Tapovan(Sanskrit) comes from the two root words Tapas - meaning penance and by extension religious mortification and austerity, and more generally spiritual practice, and Vana, meaning forest or thicket. Tapovan then translates as forest of austerities or spiritual practice.

Traditionally in India, any place where someone has engaged in serious spiritual retreat may become known as a tapovan, even if there is no forest. The most well known tapovan in India is the area above the Gangotri Glacier at one of the primary sources of the Ganges, in Uttarakhand, India. At the foot of Shivling peak(6,543 m), a barren area at about 4,463 m elevation, is a seasonal home to several sadhus living in caves, huts etc.

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