Counted amongst the 12 Jyotirlingas dedicated to lord Shiva, Kedarnath is a highly revered temple located in the Rudra Mountain range, near the River Mandakini in the Himalayas. The temple is considered to have been around a thousand years old and is connected with the epic Mahabharata.
Kedarnath is one of the highest of the Jyotirlingas, and due to this high altitude, it is accessible only half of the year. The winters are harsh and the temple becomes inaccessible.
The beautiful temple structure, built with huge white stones, is supposed to have been built around a thousand years ago. It houses, along with the primary deity Lord Shiva, the idols of Nandi (Shivas mode of transportation) and Virbhadra, lord Shivas guard. There are also idols of the Pandava brothers in the temple, telling the tale of Mahabharata and their connection with this temple as well as lord Shiva.
Shiva, the main deity of the temple is worshipped as the Shiva Linga, his Sada Shiva form. The linga is situated in the middle of the temple, below the conical shaped dome of the structure.
The Legend of the Kedarnath Temple:
The legend of the temple is connected with the five brothers and the heroes of the epic Mahabharata, the Pandavas. After the battle at Kurukshetra, Pandavas won by killing their brothers (cousins), the Kaurava. The fratricide rendered them sinful and thus not entitled to enter the heavens.
The only way out was to seek forgiveness from Shiva. So, the brothers looked for the God and Shiva, considering them sinful, evaded. The story goes that Shiva transformed himself into a bull so that the brothers could not identify him. But identify they did, and Shiva (bull at the time) disappeared into the ground.
Later, the bulls five different parts appeared at five different places, which came to be called as Panch Kedar. The bulls hump appeared at Kedarnath.
Getting to the Temple:
Kedarnath can be accessed by taking a 14 kilometre long trek from Gaurikund. The other way of getting to the temple is by hiring a helicopter from the Governments helicopter service called Pawan Hans.
Other places to visit:
There are a few interesting places to see around Kedarnath temple that should be visited while on a trip to the temple, like:
Chorabari or Gandhi Sarovar: 2 kilometres from Kedarnath lies the beautiful glacial lake called Chorabari, now renamed as Gandhi Sarovar. The place holds importance as it is believed to be the place where Yudishthir, the eldest of the Pandavas, attained salvation.
Gaurikund: This is the place from where the trek to the temple commences. Gaurikund is connected with the story of Gauri, lord Shivas wife, who is supposed to have done penance here to attain Shiva as her husband. After years and years of worship did lord Shiva appear and agreed to Gauris wish. They both got married just a distance from this place.
Gaurikund has a few thermal springs where people take path before starting their journey to Kedarnath.
Shankaracharya Samadhi: This is the resting place of the great saint and philosopher of the 7th Century, Shri Adi Shankaracharya.
Vasuki Tal: Vasuki tal is a beautiful mountain lake situated at a distance of around 6 kilometres from Kedarnath.
Best time to visit:
End of April to the start of November (except monsoon).
Airport: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant (251 kilometres)
Railway: The nearest railway station is Rishikesh (234 kilometres)