A Chota Char Dham of India
|Type of Tourism||: Pilgrimage|
|Area||: 3 square kilometers|
|Population||: 479 (As per Indian census- 2001)|
|Altitude||: 3,553 meters|
|Best Tourist Season||: May to September|
|Clothing recommended||: Woolen in summer, heavy woolen in winter|
|Languages spoken||:Hindi, Garhwali and English|
|Telephone Code||: India (01364), International (+91)|
|Pin Code||: 246445|
|What to buy||: Portraits, photographs and idols of the Kedarnath & Badrinath Temples and Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati, Rudraksh Malas, Tulsi beads, crystals, Shiva lingams, Shaligrams, herbs, Shilajit, precious stones, ornamental brass work, woolen garments, local handicrafts, etc.|
|Food Specialties||: Only vegetarian food is available at Kedarnath. Non vegetarian food and liquor is completely banned.|
|Local transportation||: Walking, horses, ponies and dandies|
Kedarnath, a peachy bantam hamlet perched amidst the snow crowned peaks of the Garhwal Himalayas close to the head of the Mandakini River at the altitude of about 3,553 meters above the sea level is one of the most sacred Hindu towns of India located in the state of Uttarakhand. An abode of Lord Shiva seated in the world famous Kedarnath Temple and aggrandized amongst the most popular and most sought after Hindu pilgrim destinations, Kedarnath happens to be one of the four sites of India’s auspicious ‘Chota Char Dham Yatra’. Christened after a pious sovereign ‘King Kedar’; the father of Devi Vrinda who ruled this terrain in Satya Yuga (the very first epoch according to Hindu mythology), the Kedarnath Temple is believed to be existing since Mahabharata era when the five Pandava brothers are said to have performed worship here. Supposed to have established by Adi Shankaracharya, Kedarnath; one of the twelve Jyotirlingams of Lord Shiva is also acclaimed as one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams; highly eulogized by the Tamil Nayanars saints. Owing to its tremendously cold climatic conditions and extremely heavy snowfalls, the Kedarnath Temple is opened for the devotees only between Akshaya Tritiya (April or May) and Bhai Duj (October or November).
The temple remains closed during the winter months when the idols of Lord Shiva are carried to Ukhimath and worshipped here for about six months. Apart from the chief Kedarnath Shrine, this home of Lord Shiva is teeming with over 200 big and small Shiva temples. Furthermore, the township and its adjoining region is also studded with several holy water tanks (kunds) worshipped by the devotees for their sin cleansing power! Aside from its religious and spiritual magnitude, what attracts the tourists and nature lovers to Kedarnath is its infinite natural splendor characterized with rolling snow-white peaks of the Himalayas, the vivid Rhododendron flowers, towering alpine forests and the unperturbed ambience exuberant with scenic panoramas. Kedarnath, nestled against the imperial backdrop of the lower Himalayas is truly an idyllic destination that would absolutely mesmerize its visitors. It is certainly the paradise personified for the admirers of nature and beauty. The undulating snow carpeted landscape of this niveous province also offers challenging treks and hikes to the adventure seekers as even reaching the Kedarnath Temple calls for a steep climb of 14 kilometers. This chocolate box locus immersed in the serene pizzazz of cosmos in its full bloom is indeed an incredible Canaan materialized straight from the imagination.
The mythological background of Kedarnath is dated back to the period of Mahabharata when after the great battle of Kurukshetra the Pandava brothers undertook a pilgrimage to Kashi to absolve themselves of the sin of killing their brothers and millions of other soldiers (Brahmahatya and Gotrahatya). At that time the Kashi Vishweshwara Lord Shiva was residing somewhere in the Himalayas. On discovering this fact, the Pandavas reached the Himalayas via Haridwar. As they spotted Lord Shiva from a distance, Mahadeva concealed Himself from them. On learning this, Dharmaraj Yudhishthira exclaimed that even though you have cloaked yourself because we have sinned, we will find you for sure. As Lord Kashi Vishweshwara had disappeared from here, this place came to be known as ‘Guptkashi’ (present day Rudraprayag) and grew preeminent as a blessed pilgrim destination.
From Guptkashi Pandavas continued their expedition till Gaurikund where Nakul and Sahadev saw a unique male buffalo. As Bheema chased the buffalo and hit it with his mace, the buffalo hid his face in a chasm in the earth. As Bheema started pulling the buffalo by its tail, the face went straight to Nepal (Pashupatinath) while its rear remained at Kedarnath where an incandescent Shiva Lingam emerged. Lord Shiva Himself appeared here before the Pandavas and released them from their sins. Then He also made a prophecy that henceforward He would stay there in the form of a triangular Jyotirlingam and those who would take the darshana of the Lord Kedarnath would attain eternal bliss. On learning that the buffalo whom Bheema had attacked was Lord Shiva Himself, Bheema repentantly started applying Ghee on the body of Lord Shiva. Even today the devotees offer Ghee at the triangular Shiva Lingam of Kedarnath.
It is also believed that Lord Kedarnath had also given darshana to Lord Krishna and Arjuna who were performing austerity at Haridwar in the form of Nar and Narayan.