Kedarnath Kedarnath is on the bank of the Mandakini River between Gangotri and Badrinath. As the crow flies Kedarnath is only 42km from Badrinath. Over 100,000 pilgrims come here each year. It is believed that Sankaracharya passed away here about 820 AD. Kedareswar Siva is the presiding deity. Behind the Kedarnath temple is an impressive mountain range, with the beautiful Kedarnath Mountain (6,970m). Kedarnath Temple This Lord Siva temple at Kedarnath is said to have been built by the Pandavas to atone for their sins procured during the Kurukshetra war. It is believed that this temple was originally constructed by the Pandavas, and the present temple was reconstructed by Sankaracharya in the 8th century. One of the 12 Siva-Jyotirlingas is in this temple. The temple is dedicated to Lord Sada Siva and is considered to be one of the major Siva temples in India. Inside the temple there is an irregular, three-faced linga, representing the hump of Lord Siva when he took the form of a bull. It is about 3m (9 ft) long, 1m (3 ft) wide, and 1. 3m (4 ft) high. Pilgrims are allowed to touch the linga, perform worship, abhishek (bathe), and massage the linga with ghee. There are deities of goddess Parvati and Ganesh in front of the main altar door. Outside the second door are Lord Krishna, the five Pandavas, their wife, Draupadi, and their mother, Kunti. In the temple is a Lakshmi-Narayana Deity, which was installed by Adi Sankaracharya. The temple faces south, which is a unique feature, as most temples face east. This temple is very solidly built. The temple opens the first week of May and closes either the last week of October or the first week of November. May/June is the busiest time of the year. Worship of Sri Kedarnath is continued in the village of Okhimath in the winter by the priest from the Kedarnath Temple. The waiting time to enter the temple in the afternoon is about 15 minutes, otherwise if you go at 7 am the waiting time may be two hours or more. The main pujas are at six am and six pm. Temple Story The story of the temple is that the Pandavas felt contaminated by sinful reactions from killing so many people during the Kurukshetra war. They decided to ask Lord Siva for his blessings to relieve them from these sinful reactions. The Pandavas first went to Kashi (Varanasi) to get Lord Siva’s blessings, but the Lord fled to Uttarakhand (Guptakashi) and lived there incognito. Eventually the Pandavas found him there, and Lord Siva turned himself into a bull to hide. Bhima recognized his disguise and grabbed the bull by the tail. The bull slowly sank into the ground, and Lord Siva then appeared before them on account of their great determination. Lord Siva instructed them to worship the remaining hump of the bull (pinda form). A temple was then constructed and worship has been going on here ever since. Other parts of Lord Siva’s body appeared in other places in the area. It is said that the Pandavas also built temples at these places. They are known as the Panch Kedars: Kedarnath, hump (pinda); Tungnath, arm (bahu); Rudranath, face (mukh); Kalpeswar, hair (jata); and Madhyamaheswar, navel (nabhi). Other Places There is a marble staff behind the temple that commemorates Sankaracharya. It is believed that Sri Sankara passed away in Kedarnath. There is another school of thought that says he passed away in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu. Just behind the Kedarnath Temple is the Mahapanth Trail (Gate of Heaven). It is said that from this place there is a path that goes north up to Swarga-rohini (path to heaven). It is said that the five Pandavas took this path after performing a huge yajna (sacrifice). Other people said that the Pandavas ascended from Badrinath. A path to the east of the village, to the right of the temple, leads to the Bhairava temple. Bhairava is the furious form of Lord Siva. It is a 20-minute walk. Before you cross the bridge that crosses to the town you come to a path that leads to a glacier, 4km away. The path here can also be reached by crossing the river over the bridge that is behind the temple and climbing up the hill. Chorabari Tal lake, an emerald green lake, is next to the glacier. It is also known as Gandhi Sarovar, because some of Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were throw here. It takes 1? to 2 hours to walk here from Kedarnath. About a km from the lake is the source of the Mandakini River. Vasuki Tal (4320m) is a tough 9km trek from Kedarnath. The path begins near the Tourist Bungalow. Past Vasuki Tal is the Khatling Glacier via the Painya Tal and Maser Tal lakes. For this trek you need a good guide and proper equipment. WheretoStay The Nigam Tourist Bungalow h(27210) as rooms for Rs 500, but it should be booked in advance. There are also dharamshalas and the Birla Guest House. The Bharat Seva Ashram, a large red building located left of the temple, is a nice, clean place with rooms for Rs 200. There are also a number of private no-name lodges. Rooms are typically Rs 400 or Rs 600 a night for a decent room. Rooms are expensive for what you get. There are basic places to stay at Rambara, at the halfway point walking up to Kedarnath. Food in Kedarnath is basic and expensive, as it all has to be brought up by horseback. Travel The road to Kedarnath ends at a town named Gaurikund (1,981m). A bus from Haridwar or Rishikesh (295km) takes all day to reach Gaurikund. It is best to catch the early morning bus at 6 am. If you get a later bus you will definitely have to stop for the night on the way. The bus from Gangotri to Gaurikund (334km) takes a day and a half. From Gaurikund the bus usually takes a full day to get to Joshimath (Rs 100), which is 44km south of Badrinath; but you could reach Badrinath the same day if you get the 6 am bus and nothing goes wrong. Otherwise, from Joshimath the same bus goes the next morning to Badrinath. From Gaurikund you should make sure you reserve early morning buses the night before. Even if you are told you can get a ticket the next morning, do not believe it. You have to walk 14km, at least 4 hours, up a steep incline to get to Kedarnath from Gaurikund. The trek along the Mandakini River to Kedarnath is slow and tiresome. If the sky is clear, at the 10km stone you can view the Kedarnath mountain peak at 6,640m (22,770 ft). As the walk is very tough, it is advised to carry as little as possible up the hill. Even the smallest load can feel like a lead weight after a few km. If you cannot walk, you can rent a horse for about Rs 250 one way. To be carried by four people up the hill costs Rs 900 one way. You should be prepared to stay the night at Kedarnath, as it is difficult to go both up and down in the same day. Some people stop for the night halfway up at Rambara (7km), which has several simple eating places and some basic rest houses. Gaurikund Gaurikund is said to be the place where Gaurimata (Parvati) took birth and did austerities for hundreds of years, in order to marry Lord Siva. It is 210km from Rishikesh and 334km from Gangotri. Gaurikund is the last bus stop on the way to Kedarnath. There is a hot sulfur water spring here named Gaurikund (Tapta Kund), where you can bathe. It is said to mark the place where Parvati did austerities. It is a great place to bathe after returning from your walk to Kedarnath. Next to the spring is the Gauri Devi Temple, dedicated to Parvati. There is a temple called Sirkata Ganesh, the beheaded Ganesh, about half a km from Gaurikund. The Skanda Purana says this was the place where Lord Siva beheaded his son Ganesh and then gave him an elephant head. The story says that Ganesh was guarding his mother, Parvati, who was bathing in Gaurikund. When Siva, who had been traveling for a long time came, Ganesh stopped him. Siva, not recognizing his own son, then became angry and cut off the head of Ganesh. When Parvati found out this had happened, she requested Siva to bring him back to life and give him another head. Siva said he would give him the head of the first creature that came by, which happened to be an elephant. So he gave Ganesh the head of an elephant. Where to Stay and Eat In Gaurikund there are many private guest houses. For what you get most of them are way overpriced, usually they are at least Rs 350 for a dirty, run-down double room. There are many other places to choose from, but do not expect any bargains. Bharat Seva Ashram and Punjab Sindh are basic places and some of the rooms have bathrooms. Shivlok, next to Gaurikund and the Mandakini River is a decent place with double rooms for Rs 350. It is decently clean. The best place in town is the well-located GMVN Tourist Centre. This place should be booked at least a week in advance at the GMVN office in Rishikesh. It has double rooms for Rs 550 and dorm beds for Rs 125. Hotel Pavan Hansh Restaurant, next to Gaurikund, is a well-managed, good vegetarian place. Gauri’s Grand restaurant is a good place with an extensive menu. You can leave your extra luggage at a cloakroom to your left, just after going up the steps from where the buses park. There is a Nigam Tourist Lodge with rooms for Rs 400 in Sonprayag, which is six km south of Gaurikund. Sonprayag is much more laid-back than Gaurikund, but you need your own transportation to stay there. Kedarnath being one of the 12 Jyotirlingam is a famous pilgrim site for Hindus in India. Located at a height of 3590 meters of Garhwal Himalayas, the huge temple made of granite stone with mighty Kedar range of Himalayas in the background will make you spellbound at first sight. Inside the temple, a stone looking like hump of an ox is Mahadev, Kedarnath. Many other idols of God are engraved on the wall of the temple inside. In front of the main gate of the temple a black statue of Nandi, the ox of Mahadev is guarding the temple. Best time to visit Kedarnath: Plan your trip between May and October, otherwise you cannot reach, it will be a snow covered. Reaching Kedarnath: Apart from the temple itself, reaching Kedarnath is an adventure. Throughout your journey to the temple you will be amazed frequently by the natural beauty of the nature. You have to reach Gourikund, the last motor able road before Kedarnath. Gourikund is 233 km from Haridwar and 200 km from Rishikesh. It will take 10 – 11 hours to reach Gourikund from these places, so You have to start your journey very early in the morning. It is very tiring too. So it is better to halt somewhere in between. The place I will suggest is Rudraprayag or, Chandrapuri. Stay at Gourikund: You have to stay in Gourikund for a night before starting your journey to the temple. There are many cheap hotels in Gourikund. The best option is GMVN Tourist Rest House Ph: +91 1364 269202 DB @ INR 500 – 700 and dormitory @ INR 100 per bed. From Gourikund it is a continuous uphill trek of 14 km to Kedarnath. The scenic beauty throughout your trek is mind-blowing. Mandakini River throughout the journey will accompany you sometimes jumping from a cliff and sometimes hiding in a gorge. The natural beauty will alleviate all your exhaustion of climbing. Walk slowly and take rest in between. Buy a walking stick and polythene sheet to cover you in case of drizzle, which is quite common. Take care of your camera and don’t forget a polythene bag for it exclusively. You can buy these on the route of your trek. Stalls for snack and tea are also available at few places on the route, where you can rest a while. If you don’t want to walk at a stretch there is a option to halt at Ramwara for a night at either at Kalikamli Dharmashala or GMVN rest house. Though nature can be enjoyed most if you walk, it may not be possible for everyone to trek due to physical reasons. Pony, dandi or, doli (a chair carried by four persons), Pithhu ( a basket carried by single person mainly for kids, light weight people, and goods) are available for them. The rate depend on the weight of the person but whatever they take, I think it is less for the kind of labor they give! Please don’t bargain with them. They are extremely poor and earn for few months with their hard labor and run their family throughout the year. By the way don’t throw away your walking stick while coming down, the mistake done by me! The stick is more required while coming down. Reach Kedarnath by helicopter: Pawan Hans conduct a helicopter service from Agyastamuni helipad 17 km from Rudraprayag 5 passengers are carried at a time. The flight starts at 6. 30 am , 8. 10 am, 9. 40 am, and 11. 10 am. It takes 20 minutes to reach Kedarnath. Time allotted to visit temple is 1 ? hour. The fare for round trip per person at present @ INR 8500 and one way fly to Kedarnath @INR 5000 and return from there @ INR 4000. Round trip cost include the temple visit fee. Children below 2 years are charged 10% of the fare, while age over 2 has to pay the full fare. Contact: * Agastyamuni Helipad Ph: +91 1364 256825 Delhi Office at Safdarjang Airport Ph: +91 11 24651248, 24632273, 24610465 * Monal Resort Rudraprayag Ph: +91 1364 233901/ 02 * GMVN Dehradun Ph: +91 135 2746817 * GMVN Haridwar Ph: +91 1334 224240 * GMVN Rishikesh Ph: +91 135 2435174 Where to stay at Kedarnath: GMVN Tourist Rest House Ph: +91 1364 263218/ 263228 DB @ INR 350 – 1000. Dormitory @ INR 100 per bed. Dharmashala of Kedarnath Temple Committee: +91 1364 263231 Other Dharmashalas of Bharat Sevashram Sangha, Madras Bhawan, Gujarat Bhawan etc. Trekking from Kedarnath: For the enthusiasts, there are something more in store at Kedarnath. A astonishing short trek to Chorabalital (Gandhi Sarovar) at 4275 meters is 4 km uphill trek from Kedarnath. En route you will see Mandakini Glacier, from where Mandakini river originated. More enthusiasts should walk 4 km more up to Basuki tal (4328 meters) If you plan to go up to Basuki tal carry food and take the help of a guide. Triyugi Narayan from Gourikund: While coming back from Gourikund either to Haridwar or, Badrinath you can visit Triyugi Narayan Temple 12 km from Gourikund. It is said that the wedding of Shiva and Parvati was held here.
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