Kedarnath is one of the most sacred pilgrimages of the Hindus, situated in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand in the Garhwal region of the Himalayas. Here, Lord Shiva in his ‘Sadashiva’ form is worshipped and this is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. Kedarnath is also one of the ‘Char Dham’ in the state of Uttarakhand and the most important Dham amongst ‘Panch Kedar’. The Kedarnath Temple is considered to be more than 1000 years old, believed to be constructed by the Pandavas from the Mahabharata. The present temple was built in 8th century A.D. by Adi Sankaracharya which stands adjacent to the site of the earlier temple.
According to the legend, the Kedarnath Temple is related to the Pandavas of the Hindu epic ‘Mahabharata’. The Pandavas committed sins by killing their own cousins during the Kurukshetra War and Rishi Ved Vyas suggested them to seek blessings from Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva, who was deeply hurted with them, took the form of a Bull and hid in ‘Guptakashi’ in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. The Pandavas could recognize him and when Lord Shiva tried to hide himself in the ground, Bhima, the second of the Pandavas, caught him by his tail and hind legs. But the Bull formed Shiva disappeared and reappeared in five different places with the hump rising in Kedarnath, the arms surfacing in Tunganath, the navel and stomach appearing in Madhmaheshwar, the face rising in Rudranath and the hair locks appearing in Kalpeshwar. Lord Shiva then blessed the Pandavas and asked them to built the temples at these five places and perform meditation to seek salvation. So the five brothers built these five temples and after blessings from the Lord, proceed towards the heaven. These five temples, together is known as the Panch Kedar.
The Kedarnath Temple complex is divided into two main parts – the ‘Garbha Griha’ for worship and a ‘Mandap’, the assembly hall for the pilgrims and visitors. A conical rock formation inside the Garbha Griha is worshipped as Lord Shiva. The inner walls of the assembly hall are decorated with statues and figures of various Hindu gods and goddesses and scenes from Hindu mythology. Outside the temple door, a large statue of the Nandi Bull stands as guard to the temple.
The temple at Kedarnath opens for only about seven months of a year (mid-April to early November) when the sun enters the zodiac sign of Aries and it is closed when the sun enters Scorpio. Daily, the temple opens at 4.30 AM till 9 PM except 3 PM to 5 PM. Before 3 PM, visitors can touch the idol and do ‘Abhishek’ with Ghee. After 5 PM, touching the idol is not permitted and ‘Darshan’ from a distance is only allowed to the pilgrims.
Height: 3586 m
Climate: Kedarnath remains cut off from other parts from end November to April due to heavy snowfall. Heavy woolens are required during this time. In summers, light woolens are recommended during daytime and heavy woolens are suggested at nights.
Getting There & Away: How to reach Kedarnath
Gaurikund is the nearest accessible point for the vehicles and from here, one has to trek for 16 kms which goes through a paved path. Ponies and Palanquins are also available from this place which can be booked through the pre-paid booths. Gaurikund is well connected to all major cities of northern India.
Rail: Rishikesh is the nearest railhead to Gaurikund. However, the connectivity to this station is very limited. Haridwar at a distance of 235 kms is connected to all parts of India by an extensive railway network.
Air: The nearest airport from Gaurikund is Jolly Grant Airport near Dehradun, at a distance of 239 kms. Kedarnath can also be reached directly via Helicopter services which operate from Dehradun, Gauchar, Agustmuni, Phata and Sitapur.
Tourist Attractions in Kedarnath
Kedarnath Shiva Temple: The main attraction in Kedarnath is the Shiva Temple, which is a popular Hindu shrine and pilgrimage, attracting devotees from all over the world.
Gandhi Sarovar: Also known as Chorabari Lake, it is a small lake which is touched with Chorabari glacier in the foot of Kedarnath Peak. This lake is 3 kms from the main temple complex and got the name of Gandhi Sarovar from the fact that Mahatma Gandhi once meditated at this place. This lake is also the place from where the eldest of the Pandavas, Yudhisthira is believed to have departed towards heaven.
Sankaracharya Samadhi: Adi Guru Sankaracharya is considered to have taken Samadhi at this place. It poses as an idyllic and tranquil location to the tourists.
Bhairavnath Temple: This temple is located at a distance of 1 km from the Kedarnath Temple. From here, the entire Kedarnath valley along with the Temple is visible. It is believed that in winters, when the Kedarnath Temple is closed due to heavy snowfall, the deity in form of Baba Bhairavnath protect the whole valley.
Ratus Kund: This small water body lies at a distance of 200 m from the main temple complex.
Gaurikund: This is the base for the Kedarnath trek and is at a distance of 16 kms downhill. This place has hot springs and a temple dedicated to Goddess Gauri.
Vasuki Tal: This Lake is 6 kms from the Kedarnath Temple and at a height of 4135 m. This lake is extraordinary, surrounded by high snow clad mountains and offers excellent views of various Himalayan peaks.
Sonprayag: The confluence of Son Ganga River and Mandakini River, where there is a diversion for Triyuginarayan.