Kedarnath Temple is set amid stunning mountainscape of the Himalayas
in the Garhwal region, at the head of the Mandakini River
, in Rudraprayag District
. Built in AD 8th century, it is one of the 12 ‘Jyotirlings’ of Lord Shiva
and is among the holiest pilgrimages for the Hindus in India.
According to a popular legend, the Pandavas sought the blessings of Lord Shiva to atone their sins after the battle of Kurukshetra. Lord Shiva eluded them repeatedly and while fleeing took the form of a bull at Kedarnath. On being followed by the Pandava brothers, he dived into the ground and disappeared; only his hump could be seen. Bhima, the second Pandava brother, jumped on this hump and tried to catch hold of the bull by his hump. It is this hump-shaped natural conical stone protrusion that is worshipped as an idol or Shivling in the shrine. The interiors of the temple are adorned by exquisitely carved images. There is a large statue of Nandi, outside the temple door.
This is one of the Pancha or Five Kedar Shrines. It is believed that just as bull's hump appeared in Kedarnath, his belly appeared in
Madmaheshwar Temple, his limbs at Tungnath Temple, his head at Kalpeshwar, and his face at Rudranath Temple. All these five temples are together known as Panchakedar and a pilgrimage of all these five shrines is considered holy by the Hindus.
The shrine is closed during winter. Hence, the ideal time to visit the temple is between May and October. The motorable road to Kedarnath ends at Gaurikund. From here, pilgrims have to trek steep 14 kilometers to reach Kedarnath Temple. They can undertake this journey either on foot or ride a pony.
Nearest airport is at Dehradun. Rishikesh (234 km) and
Kotdwar (260 km) are the closest railway stations.