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Vaishno Devi Temple, Katra, Jammu & Kashmi
Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand - Famous Hindu Temples
164    Dibyendu Banerjee    26/04/2024

Standing at a height of 11,755 feet (3,583 m) and surrounded by the majestic snow-capped peaks of Garhwal Himalayas, the Kedarnath Temple, located 221 km from Rishikesh, Uttarakhand, is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Lord Shiva and the first of the Panch Kedar Dham pilgrimage sites.

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With the backdrop of the majestic Kedarnath peak and the Mandakini River flowing alongside, along with chilling wind and mesmerising views, the ambience of Kedarnath creates an unearthly charm to lose the sense of time and space. Every year thousands of devotees, people inclined to spirituality and also the adventure seekers who visit the place, experience immense peace of mind, which unknowingly rekindles their faith in the unknown ultimate power. However, due to the extremely harsh weather, the temple is open to the general public only between the months of April and November and during the bleak and freezing wintry months, the Vigraha or deity of the temple is carried down by the priests to Ukhimath to be worshipped for the next six months.

kedarnath temple uttarakhand

Legend says, the Panch Kedar Dhams are related to the Panch Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. According to the episode depicted in the epic, after the end of the war of Kurukshetra, in which the Pandavas defeated and killed the Kauravas, the Pandavas desperately wished to atone for the sins of committing fratricide or Bhratrihatya.

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As they were advised by Lord Krishna to please Shiva, seeking his forgiveness to fulfil the purpose, the Pandavas handed over the reins of their kingdom to their kin and visited Varanasi, believed to be the favourite place of Shiva. However, Shiva was reluctant to release them from their sins, so he disguised himself in the form of Nandi, the bull, and fled to the Garhwal Himalayas to avoid them. Nevertheless, the Pandavas chased him and Bhima, the second of the Pandavas, standing astride two mountains located a grazing bull near Gupta Kashi and immediately recognized the bull to be Shiva. But despite his best efforts, Bhima could only catch him through his tail, while the rest of the body vanished through a secret cave underneath the ground, only to reappear in five different places in different forms namely, hump at Kedarnath, face at Rudranath, arms at Tungnath, navel and stomach at Madhyamaheshwar and the locks at Kalpeshwar, which are commonly known as the Panch Kedar, the five sacred places. It is believed, the Pandavas meditated at Kedarnath for salvation, performed a Yagna, the Hindu traditional fire sacrifice for praising and pleasing the god and built temples in all the aforesaid five places for venerating and worshipping Shiva.

kedarnath temple uttarakhand

The name Kedarnath, which stands for the lord of the field is derived from two Sanskrit words kedara or field and natha or lord. According to Kashi Kedara Mahatmya, the area is named Kedarnath as the crop of liberation grows here.

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However, it is not certain who built the original Kedarnath temple and when. According to the geologists, the temple was under the snow for 400 years during the 1300 and 1900 AD, known as the Little Ice Age. But it is generally believed that the present temple was established by Adi Shankaracharya, along with the Badrinath and other temples in Uttarakhand and also restored the glory of the shrine in the 8th century AD.

kedarnath temple uttarakhand
Inside the temple

Built from large, heavy and evenly cut grey slabs of stone slabs, interlocked with each other with iron clamps and without the use of mortar, the Kedarnath temple consists of a prayer hall and a Garbha Griha or an inner sanctum, like other Hindu temples. With a grand statue of Nandi in front of the temple door, the Garbha Griha of the temple is enshrined with the conical Shiva lingam, worshipped as Lord Sadashiva, equipped with a cylindrical pedestal of 12 feet (3.6 m) circumference and 12 feet (3.6 m) height. The first hall inside Kedarnath Temple contains statues of the five Pandava Brothers, along with the statues of Lord Krishna, Nandi and Virabhadra, one of the guards of Lord Shiva. Statues of Draupadi and other deities are installed in the main hall.

kedarnath temple uttarakhand
Kedarnath Temple at dawn

Starting from Gaurikund, the 18 km medium to steep trek to Kedarnath has the facilities of the services of Palki or Dandi and mule or pony rides, along with the facilities of tented accommodation, drinking water and small eateries. However, Helicopter service to Kedarnath is also available from Dehradun as well as Haridwar and Rishikesh.

kedarnath temple uttarakhand
The giant boulder that protected Kedarnath temple during the floods.

The Kedarnath valley was badly damaged by unprecedented flood and landslides that wreaked havoc on 16 and 17 June 2013. Although the flood waters gushed on both the sides of the temple destroying everything in their path, a huge rock got stuck behind Kedarnath Temple and protected it from the ravages of the flood by diverting the flow of the river and debris to the sides of the temple.

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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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