One of the holiest pilgrimages for the Hindus, Kedarnath Temple Jyotirlinga is located in the picturesque surroundings of Rudra Himalaya Range at a height of 12000 feet on a mountain named Kedar. Near Kedarnath is the source of the river Mandakini that joins Alakananda at Rudraprayag. This place is approximately 150 miles away from Hardwar and 132 miles north of Hrishikesh and is accessible by foot.
The temple at Kedarnath enshrining the Jyotirlingam of Shiva opens only
6 months a year (April-November) when the sun enters the zodiac sign of
Aries and it is closed when the sun enters Scorpio. The priests then go
to Ukhimath, where the worship of Kedareshwara is continued during the
Tradition has it that when undertaking Kedarnath Yatra pilgrims first
visit Yamunotri and Gangotri and bring with them the holy waters from
the sources of the rivers Yamuna and Ganga and offer abhishekams to
Kedareshwara. The traditional pilgrim route is Haridwar - Rishikesh -
Devaprayag - Tehri - Dharasu - Yamunotri - Uttar Kashi - Gangotri -
Triyugnarayan - Gowrikund and Kedarnath. The alternative route to Kedar
from Rishikesh is via Devprayag, Srinagar, Rudraprayag and Ukhimath.
Legend Behind Kedarnath Temple
Legend goes that Nara and Narayana - two incarnations of Vishnu
performed severe penance in Badrikashraya of Bharat Khand, in front of a
Shivalingam fashioned out of earth. Pleased with their devotion, Lord
Shiva appeared in front of them and said that they may ask for a boon.
Nar and Narayan requested Shiva to take up a permanent abode as a
Jyotirlingam at Kedarnath so that all people who worship Shiva shall be
freed from their miseries.
According to yet another popular legend related to Kedar Temple,
Goddess Parvati worshipped Kedareshwar to unite with Shiva as
Ardhanareeswarar. Besides, the Pandavas are believed to have visited
this area several times. Arjuna is believed to have come here to pray to
Shiva to obtain the coveted Pasupataastra. The other Pandavas are
believed to have come here in search of him, where Draupadi came across
the heavenly lotus Kalyana Saugandikam, and requested Bhima to bring
here some more of the same. It was during his venturing out to seek
these flowers that Bhima met Hanumaan.
Significance of Kedarnath Temple
Located in the lofty Himalayas, Kedarnath Temple is one of the best
known Shivasthalams in India and is considered to be one of the most
sacred pilgrimage centers of the country. It is believed that by praying
to Kedareshwar, one can get all his desires fulfilled. Importance of the
shrine can be further understood from the beliefs that Upamanyu prayed
to Lord Shiva in this place in Satayuga while in Dwapar, the Pandavas
worshipped Lord Shiva here. Even the spiritual leader Adi Sankaracharya
is closely associated with Kedarnath.
Structure of Kedarnath Temple
Kedarnath Shrine is scenically placed amidst the lofty, snow - covered
mountains and grassy meadows covering the valleys. Immediately behind
the temple is the high Keadardome peak, which can be sighted from great
distances. It is believed that the temple of Kedarnath was constructed
by the Pandavas. At the entrance of the temple is the statue of Nandi,
the divine bull of Shiva. Walls inside the temple are exquisitely carved
with images. The revered Shiva Lingam housed in the temple is in the
unusual pyramidal form.