Sri Kedarnath temple located at height of 3584 meter is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. This temple of Lord Shiva is one of the five Kedars or five Shiva temples of this region. As a part of the famous Char Dham Yatra, this place is third in series as per the popular movement of devotees completing the visit of the four holy places. However some tourist visit this place as part of Do Dham Yatra ( Two pilgrim place tour ) by coving Sri Badrinath Dham along with Kedarnath Dham.
Kedarnath temple remains close during cold months. The temple opens during last week of April (on Akshay Tritiya) or first week of May. From May till middle of October the Char Dham Yatra continues. Exact opening and closing dates are finalized based on the Hindu calendar, but closes on Bhai Dooj. The month of May & June are the peak seasons for tourist to visit these areas. The temple closes after Diwali festival as the area became inaccessible due to snow flow. During the closing duration of the temple at Kedarnath the pujas are formed at Okhimath. Pujas are performed during morning and evening during temple opening days. Shiva linga is decorated during evening and puja is performed without decorating the lingam in the morning.
As per the legend the famous Pandva brothers came here in search for Lord Shiva after killing their teachers, seniors and brothers in Mahabharat fight. Lord Shiva unwilling to give darshan to Pandavas tried to escape by taking the shape of a bull. One of the Pandav brother Bhima could identify Lord Shiva among a group of cattle. Lord Shiva in the shape of a bull tried to escape into ground and finally agreed to give Darshan to the Pandav brothers. While escaping the hump alone remain above the ground. Satisfied with the effort Lord Shiva exonerated Pandavas and told them to worship the hump as Lord Shiva. Near this in the same place Adi Guru Sankaracharya constructed the present temple in 8th century AD.
Since the hump is worshiped here at Kedarnath, the other parts of the body of Lord Shiva are worshiped at different parts of Uttarakhand and they combined known as Panch Kedar or Five Kedars. The other parts of Shiva worshiped are
- Tunganath the Arms ( Bahu )
- Rudranath the Face ( Mukh)
- Madhyamaheshwar for the Stomach ( nabhi )
- Kalpeshwar for the Hire ( Jata )
Sri Kedarnath Dham is located at a distance of 252 KM from Haridwar. The road ends at 338 KM near Gourikund and balance 14 KM is trek route. From Gourikund trek route passes by the side of river Mandakini. Ponies, dandies, coolies are available here for hire for the journey to Kedarnath Dham. From Gouri Kunda the trek of 14 KM to Kedarnath can be covered in 5 to 6 hours. Horses can be used and the rate varies from Rs 600 to Rs 1000 or 1500 during peak seasons of May & June. You can also take horses in one direction only depending on your plan to stay at Kedarnath. You can take both ways ( up & down ) if you want to return in same day. However one day stay at Kedarnath is advisable and all basic facilities for stay are available at Kedarnath. You may have to take extra care during peak season of May & June months. From Gourikunda you can take rain sheet to protect from rain as weather changes frequently. Take your medicines and an oxygen cylinder ( if required ) from Gourikund. These are available at Kedarnath also. Unused oxygen cylinders can be returned to the shop. The price of a small oxygen cylinder is Rs 360/- out of which Rs 300 is returnable if the same is not used. These are the prices of the year 2008. In return journey it will take 3 to 4 hours to reach Gouri Kund.
Gourikund the starting point of the trek to Kedarnath Dham can be reached from different direction. One of the frequently used road is from Uttarkashi, Chamba, New Tehri, Tilwar, Agastyamuni, Chandrapuri, Guptkashi, Sonprayag then Gourikund. In this route the Rudraprayag is not covered as the same can be visited while returning from Badrinath Dham. The other route is via Srinagar & Rudraprayag. From Rudraprayag one road goes to Kedarnath and other road goes to Sri Badrinath Dham.
Nearest Airport is at Jolly Grant, Dehradun which is 240 Kms away. Nearest Railway station is at Rishikesh, 225 Kms.
The river Mandakini starts from the melting ice of Chorabari glacier near Kedarnath peak. It joins Sone Ganga & Vasuki Ganga at Sonprayag ( 5 KM before Gourikund ). This Mandakini river joins Alaknanda at Rudraprayag. Finally Alaknanda joins river Bhagirathi and became Ganga. Snow capped Himalayan peak is called Rudra parvat.
Bhaironath temple near Kedarnath
Lord Bhaironath guard the Kedarnath town in winter from evils as the venue is shifted to Okhimath.
Mahapanth or road to heaven
Located behind the Kedarnath temple, it is believed that from this Pandav brothers perished to heaven. Here the Samadhi of Adiguru Shankaracharya who died at the age of 32 exists. He established the four Shankarachrya Mathas at four pilgrim places in India.
Gandhi Sarovar – Chorabari Lake
This lake at a distance of 3 KM from Kedarnath is also know as Gandhi Sarovar as it received the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi.