Kedarnath is one of the best known Shivasthalams in India and is considered to be one of the most sacred pilgrimage centers of the country, located in the lofty Himalayas. It is revered as one of the 12 Jyotirlingams - the Northern most one, while the Southernmost one is Rameswaram. The spiritual leader Adi Sankaracharya is closely associated with Kedarnath. Kedarnath is a shrine steeped in antiquity, rich in legend and religious significance.
At the approach of winters in the month of November, the holy statue of Lord Shiva, is carried down from Garhwal (Kedarkhand) to Ukhimath, and is reinstated at Kedarnath, in the first week of May. It is at this time, that the doors of the temple are thrown open to pilgrims, who flock from all parts of India, for a holy pilgrimage. The shrine closes on the first day of Kartik (Oct-Nov) and reopens in Vaishakh (Apr-May) every year. During its closure the shrine is submerged in snow and worship is performed at Ukhimath. Four Himalayan shrines dedicated to Shiva have been glorified by the Tamil Tevaram Hymns composed by the Nayanmars of the 1st millennium CE. These shrines are Indraneela Parvatam in Nepal, Gowrikund, Kedarnath and Mount Kailash in Tibet. Although none of the Nayanmars visited Kedarnath, Sambandar sang its praises from Kalahasti. The Tamil hymns of the Nayanmars refer to Kedarnath as Tirukkedaram.
As per the tradition decided by Lord Brahma the temple would be open for six months i.e from Hindu calender month Vaishaka to Karthik for darshan to common people. For the remaining six months i.e from Margashsish to Chaitra the temple would be closed for darshan to common people as it is Devas turn for Lord's darshan.
Legend has it that Parvati worshipped Kedareshwar to unite with Shiva as Ardhanareeswarar. Kedara Munivar is also said to have established this shrine visited by the Pancha Pandavas. Legend also has it that Nara and Narayana - two incarnations of Vishnu practised severe penances at Badrikashramam, in front of a Shivalingam fashioned out of earth. When Shiva appeared in front of them, they requested him to take up a permanent abode as a Jyotirlinga at Kedarnath.
In the way of Parikrama one can see so many Sadhus belonging to different traditions.If we are lucky we can see deers and peacocks in the route. The view of Narmada river is very beautiful with the bridges and the Project. The last stop is the cave of Guru Govindapada. Totally we can get very much pleasure by doing this parikrama. Some scholar say, King Mandhatha of the Ishvaku clan is believed to have worshipped Shiva here. Besides, Govinda Bhagavatpaada, the Guru of Shankaracharya is believed to have lived in a cave here.
Legend also has it that the Pandava princes were advised to visit Kedarnath after the great Kurukshetra battle. Shiva upon seeing the Pandavas, assumed the form of a male buaffalo and entered the earth. It is believed that the rear of its body remained here, as Kedareshwar. The front part is believed to be in Nepal. This legend says that when Shiva entered the ground, he became five fold - his hind remained at Kedar, his arms Tunganatha, his face Rudranatha, his belly Madhyameswara and his Jata Kalpeswara. These five shrines together as known as the Pancha Kedara. The Pandavas are believed to have visited this area several times.
Arjuna is believed to have come here to pray to Shiva to obtain the coveted Pasupataastra. The other Pandavas are believed to have come here in search of him, where Draupadi came across the heavenly lotus Kalyana Saugandikam, and requested Bhima to bring here some more of the same. It was during his venturing out to seek these flowers that Bhima met Hanumaan.
Place to visit
Badrinath which is near the Kedarnath is also a significant pilgrimage spot for the devotees of Lord shiva. The Neelkant peak behind the Badrinath temple is an abode of Lord shiva - like how the Mount Kailash is. It is called Indra Neel Parvat.
A small lake from where Yudhishthir, the eldest of the Pandavas, is said to have departed to heaven. A km trek from Kedarnath, floating ice on the crystal clear waters.
Base for a trek to Kedarnath & serves as a roadhead, the village has hot springs & a temple dedicated to Gauri.
6 km. At 4135 mtr. above sea level, this lake is extraordinary, surrounded by high mountains and offering an excellent view of the Chaukhamba peaks.
Situated on the Gopeshwar Ukhimath road about 40 km from Gopeshwar at an altitude of about 2500 mtrs above sea level, Chopta is one of the most picturesque spots in the entire Garhwal region. It provides a breathtaking view of Himalayan ranges surrounding it.
At an altitude of 2,440 mt., this beautiful lake is situated on the Chopta - Ukhimath motor road. In the early morning, the snow-capped peaks are clearly reflected on the lake waters. This lake also provides an excellent venue for angling, as well as bird watching.
25 km. the mythological venue where the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati was solemnized. It is a short trek of 5 km from Son Prayag. An eternal flame, which is said to have been the witness to the marriage, burns in front of the temple even today.
The five most important temples of Lord Shiva in garhwal Himalayas.
Bharatekuntha at 6578 Meters, is connected to Kedarnath to the East, by a long and dangerous avalanche ridden ridge. At 6000 meters it looks stunning and has several glacial flows, one of which is the Mandakini glacier running down its ridges.
Kedarnath and Kedardome, are connected by a deep ridge. Kedar Domeat 6831 Meters presents a fair challenge to climbers. Kedarnath is however, a difficult peak to climb. At 6940 Meters it is just beneath the level where the oxygen layer is thin.
Anyone interested in a good day trek, could take the well travelled path from behind the temple toward Bharatekuntha. About 3 kilometers away in the valley formed by the Kedarnath massif, is Chorabhari Tal. This lake has been renamed Gandhi Sarovar after the Mahatma's ashes were immersed in Iake.