Kedarnath 2022

May 29th, 2022.

Kedarnath Dham, located in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand, is one of the paramount destinations for worshipers of Shiva. The air appears to be reverberating with the name of Lord Shiva amid the mighty snow-clad peaks, enchanting meadows and forests of the lower mountain range of Himalayas. Situated in a breathtaking location, near the source of Mandakini river and at the height of 3,584 meters, Kedarnath Dham celebrates the greatness of Lord Shiva. Kedarnath temple is one of the 12 Jyotir Lingams and is also the most important temple among the Panch Kedars (group of 5 Shiva temples in Garhwal Himalayas). It is also one of the significant temples of the sacred Chardham Yatra in Uttarakhand, raising the glory of the place to further heights.

The hard journey to the great shrine of Shiva is well compensated with the spiritual atmosphere which is created by the unruffled, tranquil and splendid beauty of the region. The majestic Kedarnath peak (6,940 meters) stands behind the temple along with other peaks, forming a perfect setting for the holy land of the supreme deity. The conical-shaped Shiva lingam in the Kedarnath temple is a unique feature of the temple among all Shiva shrines.

Kedarnath is a tremendous space. The utterance of the sound “Shiva” attains a completely new dimension and significance in Kedar. It is a space that has been specially prepared for this particular sound. When we utter the word “Shiva,” it is the freedom of the uncreated, the liberation of one who is not created. It is as if, on this planet, the sound “Shiva” emanates from this place. For thousands of years, people have experienced that space as a reverberation of that sound. When we say “Shiva,” it is not about creating one more idol or god that we can ask for more prosperity or better things in life. The word “Shiva” means “that which is not.”

Today, modern science is proving to us that everything comes from nothing and goes back to nothing. The basis of existence and the fundamental quality of the cosmos is vast nothingness. The galaxies are just a small happening – a sprinkling. The rest is vast empty space, which is referred to as Shiva. Such a magical place needs an apt setting and thus the shrine of Kedarnath is very scenically placed. Always surrounded by lofty, snow-covered mountains, grassy meadows cover the valleys during summer. The sight of the temple, with the majestic Kedarnath peak and other giant snow-covered peaks as its backdrop, is simply enthralling.

(The above 2 paragraphs are taken from and they sound very much like what Sadguru says)

Kedarnath Temple :

Puranas say that Pandavas built the original temple of Kedarnath towards the end of Dwapara yuga, but the present temple was established by Adi Shankaracharya who restored and revived the glory of the shrine. Lord Shiva’s shrine’s grand and impressive structure is made of grey stone. Steep climb stretching to 17-19 km from Gaurikund brims with abundant natural beauty. The paved and steep path gifts the pilgrims the fantastic views of snowy peaks, alpine meadows, and delightful forests of rhododendrons. A large stone statue of Nandi Bull stares at the shrine, guarding it, sitting right opposite it.

There is one Garbha Griha which houses the primary idol of Lord Shiva. The idols of Lord Krishna, Pandavas, Draupadi, and Kunti find a space in the Mandapa section of the shrine. The temple has withstood natural calamities like avalanches, earthquakes, and floods for over a thousand years and still stands as strong and elegant as it must have originally been.

With the onset of winters, the portals of the temple are closed on the 1st day of Karthik (Oct/Nov) amid elaborate rituals, and a moveable idol of Shiva is shifted to Omkareshwar temple in Ukhimath (Rudraprayag district). The “Badrinath – Kedarnath Samiti” decides the exact opening and closing dates of these shrines and Shiva is welcomed back with the temple opening again during the Vaisakh (Apr/May) masa of the Hindu calendar.

This year, Kedarnath was opened on May 6th and will be closing on Oct 24th (tentative date).

The newly built Adi Shankaracharya’s idol, at his samadhi

Bhima-shila …. the gigantic boulder that prevented major damage to the temple structure during the devastating floods in 2013

Legend of Kedarnath :

Puranas says that the Pandavas wanted to seek salvation from their sins after fighting the Kurukshetra war, where they had killed their own kith and kin in order to establish dharma. Sri Krishna asks them to seek blessings from Shiva to get rid of their sins. Pandavas start their travels towards Kashi to seek the darshan of Shiva. Shiva hears about this and is in no mood to forgive Pandavas as he does not approve of such killing. So he leaves Kashi and goes to Uttarakashi.

Shiva temple at Uttarakashi, where Shiva arrived after hearing Pandavas were on their way to Kashi to seek his blessings

Nandi in front of this temple is headless, signifying the form Shiva takes from here on and also hides his face, so as to not give mukha-darshana to Pandavas, who are on his pursuit

Pandavas learn about Shiva being in Uttarakashi and decide to seek his darshan there. Shiva learns about this and once again moves away and goes to Guptakashi, taking the form of a Nandi. Hence the place is called Guptakashi. Parvathi tries to intervene and tells Shiva that he should give darshan to Pandavas. Shiva disagrees and upon further persuasion from Parvathi, he reluctantly agrees to give them half darshan as Ardha-narishwara. The main temple at Guptakashi is that of Shiva, accompanied by a smaller temple for Ardha-narishwara.

Guptakashi: Small but very beautiful Shiva temple and Ardha-narishwara temple, and Manikarnika Kund in front of them

Manikarnika kund has two springs, representing Ganga and Yamuna rivers.

Another legend has Guptakashi as the place where Shiva proposed to marry Parvathi-devi. Hence the temple for Ardha-narishwara. Legend has it that the Triyuginarayan Temple was the place where the wedding took place

Guptakashi Vishwanatha temple complex.

Shiva, in the form of a Nandi moves towards Kedar and reaches Gaurikund. Pandavas in their pursuit of Shiva reach Gaurikund and Nakula / Sahadeva identify a very unique Nandi among a herd of cows and bulls and realise that Nandi is Shiva himself. Bhima pursues the Nandi and on being discovered by Pandavas, Shiva dived into the ground. Bhim tried to catch him and could only get hold of the hump. Different body parts of Shiva (in the form of bull), came up in different places. The hump of the bull was found in Kedarnath, navel emerged at Madhya-Maheshwar, two forelegs appeared at Tunganath, face in Rudranath, and hair came up at Kalpeshwar. Pandavas built temples at these five places for worshipping Shiva. Thus the Panch Kedar temples came into existence.

How we travelled to Kedarnath :

It took us two days to travel from Uttarakash to Gaurikund, the place where the trek to Kedarnath starts. May 27th, we traveled from Uttarakashi -> Dharasu -> Tehri and reached Srinagar. The total distance was around 170 km and took us about 8-9 hours. On the second day, however, we only had to travel ~90 km and that took about 9-10 hours, due to smaller roads, heavy traffic, and the innumerable checkpoints by Uttarakhand police, who were trying to regulate the heavy traffic towards Kedar and Badri. We took the Srinagar -> Rudraprayag -> Agastyamuni -> Guptakashi -> Sitapur -> Sonprayag -> Gaurikund route.

It is really disappointing that due to some turf war that is ongoing between different unions at Sonprayag / Sitapur etc. that the small distance of 7 km between Sitapur to Gaurikund, makes us jump through hoops in trying to understand and use the two separate taxi services that we need to take to reach Gaurikund. Locals authorities and the union members only seem to think of themselves and not a bit about the yatri’s who come to visit these places. Hope this changes for the better soon. It was a great move by Vinod and Tilak (our tour managers from Nirmala) to plan and take us till Gaurikund that night itself. Saved us the trouble of having to spend 2-3 more hours in the middle of the night, as part of our trek up to Kedarnath the next day.

Image from Sacred Yatra site. The bridge on this map is the Rambera bridge. The old route took us via Rambara towards Kedar and was only 14 km in length. During the 2013 floods, the entire Rambara settlements were washed away and this is the new route, on the right-hand side of river Mandakini, that has been built and maintained by NIM team. The new route is much longer when compared to the old one.

Among the 43 that were part of our group, only 8 people were able to get helicopter taxi services. Rest had to decide if we were going to use pony/mule services or take the dholi. Given the fact that the tour had only one day allocated to make this entire trip from Gaurikund to Kedar and back, trekking both ways was just not an option. So depending on your mode of transportation, you had to start at different points in time.

Nageshanna, Murlianna, and I had decided that we will take a one-way pony/mule service on our way up, but we would hike it on our way back. So we woke up at 2 am, got ready and left our hotels in Gaurikund at 3 am. Had booked our mules the previous evening, so found our mules and were on them and started our way up at 3:30 am. Twilight started around 4 am and it was a beautiful time to travel up the steep trail. The mule’s made steady progress and the mule owners, who accompany us throughout the trip, stopped for breakfast around 6:30 am near Bhimbali. We had a good cup of hot tea that kept us warm. We got back on our mules and started our trip and made it to the last point where mules/horses are allowed. It was around 9 am and it had taken us 4.5 hours (including 30 mins break) to cover the ~17 km trek. We still had to walk the last 1.5 – 2 km on foot to make it to the Kedarnath temple.

Unfortunately, Nageshanna was not feeling too well and was beginning to show signs of high altitude sickness (exhaustion, breathlessness, etc). So we decided to have some breakfast before we went ahead. Slowly but surely we made it to the temple by around 10:30 and then found a Rawat, who could get us ahead in the long, long queue that was there for the darshan. Found our Rawat who did this for us and thus we were able to finish our darshan of Kedarnath and then the Bhima-shila and Adi Shankaracharya at the backend of the temple courtyard, around 12 noon. Due to the cloud cover and the ever-threatening arrival of rain, I did not even open my camera from my backpack that day. Did all my photography on my iPhone.

Nageshanna was still feeling the effects of high altitude sickness, so we persuaded him to take a mule service on his way back. We got him a pony and Murlidharanna and I stated our hike back around 1 PM.

It rained, as per the weather prediction, but luckily it was not too heavy and intermittent. Murlianna and I took innumerable breaks, drank lots of water, ate our dry fruits mix, drank tea at a couple of places, and made slow but steady progress on these slippery slopes. Finally made it to back to Gaurikund, around 8 pm, where Vindo and Tilak were waiting for us. Along with another family of 4, the 8 of us now had to make our way back to Sitapur, where we were going to rest for the night. The dreaded taxi service and the union turf wars ensured that the last 7 km from Gaurikund to Sitapur took another 2.5 hours, the most painful part of that day. It was 10:30 pm, by the time we reached our hotels that night. We only had a couple of hours, before we were supposed to leave for Badrinath at 2 am the next day.

My smartwatch showed that I had walked 28 km, apart from the long mule ride that morning. It is his blessing that I was able to do this strenuous trek and in spite of it probably being one of the hardest (physically and mentally) days of my life, I was so happy and blissed out.

One of the happiest days of my life. So happy to have made it to Kedarnath to thank him and experience his grace and this wonderous space.