Lord Shiva is considered the embodiment off all passions-love, fear, death, hatred and mysticism, expressed through his different forms. He is a member of the Holy Trinity of the Hindu faith and is supposed to be the protector and the destroyer at the same time.
The Kedarnath Dham is situated in the district of Rudraprayag at an elevation 3583m. Above sea level amidst serene environs. Kedaranth is infact built on a huge platform of loose and unconsolidated glacial tilt. The temple may have originally been built on the edge of a glacier which has since retreated above a kilometer and half. Kedar literally means ‘Daldal’ (Marshyland).The temple is built of large, evenly cut grey stone with a gilded pinnacle. The temple is magnificent in its style and architecture with towering majestic White Mountains with snow in the background. The present temple, built in 8th century by Adiguru Shankracharaya lies adjacent to the site of an ancient temple built by Pandavas.
A huge statue of Nandi, the celestial bull, made from a huge rock, stands at the entrance of the temple. The walls of the exquisitely architectured temple are embellished with figures of many deities and scenes from Hindu mythology. Some of the grey stones bear inscriptions in Pali and Brahmi have great archaeological significance.
The temple has a mandap (for pilgrims to assemble for Darshan) and Garbh Griha (sanctum sanctorium). In the center of Garbh Griha is located the line Linga of Sri Kedaranath ji (conical rocks formation) and encircled by a narrow circumambulation path (Pradakshina path), which is worshipped as Lord Shiva.
In the mandap, right in front of Shiva Lingra, is Nandi, the divine bull and Shiva’s mount. There are many idols and small temples on the outer parikrama path (circumambulation)
The shrine of Kedarnath, like Badrinath is held in equally high esteem and visited by a large number of people every year. It is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. Here the unholy are said to become holy and the holy holier still. The temple of Kedarnath is considered to be more than a thousand years old.
According to legend, the Pandavas brothers sought the blessings of Lord Shiva, purging them off the sins of killing their cousin brothers in the terrifying battle of Mahabharata. Lord Shiva eluded them repeatedly and while fleeing took refuge at Kedarnath in the form a bull. Pandavas followed Shiva and reached here. But Bhim identified the bull caught hold of him.
Shiva being pleased with the from their sins. Since then the conical protrusion (as the twelve Jyotirlinga) is worshipped as the idol in the shrine of Kedarnath.
It is described in scriptures that the front portion (Agrabhag) of the Lord Shiva re-emerged at Pashupatinath, Kathmandu (Nepal), and the other four parts – arms (Bahu), face (Mukh), naval (Nabhi) and hair coils (Jata) – re- emerged at Tungnath, Rudranath, Madmaheshwar and Kalpeshwar, respectively. The latter four, along with Sri Kedarnath are collectively called the panch Kedar (the five Kedars).
Nirwan Darshan Morning Puja is called Nirwan Darshan, when the Shiva linga is worshipped in the natural form, Devotees can enter inside the Garbh Griha and offer ghee and water with their own hands to the Linga.Purohits are there who chant hymans.
Srinagar Darshan Evening Puja is called Srinagar Darshan when Shiva Linga is adorened with ornaments and flowers, while a golden umbrella hangs from above. Chandeliers glow. No one can enter the Garbha Griha except Rawal at his time.
The important pujas which can be performed in the morning are : Shubha Prabhat, Bal Bhog, Mahabhisek, Rudrabhisek, Ashtotar, Shiva Puja, etc.
The important evenings pujas are: Shivashtotra, Shiva Sahastranam, Shiva Namavali, Shiva Mahimastotra, Ekantaseva etc.
The rates for various pujas are different and can be confirmed from temple administration.
Offerings: Offerings in the temple may be in the form of cash, gold or silver ornaments, dried fruits, flowers etc. in varying quantities depending on individual capacity.
The Pandas of Sri Kedarnath the pandas of Sri Kedarnath hail from Ukhimath and Guptakashi.
Pinddan Pinddan (Hindus perform propitiating rites for their deceased ancestors) is also offered in Sri Kedarnarth.
Opening Date: Generally the temple of Kedarnath opens 2 to 5 days before that of Sri Badarinath. It usually falls during the last week of April or the first week of May. The date of opening is fixed by the Pujari, astrologer and temple administration at Ukhimath temple on the auspicious day of Mahashivratri (Feb – March).
Closing Date: (Bhaiyadooj) The temple closes on the day after Dipawali (Mid-November) with a brief and simple ceremony. The Doli of Sri Kedarnathji is brought to the Onkareshwar temple at Ukhimath, which is the winter seat of Lord Shiva and worshipped here for six months during these months.
During winters, the Shrine is submerged in thick layers of snow and hence is closed.
Sri Kedarnath Trek
From Gauri Kund to Sri Kedarnath the distance is 14 km. It is better to start to Kedarnath as early as possible to avoid the strong sun rays on the up hill trek. The trek is most interesting and rewarding. The bridle path rises gradually. The entire route is picturesque and passes through lush green forests, verdant valleys and charming waterfalls. Enroute to Kedarnath there are several eating and places that offer a respite for a while, a refreshing refreshment or may be night’s shelter.
From Gaurikund to Junglechatti, it is a 3 km steep ascent through mixed forests. This sloppy hillock with many make shift shops is surrounded by dense mixed forests. One can have tea, coffee, milk and breakfast here to strengthen his stamina and to get ready for further climb. Pilgrims from all corners of the India either going to Kedar or coming back greet each other,.i.e. Jai Kedar, Jai Bhole, Bum Shankar (Hail, the deity Kedarnath ji).
Further up from Junglechatti to Rambara it is a 4 km gradual ascent through dense mixed forests and near several enchanting inspiring waterfalls. Rambara is almost midway.
At Rambara several eating places, hotels and rest house are available. One who arrives late at Rambara, it is better to stay here overnight and proceed further the next morning.
From Rambara onwards the scenery changes dramatically. The surrounding mountains are steep, stark and generally bare and vegetation diminishes. The 4 km trek upto this spot is very steep ascent and tedious. Some travelers and pilgrims can feel headache and deficiency of oxygen.
It is an easy gradient 3 km from Garurchatti to Sri Kedarnath. The temple of Sri Kedarnath can be seen near Garurchatti with the towering snow peaks, at the back ground. It is a beautiful sight. All around it is an aura of peace and purity. The fabulous Mandakini is a constant delight to the trekkers through out the trail.
The river Mandakini
A very large glacier which forms the back drop for the temple is the origin of the Mandakini. There streams emerged out from this glacier and the fourth one, the Dudha Ganga comes tumbling down a mountain in the opposite side, and they all unite to form the fabulous Mandakini which in its courses later on meets the Alaknanda at Rudraprayag.The water of Mandakini is crystal clear and bluish green throughout its course. The Mandakini, poetically described by Kalidas as a necklace adorning the mountain god, drains some of the wildest and most rugged terrain in the Grahwal region.
Kund ( The Cold water Spring)
There are several Kunds, viz Hans Kund, Udak Kund and Ret Kund, which are having religious importance.
Bhairavnath Temple (Bhairon Jhanp)
The Bhairavnath temple or B hairon Jhanp (Shiva’s leap) is atop a hill about ½ km from Sri Kedarnath. Specail ceremonial Puja is offered here on the opening and closing day of Sri Kedarnath shirne. It is belived that Bhariavanth protects his land from evil spirits during winters. Pilgrims visit the temple and offer puja. In ancient days devotees use jump to their death from Bhairon Jhanp.
Samadhi Of Adi Guru Shankaracharya:
The marble statue with a Dand of Adiguru Shankaracharya known as the Samadhi (the final resting place) of Shankaracharya is located at the back Kedarnath temple.
Adiguru Shankaracharya after getting enlightenment at Jyotirmath (Joshimath) under the Kalparvriksha in a cave, set up four maths (religious centers) and four dhams in four corners f India, and received the Hindu religion which had suffered a setback during the regime of emperor Ashoka, who had propagated the Buddhist religion. He thus unite the people of India by his philosophy. After eternal soul passed away from his body at the age of 32 years. He completed his mission in a very young age.
Chorabari Tal or Gandhi Sarovar
Chorabari Tal is situated at a height of 3970m amidst captivating surroundings with the sumeru snow-clad-peak at the backdrop. Chorabari Tal is just 2 km away from Kedarnath. The access to the lake is through the moraines at the back of the temple. The trek route through glacial moraine is hazardous. It is better to also known as Gandhi Sarovar, because the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were submerged in this lake. The floating icebergs and deep green crystal clear water of the lake fascinate the visitors. 12 km from here is the place from where the Mandakini Originates. A number of enthusiastic trekkers visits the lake every day.
The exquisite lake of vasuki Tal lies at a height of 4150m above sea level at the ridge on the right side of the Mandakini valley of Kedarnath. The trek is difficult to access. Only bushy shrubs are seen throughout the path. The water is crystal clear and often seen with floating, glistening iceberg. The lake is surrounded by high mountains and offers an excellent view of Chaukhamba peaks in a clear sky. During the winters, the lake is completely frozen. It is the source of Kendra Ganga, which mingles with the Mandakini at Sonprayag. Brahm Kamal and a variety of other flowers bloom around the lake and throughout the trek during August-September.
It is a 8 km gradual ascent through meadows trek from Kedarnath to Vasukital. A local guide is advisable for this trek route.