Kedarnath Jyotirlinga is situated on the banks of the Mandakini river in the state of Uttarakhand. As the place faces extreme weather conditions the temple is open for darshan only for approx. 6 months from Akshay Trittiya to Kartik Pournima (approx. April to November) every year. After Kartik Pournima the vigraha of the deity is carried to Ukhimath.
While there is no exact information available about who built this temple & when; its construction is attributed to the Pandavas. After the Mahabharata war the Pandavas wished to to atone for the sin of the fratricide & of the killing of Brahmins & other revered people during the war. Thus after handing over the reins of their Kingdom to their grandson they set out in search of Shiva. First they reached Kashi, his favourite city searching for him. But Shiva was highly displeased with them because of the sins they had committed during the war and avoided them. He assumed the form of Nandi and hid in the Garhwal region. Not finding Shiva in Kashi the Pandavas went to the Garhwal region. There Bhima spotted a bull grazing in the fields of Gupt-Kashi (so named because of Shiva’s act of hiding). Bhima immediately recognized him to be Shiva and caught the bull by his tail and hind legs. But the bull who was Shiva disappeared into the ground with only the bull’s hump remaining visible at Kedarnath. The Pandavas built a temple for Shiva here and worshipped him.
Kedarnath means “Lord of the Field” where Kedar means field and Nath means Lord. While there is no mention of Kedarnath in Mahabharata it is mentioned for the first time in Skanda Puran where it is said to be the place where Shiva released the Ganga from his locks for the first time.
Kedarnath is a part of the Chota Chardham Yatra of Uttarakhand and also a part of the Panch Kedar pilgrimage sites. This temple is the highest (3583m) among the 12 Jyotirlingas. Its glory is also recited by the Tamil poets called Nayanars in their famous Thevarams. Adi Shankaracharya is said to have revived this temple along with many others like Badrinath. He also attained Mahasamadhi at Kedarnath. Behind the temple is the Samadhi mandir of Adi Shankaracharya. There are four temples around the Kedarnath temple – Tunganath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheshwar & Kalpeshwar which along with Kedarnath form the Panch-Kedar. The head priest of the Kedarnath temple belongs to the Veershaiva community of Karnataka.
There is no direct access to the temple by road. It can be reached by walking nearly 22kms uphill from Gaurikund. You can either walk up to the temple or hire a doli, mule or a pony to carry you there. The nearest airport is at Dehradun and the nearest railway station is at Rishikesh. You can visit Kedarnath as a part of the Chota Chardham Yatra covering Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath along with other major pilgrimage sites like Haridwar & Rishikesh.
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