Kedarnath Temple

kedarnath temple


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Kedarnath Temple

Kedarnath temple is located in Rudraprayag , in the state of Uttarkhand,India is dedicated to Lord Shiva. When it comes to Lord Shiva, there are several legends associated with him. There are so many folk tales about when Lord Shiva appeared on the Earth. All such places, where Lord Shiva appeared are now important places of worship. There are 12 places in India, where Lord Shiva appeared as a very big and bright column of light, just like a shivling made of light. These were given the name of ‘Jyotirlings’, where ‘jyoti’ means light and ling means column. Kedarnath temple is one of these 12 Jyotirlings.

Located at: Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand)
Presiding Deity: Lord Shiva
Height: 3,583 meters (11,755 feet)
Best months to visit: April to October

Kedarnath Temple Pilgrimage

One of the 4 pilgrimage centers of the ‘Chhota Chaar Dhaam’ or ‘Himalayan Chaar Dhaam Yatra “, Kedarnath is a very important and sacred place for Hindus all over the world. It is one among the 12 Jyotirlings in India, and the only one in Uttarakhand. The name “Kedarnath” means “the lord of the field”: it derives from the Sanskrit words kedara (“field”) and natha (“lord”). Hence Kedarnath means ‘the lord of the field’. 

The temple, at a height of 3,583 m (11,755 ft), 223 km (139 mi) is on the shores of Mandakini river, a tributary of Ganga, is a stone edifice of unknown date. It is believed that Kedarnath was under snow for almost 400 years before it was discovered. It is not certain who built the original Kedarnath temple and when. The text Kashi Kedara Mahatmya states that it is so called because “the crop of Moksha” grows here.

Kedarnath Temple Opening

The opening date and time of Kedarnath Temple is dependendent on the auspicious day of Akshay Tritya and declared on Maha Shiva Ratri. The date of opening of Kedarnath shrine is decided by priests in Ukhimath’s Omkareshwar Temple after calculation of Panchang. According to the calculations, the doors of the holy temple will be opened on 17 May 2021 in the morning with special Pooja in the temple. Opening Date of Kedarnath Dham has beeen declared on Mahashivratri (11 Mar 2021).

The closing date of Kedarnath is fixed and on the day Bhai Dooj (i.e after Diwali, November) Kedarnath temple will be closed after Pooja archana in morning.

During Winters starting from the month of of November, there is heavy snowfall in Kedarnath and all routes are closed. The shrine is also closed for 6 months. The holy statue of Lord Shiva, is shifted from Garhwal (Kedarkhand) to Ukhimath, and is reinstated at Kedarnath, in the first week of May.

It is at this time, that the doors of the temple are thrown open to pilgrims, who gather from all parts of India, for a holy pilgrimage. The shrine closes on the week of Kartik, on the day of Bhai Dooj (October-November) and reopens after Akshay Tritya (April-May) every year. During its closure the shrine is submerged in snow and prayers and puja are performed at Ukhimath.

Where is Kedarnath Temple Located?

This Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva is located at Rudraprayag, on the Garhwal Himalayan range in the state of Uttarakhand. The temple is located near a very holy river, named Mandakini. The temple is located on a hill is not directly accessible by train, bus, or flight. Devotees have to walk a 16 km uphill track from Gaurikund to the temple to get a darshan of Lord Shiva. Though there are facilities of ‘pony ‘and ‘manchan’ for people who have difficulty in walking.

The temple is located at a height of 3,583 meters (11,755 feet) above sea level on the banks of another tributary river of Ganga, Mandakini. Among all the 12 Jyotirlings, this is situated at the highest altitude.

Kedaranath Temple
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Kedarnath Temple History:

Though it is not certain, when was the temple built, and by whom, but according to one popular legend, the temple was initially built in the ‘by the Pandavas towards the end of the Dwaapar yug. It is believed that Lord Shiva agreed to live here at the request of two brothers, ‘Nar’ and “Narayan’, who are incarnations of Lord Vishnu and are believed to be under penance in this area.

While they were meditating, a shivling emerged out of the Earth. Both brothers started worshipping the shivling. Lord Shiva was pleased with their devotion and asked them to seek a boon. The two brothers requested Lord Shiva to permanently reside here in the form of a Jyotirling so that the people who come here and worship Lord Shiva would get rid of all their miseries.

As per another legend, after winning the war of Kurukshetra against the Kauravs, sage Vyasa advised the Pandavas to visit this place and seek forgiveness from Lord Shiva for killing their cousins in the war. However, Lord Shiva was in no mood to forgive them, so he disguised himself as a bull and left for the Himalaya region, called Gupt Kashi (Secret Kashi). The Pandavas noticed it and tried to pull the bull by its tail and hind legs. But the bull disappeared into the ground, and re-appeared later in his original self at 5 places. The exact place, where he disappeared in the ground is called Kedarnath. Later he appeared here in the form of the hump, which is still visible in the form of a conical rock.

The remaining parts of Lord Shiva’s body appeared at four other locations, and are worshipped there as his manifestations there. His arms appeared at Tungnath, the face at Rudranath, his belly at Madmaheshwar, and his jataa (hair locks) appeared at Kalpeshwar. As a mark of gratitude for Lord Shiva, the Pandavas built temples at all these 5 places. These 5 places are collectively called “Panch Kedars” (5 Kedars).

The Mahabharata does not mention any place called Kedarnath. Incidently one of the earliest references to Kedarnath occur in the Skanda Purana (c. 7th-8th century), which contains a story describing the origin of the  Ganga River. The text names Kedara (Kedarnath) as the place where Shiva released the holy water from his matted long hair.

Literary Mention of the temple

Though accordingly to the above legend, the Kedarnath temple was built by Pandavas, but there is no mention of Kedarnath in the entire Mahabharata epic.

One of the earliest references to Kedarnath is given in the ‘Skanda Pooran’ (c. 7th-8th century), which mentions a legend related to the descent of River Ganga, from heaven to Earth. When the Ganga was descending on Earth, her force was too much for Earth to withstand. Then Lord Shiva came in her way and trapped Ganga in his thick matted hair. The place, where he released the holy water of Ganga, is known as Kedarnath.
It is believed that the 8th-century philosopher from south India ‘Adi Shankaracharya’ left his physical form here.

According to a tradition recorded by the English mountaineer Eric Shipton (1926), “many hundreds of years ago” one priest used to hold services at both the Kedarnath and Badrinath temples, travelling between the two places daily.

Temples of Panch Kedars

Along with the main Kedarnath temple, there are 4 other important, which are also called ‘Kedars’. Collectively these 5 temples are called ‘Panch Kedars’. These 5 temples are Kedarnath, Tungnath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheshwar, and Kalpeshwar.

Inside Kedarnath Temple

The main temple is the Kedarnath. Here Lord Shiva is present in the form of a ‘lingam’, in an irregular shape. The lingam has a pedestal measuring 3.6 meters (12 feet) in circumference and 3.6 m (12 feet) in height. In addition to the main temple, there is a small pillared hall in front of the temple. This hall has images of Goddess Parvati and the 5 Pandav brothers.

The first hall inside Kedarnath Temple contains statues of the 5 Pandav brothers, Lord Krishna, Nandi, (the bull, mythologically believed to be Shiva’s vehicle), Virbhadra (one of the guards of Lord Shiva). There are some more statues, which include Draupadi, the queen of Pandavas, and some other Hindu deities. An unusual feature of this temple is the head of a man carved in the triangular stone lingam.

Another such head is seen in another temple nearby at the site where Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati. It was the great saint from the South, Adi Shankara, who stayed here for 6 years and revived this temple, along with Badrinath and other temples of this region. It is believed that he left his physical form and attained ‘maha-samaadhi’ at Kedarnath. Just behind the Kedarnath temple, there is a temple, where he took the samaadhi. This temple is called ‘Samaadhi Mandir’.

In addition to these Panch Kedars, there is one more important temple, about which not many people know. At a little distance away from Kedarnath, there is the Bhairon Nath Temple. Lord Bhairon (commonly referred to as Bhairon Baba) is believed to be the guardian of the Kedarnathji. The belief is that Bhairon Baba guards the temple, and keeps all evil forces away, while the doors of the temple are closed during winters. This is why; a visit to this temple is an important part of the rituals, both during the opening and closing of Kedarnath.

Near Kedarnath, there is a mountain, from where the Pandavas are believed to have gone to heaven. This path is called ‘Swargarohini’ (meaning passage to heaven). This is located slightly off Badrinath. When the Pandavas were leaving for heaven, one of Yudhishthirs’s (the eldest of the Pandav brothers) fingers fell on the earth. Yudhishthir decided to install a Shiv Linga at that very place. So, he installed a Shivaling, about the size of the thumb.

Priests at Kedarnath:

Just like Badrinath, at Kedarnath also, the head priests are called “Rawal”, who come from the ‘Veershaiva’ brahmin community belonging to Karnataka in South India. However, unlike the Badrinath temple, the head priest in Kedarnath does not perform the Puja himself. He only instructs, and his assistants perform the puja ritual. When the doors of the Kedarnath temple are closed during winters, the Raval moves with the deity to Ukhimath, where the deity is worshipped during the winter season.

In all, there are 5 main priests for the Kedarnath temple. These 5 main priests become the head priests for one year on a rotation basis. Unlike Badrinath, where the priests cannot marry and have to practice bachelorhood, the priests a Kedarnath are allowed to marry.

kedarnath temple pilgirmage

 Pujas at Kedarnath Temple: 

The various Pujas performed at the Kedarnath temple are – Abhishek Puja (Bandhan), Akhand Jyoti (Daily), Akhand Jyoti (annual), Bal Bhog (Bandhan), Bhairav Pujan Bhaint, Nitya Niyam Bhog of Shri Kedarnath Ji (daily), Nitya Niyam Bhog of Shri Kedarnath Ji & his Subordinates (daily), Yagya Havan (daily afternoon), Laghu Rudrabhishek Puja, Maha-Abhishek Puja (Bandhan), Mahabhog (Bandhan).

Normal Bhog Puja Daily (Through Chief Priest), Shiv Ashtottari Path, Shiv Mahimnstotra Path, Shiv Namawali Path, Shiv Prakshmapann Stotra, Shiv Sahstranam Stotra, Shiv Samadhi Poojan (at the time of closing the doors), Shiv Taandav Stotra, Shravani Poornima Annkut, Sodasopachar Puja (Bandhan), Special Bhog Puja Daily (Through Chief Priest), Uttam Bhog Puja Daily (Through Chief Priest)

Best time to visit Kedarnath:

Due to extreme weather; the doors of the Kedarnath temple are closed during the winters. This happens around November. The idol of Lord Shiva is moved to Ukhimath, where the idol is worshipped for the next 6 months. The temple opens again in April. The idol is again taken to Kedarnath, where after a grand opening ceremony; devotees are able to have a darshan of the Lord. So, the best time to visit Kedarnath is during the summers, from April to October.

How to reach Kedarnath?

  • By Air: The nearest airport to Kedarnath is Jolly Grant Airport at Dehradun, which is at a distance of 239 km.  From here one can easily get a taxi to reach Gaurikund. Dehradun airport has regular flights from Delhi. 
  • By Train: The nearest railway station is Rishikesh, which is 221 km away from Gaurikund. There are regular trains to Rishikesh. Regular taxi and bus services are available from Rishikesh to Gaurikund
  • By Road: Buses and taxis are easily available to Gaurikund from major destinations of Uttarakhand. The nearest cities are Haridwar (123 km), Rishikesh (223 km), Dehradun (221 km), Chandigarh (387 km), and Delhi (458 km)

In all these cases, the last motorable point is Gaurikund. The remaining journey of 16 km to Kedarnath has to be covered on foot. 




Q. 1: What is the meaning of Kedarnath?
Ans: Kedarnath means ‘the lord of the field’.

Q. 2: Can we reach Kedarnath directly?
Ans: No, the last motorable point is Gaurikund. The remaining journey of 16 km to Kedarnath has to be covered on foot.

Q. 3: How much is the walk to Kedarnath?
Ans: 16 km

Q. 4: What is the last motorable point to Kedarnath?
Ans: Gaurikund

Q. 5: What are Panch Kedars?
Ans: Lord Shiva appeared in this Kedarnath in the form of the hump. His remaining parts at four other locations – arms appeared at Tungnath, face at Rudranath, his belly at Madmaheshwar, and his jataa (locks) at Kalpeshwar. Lord Shiva is worshipped at all these places, which are collectively called “Panch Kedars” (5 Kedars).

Q.6. What is the history of Kedarnath Temple?

The history of the temple according to popular legends dates back to the Dwapar Yug and according to legend, it was by the Pandavas. It is believed that 2 brothers medidated here and a shivling emerged . The 2 brothers requested Lord Shiva to permanently reside her in the form of a Jyotirling. There are however other legends associated with this place.

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