Kedarnath Temple (Himalaya)
Kedarnath - the northernmost of the One Of The 12 Jyotirlingas. Kedarnath, nestled in the snow clad Himalayas is an ancient shrine rich in legend and tradition. It is accessible only on foot, six months in a year. Kedarnath is situated at a distance of 234 Kms from Rishikesh and 251 Kms from Dehradun. Best season is from May to October except Monsoon. Heavy Woollen Clothes would be required if travel is undertaken in winter (September – November)
Image credit : asis k. chatt
One of the most important temples in the Himalayas, Kedarnath is amongst the major Shiva temples of the country. Kedarnath is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva, and one of the Panch Kedars and is located at the source of the river Mandakini. According to mythology the deity of Kedarnath temple is identified with the rump of a bull, a form assumed by Lord Shiva, when eluding the Pandavas, who had come to repent for killing their kith and kin, during the battle of Kurukshetra . When the Pandavas followed him to the site, he dived into the ground leaving behind him a hump on the surface. This conical projection is worshipped as the idol in the temple. The remaining parts of the body are worshipped at four other sites - the arms (Bahu) at Tungnath, mouth (mukh) at Rudranath, navel (nabhi) at Madmaheshwar and hair (jata) at Kalpeshwar. These five shrines collectively are known as the Panch Kedar.
Image cedit : Seemasunil
The Pandavas are given credit for building the temple of Kedarnath. The statue of Nandi, the divine bull of Shiva, stands at the entrance of the temple. The wall inside the temple, is exquisitely carved with images, and the temple houses a shiva lingam, which is worshipped by hordes of pilgrims. What is truly unique about the lingam is that it is pyramidal. During the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, their own kith and kin gor killed. In order to absolve themselves of this sin, the Pandavas went for a pilgrimage. But Lord Vishweshwara was away in Kailasa in the Himalayas. On learning this, the Pandavas, left Kashi. They reached the Himalayas via Hardwar. They saw Lord Shankar from a distance. But Lord Shankara hid from them. Then Dharmaraj said: “Oh, Lord, You have hidden yourself from our sight because we have sinned. But, we will seek You out somehow. Only after we take your Darshan would our sins be washed away. This place, where You have hidden Yourself will be known as Guptkashi and become a famous shrine.”
Image credit : Shaneez
From Guptakashi (Rudraprayag), the Pandavas went ahead they reached Gaurikund in the Himalayas valleys. They wandered there in search of Lord Shankara. While doing so Nakul and Sahadev found a he-buffalo. It was unique to look at. Then! Bhemma went after the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo was clever and Bheema could not catch it. But Bheema managed to hit the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo had its face hidden in a crevice-in the earth. Bheema started to pull it by its tail. In this tug-of war, the face of the buffalo went straight to Nepal, leaving its hind part in Kedar. The face of the buffalo is known as Pashupatinath in Nepal.
On this hind part of Mahesha, a glorious JyotirLinga appeared. Lord Shankara appeared from this great light. He appeared before the pandavas. By getting a Darshan of Lord Shankar, the pandavas were absolved of their sins. The Lord told the Pandavas, “From now on, I will remain here as a triangular shaped JyotirLinga. By taking a Darshan of Kedarnath, devotees would attain piety”. Near Kedarnath, there are many symbols of the Pandavas Raja Pandu died here, when he tried to make love to Madri. This place is famous as Pandukeshwar. The tribals here perform a dance called “Pandav Nritya”. The mountain top where the Pandavas went to Swarga, is known as “Swargarohini”. When Darmaraja was leaving for Swarga, one of his fingers fell on the earth. At that palce, Dharmaraj installed a Shiva Linga, which is the size of the thumb.
Image credit : Lakshmanarawat
To gain Mashisharupa, Shankara and Bheema fought with maces. Bheema was struck with remorse. He started to massage Lord Shankara’s body with ghee. In memory of this event, even today, this triangular Shiva JyotirLinga is massaged with ghee. Shankara is worshipped here in this manner. Water and Bel leaves are used for worship. When Nar-nrayan went to Badrika village and started the worship of Parthiva, Shiva appeared before them. A few days later, a pleased Shiva granted them some boons. Nar-narayan wished that for the welfare of the humanity, Shiva should remain there in his original form. Granting their wish, in the snow-clad Himalayas, in a place called Kedar, Mahesha himself stayed there as a Jyoti. Here, He is known as Kedareshwara.
By visiting Kedareshwar, sorrows do not come even in dreams. By worshipping Shambara (Kedareshwar) Pandavas were rid of all theor sorrows. Badri-Keshwar’s darshan rids one of the material ties. Whoever gives Dan (alms) at Kedareshwar, just gets assimilated into Shivaroopa. Around the main Kedarnath temples, there are many holy places. At the back, there is the Samadhi of Shankarachrya. A little further up, there is dangerous cliff called Bhariguptan (Bhairav Udan). One has to pass through dreadful, and life threatening circumstances. But what one gets is not Mrityu (Death) but Moksha (Salvation). On all the eight sides of the temple, there are eight shrines.
In short, it is to say that in order to visit Kedarnath Temple, Kedarnath Yatra JyotirLinga, one has to go through a treacherous route. But when people are determined and dedicated, they never get tired. Every one keeps chanting Jay Kedarnath! Jay Kedarnath!!