Kedarnath - history, legend and sacred journeys

Image courtesy: Kiranmadhu.e/Wikimedia Commons

A forest fire, water crisis and low oxygen levels on the pilgrimage to Kedarnath are moments that stand out in its history, along with the floods and landslides that wreaked havoc in 2013.

Recently, the Uttarakhand Government announced a plan to build an 8-crore glass bridge over the Mandakini river from Rambara (a small village about 7 km from Kedarnath temple) to the Kedarnath shrine. This is a project to revive the village, which was a popular halt for devotees and visitors before the floods.

Worshippers of Shiva make the trip to Kedarnath every year. Kedarnath Dham, located in the Rudraprayag District of Uttarakhand in the lap of the Garhwal Himalayas, is an integral part of the Char Dham Yatra, which includes Yamunotri, Gangotri and Badrinath.

The legend behind Kedarnath

It is said that the Pandavas sought Lord Shiva to relieve themselves from the guilt of killing their blood relatives. However, Shiva didn't want to release them from their sins, so he disguised himself as a bull to roam the Garhwal Himalayas. On being found by the Pandavas, Shiva dove underground. Bhim could only manage to get hold of his hump. Other body parts of Shiva in the form of a bull showed up at different places.

The hump of the bull was found in Kedarnath, the navel emerged in Madhya-Maheshwar, two forelegs appeared in Tunganath, the face in Rudranath, and the hair in Kalpeshwar. These are collectively called the Panch Kedar - the five sacred places.

Legend has it that the original Pandavas built the temple of Kedarnath and the present temple was established by Adi Shankaracharya, who restored the glory of the shrine in the 8th century A.D.

Glory of the shrine

The temple is said to be more than 1,200 years old and one among the 12 jyotirlingas in India. The majestic Kedarnath peak (6,940 metres) stands behind the temple along with other peaks and adds to the scenery of the area. 

Built from large, heavy and evenly cut grey slabs of stones, the structure is a masterpiece. The conical Shiva lingam is worshipped as the Lord in his Sadashiva form. It adds a unique feature to the temple among all Shiva shrines. The Garbha Griha is for worship and a Mandap is for assemblies of pilgrims and visitors. 

The Kedarnath temple closes on the first day of Kartik (October-November) and reopens in Vaishakh (April-May) every year. Around this time of the year, the air appears to echo with the name of Lord Shiva amid snowclad peaks, meadows and forests of the lower range of the Himalayas. The temple is built on the banks of Mandakini and the Saraswati rivers.

Other places in Kedarnath Dham that are major tourist attractions are Gaurikund, Chorbari Tal, Bhairav Temple and Vasuki Tal.

Looking back at history and legends, one can say that Kedarnath has truly stood the test of time.

 

 

 

 

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