehradun, Uttarakhand

Tapkeshwar Mahadev Temple is a famous temple of Lord Shiva lying alongside river Tons, in the valley of Dehradun. The mythological importance of this place draws back to the ancient period of Mahabharata, when Guru Dronacharya who was the royal teacher of Pandavas and Kauravas was believed to reside in the caves. Hence, the caves are now known as named Drona Cave. As the name suggests Tapkeshwar is combination of different words ‘Tapak’ which means ‘dripping’ and ‘Ishwar’ means God.The water droplets drip down on the ‘Shivalinga’ creating a mystical environment filled with divine serenity.

Tapkeshwar Mahadev Temple, Dehradun

In geological terms, a cave is any cavity in the ground that is large enough that some portion of it will not receive direct sunlight while a cavern is a specific type of cave, naturally formed in soluble rock with the ability to grow speleothems. So, a cavern can be called a cave but all caves cannot be called caverns.Tapkeshwar Mahadev temple lies inside one such cavern. According to scientists, caves and their ecosystems are the most fragile ecosystems on the planet.

Shiva Lingam in Tapkeshwar

The river Tons gushes through the valley bringing high volume of water and debris alongside temple premises. The rock type in the temple area has high calcium and mineral content composed mainly of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks. As the water table is very low, water seeps through rock cleavages and fractures and dissolves with the mineral and carbonate rich water, which slowly drips from the ceiling. Stalactites are formed within the caves when calcium carbonate rich water starts to drip from cave ceiling. Stalagmites grow upwards from the drips that fall to the floor. They spread outwards more, so they have a wider, flatter shape than stalactites. Landforms formed due to the chemical weathering of Limestone or carbonates are known as Karst topography. Under the dripping stalactites, stump-shaped stalagmites composed of calcium carbonate gradually develop resembling ‘Shiva Lingam’.

The temple surrounding is home to many different species of plants, birds and butterflies. Besides having touristic importance, the temple provides livelihood opportunities to many. It is also a favorite picnic spot and draws tourists from the areas in vicinity. Much has changed in Tapkeshwar temple area since I last visited in the year 2011. Dehradun is becoming smart city with rapid urbanisation and waste management problems. The microclimate of the site has been affected as there used to be dense forest around few years back. Devotees or tourists consume food at the space available outside the temple near parking area and dispose plastic bags, used plates, paper cups, empty plastic water bottles, and other waste materials in the open. The rational human consciousness sleeps while littering almighty’s premises. Proper measures should be adopted to check littering garbage in the temple surroundings. Devotees must abstain from making the temple premises into a garbage dumping yard.

River Tons near Tapkeshwar, Dehradun

Geology operates from a methodological naturalism, regardless of religious beliefs. Observation, collection and experiment have taught us to trust these methods. But I feel there is something beyond science which is faith and believe which can do wonders. It depends on one’s belief whether ‘Tapkeshwar’ is a geological feature or a form of Lord Shiva.

Thank you!!


Picture courtesy internet

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Published by Dr. Chandrima Debi

Hi, I am Chandrima Debi. I am a Doctorate in Forestry and an independent researcher. Ever since childhood, I experienced deep-rooted connection with nature, forest and wildlife. I have written various research articles, case studies based on geology, forests, medicinal plants, biodiversity and conservation. Through this blog I share my experiences with nature and forests around us and aid towards the protection and conservation of biodiversity, wildlife and the values associated.

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