Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Kedarnath

Kedarnath (केदारनाथ) is one of the holiest Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located atop the Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini river in Kedarnath, Uttarakhand in India. Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April to Kartik Purnima (the autumn full moon). During the winters, the murtis (idols) from Kedarnath temple are brought to Ukhimath and worshipped there for six months. In this region Lord Shiva is worshipped as Kedarnath, the 'Lord of Kedar Khand', the historical name of the region. This temple is a Paadal Petra Sthalam (the 275 Holy Abodes of Shiva on the continent), praised by the Tamil Nayanars saints in the 6th-9th century.
The temple is not directly accessible by road and has to be reached by a 14 km uphill trek from Gaurikund . The temple is believed to have been built by Adi Sankaracharya and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva. The older temple existed from the times of Mahabharata, when the Pandavas are supposed to have pleased Shiva by doing penance in Kedarnath.
LEGEND:
As per Shiv Mahapuran, once Brahma and Vishnu had an argument in terms of supremacy of creation. To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. Vishnu and Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either direction. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat. Shiva appeared as a second pillar of light and cursed Brahma that he would have no place in ceremonies while Vishnu would be worshipped till the end of eternity. The jyotirlinga is the supreme partless reality, out of which Shiva partly appears. The jyothirlinga shrines thus are places where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light. Originally there were believed to be 64 jyothirlingas while 12 of them are considered to be very auspicious and holy. Each of the twelve jyothirlinga sites takes the name of the presiding deity - each considered different manifestation of Shiva. At all these sites, the primary image is lingam representing the beginning less and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva. The twelve jyothirlinga are Somnath in Gujarat, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwar at Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnath in Uttarakhand in Himalayas, Bhimashankar in Maharastra, Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Triambakeshwar at Nasik in Maharastra, Vaidyanath at Deogarh in Jharkand, Nageswar at Dwarka in Gujarat, Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharastra




The actual temple is an impressive stone edifice of unknown date. During the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, the kith and kin of the Pandavas were killed; in order to absolve themselves of this sin, the Pandavas undertook 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.”
From Guptakashi (Rudraprayag), the Pandavas went ahead till 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 Bheema 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.
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”.

The other parts of buffalo are worshipped at different places and together are known as Panch Kedar:- his bahu (arm) was spotted at Tungnath, his head surfaced at Rudranath, the stomach and navel were traced at Madhyamaheswar and his jata (tress) was divined at Kalpeshwar.









The five Kedar lies in the valleys between the rivers Bhagirathi and Alaknanda.
List of Panch Kedar Temples



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 place, Dharmaraj installed a Shiva Linga, which is the size of the thumb.
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 their sorrows. Badri-Keshwar’s darshan rids one of the material ties. Whoever gives Dan (alms) at Kedareshwar, just gets assimilated into Shivaroopa.
The temple opens on Akshaya Tritiya (April end or first week of May) and closes on Bhai Duj (October end or 1st week of November) due to heavy snowfall and extreme cold weather during winter. Gaurikhund is 75 km from Rudraprayag. In between Rudraprayag and Kedarnath there are several places of pilgrimage such as Agastyamuni, Ukhimath, Phauli- Pasalat Devi Maa, Bamsu (Lamgoundi) Vanasur, Maa Kali at Kalimath, Trijugi Narayan (7 km from Son Prayag) (Where Lord Shankar got married to Goddess Parwati from when the fire of hawan kund is still alive) and Kashi Vishwanath at Guptakashi.
Udar Kund is located here. It is written in Kedar Khand of Shiv Mahapuran that the water of Udak Kund is mixture of all the 5 Oceans and always remain fresh even when kept for many years. The holy water of Udak Kund is used for purification rituals. Hans Kund, Bharo Nath, Navdurga Mandir, Shankaracharya Samadhi, Ishaneswar Mahadev Temple, Ret Kund, Panch Ganga Sangam, Chaurwari Taal now known as Gandhi Sarowar, Bashuki Taal are also places to visit here. There are several guest houses in Kedarnath with reasonable rates.
Temple and significance
As one enters the main temple, the first hall contains statues of the five Pandava brothers, Lord Krishna, Nandi, the vehicle of Shiva and Virabhadra, one of the greatest guards of Shiva. An unusual feature of the temple is the head of a man carved in the triangular stone fascia of the temple. Such a head is seen carved in another temple nearby constructed on the site where the marriage of Shiva and Parvati was held.
Behind the temple is the samādhi mandir of Adi Sankara.
Tamil saints Nayanars of 1st century like Sundarar and Sambanthar praised the deity in their hymns famous by the name of Tevaram. Thiruk Kedaram - by Thirugnana Sambandar
Head Priest
The head priest (Rawal) of the Kedarnath temple belongs to the Lingayath community of South India. However, unlike in Badrinath temple, the Rawal of Kedarnath temple does not perform the pujas. The pujas are carried out by Rawal's assistants on his instructions. The Rawal moves along with the deity to Ukhimath during the winter season. The present Rawal of Kedarnath temple is Shri Bhima Shankar Ling Shivacharya
How to Reach Kedarnath
Rail: Railhead at Rishikesh, 221 km away of which 207 km is by road and the rest 14 km is on foot.
Road: Kedarnath is approachable on footfrom Gaurikund, which is connected by road with Rishikesh, Kotdwara, Dehradun, Haridwar and other important hill stations of Garhwal and Kumaon Hills.
Bus service is available at Rishikesh, Haridwar and Kotdwara for Gaurikund. During Yatra season, some special Yatra services are also arranged to Gaurikund.
Distance from Rishikesh to kedarnath 223 km, via Deoprayag 70 km, Srinagar 35 km, Rudraprayag 34 km, Tilwara 9 km, Agastyamuni 10 km, Kund 15 km, Sonprayag 3 km Gaurikund 5 km, Rambara 7 km, Garurchatti 4 km, Sri Kedarnath 3 km.
Transport: Buses, private taxies and other light vehicles also ply between Rishikesh and Garikund-Badrinath and back. The charges are not fixed.
Horses, Dandies and Ponies are available at Gaurikund for going and carrying luggage to Kedarnath.
 Air: Jolly grant (Dehradun)-239 km away from Kedarnath of which 225 km is by road and rest 14 km is on foot.
Pawanhans and Prabhatam Aviation offers helicopter packages to Kedarnath from Phata and Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. Following are the different packages and airfare of helicopter services to Kedarnath Dham.
1. Rs 6,990/- per person which includes return helicopter fare from Phata helipad to Shri Kedarnath Dhaam.
2. Rs 3,990 per person which includes one way helicopter fare.
Special Package (Occasional Trip - subject to prior confirmation):
1. Rishikesh to Phata : Rs 5,100/- per person per trip.
2. Phata to Rishikesh : Rs 5,100/- per person per trip.











EXCURSIONS NEAR KEDARNATH

Chorabari (Gandhi Sarovar) (2 kms.)
A small lake from where Yudhishthir, the eldest of the Pandavas, is believed to have departed to heaven. The floating ice on the sparkling waters of the lake is a fascinating sight.

Vasuki Tal (6 kms.)

A picturesque lake, 4,135 mts. above sea level is encircled by lofty mountains and offers a commanding view of the Chaukhamba peaks.

Bhairav Nath Temple(1 KM)

To the south of the main temple stands the temple of God Bhairav, the deity who guards the Kedarnath Temple in winter, when it is closed due to severe winter conditions.

Gaurikund (14 kms.)

The trekking base to Kedarnath. A temple dedicated to Gauri and thermal springs of medicinal value are noteworthy.Famous for natural hot water leak .

Sonprayag (20 kms.)

The confluence of Son Ganga and Mandakini rivers. The road to Triyuginarayan diverts from here.

Triyuginarayan (25 kms.)

25 km. the mythological venue where the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati was solemnized. It is a short trek of 5 km from Son Prayag. An eternal flame, which is said to have been the witness to the marriage, burns in front of the temple even today.

Munkatiya(19 Km)

Munkatiya is a place nearby Sonprayag(3 KM) , Here is a temple of Lord Gamesha. Munkatiya is a only place where is a idol of Lord Ganesha with head .

Guptkashi (49 kms.)

The temples of Ardhnarishwar and Vishwanath are noteworthy. This is a beautiful hill station of Uttarakhand

Ukshimath (60 kms)

Winter home of the deity of the Kedarnath Temple and the seat of the Rawal of Kedarnath Dham. This is known as Ushamath related to lord Shri Kishna’s Granddaughter Usha and Banasur Grandson Anirudh wedding place . Ukhimath famous for that natural beauty , this is a beautiful hill station of Uttarakhand.

Agastyamuni (73 kms.)

Famous for the temple dedicated to sage Agastya Here you can find direct Kedar Darshan by Helicopter of Pawanhans Company.

Chopta Tungnath(83 Kms.)

Chopta is called mini Switzerland or Switzerland of Uttarakhand , It is famous for his natural beauty and snow capped mountain and Bugyal (Green Grass land).

Chandrashila (93 kms.)

The Chandrashila peak provides a rare view of snow-capped peaks. The rhododendron Forests and alpine meadows dominate the trek fromTungnath to Chandrashila.

Deoria Tal (68 kms.)

Sari village is the last bus terminus on Chopta-Ukhimath road from where a 2 kms. trek leads to Deoria Tal. This beautiful lake at an altitude of 2,438 mts. gives the spectacular reflection of snow capped peaks of Chaukhamba in the lake water. Ideal spot for angling and bird watching.