|Kedarnath Temple||Disposed atop the Garhwal Himalayan ranges close to the head of the Mandakini River in Kedarnath|
|The Bhairavnath Temple||Positioned upon a hilltop to the north of the Kedarnath Temple|
|Shankaracharya Samadhi||Situated right behind the Kedarnath Temple|
|Gaurikund||Nested in the lap of towering snow clad peaks of the Himalayas|
|Vasuki Tal||Situated at the distance of about 8 kilometers from Kedarnath|
|Sonprayag||Situated about 19 kilometers away from Kedarnath and just 5 kilometers away from Gaurikund Sonprayag|
|Guptkashi||Set up in the midst of the Garhwal Himalayas|
|Ukhimath||Located about 50 kilometers away from Kedarnath and about 40 kilometers away from Rudraprayag|
|Deoria Tal||Located about 60 kilometers from Kedarnath and just 8 kilometers away from Ukhimath|
|Panch Kedar||Spread across the Garhwal Himalayan Regions (Kedarkhand) in Uttarakhand|
|Gandhi Sarovar||Stationed Positioned at the distance of about 3.5 kilometers from Tungnath|
|Chandrashila||Located in the Rudraprayag District of the state of Uttarakhand|
|Agastyamuni||Located in Rudraprayag District in Uttarakhand|
|Chopta||Positioned at the distance of about 3.5 kilometers from Tungnath|
|Triyuginarayan||Located about 5 kilometers away from Sonprayag|
|Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary||Spread across the Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts of Uttarakhand|
|Rambara||Situated 7 kilometers away from Gaurikund and 7 kilometers away from Kedarnath|
|Pandukeshwar||Located approximately 181 kilometers away from Kedarnath|
|Swargarohini||Located in the Uttarkashi District in the state of Uttarakhand|
|Badrinath Temple||Positioned Placed at the distance of about 196 kilometers from the Kedarnath Temple|
|Gangotri Temple||Located at the distance of nearly 338 kilometers from Kedarnath|
|Hemkund Sahib||Placed at the distance of about 196 kilometers from the Kedarnath Temple|
The Kedarnath Temple disposed atop the Garhwal Himalayan ranges close to the head of the Mandakini River in Kedarnath is one of the holiest Hindu temples in the world dedicated to Lord Shiva. Accredited amongst the twelve Jyotirlingams of Lord Shankara scattered across the Indian terra firma and also venerated as one of the 275 ‘Paadal Petra Sthalams’ highly exalted by the Tamil Nayanars saints, the Kedarnath Temple also happens to be one of the four sites of the most auspicious Hindu pilgrimage route of the ‘Chota Char Dham Yatra’. The term Kedarnath means ‘the Lord of the Kedar region’. Believed to be existing since the Mahabharata Era, the triangular (pyramidal) shaped Shiva Lingam of Lord Kedarnath is supposed to have consecrated by the Pandavas subsequent to the Mahabharata Battle.
It is said that Pandavas performed severe penance at Kedarnath to appease Lord Shiva and get rid of the sin of killing millions of men including their cousins Kauravas in the battle of Kurukshetra. Lord Shiva appeared before them in the form of a male buffalo and had a tussle with Bheema when the head of the buffalo went to Pashupatinath and the rear portion remained at Kedarnath. Lord Shiva proclaimed here that whoever takes the darshana of Lord Kedarnath will be free from all the worldly miseries and enjoy everlasting happiness. The present day Kedarnath Temple is believed to have established by Adi Shankara whose Samadhi is sited right behind the Kedarnath Temple. Due to the extreme weather conditions and heavy blizzards, the temple remains open only from Akshaya Tritiya to Bhai Duj while during the rest of the period, the idol of Lord Kedarnath is carried to Ukhimath and worshipped there.
There is no direct motorable road to the Kedarnath Temple but a steep uphill trek of 14 kilometers from Gaurikund will reach you to the temple. People can either walk or hire mules or palanquins from the Gaurikund. Lord Kedarnath is worshipped by ghee, bel leaves, water and milk. The Kedarnath Temple that enshrines the pyramidal Shiva Lingam is an imposing stone edifice wherein numerous effigies of Lord Krishna, five Pandava brothers, Nandi, Virabhadra, etc are placed in the opening hall. The triangular stone facade of the temple bears a head of a man carved in it.
The Bhairavnath Temple
The Bhairavnath Temple of Kedarnath positioned upon a hilltop to the north of the Kedarnath Temple is an ancient shrine dedicated to Lord Bhairava, also worshipped by other sobriquets ‘Bhairo’ or ‘Kaal Bhairava’. In Kedarnath, Lord Bhairava is revered as the ‘Area Protector God’ or ‘the guardian deity of Kedarnath’ and it is believed that when the Kedarnath temple remains closed during the winter season down to heavy snow fall and Lord Shiva is temporarily moved to his second abode at Ukhimath, Lord Bhairavnath protects the Kedarnath Temple and also the entire Kedarnath domain. Thus, Lord Bhairava acts as the Kshetrapal deity of Kedarnath. Lord Bhairava holds the weapon of Trishula (trident) and commutes on the dog vehicle. Apart from that, as per the prevailing legend, Lord Bhairava of Kedarnath is blessed by the Goddess Vaishno Devi of Katra that the devotees who visit her temple would also come to Kedarnath to pay homage at the feet of Lord Bhairava. Thus, it is said that a pilgrimage to Vaishno Devi remains unfulfilled unless you visit Kedarnath. A short trek of about 1 kilometer from the right entrance of the Kedarnath Temple will lead to the Bhairavnath Temple. The hillock that bears the shrine of Lord Bhairava is adorned with numerous holy flags and the devotees who pay a visit to this temple take a round (pradakshina) around the entire rock that holds Lord Bhairavnath. The vicinity of the Bhairavnath Temple is extremely beautiful and charismatic and breathtaking vistas of the entire Kedarnath Valley (locally known as Kedar Ghati) can be perceived from here.
Adi Shankara or Adi Shankaracharya was the greatest Hindu sage and philosopher from Kalady in Kerala who traveled across the Indian Subcontinent and advocated the doctrine of Adwaita through his discourses and debates. He renounced all the worldly pleasures and embraced Sanyasa at the age of seven for the study and propagation of religion. Adi Shankara established four Mathas in the four corners of the country; Sringeri, Dwaraka, Puri and Jyotirmath and also defined the Char Dhams of India; Badrinath, Dwarka, Jagannath Puri and Rameshwaram. It is believed that the ancient temple of Kedarnath originally set up by the Pandavas was renovated to its present state and stature by Adi Shankaracharya in 8th century AD. He also praised Lord Kedarnath saying; “I offer millions of bows at the feet of Lord Shiva who resides in the great heights of the Himalayas and is perpetually worshipped by saints, hermits, Gods, demons, Yakshas, Maha Nagas, and so on.” The Samadhi Shrine of Adi Shankara is situated right behind the Kedarnath Temple where Adi Shankara is said to have attained ‘Nirvana’ at the age of 32 years.
The Shankaracharya Samadhi at Kedarnath, characterized with compelling peace and serenity is a memorial where a Shiva Lingam is placed on a square shaped shrine canopied with a tiny dome supported by four columns. A marble statue of Adi Shankara in a seating posture is placed beside the Shiva Lingam to its right. Reckoned far and wide as an eminent pilgrim spot of Kedarnath along with the Kedarnath Shiva Temple, the Samadhi of Adi Shankara is visited by innumerable tourists and devotees during the season. It is believed that when Shankaracharya commenced his final journey from Badrinath to the precipitous terrains of Kedarnath, he was accompanied by four of his ardent disciples. But soon after, Adi Shankara ordered them to return and continued his journey to Kedarnath alone where he achieved the state of Samadhi. A spring of hot water which is assumed to have created by Adi Shankaracharya lies next to the Shankara Samadhi of Kedarnath.
Gaurikund, nested in the lap of towering snow clad peaks of the Himalayas at the altitude of about 1982 meters above the sea level is the base camp from where the 14 kilometers long trek towards the sacrosanct shrine of Lord Kedarnath commences. Christened after the name of Goddess Parvati i.e. Gauri; the consort of Lord Shiva, Gaurikund is a heavenly berth that encompasses a lot of religious and mythological significance. As the legend goes, Gaurikund is the place where Parvati had performed a severe austerity to please Lord Shiva and win His hand in marriage. Not only that, Gaurikund also witnessed the legendary episode of Lord Ganesha being beheaded by Lord Shiva and later revived by Him after being blessed with the head of an elephant.
Gaurikund is also celebrated for its hot water springs on whose banks an ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Parvati is situated. It is believed that Goddess Parvati used to bathe in the waters of Gaurikund, hence taking a holy dip into the thermal waters of this lagoon will make you chaste and pure. Devotees on the way to the Kedarnath Temple halt at Gaurikund immerse themselves in the hot water tank and get ready for the auspicious and wish fulfilling Darshana of Lord Kedarnath. Gaurikund perched amidst the luxuriant Himalayan forests offers a vivid and enchanting outlook of the surrounding terrain. Tourists can hire mules, porters and buggies from here for the 14 kilometers of climb to the Kedarnath Temple. Ukhimath; the second abode of Lord Kedarnath is stationed about 28 kilometers away from Gaurikund.
Vasuki Tal, situated at the distance of about 8 kilometers from Kedarnath and cuddled amidst the snowy Himalayan sierras at the elevation of 4,135 meters is a beautiful lake commended all over the creation for its scintillating blue waters. Renowned far and wide as one of the most sought after trekking destinations from Kedarnath, Vasuki Tal bequeathed with innumerable shrines of Hindu Gods and Goddesses has also achieved an enormous magnitude as a holy pilgrimage destination. Studded with countless temples on every nook and corner and embellished with glamorous pictorial ambiance and pristine picture book landscapes, the Vasuki Tal bounded by the majestic Himalayan crests beckons both devotees and adventure seekers in great numbers. Apart from its sparkling sapphire waters, the Vasuki Tal is also noted for the daunting sights of the adjoining Chaukhamba peaks it offers.
The Kedarnath -Vasuki Tal trek which involves a hazardous expedition of nearly 8 kilometers particularly attracts challenge lovers and adventure seekers. The Vasuki Tal trek incorporates several extremely difficult climbs and crossing the Chaturangi and Vasuki Glacier. These Glaciers are full with numerous abysses and crossing them demands great stamina as well as immense courage. Reaching Vasuki Tal from Kedarnath generally takes about 4 to 5 hours. The most ideal time for visiting Vasuki Tal is from June to October as the climate is gentle and agreeable during this period of the year. The trekkers are recommended to start early if they are planning to undertake the Vasuki Tal trek and it is must to hire an experienced guide for your safety and security.
Situated about 19 kilometers away from Kedarnath and just 5 kilometers away from Gaurikund Sonprayag is a splendid little hamlet perched at the elevation of 1829 meters above the sea level at the confluence of the Basuki and Mandakini Rivers. Nestled amid the snow canopied Himalayan apexes, this dandy settlement endowed with an unperturbed calmness and immaculate milieu is so pretty and lovely that it intrigues its beholders to no limit. The cascading waters of the two holy rivers and the glittering silvery mountain peaks attribute a regal aura to this quiescent setting. Other than its beguiling picturesque appearance what adds to the appeal of Sonprayag is its boundless religious grandeur. It is believed that immersing in the sacred waters of the Basuki and Mandakini Rivers at the site of their convergence is outstandingly propitious and it will bless you with Nirvana and a place in the Baikunth Dham of Lord Vishnu.
Guptkashi, set up in the midst of the Garhwal Himalayas at an elevation of 1,319 meters above the sea level is a moderate township of Kedar Khanda located in the Rudraprayag District of Uttrakhand. Parked against the glamorous backdrop of the Chaukhamba peaks and blessed with salubrious climate all round the year, Guptkashi is distinguished pole to pole for its ancient Vishwanath Temple and Ardhanareshvara Temple. As the legend goes, when Pandavas came to the Himalayas to seek the Darshana of Lord Shiva and get rid of the sin of killing Kauravas (Brahmahatya and Gotrahatya) in the battle of Kurukshetra, Lord Shankara not willing to appear before them hid Himself at Guptkashi. On learning this fact, Yudhishthira pronounced that as Lord Shiva had disappeared here, the place will come to be known as ‘Guptkashi’. The Sanskrit word ‘Gupt’ means to disappear. Another mythological allegory suggests that Lord Shiva had proposed Goddess Parvati for marriage at Guptkashi and then got married to her at Triyuginarayan. The Vishwanath Temple of Guptkashi is revered next to the Vishwanath Temple of Varanasi and serves as an important pilgrim spot on the way to Kedarnath. Moreover, Lord Kedarnath when headed towards Ukhimath for His winter vacation passes through Guptkashi. Apart from the Vishwanath Temple, the town is also reckoned for its Ardhanareshvara Temple where Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati are portrayed and worshipped in the form of half man and half woman. The two water rivulets flowing beside the temple symbolize the holiest rivers of India; Ganga and Yamuna.
Ukhimath or Ukshimath located about 50 kilometers away from Kedarnath and about 40 kilometers away from Rudraprayag is the second home or winter retreat of Lord Kedarnath. This peachy township suspended at the elevation of 1311 meters and enclosed by lofty snow carpeted mountain ranges of the Garhwal Himalayas is endowed with immeasurable natural pulchritude and equally substantial religious significance. During the winter season when Kedarnath experiences extremely frigid and glacial climatic conditions due to excessive cold and intense snowfall, the idol of Lord Kedarnath is shifted from there to Ukhimath. Lord Kedarnath resides in the Omkareshwar Temple of Ukhimath from Bhai Duj to Akshaya Tritiya and all the rituals and rites performed at Kedarnath are also offered to the deity here.
The Omkareshwar Temple of Ukhimath set up against the imposing backdrop of the royal Himalayas is a small temple that is modeled after the Kedarnath Temple and beautifully painted in blue and red colors. Furthermore, Ukhimath also serves as the center point of other pilgrimage destinations of Uttarakhand including Madhmaheshwar (Second Kedar), Tungnath Ji (Third Kedar) and Deoria Tal. As per the prevailing tale, Ukhimath derives its name from the name of Usha; the daughter of demon Banasur who got married to Anirudha; the grandson of Lord Krishna. Apart from the Omkareshwar Temple, other noteworthy religious destinations of Ukhimath are the temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati, Anirudha, Usha, Mandhata, etc.
The Deoria Tal located about 60 kilometers from Kedarnath and just 8 kilometers away from Ukhimath in the proximity with the Saari Village of Uttarakhand is an angelic lake noted in all corners of the country for its crystalline waters and its spell binding panoramas. As per the prevalent myth, the Deoria Tal happens to be the very lake where the five Pandava brothers were asked questions by a Yaksha. The lake receives its name after the lore that during the gone by eras all the heavenly Gods i.e. Devas used to bathe in the waters of this lake. Furthermore, the Deoria Tal is also identified with the ‘Indra Sarovar’ described in the Hindu Puranas. Surrounded by the magisterial snow laden Himalayan precipices and dense green woods teeming with rhododendrons which reflect in the shimmering waters of the Deoria Tal, this dazzling high altitude lake extolled for its emerald green waters serves as a popular destination for the nature lovers and adventure seekers. Reposed in the lap of the Himalayas at the elevation of 2387 meters, the Deoria Tal is celebrated for its 300° panorama of Chaukhamba, Bandarpunch, Nilkantha, Kedar Range, Yellow Tooth, Kalanag, etc peaks. Trekkers normally combine the Deoria Tal trek with the Tungnath and Chandrashila treks. Overnight camping at Deoria Tal is yet another thrilling and memorable experience.
The term ‘Panch Kedar’ refers to the five temples dedicated to Lord Shiva spread across the Garhwal Himalayan Regions (Kedarkhand) in Uttarakhand. As suggested by the prevalent parable, the Pandava brothers after the great battle of Mahabharata came to the Himalayas in search of Lord Shiva to seek His blessings and get rid of the Brahmahatya and Gotrahatya. Lord Shiva didn’t want to give His holy Darshana to them and so He disguised Himself as a male buffalo and hid near Guptkashi. Suddenly Pandavas spotted the buffalo and immediately recognized it as Lord Shiva Himself. Bheema, trying to stop the running away buffalo held it with its tail. At the very moment the buffalo disappeared but it later reappeared at five different places namely Kedarnath, Tungnath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheshwar and Kalpeshwar.
The hump appeared at Kedarnath, the arms at Tungnath, the navel and stomach at Madhyamaheshwar, the face at Rudranath and the hair and the head at Kalpeshwar. These five sites are today worshipped as the five Kedars or ‘Panch Kedar’. Five distinct temples of Lord Shiva have been erected at these five sites. The Panch Kedar temples are located in the Upper Himalayan region against the imperious backdrops of the snow covered ranges of the Nanda Devi, Chaukhamba, Kedarnath and Neelkanth. Kedarnath, one of the five Kedars is placed in the Mandakini River valley while the rest are parked in the highlands sandwiched between the Mandakini Valley and the Alakananda Gorge. All the Panch Kedar Kshetras are so remotely disposed that any of them but Rudranath is not accessible by the motorable roads.
The Gandhi Sarovar of Kedarnath stationed at the distance of about 3.5 kilometers from the Kedarnath Temple at the incredible altitude of 3900 meters above the sea level was originally known by the name ‘Chorabari Tal’ owing to its location at the mouth of the ‘Chorabari Bamak Glacier’. The Chorabari Tal was rechristened as the ‘Gandhi Sarovar’ after the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were immersed in its waters. It is believed amongst the locals that Gandhi Sarovar is the very place from where the eldest Pandava brother Yudhishthira commenced his last journey towards heaven. Esteemed as one of the most marvelous and cajoling attractions around Kedarnath, the Gandhi Sarovar yields some of the most galvanizing vistas of the glorious Himalayan Peaks mirrored in the glistening pellucid waters of the Chorabari Tal.
The views of the origin of Mandakini River, the compelling prospects of the lofty Himalayan Ranges wearing the spangling silvery snow robe and the lovely tableau of the tranquil Gandhi Sarovar coupled with balmy ambience and gentle breeze mesmerize the beholders to no extent. Apart from its mythical and scenic magnitude, Gandhi Sarovar is one of the most sought after trekking destinations from Kedarnath. This trek inaugurates at the iron bridge on the Mandakini River and then continues for next 3.5 kilometers. Practically the entire trail to Gandhi Sarovar is paved in concrete and this trek doesn’t call for adventures or hazards. All you need to have is the stamina for walking. On the way to Gandhi Sarovar from Kedarnath you can enjoy the enticing panoramas of the Doodh Ganga River and the Madhu Ganga Waterfalls. the tourists are recommended to start the Gandhi Sarovar Trek early in the morning as the weather can change rapidly in this region.
Chandrashila Peak, based amidst the aerial snow clad Himalayas at the altitude of 4000 meters above the sea level is the pinnacle of the Tungnath Mountain Ranges located in the Rudraprayag District of the state of Uttarakhand. The term Chandrashila literally means ‘the Moon Rock’. As the legend goes, Chandrashila is the place where Lord Ram had performed penance after killing Ravana; the demon king of Lankapuri who had abducted Devi Sita from Panchvati. Another anecdote suggests that Lord Chandra (the Moon God in Hindu Mythology) also spent some time here in austerity. From the Chandrashila Peak the resplendent spectacles of the Himalayas including Nandadevi, Kedar Peak, Trisul, Chaukhamba, Bandarpunch peaks etc can be perceived. A six kilometers long trek from Chopta will reach you to the Chandrashila Peak via the Tungnath Shiva Temple. From the Shiva Temple a kilometer long steep trek finally terminates at the Chandrashila Peak. The trek to Chandrashila can be undertaken all through the year except for the winter season when the route from Chopta gets closed due to excessive snow fall. However, adventure enthusiasts can take another route which passes through Deoria Tal, Duggalbitta and Tungnath.
Agastyamuni one of the well known religious destinations of Rudraprayag District in Uttarakhand is a dainty little township renowned high and low for its Agasteshwar Mahadev Temple consecrated by the holy sage and one of the Saptarishis of Hinduism; Maharshi Agastya. It is believed that Sage Agastya meditated here for the period of one year or so. Situated about 18 kilometers from Rudraprayag on the banks of the river Mandakini, the Himalayan village Agastyamuni is perched at the elevation of 1000 meters. The Agasteshwar Mahadev Temple of Agastyamuni dedicated to Lord Shiva is noted for the annual Baisakhi Festival celebrated here. A noteworthy feature of the Agasteshwar Mahadev Temple is that, the interior walls of the temple are ornamented with the intricately carved figurines of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Being one of the leading pilgrim destinations of the state, Agastyamuni provides many lodging and boarding facilities for the pilgrims and tourists. Fishing in the waters of the Mandakini River is an interesting water sport tourists can indulge in at Agastyamuni. It is to be noted that the Pawan Hans Helicopter Services to the Kedarnath Temple are operated from Agastyamuni.
Chopta, fondly known as the ‘Mini Switzerland’ of Uttarakhand is a dandy little civic nestled at the altitude of 2900 meters in the midst of the snow blanketed Garhwal Himalayan Regions. This is the locus from where the trek to the temple of third of the five Kedars; Tungnath begins. Chopta is positioned at the distance of about 3.5 kilometers from Tungnath and another 1 kilometer of trekking from Tungnath will reach you to the Chandrashila Peak. The hamlet of Chopta sited amid the dense Himalayan forests opulent with deodar, pine and rhododendrons are acclaimed for their affluent and varied flora and fauna. The astounding panoramas of the Chaukhamba, Trishul and Nanda Devi peaks can be discerned from Chopta. Chopta can be reached via Gopeshwar or Ukimath. Lodging facilities are made available for the tourists and the trekkers to Tungnath at Chopta.
Triyuginarayan, a small Himalayan settlement parked at the confluence of the Mandakini and Songanga Rivers about 5 kilometers away from Sonprayag and perched at the elevation of 1,980 meters above the sea level in the Rudraprayag District of Uttarakhand is a sacred parish reputed for its ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. As per the prevailing legend, Triyuginarayan is the auspicious berth where Lord Shiva was married to Goddess Parvati. Sati; the former wife of Lord Shiva was reborn as the daughter of Himalaya i.e. Parvati who performed severe austerity near Gaurikund and won Lord Shiva as her husband. Later, Lord Shiva proposed her for marriage at Guptkashi and the nuptial ceremony was performed at Triyuginarayan. Lord Vishnu acted as Parvati’s brother in the ceremony while Lord Brahma performed the duties of the priest. As the wedding of Lord Shiva was witnessed by Lord Vishnu here, a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu is established at Triyuginarayan. Revered as one of the popular pilgrimage destination of Uttarakhand, Triyuginarayan is also celebrated for housing the eternal fire that is believed to have been burning since the time of the divine marriage in Satya Yuga. Hence, the temple at Triyuginarayan is also known as the Akhand Dhuni Temple. The term Triyuginarayan refers to the Lord Vishnu (Narayan) Temple existing here along with the celestial ‘Akhand Dhuni’ for past three Yugas. The three water tanks sited in the temple premises namely Rudrakund, Vishnukund and Brahmakund are believed to have sanctified by the Hindu Trinity who bathed here prior to the wedding ceremony. The Saraswatikund, which is said to have originated from the navel of Vishnu acts as the source of water for the three aforementioned water tanks and it is believed that this water has the power to cure infertility.
The Triyuginarayan Temple supposed to have established by Adi Shankaracharya resembles the Kedarnath Temple in its architectural style. A two foot tall silver idol of Lord Vishnu flanked by Goddess Lakshmi and Goddess Saraswati is enshrined in the sanctum of the Triyuginarayan Temple. A stone named ‘Brahma Shila’ which is placed in front of the temple is said to be the exact spot where the divine betrothal had taken place.
Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary
The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary spread across the Chamoli and Rudraprayag districts of Uttarakhand and covering the total area of 975 square kilometers is a National Sanctuary primarily constituted to protect the endangered Himalayan Musk Deer. Also known as the ‘Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary’, this reserve derives its name after the world famous temple of Lord Kedarnath positioned right outside its northern periphery. The entire 14 kilometers long route from Gaurikund to the Kedarnath Temple passes through the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary. Internationally reckoned for its diverse flora and fauna, the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary happens to be the largest protected area in the western Himalayas. Characterized with snowcapped Himalayan ranges, charming lakes, magnificent glaciers, spectacular valleys, meandering rivers and varied transitional environments, the sanctuary experiences typical temperate to sub-arctic climate.
The sanctuary is shrouded with the cover of the thick Himalayan woods filled with pine, rhododendrons, chir, birch, oak, alpine meadows and numerous Himalayan flowering plants. The fauna of the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary includes jackal, fox, Himalayan black bear, yellow-throated Marten, leopard cat, common leopard, snow leopard, wild boar, Himalayan musk deer, sambar, goral, serow, Himalayan Tahr, bharal, rhesus macaque, common langur, Hodgsons’s Brown-toothed Shrew, red giant flying squirrel, Royle’s Mountain Vole, Royle’s Pika, crested porcupine, snow cock, Himalayan pit viper, Boulenger’s keelback, Little Pied Flycatcher, Grey-cheeked Warbler, Nepal Tree-creeper, Himalayan Monal, Kalij Pheasant, Koklass Pheasant, and different types of fish. The best time to pay a visit to the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary is from April to June and from September to November.
Rambara is a tiny Himalayan hamlet which is precisely located at the midpoint of the 14 kilometers long trek between Gaurikund and Kedarnath. It is situated 7 kilometers away from Gaurikund and 7 kilometers away from Kedarnath. Set up at the altitude of 2,591 meters above the sea level, Rambara serves as a resting point for the trekkers headed towards Kedarnath. Accommodation facilities are also provided at Rambara by the GMVN Tourist Rest House.
Pandukeshwar located approximately 181 kilometers away from Kedarnath is a small village believed to have been established by King Pandu; the father of the five Pandava brothers. As the legend goes, Prince Pandu once hunted two mating deer who were actually a sage and his wife. As a result Pandu was cursed by the dying sage that if he ever indulges in carnal pleasures, he would immediately die. To get rid of this curse, Pandu along with his two wives Kunti and Madri resided at Pandukeshwar and performed a strict penance. It is also believed that the five Pandavas were also born here. Moreover, it is also said that Pandavas prayed to Vasudeva at Pandukeshwar.
Today Pandukeshwar is famous for its two legendary temples dedicated to Lord Yogabadri Narayan and Lord Vasudeva. During the period of winter the Lord Vasudeva Temple also functions as the residence for Lord Badri Narayan. During the winter season when the temples at Pandukeshwar remain closed, Udhava; the friend and emissary of Lord Krishna is worshipped here. A grand procession is held at the end of winter when the idol of Lord Udhava is carried in an elaborately decorated palanquin. The procession passes from temple to temple along with Lord Uddhava reopening the closed temples. Pandukeshwar also houses the shrines dedicated to Lord Kuber and the Khsetrapal Ghantakarn.
Swargarohini, located in the Uttarkashi District in the state of Uttarakhand is a mountain massif nestled in the Bandarpunch Range of the Garhwal Himalayas to the west of the Gangotri group of peaks. Swargarohini as a whole is made of four separate peaks, Swargarohini I being the foremost amongst them. Swargarohini I has two pinnacles; east and west. The eastern pinnacle is suspended at the elevation of 6,247 meters while the western summit is said to be higher than the eastern one. The term Swargarohini means ‘ascend to the heaven’. The peak receives its appellation from the famous legend that five Pandavas along with Draupadi and their dog had ascended to the heaven from here with their human body.
Badrinath Temple, also popularly reckoned by the moniker ‘Badrinarayan Temple’ is positioned on the banks of the sacred river Alaknanda right in the heart of the Badrinath town about 204 kilometers away from the Kedarnath Temple. This holy shrine dedicated to Lord Vishnu is esteemed as one of the four destinations of the most propitious ‘Char Dham Pilgrimage’ of India. Moreover, Badrinath is also regarded as one of the four ‘Chota Char Dhams’ and one of the 108 ‘Divya Desams’ of the Vaishnavites. In 9th century AD, Adi Shankaracharya had found a black Shaligram stone in the divine waters of the river Alaknanda that resembled the image of Lord Vishnu. Adi Shankaracharya enshrined the Shaligram Idol in a cave near the Tapt Kund where it remained for next 700 years. Eventually in 16th century AD the Garhwal Kings built a temple in the honor of Lord Badrinath and moved the Shaligram to its present location.
The Badrinath Temple is nearly 50 feet in its height and is crowned with a small cupola enshrouded in a gold gilded roof. The radiantly painted stone façade of the Badrinath Temple ornamented with arched windows resembles the Buddhist style of architecture. As you cross the threshold of the temple you enter a large mandapa that is supported with intricately carved pillars and elaborately decorated walls. The mandapa leads to the ‘Garbha Griha’ i.e. the main area of the shrine where the presiding deity of the temple; Lord Badrinarayan is placed under a gold canopy beneath a Badri Tree. The idol of Lord Vishnu made in black Shaligram stone is about one meter tall and it depicts the Lord Vishnu seated in the meditative posture. As this statue is said to have discovered by Adi Shankaracharya in the river bed of Alaknanda, this idol is considered amongst the eight ‘Swayam Vyakta Kshetras’ i.e. self originated or self manifested images of Lord Vishnu.
Apart from the Lord Badrinath idol, the temple enshrines other fifteen idols of several deities including Nara & Narayana, Narasimha, Lakshmi, Garuda, Kubera, Uddhava, Narada, Ganesha, Navadurga etc. The temple of Lord Badrinath is kept open only from the first week of May till the second week of November due to the extreme cold during the rest of the year.
The Gangotri Temple located at the distance of nearly 338 kilometers from Kedarnath is one of the four destinations of the most auspicious ‘Chota Char Dham’ pilgrimage of India; the other three being, Kedarnath, Badrinath and Yamunotri. Gangotri is a township of Uttarkashi District in the state of Uttarakhand settled on the banks of the holy river Ganges close to the place where the river originates. Here, the Ganges is worshipped by the sobriquet ‘Bhagirathi’ as the heavenly river Ganga had descended upon the earth at the request of King Bhagirath in order to grant salvation to his forefathers. The head of the river Bhagirathi is sited about 19 kilometers away from Gangotri in the Gangotri Glacier at Gaumukh. The Gangotri Temple erected in the proximity with a sacred stone named ‘Bhagirath Shila’ is dedicated to Goddess Ganga (Bhagirathi). The Ganga Aarti performed everyday is a really spectacular sight that would absolutely enchant the devotees. The Gangotri Temple is open from May to November.
Hemkund Sahib, placed at the distance of about 196 kilometers from the Kedarnath Temple is a famous pilgrim destination of Sikhism located in the Chamoli district of the state of Uttarakhand. Perched at the altitude of about 15200 feet above the sea level in the Himalayas, Hemkund Sahib can only be reached on foot from Gobindghat on the Rishikesh-Badrinath highway. The Gurudwara that is established at the Hemkund Sahib known as Gurudwara Sri Hemkunt Sahib Ji is dedicated to the tenth Guru of Sikhism Guru Gobind Singh Ji. This blessed Gurudwara also finds citation in the Holy Scripture ‘Dasam Granth’ written by Guru Gobind Singh Ji Himself. ‘Dasam Granth’ also refers to the ‘Hemkund Sahib’ as the place where the King Pandu; the father of the five Pandava brothers had practiced Yoga. The term ‘Hemkund’ literary means ‘a bowl of snow’. Hemkund Sahib is also renowned for its glacial lake; ‘Lok-Pal Hemkund’ that is enclosed by seven mountain peaks, each of them being marked with the sacred Nishan Sahib.