Kedarnath is a divine Hindu settlement situated in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. It is one of the Char Dhams located in the Himalayas, and is situated at an astounding height of 3584 meters above sea level near the head of Mandakini River.
The Kedarnath temple lies amidst the majestic snow-capped Garhwal Himalayan ranges and is thronged by thousands of tourists and pilgrims each year. Also, the Kedarnath trek is stunningly beautiful and quite eclectic, even in the trekking circuit.
Famous for the ancient shrine devoted to Lord Shiva, it offers a calm atmosphere with a beautifully painted backdrop thanks to the rhododendron woods, snow-covered mountains, and splendid sights of nature. An amalgamation of devoutness and adventure is what makes it incomparable. A MUST VISIT for one and all.
Let's quickly dive into the details:
Kedarnath literally means the Lord of the field, and it is so called because the “crop of liberation” grows here. While it is not certain who constructed the temple or when! One of the earliest references of Kedarnath is in the 7th or 8th century. It is also believed that Adi Shankara died near the sanctuary.
History & Mythology
It is believed that post the battle of Kurukshetra, Pandavas went on a journey to Banaras in order to repent killing their own and seek blessings from the Lord. But, Shivji wanted to avoid meeting with the brothers, and thus, took solace in Guptakashi.
However, Pandavas were relinquishing in their search for the Lord and when they found him, Shivji decided to take the form of buffalo so that they couldn’t recognize him. Now, when Shivji saw the Pandavas approaching closer, he wanted to hide even further.
Thus, He took the decision to also become invisible by way of going underground. However, brother Bhīma tried hard to stop him from leaving by holding on to the legs and tail of the bull. Unfortunately, the Lord dived and evaporated at that place leaving behind his hump which is now worshipped at Kedarnath Temple.
It is however believed that through cosmic energy, the Pandavas were exempted from their sins and Shivji informed that from then onwards He would be present in Jyotirlinga form at Kedarnath.
Located in the Rudraprayag district, Kedarnath is the most remote of all Chota Char Dham sites. Situated near the Chorabari Glacier – the source of the Mandakini river, Kedarnath is flanked by snow-capped peaks – most prominently the Kedarnath mountain (6,940 mts) and the Kedar Dome (6,831 mts). Located at a distance of 223 KM from Rishikesh, the town is built on a barren stretch of land on the shored of the river.
The town unfortunately suffered extensive destruction during 2013 due to flash floods caused by torrential rains in Uttarakhand. The temple magnificently survived the harsh calamities!
In line with the Himalayan weather, Kedarnath experiences cool summers while the winters are extremely difficult and harsh. Summer is ideal for all sight-seeing, temple visits and experiencing nearby attractions as well. The average temperature is around 17 degrees in the summer.
Monsoon months are difficult and the area has suffered extreme rainfall many times, particularly in 2013. Monsoon weather is around 12 degrees. Winters are cold, complex and inhabitable. The palki of Lord Kedarnath is transferred to its winter abode near Guptakashi – Ukhimath from November to April. Weather in this season is always in the negative!
Best time to visit Kedarnath
Right at the beginning of the season in April till the onset of monsoons and post-monsoon till close of the season. Kedarnath has a cold climate for most part of the year and the best months to travel are May, June, September, October.
How to get there
Kedarnath is well connected with most of the important towns of Uttarakhand. The nearest road head to Kedarnath is about 18 KMs later, Gaurikund.
Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun is the closest airport, at a distance of 238 KMs. The airport is well connected to Delhi with daily flights. Taxis are easily available from the airport to Gaurikund.
The nearest railway station to Kedarnath is Rishikesh, at a distance of 216 KMs before Kedarnath on NH58. Further, Gaurikund is well connected by motorable roads with Rishikesh. Taxis and buses are easily available to reach Gaurikund.
Prior to reaching Kedarnath, the last motorable point is Gaurikund. From there on out, you’ll be trekking for 16-odd-km. Gaurikund is connected with major destinations in North India. Buses and shared cabs are available from Haridwar, Rishikesh & Rudraprayag to Sonprayag, the last point until which private vehicles are allowed.
Buses to Rishikesh and Shrinagar are available from ISBT, Kashmiri Gate. From Sonprayag, there is a shared cab facility offered by the government, where the cab will drop you in Gaurikund for a fee.
You may even get a helicopter ride if you’re not into trekking (although I strongly recommend the trek!). The services are available from different helipads such as Guptkashi, Sersi, Phata etc.
What to do in Kedarnath
Given that Kedarnath is a religious destination, clearly the centermost attraction are places with mythological connotations.
Enveloped in the mighty Garhwal Himalayas, the Kedarnath Temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Kedarnath Temple is among the 275 temples of Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most powerful Shiva temples in the world) and is also the most important among the Panch Kedars.
With fresh air synonymous with the hills and stunning views that you have to earn – you will lose all sense of time here! For thousands of year, this place has been worshipped and the energy of the region is that of positivity, hope and beliefs for the future.
Inside the temple, you’ll be greeted with a small hall with images of Parvati as well as the Pandavas. The hall is decorated with statues of Krishna, Pandavas, Draupadi, Virbhadra and many other deities! There is a conical rock inside the temple which is worshipped as the Sadashiva (forever Shiv).
Made from grey stones which are interlocked with the use of iron clamps – the temple is truly striking in the backdrop of Himalayas.
Gandhi Sarovar is a small crystal clear lake, also known as Chorabari Tal. This is so because it is situated on the mouth of Chorabari Bamak glacier. Gandhi Sarovar lies on the foot of Kedarnath and Kirthi Stambh peak at an astounding altitude of 3,900mts above sea level. The lake comes after completed further 4 KMs trek from Kedarnath Temple.
Kalimath is a religious place located on the banks of Saraswati river. Located at a height of 1800 mts, Kalimath is one of the 108 Shakti Peeths in India. Kalimath lies on lap of nature offering salubrious and divine environment. Goddess Kali Temple is located in Kalimath. Legends believe that after killing Raktbeej, Kali Goddess went underneath the ground at this place!
Bhairavnath Temple or Bhairon Baba Mandir is situated south of the Kedarnath temple on the eastern hill of the lofty Himalayas of Uttarakhand. The temple is dedicated to Bhairav – the fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva associated with destruction and devastation. The temple offers some stunning views of the Himalayas and it is a beautiful portion of your journey to Kedarnath!
Gaurikund temple is a temple dedicated to Goddess Parvati. According to myths and legends, this is the place where Goddess Parvati did penance involving ascetic and yoga practices to win over Shiva’s heart. It is believed that Lord Shiva admitted his love for the Goddess here and they then married at Triyuginarayan temple.
Adi Shankaracharya was a philosopher, credited with unifying and establishing the main thoughts in Hinduism. At the age 32, he decided to attain moksha at Kedarnath and merged under with the land near the Kedarnath Temple. The samadhi is situated right behind the temple.
What to do around Kedarnath
There is so much to explore around the Kedarnath Temple. So, remember to keep some time at hand to truly immerse yourself into the experience!
Vasuki Tal Lake
Vasuki Tal is a high glacial lake situated at an impressive altitude of 14,200 feet above sea level near Kedarnath Dham. One can spot Brahma Kamal and other Himalayan flowers blooming around the placid lake, making for some spectacular views.
Ideally, I would suggest you complete the route in the day time itself, and spend the night at Kedarnath! The trek distance from Kedarnath temple is 8 KMs, initial 3-4 KMs is easy before the ascend begins. The icy Vasuki Tal is just 900 meters downhill from Vasuki top.
Guptkashi is situated 47kms before the holy shrine of Lord Shiva, Kedarnath. It is located on the route to Kedarnath on a ridge on the west side of the Mandakini river valley at an elevation of 1,319mts above sea level.
Guptkashi is a religiously important town of Uttarakhand as it houses ancient temples like Vishwanath temple and Ardhnareshwar temple. A highly revered attraction, Manikarnika Kund is where two streams of the Ganga and Yamuna meet.
Kedarnatha trek is in one of the most significantly religious areas, especially in the Hindu Mythology. The Temple of Lord Kedarnatha (Shivji), which sits at the base of the summit, has stood the test of time and is revered amongst spiritual believers.
Millions of pilgrims move mountains to offer their prayers and seek blessings of the Hindu Deity each year. The temple itself lies at the base of the Kedarnath Peak, facing the Kedar Parvat. A beginner level trek, Kedarnath is especially beautiful in the winter months.
One of the most remarkable crests in the Himalayan region, both nature lovers and ardent trekkers tend to enjoy the experience.
Char Dham Yatra
The Chota Char Dham Yatra of Uttarakhand is the four abodes of holy shrines – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri, and Gangotri. All four of these temples are situated within the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. The prominence of the Charm Dham Yatra is immense amongst Hindus.
Moreover, it is believed that every Hindu should do Char Dham Yatra at least once in their lifetime. The Great Reformer and Philosopher, Adi Shankaracharya, gathered together these Holy Pilgrimage places into a spiritual circuit around the 8th century.
Generation followed generations and hundreds of thousands of devotees have kept up the tradition of covering these pilgrimage spots every year. Thus, it is very common to complete the circuit in one religious pilgrimage!
Best places to stay near Kedarnath
There is a huge government-run tented colony along with cottages as well as rooms run by GMVN. These are sufficient to home more than a thousand pilgrims and visitors. Also, there are hotels, guest houses, and Dharamshala as well.
A lot of folks have started taking the journey via helicopters and thus stay locations can be Phata, Rampur, Gaurikund, Sitapur etc.
Best places to eat
Unfortunately, the only option for decent food here is the food stalls and roadside dhabas. Food available is mostly north Indian cuisine. Of course, given the highly revered place in Hinduism that Kedarnath holds, it should come as no surprise that alcohol and non-vegetarian food is not served/ is prohibited.
Things to keep in mind
- As instructed by the Uttarakhand government, it is necessary for every traveler to do bio-metric registration. The facility is available online as well. Alternatively, you may also do the same at Sonprayag.
- You can easily find mules & porters to accompany you on your journey. Do remember to check the prices officially posted so as to avoid paying a larger sum
- Also, if you are hiring porters or mule owners – remember to check their official IDs
- It is always wise to avoid the hilly terrain in the monsoon season. Especially given the tragedy of 2013, and how badly Kedarnath was hit. If you are still heading there in the monsoon period – do check with officials and local authorities
- Photography is not allowed in the temple premises. Be mindful of the fact and abide by the rules of the temple authorities.
Tips when travelling to Kedarnath
- The trek is 16 KM long and will take you 6 hours, depending on your health
- Try to start your trek early in the morning to avoid the harshness of the afternoon sun
- Remember to eat a hearty (though not heavy) breakfast
- Drink water and stay hydrated. However, do remember to carry your own water bottles.
If connecting with nature and the Gods, rejuvenation and some adventure is on the cards for you on your next holiday – head on over to Kedarnath. This place will take you back to a time of simplicity and authenticity.
You will fall in love with the quaint life of the hills and revered by the sheer power of belief. If you have any questions regarding this beautiful wonderland – do comment below and I will be happy to answer any of your queries.