Kedarnath temple is situated in the Himalayan range of Garhwal area (Uttarakhand), Kedarnath temple is one of the most sacred Shiva temples in the world. This holy abode of Shiva is said to be built by the Pandavas to atone for their sins committed during their battle with Kauravs. The Kedarnath temple was restored by Adi Sankaracharya in 8th century. It is one of the Chota Char Dham Yatra of Uttarakhand and requires a pilgrim to walk a distance of 14 kms over the hilly surface. One can make use of a pony or manchan to simplify the journey.
Kedarnath temple is surrounded by the glaciers and snow-covered peaks and standing at a height of 3,583 m, the temple is closed during winters due to severe cold conditions. Even the idol of Lord Shiva is shifted to Ukhimath and worshiped there throughout the 5/6 months for which the extreme conditions prevail.
The Kedarnath temple structure from inside is much like other temples in Uttaranchal. There is a large Nandi facing the main entrance. Inside the temple is a rectangular space with railings around it. All along the wall there are niches in which there are idols of the Pancha Pandavas, Parvati, Lakshmi & Narada. A small archway and a short flight of stairs lead to the deity. The method of worshipping is also unique. One is supposed to try to grab the large conical stone with both hands and embrace it. It is cold and damp in the confined space and during darshan time there is a fervent rush to embrace this Ashutosh linga . Outside at the north-east corner is a small temple of Ishaneshwar Mahadev.
kedarnath temple history says that, after the great battle of Mahabharata, the Pandavas performed penance to absolve themselves of the sins of killing their own kith and kin. They tried to appease Brahma and Vishnu in succession, who realising the severity of the penance they themselves would have to perform to help the Pandavas, referred them in turn to Ashutosh/Shiva. Shiva remained unmoved. As the Pandavas performed rigorous penance, Shiva hid from them till he was cornered in the Himalayas. Finding a herd of cattle grazing in the marshy Kedar, he turned himself into a bull and mingled with the herd.
While Kedarnath yatra you will see, the Shiva linga is shaped like a bull’s hump. Following Bhima’s example devotees offer worship by trying to grab the deity with both hands. This is the foremost among the Swayambhu Jyotirlingas, which are natural and not man-made. The bull’s body parts appeared at 4 other mountains and over each the Pandavas built a temple. The forelegs and heart appeared at Tunganath, the navel at Madhyamaheshwar, part of the face at Rudranath and his matted locks or Jata at Kalpeshwar. A pilgrimage to all 5 is called Panch Kedarnath Yatra.
Apart from these temples there are several natural springs/Kundas. The one within the temple quadrangle is called Brahma Kunda. At the front of the temple, by the main road is the Udak Kund. It is believed that a sip of water here will prevent accidental death. Pilgrims perform tarpan at the Hamsa Kund to the right of the main temple. On the way to the Bhairavnath temple is Retas Kund, protected by a stone structure. Bubbles are expressed in this small stream at the sound of clapping or the frequently expressed chants to Shiva. From Kedarnath one can trek to Chorabali Tal, also known as Gandhi Sarovar. One can also trek 6 kms on a treacherous path to Vasuki Tal from where Brahmakamal is collected during the rainy season of August -September to worship Lord Shiva.
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