August 2008
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Kedarnath in Uttarakhand

Altitude: 3,553 metres
Coordinates: 30.73° N 79.07° E
Temperature : Max: 17.9°C, Min: 5.6<°C Season: May to October Clothing: Summer - Light Woolen, Winter - Heavy Woollen Languages: Garhwali, Hindi & English Distance : 77km from Rudraprayag, 42km from Badrinath, 228km from Rishikesh The most remote of the four Char Dham sites, Kedarnath is located in the Himalayas, near the head of river Mandakini, and is flanked by breathtaking snow-capped peaks. Kedarnath hosts one of the holiest Hindu temples and is a popular destination for Hindu pilgrims from all over the world. As the temple is located on the snowy heights of the Himalayas, the entrance into the temple is restricted throughout winter. Therefore, it is open six months a year, from May to October. Kedarnath is accessible only after 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 important hill stations of the Garhwal and Kumaon regions in Uttarakhand. The temple is open only during the months of April/May(on Akshaya Trithiya) to October/November (closes on Diwali - festival of light), due to heavy snowfall and extreme cold weather during winter. Map to Kedarnath:
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The temple is believed to have been built by Adi Sankaracharya and is one of the twelve Jyothirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Lord Shiva. The older temple existed from the times of Mahabharat, when the Pandavas are supposed to have pleased Shiva by doing penance in Kedarnath. The temple opens its gates three days before the day of opening of the Badrinath temple, during the last week of April and the temple remains open till winter commences and snow comes into the picture. During winter months the roads get blocked and so the temple closes down during this time. The uniqueness and greatness of this temple is mentioned in the Vedas, Ithihaas and the Epics. It is surrounded by high snow covered mountains. Besides its religious significance, it is also visited by those who love to conquer the rough terrain of Garhwal. It is said that this temple is older than 1000 years. On the south side of the main temple there stands Bhairavnath Temple, which is dedicated to God Bairav.

The original temple (now extinct) with 12 Jyothirlingas, was built by the Pandavas at the present site and Adi Sankaracharaya restored the present Kedarnath temple. The Samadhi of Adi Sankaracharya lies behind this temple. The statue of Nandi, the divine bull of Shiva, stands at the entrance of the temple. Inside the temple, there are marvellous sculptures of Kedaragouri, Krishna, Pandavas, Draupadi, Karthikeyan etc. The shrine is covered by snow for 6 months in a year (closed from Oct-Nov up to Apr-May). The statue is carried to Ukhimath, and is reinstated in Kedarnath in the month of May.
Even though the route to Kedarnath Temple is very tough indeed, the religious faith is what keeps the pilgrims going, overcoming all hindrances and obstacles, to reach their desired destination. The hilly path and the deep gorges make the journey full of thrill and adventure.
The actual temple is an impressive stone edifice of unknown date. According to the Puranas, the Pandava brothers did a major penance in Kedarnath to please Lord Shiva. As a matter of fact, as one enters the main temple, the first hall contains statues of the five Pandava brothers, Lord Krishna, Nandi, the vehicle of Shiva and Virabhadra, one of the greatest guards of Shiva. An unusual feature of the temple is the the head of a man carved in the triangular stone fascia of the temple. Such a head is seen carved in another temple nearby, namely, the temple constructed on the site of Marriage of Shiva and Parvati. No specific family of pujaris supervises rituals at Kedarnath, which focus around veneration of the stone lingam that rests in the inner sanctum of the temple. Behind the temple is the samadhi mandir of Adi Sankara.
The origin of the revered temple can be found in the great epic – Mahabharata. According to legend, the Pandavas sought the blessings of Lord Shiva to atone their sins fafter the battle of Mahabharata. Lord Shiva eluded them repetedly and while fleeing took refuge at Kedarnath in the form of a bull. On being followed he dived into the ground, leaving behind HIS hump on the surface. This conical protrusion is worshipped as the idol on the shrine. The remaining portions of Lord Shiva are worshipped at four places the arms (bahu) at Tungnath, mouth (mukha) at Rudranath, naval (nabhi) at Madmaheshwar and hair (jata) at Kalpeshwar. Together with Kedarnath, these places are known as the panch Kedar.

Places to see nearby:

Chorabari (Gandhi Sarovar) with floating – ice on the crystal clear waters of the lake and Vasuki Tal, another lake at an altitude of 4,150 m are fascinating sites around Kedarnath.

Vasuki Tal: Situated at an altitude of 4135m and surrounded by the Chaukhamba Mountain Ranges, Vasuki Tal is a lovely lake. You can get an excellent view of the Chaukhamba Peak (7,138m) from here.

The Ardhnarishwar Temple and Vishwanath Temple at Guptkashi, at about 49 km from Kedarnath, are worth seeing. Apart from these, Agastyamuni is a place located at approximate distance of 73 km, which has temple dedicated to sage Agastya.

Ukhimath: 62km from Kedarnath. Well connected by road with Rudraprayag, Ukhimath is a peaceful place. The deities of the Kedarnath Temple are installed at this matha (Hindu monastic establishment) when the Kedarnath Temple closes during winter.

Devaria Tal: 68km from Kedarnath. Located at a height of 2,430m, it is a very beautiful lake. You can get an excellent view of the Chaukhamba Peak from here.

Shankaracharya Samadhi is another place of interest in Kedarnath. The Samadhi, final resting place, of Adi Guru Shankaracharya is located right behind the Kedarnath Temple. It is said that he went for samadhi after establishing the four dhams in India. Chorabari is also good place just about 2 km away. It is a small lake from where Yudhishtir, the eldest among Pandavas, is said to have departed to heaven.

Tungnath – 2nd Panch Kedar: Set on the crest of a hill at an altitude of 3,886 meters, Tungnath is the highest temple in India. Legend has it that the arm of Shiva appeared here. Ravana, of the Ramayana, is said to have performed penance at this temple to propitiate Shiva. The high altitude temple is a Seat of Swyambhu Linga or the Lord Shiva Incarnate.

Rudranath – 3rd Pancha Kedar: 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 motorable 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.

Madhyamaheshwar – 4th Pancha Kedar: The stomach of Shiva is believed to have emerged at Madmaheshwar. The temple of Madhyamaheshwar is located at an altitude of 3,289 m above sea level, on the slope of a ridge, 25 km north-east of Guptakashi. There is a motorable road from Guptakashi to Kalimath. The best statue of Har Gauri in India measuring over a metre high is found in the Kali temple.

Kalpeshwar – 5th Pancha Kedar: The hardier tourist may like to trek about 35 km to Kalpeshwar, where the locks (hair) and head, of Lord Shiva are worshipped as Jatadhar. Located in Urgam Valley at an altitude of 2,134 m. above sea level, the temple is a further 10 km trek from Rudranath to Helong, the motor head on Rishikesh-Badrinath route. The small rock temple of Kalpeshwar is where the Hair appeared.

How to get there:

The nearest airport is Jolly Grant and tourists can avail of the rail route and the nearby rail heads are Haridwar, Rishikesh and Deheradun. Apart from this, tourists can avail local buses, taxis, and jeeps to Gourikund. After reaching Gourikund, tourists have to trek 14 kms and this trekking experience will always be a memorable experience for the tourists.

Other reading information:

1. Trek (link)
2. (link)

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