Among the glorious mountain peaks that are covered with nothing but snowstorm, lies one of the holiest pilgrim sites of northern India -“Kedarnath”. Famous for the ancient shrine devoted to Lord Shiva, it tenders an unflustered ambience with its colorful rhododendron woods, snow covered mountains and splendid sights of nature. This sacred city is visited by thousands of tourists from all over to seek the blessing of the lord and scout the undulating scenery of this region at an elevation of 11,755 ft above sea level. Almost all the appeals nestled in higher altitude render every bystander a fascinating and enchanting feeling. An amalgamation of devoutness and adventure is what makes it peerless and unique.
The legend has it that after the battle of Kurukshetra, Pandavas of Mahabharata's went on a journey to Varanasi to seek blessings from the Lord as they were guilty of killing their own kith and kin. However, Lord Shiva avoided meeting them, thus hiding himself in Guptakashi. When Pandavas found him, Lord Shiva decided to take the form of buffalo so that they couldn't recognize him. Seeing them coming closer Lord made a decision to become invisible by going underground. While doing that one of the five Pandavas, Bhima made a great effort in stopping him by holding on to the legs and tail of the bull. Unfortunately, the Lord dived and evaporated at that place leaving behind his hump which is now worshipped at Kedarnath Temple.
Lord Shiva manifested in the form of Jyotirlingam or the cosmic light. Kedarnath is highest among the 12 Jyotirlingas. This ancient and magnificent temple is located in the Rudra Himalaya range. This temple, over a thousand years old is built of massive stone slabs over a large rectangular platform. Ascending through the large gray steps leading to the holy sanctums we find inscriptions in Pali on the steps. The present temple was built by Adi Shankaracharya.The inner walls of the temple sanctum are adorned with figures of various deities and scenes from mythology. The origin of the revered temple can be found in the great epic - Mahabharata. According to legends, the Pandavas sought the blessings of lord Shiva to atone their sin after the battle of Mahabharata. Lord Shiva eluded them repeatedly and while fleeing took refuge at Kedarnath in the form of a bull. On being followed, he dived into ground leaving behind his hump on the surface. Outside the temple door a large statue of the Nandi Bull stands as guard. A conical rock formation inside the temple is worshipped as Lord Shiva in his Sadashiva form. The temple, believed to be very ancient, has been continually renovated over the centuries. It is situated at an altitude of 3,581 mt. It is a 21 km trek from Sonprayag.
At the approach of winters in the month of November, the holy statue of Lord Shiva, is carried down from Kedarnath to Ukhimath, and is reinstated at Kedarnath, in the first week of May. It is at this time, that the doors of the temple are thrown open to pilgrims, who flock from all parts of India, for a holy pilgrimage. The shrine closes on the first day of Kartik (Oct-Nov) and reopens in Vaishakh (Apr-May) every year. During its closure the shrine is submerged in snow and worship is performed at Ukhimath.
Kedarnath is amongst the holiest pilgrimages for the devout Hindu. It is set amidst the stunning mountainscape of the Garhwal Himalayas at the head of the Mandakini River. Kedar is another name of lord Shiva, the protector and the destroyer. Shiva is considered the embodiment of all passions - love, hatred, fear, death and mysticism which are expressed through his various forms.
The shrine of Kedarnath is very scenically placed, and is surrounded by lofty, snow - covered mountains, and during summer grassy meadows covering the valleys. Immediately behind the temple, is the high Keadardome peak, which can be sighted from great distances. The sight of the temple and the peak with its perpetual snows is simply enthralling.