Kedarnath Dham, located in Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag district, is one of the most important Shiva pilgrimage sites. The name of Lord Shiva seems to reverberate through the air among the mighty snow-clad peaks, enchanting meadows, and forests of the Himalayan lower mountain range. Kedarnath Dham, located near the Mandakini River’s headwaters and at a height of 3,584 meters, commemorates Lord Shiva’s greatness. The Kedarnath temple is one of the 12 Jyotir Lingams and the most important of the Panch Kedar (a group of 5 Shiva temples in the Garhwal Himalayas).
In Uttarakhand, it is also one of the important temples in the revered Chota Char Dham Yatra, adding to the reverence of the location. The motorable route leading to the Kedarnath temple is reachable from major locations in Uttarakhand and continues to Gauri Kund. The next step is a 14-kilometre hike to the Kedarnath temple. Ponies and palanquins (doli) are readily accessible, and during the busiest time of the yatra, one can also hire a helicopter. The arduous travel to the enormous Shiva shrine is well made up for by the spiritual environment that the area’s unruffled, serene, and magnificent beauty creates.
Those who take a spiritual tour of the Kedarnath temple report feeling a great sense of serenity. The environment of the temple and nature is so divine that it constantly renews people’s confidence in the Almighty. The temple’s survival through one of the state’s biggest flash floods in 2013 has increased its reverence and mystique in the eyes of its followers. Every year, pilgrims go in large numbers to Kedarnath as part of the Chardham Yatra circuit. Indeed, one of the most well-known pilgrimages is to Kedarnath in Uttarakhand, especially for Hindus and enlightened individuals.
How is it formed?
Burdened with the guilt of murdering their blood relatives, the Pandavas sought Lord Shiva’s forgiveness. Shiva, not wanting to let them off the hook so easily, disguised himself as a bull and roamed the Garhwal Himalayas. When the Pandavas discovered him, Shiva dove into the ground. Bhim tried to catch him but could only grab the hump. Other parts of Shiva’s body (in the form of a bull) appeared in various places.
The bull’s hump was discovered in Kedarnath, the navel in Madhya-Maheshwar, two forelegs in Tungnath, the face in Rudranath, and the hair in Kalpeshwar. These five sacred sites are known collectively as Panch Kedar. The temple of Kedarnath is thought to have been built originally by the Pandavas.
Places to see in Kedarnath Dham
Lord Shiva’s shrine is a grand and impressive structure made of grey stone. The 14-kilometre-long steep climb from Gauri Kund is brimming with natural beauty. The paved and steep path provides pilgrims with spectacular views of snowy peaks, alpine meadows, and delightful rhododendron forests. A large stone statue of Nandi Bull sits directly opposite the shrine, guarding it. There is only one Garbha Griha, which houses Lord Shiva’s primary idol (a pyramid-shaped rock). The Mandapa section of the shrine houses the idols of Lord Krishna, Pandavas, Draupadi, and Kunti.
For over a thousand years, the temple has withstood natural disasters such as avalanches, earthquakes, and floods and has remained as strong and elegant as it must have been originally. With the arrival of winter, the temple’s portals are closed on the first day of Karthik (October/November) amid elaborate rituals, and a moveable idol of Shiva is relocated to Omkareshwar temple in Ukhimath (Rudraprayag district). The Shiva idol is welcomed back, and the temple reopens after 6 months in the Hindu calendar month of Vaisakh (April/May).
It is the starting point for the trek to Kedarnath’s temple. According to legend, Goddess Parvati (also known as Gauri) meditated here before marrying Lord Shiva. It is made up of natural thermal springs and provides pilgrims with a refreshing bath before they embark on the holy darshan of Kedareshwar (the Lord of Kedar, Shiva).
There is also an ancient Gauri Devi temple here, dedicated to the goddess. The temple of Sirkata (headless) Ganesha is half a kilometre away from Gauri Kund. According to the Skanda Purana, this is where Shiva beheaded Ganesha and then attached an elephant’s head to his headless body.
The serene and pristine Chorabari Lake, fed by the Chorabari glacier, can be reached after a 4-kilometer trek from Kedarnath. It is also known as Gandhi Sarovar because some of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were immersed in its waters. On the way, there is a waterfall that must be crossed. It appears amusing, but caution should be exercised when passing through it.
Another ancient and significant temple can be found on the temple complex’s southern side. It is dedicated to Bhairav Nath, who is said to guard the temple compound when the shrine is closed for the winter.
The Vasuki Lake, with its 3,135-meter elevation, is roughly 8 kilometres from Kedarnath. The hike across the pristine Himalayas is worth every bit of the challenging climb that involves crossing glaciers.
Vasuki Tal, a bizarre high-altitude lake, snow-covered mountains, Ukhimath, Rudraprayag, and hallowed locations like Gaurikund are just a few of the magnificent and calming landscapes Kedarnath has to offer. These locations combine to form an ambience that should not be missed.
Time to visit Kedarnath
Kedarnath, which has a cold climate most of the year, is best visited in the summer. From May to June and September to October, the weather is ideal for exploring this location. During this time, the weather in Kedarnath is pleasant and cool. Winters in this region are harsh, with temperatures below zero and heavy rainfall. Because the monsoon season is characterized by heavy downpours, visitors to this pilgrimage site should bring only the necessities.
In Uttarakhand, the summer season officially starts in April. It’s that time of year when the ice melts and the army clears the roads so that the pilgrimage may start at the end of April. In the summer, Kedarnath experiences temperatures ranging from 2°C to 19°C on average.
Don’t forget to bring a daypack, suitable walking shoes, trekking shoes, trekking pants, a windproof jacket, lightweight wool clothes, a sunhat, sunglasses, lip balm, a torch or flashlight with additional batteries, a walking stick, and personal necessities. A water bottle must always be with you. Additionally, keep some energy bars, dry fruits, and sports drinks like Gatorade and Electoral (ORS) in your pocket.
Monsoons arrive in Kedarnath in July and last until August, with temperatures dropping to 12°C. Kedarnath is prone to heavy rains and landslides during this season, so visitors should be prepared to overcome the challenges. To protect oneself from the heavy rains, a few essentials must be packed.
Carry a daypack with a rain cover, waterproof trekking/hiking shoes, trekking pants, a windproof/water resistant jacket, thick fleece, woollen clothing, waterproof gloves, thick woollen socks, a walking stick, raincoat/poncho, torch/flashlight with extra batteries, and personal toiletries. To avoid dehydration, bring a water bottle, some dry fruits to snack on, and energy drinks.
Winters in Kedarnath begin in November and last until April. This season is not ideal for visiting this location because roads to Kedarnath become impassable due to heavy snowfall. As a result, the Kedarnath Temple is closed during the winter months. Winters are bitterly cold, with temperatures dropping below zero. Kedarnath is still covered in snow, making it inaccessible for the time being.
Facts you should know about Kedarnath
The Kedarnath temple’s Shiva Lingam is shaped like a triangle. and is thus distinct from other Shiva temples. It is situated in the temple’s sanctum sanctorum (Garbha Griha). The Kedarnath temple is home to statues of Lord Shiva’s mount Nandi, Parvati, Lord Krishna, the five Pandavas, and their bride Draupadi, Nandi, Veerabhadra, and other deities.
The deity’s idol is transported to the Omkareshwar temple in Ukhimath and revered there for six months during the winter when the Kedarnath temple is closed for six months.
In the Kedarnath temple, mantras are recited in Kannada.
In accordance with the Shri Kedarnath Mandir Act of the Uttar Pradesh Government, the Kedarnath Temple Commission oversees the temple.
One cannot simply travel to Kedarnath due to the unpredictably harsh weather. Actually, a cloud burst is all that is needed to completely submerge the Kedarnath temple complex in water. Kedarnath experienced a severe flood in 2013.
The Kedarnath temple is 187 feet long, 80 feet wide, and 85 feet high. The Kedarnath temple’s walls are 12 feet thick and composed of very durable stones.
On a six-foot-high platform, the Kedarnath temple is situated. It is amazing how the temple was carved given the weight and height of the stone. According to experts, the stones would have been joined using interlocking technology. The Kedarnath temple has remained standing in the middle of the river because of the might of technology.
The Shiva idol in Kedarnath is thought to have degenerated. It is also thought that the Doleshwar Mahadev Temple in Bhaktapur, Nepal, contains the head of the Shiva idol.
This temple is incredibly powerful, according to RK Dobhal. Thick rock covers the walls, and a single stone serves as the roof.
For 400 years, the Kedarnath Temple was totally covered by snow; only then did it come to light.
No matter how severe a disaster strikes, according to some religious authorities, nothing can ever occur in this sacred temple because it is being guarded by its primary deity.
King Parikshit constructed the Kedarnath temple in a spectacular manner. King Parikshit, who was the father of the emperor Jaymejayan, passed away from a snakebite.
One of the twelve revered Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva is the Kedarnath temple. It is also believed in this temple that he kept him full of love for Lord Shiva and blessed the Himalayas.
The Temple: Despite numerous difficulties and natural catastrophes, this temple has remained resilient. Even the catastrophic floods of 2013 left nothing standing yet the temple was unaffected.
Name derivation: The word “Kodaram” is the source of the name Kedarnath. According to legend, the gods formerly revered Lord Shiva to protect themselves from the demonic threat. The demons were then slain and thrown into the Mandakini River by Lord Shiva, who then manifested as an ox.
Kedarnath Ji is said to be protected by the Bhairo Nath temple from demons. During the Kedarnath Temple’s opening and closing ceremonies, you must go to Bhairavnath Temple. It’s said that when the temple is closed, Bhairavnath keeps the demons at bay to preserve the Kedarnath shrine.
Priest: The Veerashaiva society from Karnataka, popularly known as Raval, has historically provided the Kedarnath temple’s chief priest. He delegated his assistant to complete the puja ritual on his behalf. However, the top priest conducts the ceremony when the god is moved from Kedarnath to Ukhimath. Additionally, Raval travels to Ukhimath with the lord.