Kedarnath is considered as one of the 12 jyotirlingas, pilgrimage destinations mentioned in the Shiv Purana. The shrine is situated on the Kedar Mountain in the Himalayas, 250 kilometers from Haridwar. The shrine occupies an altitude of 3580 meters above the origin of the river Mandakini. It lies at the highest altitude among the Jyotirlingas.
The shrine commands profound veneration among devotees, who believe death at this place will merge their soul with Lord Shiva himself. Every year lakhs of pilgrims visit Kedarnath.
The Legend of Lord Shiva and the Pandavas
After Pandavas won the war fought with the Kauravas, they were remorseful for killing their own cousins and teacher. They wished to ask Lord Shiva for pardon for their sins. However, Lord Shiva took the form of a bull and came to Kedarnath, while the Pandavas followed in an attempt to speak to him. Finally, lord Shiva in the form of the bull went underground to hide, leaving his hump on the ground. His arms appeared in Tungnath, torso at Madmaheswar, face at Rudranath and head at Kalpeshwar. The five places including Kedarnath are today known as Panch Kedar.
The shrine that currently occupies the spot at Kedarnath was built by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century. The site also houses an older shrine built by the Pandavas.
Kedarnath shrine has baffled people due to its construction pattern. The shrine is made of heavy rocks and people wonder how the stones were carried and how such large slabs were cut in a regular shape. The walls of the temple have stone representations of different deities and depict episodes from the Puranas.
The sanctum sanctorum is where the worship of Shiva takes place. Shiva is enshrined as a conical rock structure, which represents the Sadashiva form.
The statue of Nandi Bull is one of the most recognized structures at the Kedarnath temple. The Nandi Bull is believed to be guarding the entrance to the shrine.
Located in the southern part of the Kedarnath temple complex, the Udak Kund is a natural spring that supplies the water to bathe the enshrined god. The Hansa Kund is important for its role in ritual prayers such as tarpan and pind daan. The Retas Kund is another astonishing feature of the temple. It is said that the water in the Retas Kund starts bubbling if anybody calls out the traditional salute of “har har Mahadev”.
The Kedarnath complex has temples dedicated to Goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesh. Other temples are dedicated to Ishaneshwar and Nandishwar.
Adi Shankaracharya, who set up the four dhams or sacred pilgrimage spots, took Samadhi here. The area where the shrine is situated is famous for its scenic beauty. Set among the pristine snow, the backdrop of the mountains, meadows, and the river Mandakini is enthralling.
Situated 10 kilometers away, this temple is one of the Siddh Peeths and is dedicated to Goddess Kali. The temple is constructed out of wood and iron.
Events and Festivals
Badari Kedar Festival
This festival is organized in June every year. The festival lasts for eight days and includes traditional Indian art forms.
Traditional Indian Festivals
Most traditional Indian festivals are celebrated here. The highlights are Shivaratri, Holi, Krishna Janmashtami, Dussehra, and Diwali.
The fairs are held around different religious themes, and are named after them. They include Shivaratri, Nagnath, Krishna Mela, and Navami Jasoli Hariyali.
Navaratras, which have a special significance all over India and celebrate the Goddess in her various forms, have a special significance at the Mahakali Temple. This temple is surrounded by temples dedicated to Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswati, and Bhairav.
Best Time to Visit
The May to September season is the best season for visiting Kedarnath. Winter clothing is required, as the maxim temperature varies from 12°C to 17°C and minimum temperatures can be as low as 0°C.
The winters make the terrain difficult because of heavy snowfall. Maximum temperatures dip to 4°C.
Monsoons bring rains which increase the risk of landslides. The higher altitude of Kedarnath ensures that summers are relatively mild.
Acclimatizing to the high altitude may become a challenge for some visitors. Carrying an oxygen kit is recommended. Sun protection, body warmers, sleeping bags, blankets, snow boots, water proof tents are recommended.
How to Reach
The nearest airport is at Dehradun, 240 kilometers away from Kedarnath. Most of the distance can be covered by road, but the last 15 kilometers must be trekked on foot. Choppers can be used to cover the distance from Rishikesh to Kedarnath.
The nearest train station is Rishikesh, approximately 220 kilometers away. Most of the distance is traversed by road from Rishikesh. The last 15 kilometers need to be covered on foot.
People can trek from Gauri Kund to Kedarnath. Gauri Kund is connected to Rishikesh, Dehradun, and Haridwar by road links. Buses run between these destinations. Private taxies may also ferry people to Gauri Kund.