Amidst the dramatic mountainscapes of the
majestic Kedarnath range stands one of the twelve ‘Jyotirlingas’ of Kedar or
Lord Shiva. Lying at an altitude of 3584 mts. on the head of river Mandakini,
the shrine of Kedarnath is amongst the holiest pilgrimages for the Hindus.
The origin of the revered temple can be found
in the great epic - Mahabharata. According to legend, the Pandavas sought the
blessings of Lord Shiva to atone their sins after the battle of Mahabharata.
Lord Shiva eluded them repeatedly and while fleeing took refuge at Kedarnath in
the form of a bull. On being followed, HE dived into the ground, leaving behind
HIS hump on the surface. This conical protrusion is worshipped as the idol in
the shrine.The remaining portions of Lord Shiva are worshipped at four other
places - the arms (bahu) at Tungnath, mouth (mukh) at Rudranath, navel (nabhi)
at Madmaheshwar and hair (jata) at Kalpeshwar. Together with Kedarnath, these
places are known as the Panch Kedar.
The lingam at Kedarnath is pyramidal, unlike
its usual form. A status of Nandi – the celestial bull stands at the entrance
of the temple and exquisitely carved images adorn the interiors of the temple.
During the winters, the shrine is submerged in
snow and hence is closed. The ideal time to visit is between May to October.
Kedarnath is reached through a 14 km. long trek from Gaurikund.
The present temple, built in 8th
century A.D. by Adi Guru Shankaracharya lies adjacent to the site of an ancient
temple built by Pandavas. The walls of the exquisitely architectured temple are
embellished with figures of deities and scenes from mythology. The temple has a
conical lingam - the main idol, a statue of Nandi - the celestial bull, a
‘garbha grah’ for assemblies of pilgrims and visitors. The temple is
believed to be more than 1000 years old.
Samadhi of Sri Adi
Behind the Kedarnath Temple lies the samadhi or
the final resting place of Adi Shankaracharya. It is believed, after
establishing the four maths in India, he went for his samadhi at an early
age of 32 years.