Kedarnath Temple is one of the holiest Hindu temples dedicated to the god Shiva. It is on the Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini river in Kedarnath, Uttarakhand in India. Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April (Akshaya Tritriya) to Kartik Purnima (the autumn full moon, usually November). During the winters, the vigrahas (deities) from Kedarnath temple are brought to Ukhimath and worshiped there for six months. Lord Shiva is worshiped as Kedarnath, the ‘Lord of Kedar Khand’, the historical name of the region.
The unstable temple is not directly accessible by road and has to be reached by a 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) uphill trek from Gaurikund. Pony and manchan service is available to reach the structure. The temple was built by Pandavas and revived by Adi Sankaracharya and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva. Pandavas were supposed to have pleased Shiva by doing penance in Kedarnath. The temple is one of the four major sites in India’s Chota Char Dham pilgrimage of Northern Himalayas.
Kedarnath was the worst affected area during the 2013 flash floods in North India. The temple complex, surrounding areas and Kedarnath town suffered extensive damage, but the temple structure did not suffer any “major” damage, apart from few cracks on one side of the four walls which was caused by the flowing debris from the higher mountains. This was due to a large rock which was brought down by flash floods and it acted as barrier cutting the water which flowed pass through it. The surrounding premises and other buildings in market area were heavily damaged. The temple structure has been standing erect and facing nature’s fury for the past 10 centuries and it expected that the structure has the endurance to remain intact in future as well
Temple and past significance
The temple, at an height of 3,583 m (11,755 ft), 223 km from Rishikesh, on the shores of Mandakini river, a tributary of Ganga, is an impressive stone edifice of unknown date.The structure is believed to have been constructed in the 8th century AD, when Adi Shankara visited. The present structure is on a site adjacent to where Pandavas are believed to have built the temple. It has on Garbhagriha and a Mandapa and stands on a plateau surrounded by snow clad mountain and glaciers. In front of the temple, directly opposite to inner shrine, is a Nandi statue carved out of rock.
According to Hindu mythology, during the Mahabharatha war, the Pandavas killed their relatives; to absolve themselves of this sin, the Pandavas undertook a pilgrimage. But Lord Vishweshwara was away in Kailasa in the Himalayas. On learning this, the Pandavas left Kashi. They reached the Himalayas via Haridwar. They saw Lord Shankara from a distance. But Lord Shankara hid from them. Then Dharmaraj said: “Oh, Lord, You have hidden yourself from our sight because we have sinned. But, we will seek You out somehow. Only after we take your Darshan would our sins be washed away. This place, where You have hidden Yourself will be known as Guptakashi and become a famous shrine.”
From Guptakashi (Rudraprayag), the Pandavas went ahead till they reached Gaurikund in the Himalayas valleys. They wandered there in search of Lord Shankara. While doing so Nakul and Sahadev found a buffalo which was unique to look at.
Then Bheema went after the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo was clever and Bheema could not catch him. But Bheema managed to hit the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo had its face hidden in a crevice-in the earth. Bheema started to pull it by its tail.