The Kedarnath Temple is one of the most prestigious and sacred temples as per the Hindu mythology. The main deity, Sri Kedareshwar who is considered as Lord Shiva himself is revered and worshiped here. Kedarnath Temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva and it is also the Jyotirlinga located at the highest elevation of 3581 meters among all the other Jyotirlingas.
The Temple is one of the 275 Temples in a list known as Paadal Petra Sthalams. Kedarnath Temple is situated among the Garhwal Hills in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. The holy River Mandakini (one of the tributaries of River Ganga) flows near the town of Kedarnath. It is also a part of Chhota Char Dham Yatra of Uttarakhand. The beauty, historical significance and the spiritual value of the place are unparalleled in the word.
The Kedarnath Temple remains open only for six months a year, beginning from the day of Akshaya Tritiya in March-April and closing on the eve of Karthik Purnima in November. The temple remains closed for the next six months due to extremely harsh winters. At the beginning of the winters, the deity is taken to Ukhimath and is worshiped there for the next six months till the onset of spring.
The Temple is built of large sized rocks on a rectangular platform. Inscriptions in the Pali Language can be seen on the steps that lead to the Sanctum. The Temple has a Garbhagriha (sanctum) and a Mandapam. A big Nandi statue of stone is present just opposite to the main shrine. The Mandapam consists of statues of the Pandavas, Lord Krishna, Draupadi, Nandi, and Virbhadra. The Head Priest belongs to the Veerashaiva community from Karnataka.
Kedarnath Temple History
The original year or period of construction of the Kedarnath Temple is unknown but it is believed that the Temple has origins towards the end of Mahabharata epic. The Temple and the surroundings have been mentioned in the epic as well as in several Puranas.
It is believed that the Pandavas who performed penance here to be forgiven for their sins built the initial structure of the Temple. The present structure of the Kedarnath Temple is believed to have been built by the great Sri Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century.
The Kedarnath town’s control passed over to several dynasties over like the Katyuri dynasty, the Panwar dynasty and then to the Mughals.
In the 1640’s, the Mughals attacked the area. They retreated when Karnavati, queen of Garhwal defeated them and actually chopped the noses of the enemies. She is given the name of Naak-Katni Rani. Eventually, the Mughals took control of it with help from Raja Jaisingh in 1659.
In the period of 1814 to 1816, the control was handed over to the British monarchy. In 2000, Kedarnath was included in the state of Uttarakhand.
Several legends are associated with the Kedarnath Temple origins which are indeed fascinating. According to the popular beliefs, the Pandavas were very distraught after defeating their brothers Kauravas and wanted to atone their sins. In search of moksha and divine forgiveness, they traveled through the Himalayan range searching for Lord Shiva.
Lord Shiva refused to appear before them and kept on dodging their requests. He fled Kashi and appeared as a bull in a town near Kedarnath where he was detected by the Pandavas. The town is since called as Guptkashi (Hidden or Secret Kashi).
The Pandavas in search of Lord Shiva then reached Gaurikund where they spotted an unusual bull. They started chasing it. The Bull hid its face inside the Earth as Bheema pulled its tail. A tug-of-war ensued and at the end, the face of the bull landed in Nepal (Doleshwar Mahadev Temple) and other parts landed in the Panch Badri areas.
On the hind part of the Bull, Lord Shiva appeared and gave the Pandavas his darshan and forgave them of their sins. He turned himself into a Jyotirlinga and established himself at Kedarnath.
Significance of Kedarnath Temple
The Kedarnath Temple is the highest situated Jyotirlinga at an elevation of 3581 meters, among the twelve Jyotirlingas. The Jyotirlinga means that the Linga of Lord Shiva is self-manifested and that Lord Shiva himself turned into the Linga instead of the Linga being installed by someone else.
The Temple is also one of the Temples forming the 275 temples of the Paadal Petra Sthalams. These Temples were revered by the Saiva Nayanars (Saivites) from the 6th to 9th century. They are considered to be the greatest and powerful Shiva Temples in the world.
The Kedarnath Temple is also a part of the Panch Kedar Yatra in Uttarakhand. It is believed that when Lord Shiva in the form of a cow split into six separate parts following the tussle with Bheema. The front portion appeared in Doleshwar Mahadev Temple in Nepal, other five parts appeared near Kedarnath. They are – Tungnath for arms, Rudranath for the face, Madhyamaheshwar for the stomach, Kedarnath for the hump and Kalpeshwar for the hair.
The Pilgrim is also the part of Chhota Char Dham pilgrimage of Uttarakhand, the other three being Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.
A pilgrim has to pass through the town of Gaurikund (18 km away from Kedarnath) to reach the Kedarnath Temple. It is believed that this is the place where Lord Shiva cut the head of Lord Ganesha and then eventually replaced it with an Elephant’s head.
According to the Skanda Puran, the pilgrimage is incomplete without visiting both Badrinath and Kedarnath at the same time. Visiting both God Vishnu and God Shiva will give the pilgrim salvation and relief from all their sins.
Unlike almost all the Linga of Shiva worshiped worldwide, the Linga at Kedarnath is not smooth and curved but is actually rough and conical in shape.
It is believed that the historical figure of Raja Pandu (father of the Pandavas) died at Pandukeshwar, a small distance from Kedarnath.
The pilgrims can touch the idol and perform Abhishekam by themselves to the holy Jyotirlinga.
Kedarnath Temple Timings
- The Kedarnath Temple opens at 4 am and closes at 9 pm. The afternoon break timings are from 3 pm to 5 pm.
- The pilgrims are allowed to touch the Linga and perform Abhishekam only till 3 PM.
- The general darshan is free of cost for all pilgrims.
Kedarnath Temple Dress Code
The Kedarnath Temple is situated in the lush and cold valleys of the Himalayas. It is never summer here. The weather is cold for almost throughout the year. It is highly recommended to wear winter clothes like sweaters, jackets, socks, mufflers and gloves. People may experience altitude sickness here. An umbrella is a must to have in your luggage.
Kedarnath Temple Sevas and Poojas
The devotees who want to do specific Poojas or Sevas must deposit a fee and take a receipt at the Treasury counter. The different Poojas and Sevas provided are as below:
Morning Sevas: The below Poojas are performed in the morning hours between 4 AM to 7 AM.
- Mahabhishek – This Seva can be performed between 4:30 AM – 6:30 AM.
- Rudrabhishek – The Pooja is dedicated to Lord Shiva who is worshiped as fire or Rudra. The puja wipes out all sins and purifies the atmosphere. It also removes all sorts of planetary related ill-occurrences.
- Laghurudrabhishek – This Abhishek is done to resolve issues related to health and wealth. It is also done to remove the bad effects of planets in the horoscope.
- Shodasopachar Pooja – These are the sixteen traditional steps that are performed in a Pooja ideally to any Lord.
Besides these Poojas, the Baal Bhog, Ashtopchar Pooja, Sampoorna Aarti, Pandav Pooja, Bhairav Pooja, Parvati Pooja and Ganesh Pooja are also performed at nominal rates.
Evening Sevas: The below Poojas are performed in the evening hours between 6 PM to 7:30 PM.
- Shiva Sahasranamam Path – The 1008 names of Lord Shiva are recited in front of the Linga and proper Pooja and Abhishekam are done.
- Shiva Mahimastotra Path – The Stotram is a Sanskrit composition originally composed by Pushpadanta in praise of Lord Shiva.
- Shiva Thandavastotra Path – There are stotrams containing 16 syllables per stotra. They describe Lord Shiva’s power and beauty to the common man.
Daily Bhog Sevas – Several Bhogs (Food spread) can be offered to the Lord. They are Uttam Bhog, Vishesha Bhog, Nitya Bhog and Sonvarav Sankranti.
Festivals celebrated at Kedarnath Temple
- Badri – Kedar Utsav – The festival is usually organized in the month of June. Artists from all over Uttaranchal come together to showcase their musical talent dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The festival is celebrated for 8 days.
- Shravani Annakoot Mela – The Mela is celebrated on a day before the Raksha Bandhan festival. The entire Jyotirlinga is covered with cooked rice. Several Poojas are performed for the day. The rice is then distributed as Prasad to the devotees. This Prasad is believed to be special as it is considered as a blessing from Lord Shiva himself.
- Samadhi Pooja – A grand Pooja is held every year on the Samadhi of the great Sri Adi Shankaracharya. The event is held on the day the Kedarnath Temple closes. The day is observed with much reverence and respect.
How to reach Kedarnath Temple
- By Air – Helicopter services are best option to reach the temple by air. The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun. It is 238 km away from the Temple town. Regular flights are available to the Jolly Grant Airport from New Delhi. One can reach Gaurikund by availing the Buses or Taxis near the Airport.From Gaurikund, a trek route of 16 km will lead to Kedarnath.
- By Train – The nearest railway station is Rishikesh, situated at a distance of 216 km from Kedarnath. Regular State Government operated buses are available to Gaurikund from Rishikesh.
- By Road – All the motorable roads end at Gaurikund after which the pilgrims have to trek 16 km to reach Kedarnath. Gaurikund is well connected to all major cities in Uttarakhand as well as from surrounding areas like New Delhi. One can board buses from Dehradun, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Pauri, Tehri, Srinagar and Chamoli.
- Ponies and Palkis are available for hire to pilgrims who are unable to trek the 16 km route on foot.
- Besides these routes, several private agencies operate Helicopter services from areas like Phata, Agasthyamuni, and Guptkashi.
Kedarnath Temple Accommodation
The Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), a Government of Uttaranchal Enterprise operates the GMVN Tourist Rest House at Kedarnath that provides basic facilities. The rooms available are standard or dormitory. Besides Kedarnath, GMVN also operates Tourist Rest Houses at Gaurikund and Guptkashi.
Several budget and deluxe hotels are available for stay in Kedarnath. However, after the floods in 2013, a lot of them are under renovation and reconstruction. It is advised to check with the Tour operators before deciding to stay in Kedarnath.
A lot of staying options are available in Gaurikund and Guptkashi from where the Kedarnath Temple can be a one-day trip.
Where to eat
There are a few small dhabas and eateries available in the town that offers simplistic vegetarian cuisine. Alcohol is prohibited a non-vegetarian is not served. It is advised to carry food items and snacks before making a trip to Kedarnath, especially with elders and children.
- The Omkareshwar Temple, Ukhimath – The town of Ukhimath is the winter abode of Lord Kedareshwar as well as the year-round abode of Lord Omkareshwar. During the winter months, when the Kedarnath Temple is closed, the idol of Lord Shiva is taken from there to Ukhimath Omkareshwar Temple where regular Poojas are carried out for the next six months.
- The Panch Kedar Temples – Besides the Kedarnath Temple, the other four temples of the Panch Kedar journey are the Temples of Madmaheshwar, Rudranath, Tungnath, and Kalpeshwar. They are all accessible only by trekking routes from areas such as Ukhimath, Uniana, and Rudraprayag.
- Agasthya Muni Temple – The town of Agasthyamuni is 40 km before Kedarnath. The Temple is dedicated to the Sage Agasthya. It is believed that the Sage lived here for some part of his life and destroyed the monsters by the names of Aatapi and Vatapi who used to invite innocents to their home and eat them.
- Gaurikund – The town is the starting point of a trek of 14 km to Kedarnath. The town is home to the Temple of Goddess Parvati, also known as Gauri. According to the legend, Lord Shiva asked Goddess Parvati’s hand in marriage at this place.
- Adi Shankaracharya Samadhi – The resting place of the great Sage Sri Adi Shankaracharya is located at Kedarnath. He established the four mutts (Badrinath, Sringeri, Jagannath, and Dwarka) dedicated to promoting the Vedic teachings and the Advaita philosophy. He was the one who constructed and 9renovated several features of the Kedarnath Temple in the 8th century.
- Triyuginarayan – The Temple is located at a distance of 25 km away from Kedarnath near Gaurikund and Sonprayag. It is believed that this is the place where Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati in the presence of Lord Vishnu. The Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
- Kalimath Temple – The Temple is located en route to Kedarnath. It is 20 km from Ukhimath. According to the legends, Goddess Kali went underground at the spot after killing the demon Raktbeej. A silver plate covers the spot where Kali supposedly entered the ground.