Pankajnath Tiwari :-
Kedarnath is a town located in the Rudraprayag district of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is situated in the Himalayas at an elevation of about 3,583 meters (11,755 feet) above sea level. Kedarnath is renowned for its ancient temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, which is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas (divine representations of Lord Shiva) in India.
The Kedarnath Temple holds great religious significance for Hindus and attracts thousands of pilgrims each year. The temple is believed to have been built by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD and is surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty, with snow-covered peaks and lush green valleys.
The pilgrimage to Kedarnath is a challenging journey, requiring a trek of approximately 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Gaurikund, the last motorable point. Devotees have to traverse steep paths and rugged terrain to reach the temple. However, the spiritual experience and the awe-inspiring landscape make it a popular destination for those seeking spiritual solace and adventure.
In 2013, Kedarnath faced a severe natural disaster when heavy rainfall and floods caused extensive damage to the town and the temple. The floods resulted in the loss of many lives and caused significant destruction in the region. However, efforts have been made to restore and rebuild the area, and the temple has been reopened for devotees.
Mythological Significance: According to Hindu mythology, Kedarnath is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva took refuge after the Kurukshetra war in the Mahabharata. It is also said to be the spot where Lord Shiva granted a boon to the Pandavas, allowing them to attain salvation.
Surrounding Scenic Beauty: Kedarnath is nestled amidst the majestic peaks of the Garhwal Himalayas, offering breathtaking views of snow-capped mountains, including Kedarnath peak, Kedar Dome, and Bharatekuntha. The region is also dotted with picturesque meadows, glaciers, and the Mandakini River flowing nearby, enhancing the overall natural beauty of the place.
Other Attractions: Apart from the Kedarnath Temple, the town and its surroundings have other attractions worth exploring. These include Bhairavnath Temple, which is dedicated to the fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva, and Vasuki Tal, a glacial lake located at an altitude of 4,135 meters (13,566 feet), known for its serene beauty.
Trekking Opportunities: Kedarnath serves as a base for various trekking routes in the region. One of the popular treks is the Kedarnath Vasuki Tal Trek, which takes you to the beautiful Vasuki Tal lake. The trek offers a chance to witness stunning landscapes and experience the adventure of trekking in the Himalayas.
Char Dham Yatra: Kedarnath is one of the four sacred sites of the Char Dham Yatra, which also includes Badrinath, Yamunotri, and Gangotri. The Char Dham Yatra is a significant pilgrimage journey for Hindus, believed to wash away sins and lead to spiritual liberation.
Rebuilding Efforts: After the devastating floods in 2013, extensive reconstruction and restoration work has been undertaken in Kedarnath. The temple premises have been reconstructed, and the town’s infrastructure has been improved to ensure the safety and comfort of pilgrims.
Accessibility: The nearest airport to Kedarnath is Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, which is approximately 238 kilometers (148 miles) away. The closest railway station is Rishikesh, located about 216 kilometers (134 miles) from Kedarnath. From these points, one can travel by road to reach Gaurikund, the starting point of the trek to Kedarnath.
Panch Kedar: Kedarnath is part of the Panch Kedar pilgrimage circuit, which consists of five sacred temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The other four temples in the circuit are Tungnath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheshwar, and Kalpeshwar. Pilgrims often undertake the Panch Kedar Yatra, visiting all five temples to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva.
The Mystical “Bhim Shila”: On the trek to Kedarnath, there is a large rock known as the “Bhim Shila.” According to legends, it is believed to have been placed by Bhima, one of the Pandava brothers from the Mahabharata, to rest and gain strength during their journey to heaven. Devotees often stop at this rock to pay homage and take a moment to rest.
Adi Shankaracharya Samadhi: Near the Kedarnath Temple, there is a samadhi (final resting place) dedicated to Adi Shankaracharya, the renowned philosopher and theologian who is credited with establishing the Char Dham pilgrimage sites. The samadhi is a revered spot and holds significance for devotees.
Annual Closing and Reopening Ceremony: Due to the extreme weather conditions in the region, the Kedarnath Temple remains open to devotees only for a part of the year. The temple doors are closed during the winter months (generally November/December) and reopened in late April or early May. The closing and reopening ceremonies are grand events attended by priests, devotees, and local communities, adding a festive atmosphere to the pilgrimage.
Accommodation and Facilities: Along the trekking route and in Kedarnath town, there are several accommodations available for pilgrims, ranging from guesthouses to tented camps. Basic facilities such as food, water, and medical services are also provided to ensure the well-being of visitors during their stay.
Eco-friendly Initiatives: In recent years, there has been a growing focus on eco-friendly practices in Kedarnath to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the region. Measures such as waste management, plastic-free zones, and sustainable tourism practices are being implemented to protect the natural environment and maintain the sanctity of the pilgrimage site.
Cultural Significance: Kedarnath is not only a place of religious importance but also holds cultural significance. The region is inhabited by the Garhwali people, who have a rich cultural heritage and traditional customs. Visitors have the opportunity to witness and experience the local culture, music, dance, and cuisine during their visit to Kedarnath.
Adventure Activities: Besides the spiritual aspect, Kedarnath and its surroundings offer various adventure activities for enthusiasts. These include trekking, camping, and mountaineering opportunities in the picturesque Himalayan landscape. It is a paradise for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike.
Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary: The region around Kedarnath is home to the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary, which covers an area of about 975 square kilometers (376 square miles). The sanctuary is known for its diverse flora and fauna, including Himalayan black bears, musk deer, snow leopards, and various species of birds. Nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts can explore the sanctuary through guided tours and enjoy the rich biodiversity of the area.
Festivals and Celebrations: Kedarnath is a place where several festivals and celebrations take place, adding a festive vibe to the atmosphere. Maha Shivaratri, the great night of Lord Shiva, is celebrated with great devotion and fervor. During this time, the temple and the town are adorned with lights and decorations, and devotees gather to offer prayers and seek blessings.
Helicopter Services: For those who have physical limitations or time constraints, helicopter services are available to reach Kedarnath. Helicopter rides provide a quicker and more convenient way to access the temple. However, it’s important to note that these services are subject to weather conditions and availability.
Meditation and Yoga: The serene and tranquil environment of Kedarnath makes it an ideal place for meditation and yoga practices. Many visitors, including spiritual seekers and yoga enthusiasts, choose to spend time in solitude, connecting with nature and exploring their inner selves amidst the serene surroundings.
Local Cuisine: Kedarnath offers a taste of authentic Garhwali cuisine, which is known for its simplicity and use of locally sourced ingredients. Some popular dishes include chainsoo (a black gram curry), mandua ki roti (finger millet bread), and aloo ke gutke (potato stir-fry). Local tea, known as “Kadha,” made with herbs and spices, is also a favorite among visitors.
Winter Trekking: While the temple remains closed during the winter season, the surrounding area of Kedarnath becomes a popular destination for winter trekking enthusiasts. The snow-covered landscapes and frozen water bodies offer a unique and enchanting experience for trekkers who venture into the region during this time.
Photography and Filming: Kedarnath’s picturesque landscapes, including snow-clad peaks, gushing rivers, and lush meadows, make it a photographer’s delight. Many photographers and filmmakers visit Kedarnath to capture its beauty and document the spiritual essence of the place.
Traditional Crafts: The artisans and craftsmen in the Kedarnath region are known for their skills in creating beautiful handicrafts and souvenirs. Visitors can find locally made items such as woolen garments, wooden artifacts, and religious mementos, which serve as cherished reminders of their visit to Kedarnath.