Kedarnath, the Hindu holy land dedicated to Lord Shiva, is situated in the Uttar Kashi district of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. A majestic site surrounded by snow-covered peaks in the Garhwal Himalayas at 3853 m, Kedarnath withstands itself in the center of the broad plateau. Nearby to the Indo-Chinese border and holding the source of the River Mandakini that later joins Alaknanda at Rudraprayag, the Kedarnath shrine is one of the Hindu holy pilgrimages as it forms a part of the four major sites in the India’s Chota(small) Char Dham pilgrimage.
In the middle of the majestic Kedarnath range at 12000 feet, the famous Kedarnath temple holds one of the 12 ‘Jyotirlingas’ (Lingas of Light) of Lord Shiva (also known as Kedar). Built in the 8th century proving it 1000 years old by Jagat Guru, Shree Adi Shankaracharya, the temple is near to the place of an old temple erected by Pandavas.
The temple of Kedarnath remains open from the month of April until November. When sun resides in the Aries sun sign, the temple doors are thrown open and remain open until sun enters the Scorpio sun sign. After the temple is shut down, Lord Kedareshwara is shifted to the Ukhimath temple at a lower altitude where he is worshipped for the rest of the winters.
Shiva and Pandavas
As per the legend, Lord Shiva wished to escape the Pandavas, who had come to seek Lord Shiva for repentance; as they had taken life of their relatives at Kurukshetra battle. Therefore, Lord Shiva took shelter as a bull in Kedarnath. Among the herd of the cattle; Bhima, one of the Pandavas, identified Shiva as the meanest of the herd, Bhima seized him by hindquarters. This resulted in the rear end of the bull at the Kedarnath shrine with the rest being scattered across the Garhwal. Shiva actually jumped into a ground giving Bhima the tail, which is worshipped as in the shrine as an idol. The site where Bhima was left with the tail is Kedarnath and the rest of the body parts were at the following places.
The above five places together are known as Panch (five)Kedar. In the list above, the first three are at a greater height on mountain meadows than Kedarnath, while Rudranath’s trekking is tough but worth.
Nara and Narayana
Nara and Narayana, the two incarnations of Vishnu, went through tough penance in presence of a Shivalingam that came out of earth in Badrikashraya (Badrinath). Lord Shiva, delighted with their penance and devotion, appeared to them and asked them for a boon. Both of them asked Shiva to make Kedarnath an eternal abode in form of a Jyotirlingam so that people who worship here shall be liberated from their worries and tensions.
Worship of Parvati
Goddess Parvati worshipped Kedareshwar so as to amalgam with Shiva as Ardhanareeswarar.
Arjuna, one of the Pandava brothers, had prayed to Shiva here to achieve the popular Pashupatastra. When other Pandavas came to search Arjuna, Draupadi found the celestial lotus Kalyana Sougandhikam and asked Bhima to bring some more. During his this seeks, Bhima met Hanuman (the monkey-headed chaste devotee of Lord Ram).
Due to all this stories, it is believed one never goes disappointed if he/she prays genuinely and asks righteously.
Temple – At a Glance
Constructed by Pandavas on the date unknown, the temple is an attractive stone architectural piece. The moment you enter the temple, the first hall beholds the statues of five Pandavas, Lord Krishna, Nandi (Bull – divine vehicle of Lord Shiva), and Virbhadra – the guard of Lord Shiva.
Evenly carved out of massive and heavy gray slabs of stones, the walls in the temple’s hall are adorned with images of different deities and episodes from the Hindu mythology. The temple’s inner sanctum (Garbha Griha) holds the lingam and is open to public for worship, whereas the Mandap (hall) has the capacity to accommodate the pilgrims and visitors.
An unusual characteristic of the shrine is the carved head of a man in the pyramidal front of the temple. This is seen in adjacent temple on the site of the Shiva and Parvati’s marriage.
At the temple’s rear, there is the Samadhi Mandir (final resting place) of Shree Adi Shankaracharya that he took at his mere age of 32 years.
Chorabari (Gandhi Sarovar 2 km)
It is a small lake from where it is believed that the elder brother, Yudhishthira, of the Pandavas went to heaven. On the waters, the floating ice giving a sparkling look is worth viewing.
Vasuki Tal (6 km)
This is a scenic lake at 4,135 surrounded by mountains from where you can view the Chaukhamba peaks.
Gaurikund (14 km)
This is the point from where trekking starts towards Kedarnath. Attractions include a shrine devoted to Gauri and thermal springs with curable properties.
Sonprayag (20 km)
This is the point of meeting of Son Ganga and Mandakini rivers. Triyuginarayan (25 km): This is located at a distance of 5 km from Sonprayag and is covered through trekking. The significance of this place is that it is the spot of the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The miraculous scene worth seeing is the burning of the eternal flame since marriage in front of the temple.
Guptkashi (49 km)
This is famous for the shrines of Ardhnareeshwar and Vishwanath.
Ukhimath (60 km)
This is winter abode of the Lord Shiva and priests of Kedarnath.
Agastyamuni (73 km)
This is popular for the temple of sage Agastya.
Chandrashila (93 km)
This is a peak that offers a rare view of snowy peaks around. TO reach here, one needs to trek from Tungnath, the route that is accompanied with the rhododendron forests and alpine meadows
Deoria Tal (68 km)
Famous for angling and bird watching from a height of 2438 m, this is a sparkling lake at a distance of 2 km from the last bus stop on the Chopta-Ukhimath road.
The best time to visit Kedarnath shrine is May to November, especially April to June is idol month.
The custom route is Haridwar – Rishikesh – Devprayag – Tehri – Dharasu – Yamunotri – Uttar Kashi – Gangotri – Triyuginarayan – Gaurikund – Kedarnath. Another route is from Rishikesh through Devprayag, Srinagar, Rudraprayag, and Ukhimath. Traditionally, pilgrims initially visit Yamunotri (Yamuna) and Gangotri (Ganga) to bring their holy waters for giving bath to Kedareshwara.Kedarnath from Rishikesh is at 234 km and from Dehradun at 250 km. From Haridwar, it is at 150 miles and from Rishikesh; it is at 132 miles reachable by foot.