Site Name: Kedarnath
Site Type: Pilgrimage for Hindus
Location: Uttarakhand state, India
Highlights: An ancient temple located on the Himalayas; One of the twelve Jyotirlingas; One of the Char Dham temples
Nearest Railway Station: Rishikesh, at a distance of around 220 kms
Nearest Airport: Dehradun - around 250 kms from Kedarnath
How to reach: Kedarnath is approachable on foot from Gaurikund, which is connected by road from Haridwar, Rishikesh, Dehradun and other important hill stations of Garhwal and Kumaon hills
Other modes of transport: Ponies and palanquins are available from Gaurikund till Kedarnath temple
Climate: Sep to Nov - winter; Dec to Mar - snow bound; the other months are pleasant
Best time to visit: May - Oct
Clothing: Light woolen in summer; heavy woolen in winter
Hotel: Mid-range to star hotels are available in the nearby hill stations; people stay right from Rudraprayag to Gaurikund to visit Kedarnath
Restaurants: In Gaurikund - vegetarian option alone
Not only pilgrims visit this town. Even those who are interested in trekking or those who love to see the snow filled peaks of the beautiful Himalayas also visit this town. To visit this town would be an unforgettable life time experience.
About the Temple:
Jyotir Lingas are important forms of Shiva Linga. There are totally twelve Jyotir Lingas, which are considered very sacred for the Hindus. Kedarnath is one of the twelve Jyotir Lingas.
Kedarnath is one of the four Chhota Char Dhams. The other three Chhota Char Dham sites are Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
Kedarnath is one of the 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams. The temple is revered in the Devaram devotional songs.
During the winter season, that is between the months of November and April, the temple remains closed. Due to heavy snowfall in this period, no one stays in the town. The utsava (processional) idol of Kedarnath is moved to a place called Ukhimath in this period.
The nearest road head for Kedarnath is at Gauri Kund. From there it is 14 kms trekking. For those who cannot trek can take ponies or palquins to reach the top. The nearby major town is Rishikesh. Travelers and Pilgrims usually book cabs from Rishikesh or Haridwar to visit Kedarnath and Badrinath.
As per the legend, after the Mahabharat battle, the Pandavas wanted to get rid of their sin of killing their own cousins. Hence, they went to Kasi to get darshan of Lord Shiva. There, they learnt that Lord Shiva had gone to the Himalayas. Hence, the Pandavas came all the way to the HImalayas looking for Shiva. Lord Shiva perhaps wanted to play Shiva Leela with them. The moment they saw him, he disappeared. The site where Lord Shiva disappeared is called as Gupt Kasi.
Later, the Pandavas came till Gauri Kund looking for Shiva. Nakul and Sahadev found a buffalo which had some unique features. Bhim started running after the buffalo. He could not catch it but he hit it with his mace. By that time, the buffalo started hiding its face inside the ground. Bhim pulled it by its tail. The head of buffalo went to Nepal where it is found in the temple of Bholesvar Mahadev. The tail part was changed into a fire column (Jyotir Linga), which is worshiped as Kedarnath. The Pandavas worshiped Lord Shiva and abstained from their sins.
There are four other sites nearby where the other parts of Lord Shiva appeared as Linga. Those four sites along with this temple are together called as Pancha Kedars.
As per another legend, Shiva gave darshan to Nara and Narayana in this site. They requested him remain in his original form in this site for the welfare of humanity.
It is believed that the original temple was built by the Pandavas. Adi Shankara rebuilt the temple of Kedarnath in the site adjacent to the place where the original temple stood, it is believed.
The Kedarnath temple structure is simple, but it is standing in the middle of a beautiful and wide plateau surrounded by scenic snow covered peaks. It is believed that this temple was originally built during the period of Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century CE. (Please note that there are different thoughts on the period of Adi Shankara; some believe that he was born much before the Christ.) The current structure of the temple is not that old as it would have been rebuilt.
Shiva Linga called as Kedarnath is found in the sanctum sanctorum. It is basically a conical rock formation and it is not man-made Linga. In the maha mandapa, the carvings of Pandavas and Krishna are found. Nandi idol is found outside the temple facing towards the direction of Shiva.
The samadhi of Adi Shankara is found just behind the temple. The majestic Kedar peak can also be seen behind the temple.
Gaurikund is the place from where the trekking to Kedarnath starts. There, a small temple to Gauri and hot water springs are found.