Location : Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand
Area : 3 sq.km.
Climate : Winter: Sep. to Nov. cold during the day and chilly at night.
Summer: May – August- Cool during the day and cold at night.
Best Season : May to October except monsoon.
Kedarnath is the seat of Lord Shiva. It is one of the twelve “Jyotirlingas” of Lord Shiva. Kedarnath is a Hindu holy town located in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is a nagar panchayat in Rudraprayag district. The most remote of the four Char Dham sites, Kedarnath is located in the Himalayas, about 3584m above sea level near the head of river Mandakini, and is flanked by breathtaking snow-capped peaks. Kedarnath hosts one of the holiest Hindu temples, the Kedarnath Temple, and is a popular destination for Hindu pilgrims from all over the world, being one of the four major sites in India’s Char Dham pilgrimage.
Kedarnath is named after King Kedar who ruled in the Satya Yuga. He ruled the seven continents and was a very saintly king. He had a daughter named Vrinda who was a partial incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. She performed austerities for 60000 years. Because of her, the land is named Vrindavan.
The Kedarnath Temple
The temple opens on Akshaya Tritiya (April end or first week of May) and closes on Bhai Duj (October end or 1st week of November) due to heavy snowfall and extreme cold weather during winter. Gaurikhund is 75 km from Rudraprayag. In between Rudraprayag and Kedarnath there are several places of pilgrimage such as Agastyamuni, Ukhimath, Phauli- Pasalat Devi Maa, Bamsu (Lamgoundi) Vanasur, Maa Kali at Kalimath, Trijugi Narayan (7 km from Son Prayag) (Where Lord Shankar got married to Goddess Parwati from when the fire of hawan kund is still alive) and Kashi Vishwanath at Guptakashi. In Kedarnath Udak Kund is located. It is written in Kedar Khand of Shiv Mahapuran that the water of Udak Kund is mixture of all the 5 Oceans and always remain fresh even when kept for many years. The holy water of Udak Kund is used for purification rituals. Hans Kund, Bharo Nath, Navdurga Mandir, Shankaracharya Samadhi, Ishaneswar Mahadev Temple, Ret Kund, Panch Ganga Sangam, Chaurwari Taal now known as Gandhi Sarowar, Bashuki Taal are also places to visit here.
During winter due to heavy snowfall, the Temple is closed and no one stays in Kedarnath. For six months (November to April) the Palki of Lord Kedarnath is transferred to a place near Guptakashi called Ukhimath. People shift their settlement too from Kedarnath to nearby villages. Around 360 families of Tirtha Purohit of 55 villages and other nearby villages are depend on Kedarnath.
The Celestial Jyotirlingam
Amidst the dramatic mountains capes of the majestic Kedarnath range stands one of the twelve ‘Jyotirlingas’ of Kedar or Lord Shiva. Lying at an altitude of 3584 mts. on the head of river Mandakini, the shrine of Kedarnath is amongst the holiest pilgrimages for the Hindus.
Kedarnath is a majestic sight, standing in the middle of a wide plateau surrounded by lofty snow covered peaks. The present temple, built in the 8th century by Adi Shankaracharya, stands adjacent to the site of an earlier temple built by the Pandavas. The inner walls of the assembly hall are decorated with figures of various deities and scenes from mythology. Outside the temple door a large statue of the Nandi Bull stands as guard. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the exquisitely architectured Kedarnath temple is said to be more than a 1000 years old. Built of extremely large, heavy and evenly cut gray slabs of stones, it evokes wonder as to how these heavy slabs were handled in the earlier days. The temple has a ” Garbha Griha” for worship and a Mandap apt for assemblies of pilgrims and visitors. A conical rock formation inside the temple is worshipped as Lord Shiva in his Sadashiva form.
The lingam at Kedarnath, unlike its usual form, is pyramidal and is regarded as one of the 12 Jyotirlings. The pandavas after having won over the kauravas in the epic war of Kurukshetra, felt guilty of having killed their own kith and kin. They sought the blessings of Lord Shiva for redemption but Shiva eluded them repeatedly. He took refuge at Kedarnath in the form of a bull. On being followed he dived into the ground, leaving his hump on the surface. The remaining portions of Lord Shiva appeared at four places and are worshiped there as his manifestations. The arms appeared at Tunganath, the face at Rudranath, the belly at Madmaheshwar and his locks at Kalpeshwar. Kedarnath including these four shrines is treated as Panch Kedar.
Pilgrims traditionally first visit Yamunotri and Gangotri and bring with them the holy waters from the sources of the rivers Yamuna and Ganga and offer abhishekams to Kedareshwara. The traditional pilgrim route is Haridwar – Rishikesh – Deo Prayag – Tehri – Dharasu – Yamunotri – Uttar Kashi – Gangotri – Triyugnarayan – Gaurikund and Kedarnath. Alternatively, the route to Kedarnath from Rishikesh is via Deo Prayag, Srinagar, Rudra Prayag, Agastmuni, Gupt Kashi and Gaurikund. Near Kedarnath is the source of the river Mandakini. Mandakini joins Alakananda at Rudra Prayag.
According to legend, Lord Shiva wished to elude the Pandavas, who had come to seek penitence for having killed their kin in the battle of Kurukshetra. He took refuge in Kedarnath in the form of a bull. Bhima, one of the Pandava brothers, found Shiva amongst a herd of cattle. Having identified the meanest and most arrogant of the herd as Shiva, Bhima is said to have grabbed him by the hindquarters. What remains at the shrine in Kedarnath is the rear end of the bull, with the rest of its body scattered throughout the Garhwal. Shiva dived into the ground leaving behind him a hump on the surface. This conical protrusion is worshipped as the idol. It is the main site of the Panch Kedar temples.
There are Four Other Kedars
Three of these (barring Kalpeshwar) are in mountain meadows at higher altitudes than Kedarnath. The climb to Rudranath is the most strenuous though worth the trouble, as this meadow is one of the finest in Garhwal.
Pilgrimage Attractions in Kedarnath
The present temple, built in 8th century A.D. by Adi Guru Shankaracharya lies adjacent to the site of an ancient temple built by Pandavas. The walls of the exquisitely architectured temple are embellished with figures of deities and scenes from mythology. The temple has a conical lingam – the main idol, a statue of Nandi – the celestial bull, a ‘garbha grab’ for worship and a ‘mandap’ for assemblies of piligrims and visitors. The temple is believed to be more than 1000 years old.
Behind the Kedarnath Temple lies the samadhi or the final resting place of Adi Guru Shankaracharya. It is believed, after establishing the four dhams in India, he went for his samadhi at an early age of 32 years.
Chorabari (Gandhi Sarovar) (2 kms.)
A small lake from where Yudhishthir, the eldest of the Pandavas, is believed to have departed to heaven. The floating ice on the sparkling waters of the lake is a fascinating sight.
Vasuki Tal (6 kms.)
A picturesque lake, 4,135 mts. above sea level is encircled by lofty mountains and offers a commanding view of the Chaukhamba peaks.
Gaurikund (14 kms.)
The trekking base to Kedarnath. A temple dedicated to Gauri and thermal springs of medicinal value are noteworthy.
Sonprayag (20 kms.)
The confluence of Son Ganga and Mandakini rivers. The road to Triyuginarayan diverts from here.
Triyuginarayan (25 kms.)
A 5 kms. trek from Sonprayag, it is the mythological venue of the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.An eternal flame, which is said to have been a witness to the marriage, burns in front of the temple even today.
Guptkashi (49 kms.)
The temples of Ardhnarishwar and Vishwanath are noteworthy.
Ukshimath (60 kms)
Winter home of the deity of the Kedarnath Temple and the seat of the Rawal of Kedarnath.
Agastyamuni (73 kms.)
Famous for the temple dedicated to sage Agastya.
Chandrashila (93 kms.)
The Chandrashila peak provides a rare view of snow-clad peaks. The rhododendron Forests and alpine meadows dominate the trek fromTungnath to Chandrashila.
Deoria Tal (68 kms.)
Sari village is the last bus terminus on Chopta-Ukhimath road from where a 2 kms. trek leads to Deoria Tal. This beautiful lake at an altitude of 2,438 mts. gives the spectacular reflection of snow capped peaks in the lake water. Ideal spot for angling and bird watching.
There are 2 ways to reach Kedarnath:
1) By foot for a steep 14 km trek through a paved path (horses or palanquins are available for rent) from Gaurikund, which is connected by road from Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun and other known hill stations of Garhwal and Kumaon regions in Uttarakhand
2) Through air travel. Recently government has started Pawan Hans Helicopter Service from Agastyamuni and Phata to Kedarnath. The fare is reasonable.
Jolly Grant, Dehradun (251 kms.)
Rishikesh (234 kms.)
Kotdwar (260 kms.)
Approachable on foot from Gaurikund, which is connected by road to Rishikesh, Kotwar, Dehradun, Haridwar and other important hill stations of Garhwal and Kumaon region.