Lord Shiva's 12 Jyothirlingas Kedarnath Garhwal Himalaya
Kedarnath temple is one of the holiest Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located atop the Garhwal Himalayan range near the river Mandakini in Kedarnath, Uttarakhand in India. Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April to start of November. The temple is not directly accessible by road and has to be reached by a 13 km uphill trek from Gaurikund.
One of the holiest pilgrimages for the Hindus, Kedarnath Temple Jyotirlinga is located in the picturesque surroundings of Rudra Himalaya Range at a height of 12000 feet on a mountain named Kedar. Near Kedarnath is the source of the river Mandakini that joins Alakananda at Rudraprayag. This place is approximately 150 miles away from Hardwar and 132 miles north of Hrishikesh and is accessible by foot. 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 temple is also one of the four major sites in India's Char Dham pilgrimage. Behind the temple is the samadhi mandir of Adi Sankara. Legend behind the temple Legend goes that Nara and Narayana - two incarnations of Vishnu performed severe penance in Badrikashraya of Bharat Khand, in front of a Shivalingam fashioned out of earth. Pleased with their devotion, Lord Shiva appeared in front of them and said that they may ask for a boon. Nar and Narayan requested Shiva to take up a permanent abode as a Jyotirlingam at Kedarnath so that all people who worship Shiva shall be freed from their miseries.
According to yet another popular legend related to Kedar Temple, Goddess Parvati worshipped Kedareshwar to unite with Shiva as Ardhanareeswarar. Besides, the Pandavas are believed to have visited this area several times. Arjuna is believed to have come here to pray to Shiva to obtain the coveted Pasupataastra. The other Pandavas are believed to have come here in search of him, where Draupadi came across the heavenly lotus Kalyana Saugandikam, and requested Bhima to bring here some more of the same. It was during his venturing out to seek these flowers that Bhima met Hanumaan.
Significance of Kedarnath Temple
Located in the lofty Himalayas, Kedarnath Temple is one of the best known Shivasthalams in India and is considered to be one of the most sacred pilgrimage centers of the country. It is believed that by praying to Kedareshwar, one can get all his desires fulfilled. Importance of the shrine can be further understood from the beliefs that Upamanyu prayed to Lord Shiva in this place in Satayuga while in Dwapar, the Pandavas worshipped Lord Shiva here. Even the spiritual leader Adi Sankaracharya is closely associated with Kedarnath.
Places of Interest
Bhairav Nath Temple - To the south of the main temple stands the temple of God Bhairav, the deity who guards the Kedarnath Temple in winter, when it is closed due to severe winter conditions.
Samadhi of Adi Shankaracharya- Located behind the Kedarnath Temple is the Samadhi or the final resting place where the saint gave up his life.
Gandhi Sarovar- 1.5 km. A small lake from where Yudhishthir, the eldest of the Pandavas, is said to have departed to heaven.
Vasuki Tal- 6 km. At 4135 mtr. Above sea level, this lake is extraordinary, surrounded by high mountains and offering an excellent view of the Chaukhamba peaks.
Gauri Kund- 15 km. The trekking base to Kedarnath and the road head, this village has a temple dedicated to Gauri and also thermal springs of medicinal value.
Sonprayag- 20 km. The confluence of the Son Ganga and Mandakini rivers, where there is a diversion for Triyuginarayan.
Triyuginarayan- 25 km. the mythological venue where the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati was solemnized. It is a short trek of 5 km from Son Prayag. An eternal flame, which is said to have been the witness to the marriage, burns in front of the temple even today.
Gupt Kashi- 49 km. Famous for the temples of Ardhnarishwar and Vishwanathji.
Ukhimath- 60 km. Winter home of Lord Kedarnath temple, and the seat of the Rawal of Kedarnath during winter months.
Agastmuni- 73 km., Has a temple dedicated to the sage Agastya.
Chopta- Situated on the Gopeshwar Ukhimath road about 40 km from Gopeshwar at an altitude of about 2500 mtrs above sea level, Chopta is one of the most picturesque spots in the entire Garhwal region. It provides a breathtaking view of Himalayan ranges surrounding it.
When to go
It is very cold in the winters with the ground being covered with snow. During the winters, the shrine is submerged in snow and hence is closed. The temple opens the first week of May and closes either the last week of October. May-June is the busiest time of the year. Worship of Sri Kedarnath is continued at Okhimath in the winter by the priest from the Kardarnath Temple.
Getting there and Around
By Air: The nearest convenient Air port is Delhi. Which is further well connected to Mumbai, Calcutta and rest of India through Air network.
By Road: Kedarnath is connected by road with Badrinath (242 KM), Dehradun (268 KM), Delhi (450 KM), Haridwar (250 KM), Kotdwar (256 KM), and Rishikesh (226 KM). Route : Rishikesh to Kedarnath vai Rudraprayag :- Rishikesh -> Rudraprayaga -> Agastamuni -> Kund -> Gupta kashi -> Phata -> Soneprayag -> Gauri Kund. Gouri Kund to Kedarnath is 14 KM. This distance has to be covered by foot, ponies, palkies.
By Rail : The nearest convenient railway station are Dehradun and Haridwar. These are well connected with Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and rest of India through Rail network.