Amidst the dramatic mountainscapes 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.
Kedarnath is situated in the Uttar Kashi district of the northern state
of Uttaranchal. Very close to the Indo-Chinese border, it is the source
of the Mandakini River. It is couched in the scenic locales of the
Garhwal Himalayas at 3583 meters above sea level. It is very cold in the
winters with the ground being covered with snow. In the summers, the
mercury barely crosses the 20°C mark. The place experiences about 150 cm
of rainfall during the monsoons and so the best time to visit is between
May and October. Kedarnath is near to Rishikesh (234 km) and Dehradun
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.
Legend has it that when the Pandavas sought penance following the great
war of the Mahabharata they came in search of Lord Shiva. Arriving at
this site they found that Shiva had elusively taken the form of a bull.
Bhim the strongest of the Pandavas went after Shiva who dived deep into
the ground. Only Shiva's tail was left in Bhim's hand.
This spot is known as the Kedarnath and is also considered the main
Kedar. The rest of Shiva's body emerged at four other places in Garhwal
- Tunganath, Madhyamaheshwar, Kalpeshwar and Rudranath.
These five Kedars are worshipped as Panch Kedars
Shiva's arms came out at Tungnath. The Tungnath temple is at an
altitude of 3,680 m and is the highest Shiva shrine among the Panch
Kedars. However it is the easiest to reach from Chopta, the nearest road
Shiva's face is worshipped at the Rudranath temple. It is about
2,286 m above sea level and is 23 km from Gopeshwar. 5 km of the
distance is motor able and 18 km is on foot. The trek passes through
wild orchards and picturesque bugyals (meadows) and involves trekking
over high ridges (sometimes 4,000 m). The temple site provides
magnificent views of Hathi Parvat, Nanda Devi, Nanda Ghungti, Trishuli
and many other peaks. There are a number of holy kunds or ponds near the
Rudranath temple like Suryakund, Chandrakund, Tarakund. The entire area
is utterly enchanting and unmatched in scenic beauty. Anusuya Devi
temple is located on the trek to Rudranath involving an additional trek
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
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
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.