Kedarnath Dham, located in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand, is one of the most paramount locations for worshipers of Shiva. The air appears to be reverberating with the name of Lord Shiva amid the mighty snow-clad peaks, enchanting meadows and forests of the lower mountain range of Himalayas. Situated in a breathtaking location, near the source of Mandakini River and at the height of 3,584 meters, Kedarnath Dham celebrates the greatness of Lord Shiva. Kedarnath temple is one of the 12 Jyotir Lingams and is also the most important temple among the Panch Kedars (group of 5 Shiva temples in Garhwal Himalayas).
It is also one of the significant temples of the sacred Chota Char Dham Yatra in Uttarakhand, raising the glory of the place to further heights. Accessible from major destinations of Uttarakhand, the motorable road towards Kedarnath temple stretches till Gauri Kund. After that one needs to take a 14 km trek towards Kedarnath temple. Ponies and palanquins (doli) are easily available; one can also avail helicopter services during peak season of yatra.
The hard journey till the great shrine of Shiva is well compensated with the spiritual atmosphere which is created by the unruffled, tranquil and splendid beauty of the region. The majestic Kedarnath peak (6,940 meters) stands behind the temple along with other peaks, forming a perfect setting for the holy land of the supreme deity. The conical-shaped Shiva lingam in the Kedarnath temple is a unique feature of the temple among all Shiva shrines.
Burdened with the guilt of killing their blood relatives, Pandavas sought Lord Shiva to absolve themselves of their sins. Shiva didn't want to release them from their wrongdoings so easily and disguised himself as a bull to roam in Garhwal Himalayas. On being discovered by Pandavas, Shiva dived into the ground. Bhim tried to catch him and could only get hold of the hump. Other body parts of Shiva (in the form of bull), came up at different places. Hump of the bull was found in Kedarnath, navel emerged at Madhya-Maheshwar, two forelegs appeared at Tunganath, face in Rudranath, and hair came up at Kalpeshwar. Together these five sacred places are called Panch Kedar. It is believed that originally Pandavas built the temple of Kedarnath; the present temple was established by Adi Shankaracharya who restored and revived the glory of the shrine.
Kedarnath Temple :
The grand and impressive structure of Lord Shiva's shrine is made of grey stone. Steep climb stretching to 14 km from Gauri Kund brims with abundant beauty of nature. The paved and steep path gifts the pilgrims the fantastic views of snowy-peaks, alpine meadows and delightful forests of rhododendrons. A large stone statue of Nandi Bull stares at the shrine, guarding it, sitting right opposite it.
There is one Garbha Griha which houses the primary idol (pyramid shaped rock) of Lord Shiva. The idols of Lord Krishna, Pandavas, Draupadi and Kunti find a space in the Mandapa section of the shrine. The temple has withstood natural calamities like avalanches, earthquakes and floods for over thousand years and still stands as strong and elegant as it must have originally been.
With the onset of winters, the portals of the temple are closed on the 1st day of Karthik (Oct/Nov) amid elaborate rituals, and a moveable idol of Shiva is shifted to Omkareshwar temple in Ukhimath (Rudraprayag district). The Shiva idol is welcomed back and the temple is opened again after 6 months in the Vaisakh (Apr/May) period of Hindu calendar.
It is the starting point of the trek towards the temple of Kedarnath. As per a legend, Goddess Parvati (also known as Gauri) meditated over here in order to marry Lord Shiva. It consists of natural thermal springs and offer refreshing bath to pilgrims before they embark for the holy darshan of Kedareshwar (the Lord of Kedar, Shiva).
There is also an ancient Gauri Devi temple over here, honouring the goddess. Half Kilometre from Gauri Kund is the temple of Sirkata (headless) Ganesha. According to Skanda Purana, this was the place where Shiva beheaded Ganesha and then attached the head of an elephant on his headless body.
Chorabari tal :Fed by Chorabari glacier, the serene and pristine Chorabari Lake can be reached after undertaking a trek of less than 4 km from the Kedarnath town. It is also known as Gandhi Sarovar as some of the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were immersed in its waters. On the way, there is a waterfall which one needs to cross. It looks amusing but care should be taken while going across it.
Bhairav Temple :In the temple complex, to the south side, there is another ancient and important temple. It is dedicated to Bhairav Nath, who is believed to be the one who guards the temple compound when the shrine is closed in the winter season.
Vasuki Tal :Located at 3,135 meters, the crystal clear blue-water lake of Vasuki is about 8 km from Kedarnath. It is quite a difficult trek and involves going across glaciers, but the walk among the untouched Himalayas is worth every bit of effort.
Route :Delhi - Haridwar - Rishikesh-Devprayag - Srinagar - Rudraprayag - Tilwara - Agastamuni - Kund - Guptkashi - Phata - Rampur - Sonprayag - Gaurikund - Trek to Kedarnath
Air :Jolly Grant airport on Rishikesh-Dehradun road is the nearest airport to Kedarnath. Hire a taxi to Gaurikund or till Haridwar/Rishikesh.
Train :Regular trains from Delhi to Haridwar and Dehradun are available at all times of the year. Hire a cab or get a bus from here.
Road :Gaurikund is connected with motorable roads, and buses and taxis from important destinations like Rishikesh, Dehradun, Uttarkashi and Tehri, Pauri and Chamoli are easily available.
Featuring a cold climate mostly round the year, Kedarnath can best be visited in summers. May to June and September to October offers an ideal weather for visitors to explore this place. During this period, the climate of Kedarnath remains a lot pleasing and cool. Winters here are harsh, with sub-zero temperatures and heavy rainfall. Monsoon season characterizes heavy downpour, so one must carry few essentials while journeying to this pilgrimage place in the monsoons.
Summer :Summers of Kedarnath beginning from May and lasting till June, are pleasing with the temperature hovering around 17°C. It is the perfect weather to pay visit to the Kedarnath shrine and also to indulge in some sightseeing of famous spots in and around Kedarnath. The weather remains moderate during this time and hence, this season is the ideal time to travel to this place.
Monsoon :Monsoons hit Kedarnath starting from July and ending till August, with temperatures dropping down to 12°C. In this season Kedarnath is frequented with heavy rain falls and landslides hence visitors are advised to be prepared to overcome the difficulties. One must pack few essentials to save themselves from the heavy rains.
Winter :Winters in Kedarnath begin in the month of November and last till April. This season is not a good time to go to this place as roads to Kedarnath get blocked due to heavy snowfall. Owing to this, the Kedarnath Temple remains closed during the winter months. Winters are chilly here featuring sub-zero temperatures. Kedarnath remains carpeted with snow at this time making this place inaccessible for a while.
Statue of Adi Shankara Bhavad Pada at his Samadhi Mandir in Kedarnath Kedarnath is located at 30°44'N 79°04'E / 30.73°N 79.07°E / 30.73; 79.07. It has an average elevation of 3,553 metres (11,657 feet).
As of 2001[update] India census, Kedarnath had a population of 479. Males constitute 68% of the population and females 32%. Kedarnath has an average literacy rate of 79%, : male literacy is 83%, and female literacy is 76%. In Kedarnath, 0% of the population is under 6 years of ag
During winter due to heavy snowfall, the Temple is closed and no one stays in Kedarnath. For six months (November to April) the Palki of Lord Kedarnath is transferred to a place near Guptakashi called Ukhimath. People shift their settlement too from Kedarnath to nearby villages. Around 360 families of Tirtha Purohit of 55 villages and other nearby villages are dependent on Kedarnath for livelihood