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A Himalayan Journey - Part III
Temples of the Himalayas

Guest writer K. Ram Kumar continues his illustrated journey through the Himalayas, visiting the ancient shrines at Badrinath, Kedarnath and more.  See also A Himalayan Journey - Part I and Part II

Kedarnath Temple is situated at 11500 ft above sea level in the Tehri-Garhwal range of Hills. Pilgrimage to this abode of Lord Shiva is considered to be the toughest, next only to Mount Kailash. Kedarnath  is also one of the 12 Jyothirlingams held in reverence. Adi Sankaracharya is said to have worshipped   Shiva here. The Tamil Saint Poets Thirugnansambandar and Sundarar have sung pathigams in praise of this deity.

(See Also: Abodes of Shiva, 12 Jyotirlinga Shrines of Shiva, Mount Kailash, All about Shiva)

Antiquity: The age of the temple is traced to Mahabharatha period. The original  structure is believed to have been built by Pandavas. Janameyjayan, son of Parikshit Maharaj, is said to have constructed the Mandap (Hall) before sanctum sanctorum.  The present structure is a result of renovations over a period of time.

This moderately sized temple consists of a sanctum and a hall  in front. Outside the temple, in the open sky, there is a majestic Nandi (Bull – vehicle of  Shiva) facing  Shiva.  Just at the entrance, there is   Vinayaka - with a human face in a posture of prayer. The mandap, houses the images of Pandavas and their wife Draupadi – original builders of the temple besides Krishna (mentor of Pandavas – a reincarnation of  Vishnu) and Kunti (mother of Pandavas). While Yudhistir, eldest of the Pandavs stands symbolising Dharma , Arjun is dressed for performing penance.  Others – Bhim, Nakul & Sahadev stand duly armed with their respective traditional arms.  

In addition, there is also a small bull and Swami Veerbhadra inside the temple. Just before the sanctum sanctorum, an image of KedarGauri , consort of  Shiva is located facing west. Shiva is worshipped in the form of a Shiva Lingam, facing South. There is also a small temple for  Bhairav, to the south of main temple, who is said to guard the Kedarnath temple when it is closed for worship during winter.




Legend associated with this temple: After winning the Kurukshetra war, Pandavas felt remorseful for having killed thousands of lives including those of their cousins. In order to seek salvation from the sins of war, they sought the advice of their mentor, Krishna.   Krishna advised them to worship ShivaPandavas searched for Lord Shiva in the Shivalik mountains  in the Tehri - Garhwal region.

Shiva led them to this site and here,   assumed the form of Bull and started grazing amongst the cattle. The Pandavas devised a ruse, to seek Shiva, who  had hidden himself amidst a flock of cattle.   At dusk, when the cattle were taken back to their shelters, Bhim – gigantic in stature , strongest and courageous of Pandavas stretched his legs across the mountains so that cattle could pass through his legs.

As suspected,  Shiva, in bull form refused to do so and instead sank himself into the earth. Realising quickly that this was  the play of  Shiva, Bhim bent downwards and could catch hold of the hump (back portion of the bull).   Shiva, pleased with the determination of Pandavas, blessed them and granted them salvation from their sins. The hump, in conical form, is worshipped as  Shiva (in the form of a Shivalingam).

Parvathi is also believed to have performed penance here to become integral part of Lord Shiva – Ardhanareeswar Swaroopam or form.

(see also Tiruchengode Ardhanareeswarar Temple)


On the background to this temple is Chaugambika Hills (called as Velliangiri in Tamil) – fully snow clad peaks. These range of mountains are believed to be the beginning of Himalayas, where Mount Kailash is situated. It is also believed to be the path towards Swarg (Heaven). Pandavas are believed to have attempted to go to Heaven through this route.  Legend has it that while all died enroute, only Yudhistir – representing the symbol of Dharma and his dog managed  to reach Heaven in the human form.

Being in the Himalayan range, winter is severe and no continuous habitation is possible at Kedar. Hence the worship is restricted to six months. The temple is closed on the first day of Kartik (Oct- Nov) and reopened in Vaisakh (Apr-May). During the period of closure, the temple remains submerged in snow and regular poojas are conducted at Ukkhimath. It is believed that during winter, Divine beings perform poojas to Lord Shiva as is being done by Humans- earthlings during summer.



On the way to the temple is "Uthank Kund" – a perennial water source. It is believed that drinking this water as prasad from this Kund, will only complete worship at Kedar. Similar to Badrinath, Adi Sankara is said to have worshipped here and formulated the worship protocols. It is further said that Adi Sankara attained Samadhi here (no authentic proof is available) and to symbolise this is the Samadhi (final resting-place) located behind the Kedarnath temple. As prescribed by Adi Sankara, the Chief Priest of this temple is a person from Kannadiga Lingayat community (from the State of Karnataka). The Chief Priest is required to be strict bachelor.

Worship Protocols:

The services offered to Lord Shiva include Suprabadh (at 7 am) followed by Balbhog, Mahaabishek, Rudrahishek and Ashotar in the morning and in the evening Shiv Ashotatram, Sahasranamam and other archanas and in the end Ekantha Seva & Aarthi at 8 pm.

When the temple is opened in the morning, devotees are allowed to enter the sanctum  to have darshan at close quarters and also personally perform  poojas. Unlike in most of the temples, devotees are allowed to touch the presiding deity and offer prayers here. It is believed that touching the idol of Lord Shiva by hand and placing one’s head on the lingam, in reverence, enables one to achieve Mukthi (salvation) from the sins of living, and liberates one from the cycles of birth and rebirth.

Annual festivals celebrated include Badri-Kedar Utsav and Doli Yatra of   Kedarnath.

Associated Temples

Panch Kedar

When  Shiva sank himself into the earth to escape from Pandavas, Bhim managed to hold on to the hump. However, it is believed that different parts of the bull emerged at five different places (including Kedar) as described in Padma Purana. The mythological description of these Kedars are explained below:

  1. Kedarnath : The hump or the hinder part of the bull which was held by Bhim is worshipped as Lord Shiva.
  2. Maddhyamaheshvra : Nabhi or the middle-part of the bull is worshipped as Lord Shiva. This is located at 21 kms from Ukhimath – the abode for Lord Kedarnath during winter.
  3. Tungnath : The Bahu or hand of the bull is worshipped here as Lord Shiva. It is located enroute to Badrinath and is 37 kms from Ukhimath, on a mountain in between Chamouli and Ukkhimath.
  4. Rudranath: The Mukh or the mouth of the bull is worshipped as Lord Shiva here. It is about 19 kms from Mandal Chatti.
  5. Kalpeshwar : The Jata or the hair of the head of bull is worshipped as Lord Shiva. This place is located about 8.7 kms from Helang, on the other side of the river Alaknanda.

TRIYUGINARAYAN : This is a mythological venue, at a distance of 25 kms from Kedar and at a short trek of 5 kms from Sonprayag. It is believed that the wedding of  Shiva with   Parvathi was solemnised here. An eternal flame, said to be   a witness for the above wedding, burns in front of the temple even today.

Access and Accommodation: Upto Gaurikund,(14 kms from Kedar) the place is accessible by motorable roads. Regular bus services and private taxies ply in this route. However the route is prone to landslides and is difficult to navigate. Thus, any travel during rainy season should be completely avoided. State road authorities maintain this road. On the entire route, while mountains follow on the one side, River Mandakini flows in full form on the other side.

The stretch of 14 kms from Gaurikund to Kedar is very difficult to trek and can covered only by foot or on ponies (mules) or dolies (palanquin bearers). Nature’s beauty in the entire route from Rishikesh to Kedar, will be a treat to watch and will be an experience of different kind which can not be explained.

The nearest airport is Dehradun – Jolly Grant AirStrip and is located at a distance of 239 kms. Nearest railhead is situated at Rishikesh – 221 kms from Kedar (of which 207 kms is motorable upto Gaurikund).

During summer, postal and banking facilities are available at Kedar. There is also a small Government Dispensary at Kedar.

Like Badri, non-vegetarian food and consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited at Kedar. Local eateries / Dhabhas offering vegetarian food are available.

Private Hotels, Dharmasalas and Guest House maintained by the Temple Committee are available for stay.