From our last week’s feature – the Sai Baba Temple in Shirdi, Maharastra, we now take you on a journey up north to one of the best known temples of India. Nestled high up in the pristine town of Kedarnath is one of the twelve jyotirlingas – shrines where the Hindu deity, Lord Shiva is believed to have manifested in the form of Light. It is one of the Chota Char Dham – a circuit of four Hindu shrines in the Himalayan region – revered by pilgrims.
The temple at Kedarnath is one of the most sacred temples in the country. Each year the summer months see thousands heading to make this difficult pilgrimage. The 2013 floods that devastated the town of Kedarnath spared the temple due to a huge rock face right in front of the temple – more reason for the devout to come here full of faith and love for the divine. The Indian Army is very active in helping out the pilgrims between May and October. They are responsible for saving many lives and for keeping the routes safe.
Location of Kedarnath and accessibility
Kedarnath Temple is located in the town of Kedarnath in Rudraprayag District, Uttarakhand.
Altitude: 3,584 metres (approximately 11,755 feet)
Distance from –
• Gaurikund: 14 kilometres
• Dehradun: 109 kilometres
• Haridwar: 121 kilometres
• Chandigarh: 218 kilometres
• Rishikesh: 223 kilometres
• New Delhi: 296 kilometres
Nearest Airport: Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun
Railway Junction: Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun
All routes to Kedarnath end at Gaurikund
Before 2013, pilgrims from Gaurikund would be required to trek to the shrine city. The trek route through Rambara would cover a distance of about 14 kilometres and pilgrims could hire palanquins or ponies to carry them across the distance. This route was short and safe.
Following the disastrous floods of 2013, a new route to Kedarnath was opened up from Sonprayag. This route is longer going from Sonprayag through Vasuki Tal Trail to Kedarnath covering a distance of 22-24 kilometres. Through 2015, the Gaurikund – Rambara – Kedarnath route was being worked upon and is likely to be ready for use by 2016.
Helicopter services connect Phata helipad (near Guptakashi) with Kedarnath directly.
History of Kedarnath
The history of the shrine is said to go back to the days of the Mahabharata. The Pandavas, after the bloodbath and gore on the battlefield of Kurukshetra, were wrecked by guilt and remained restless. They sought the solitude of the Himalayas and worshipped Lord Shiva in these parts. It is in Kedarnath that the lord is believed to have appeared in the form of a bull and blessed them. The original temple dedicated to Lord Shiva as the lord of Kedar (Kedarnath) is said to have been built by the strong Padndava brothers. The current shrine is said to have been built near the old temple by the Hindu mystic and spiritual leader, Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD.
According to another legend, Nara and Narayana – two aspects of Lord Vishnu – spent a long time in Badrikashraya and did penance to please Lord Shiva. When Shiva appeared and granted them a boon they asked for the Lord to stay on in Kedar as one of the Jyotirlingas. Along with the nearby shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple at Badrinath, this Shiva temple forms one of the prime centers of Hindu worship in the country.
The shrines in Kedarnath
The Chamoli and the Rudraprayag districts of the mountainous state of Uttarakhand are home to over 200 shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva. Kedarnath Temple is believed to be the most sacred and powerful among all these. The temple has been built upon a wide plateau and is surrounded by tall magnificent peaks of the Garhwal Himalayas, that are snowcapped all-round the year. The view is simply astounding. While pilgrims come to the temple filled with faith, it is the theatre of the settings that makes this difficult-to-reach temple all the more sought out.
The temple structure itself is made of large grey stone slabs making one wonder about the marvels of ancient Indian architecture. The interiors tell us stories from Hindu mythology and are done up with idols and statues from the pantheon. Right at the heart of the temple is a Garbha Griha – the altar chamber of worship. A conical rock in this chamber is the deity – Kedarnath. A majestic bull, the familiar of Lord Shiva, guards the temple. It is in the form of this bull that the Lord is believed to have appeared here. The huge hall or mandap in the temple premises is perfect for devotees who want to sit and meditate awhile.
What Kedarnath is famous for?
The greatest allure of the Kedarnath temple is the arduous trek up from Gaurikund amidst some of the most difficult yet breathtaking places in the country. It is faith and faith alone that sustains the pilgrims who come here in hundreds each year. Kedar-Badri as the two shrines are called is a pilgrim every devout Hindu dreams of undertaking. Pilgrims spend years preparing for the trip. Kedarnath, the deity is believed to be the bestower of all boons and good health. He is also the deity worshipped for peace and happiness in life.
The best time to visit the Kedarnath Temple is between May and October – the summer months. In winters, the Kedarnath region of Rudraprayag experiences severe snowfall and all the routes remain blocked. The shrine is opened in April-May on the auspicious Akshaya Tritiya day. Again in October (on the first day of the Kartik month), the Shiva idol is taken to Ukhimath, at a lower altitude where it is worshipped till the shrine reopens.
Caution: Avoid monsoons as the area is prone to a lot of landslides and the trek becomes a risky one.
The temple remains open between 4 am and 3pm and again between 5 pm and 7pm.
Online puja bookings have been temporarily discontinued.
Puja can now be booked by sending a Demand Draft to the following address 20 days prior to the puja date
Shri Badarinath – Shri Kedarnath Temples Committee
Maa Chandra Badni Temple, Near Oberoi Nissan Motors, Kargi Grant,
Haridwar By-pass road,
Uttarakhand – 248001, India