Kedarnath – Paradise on the Earth
Kedarnath is a town in Rudraprayag district in the state of Uttarakhand in India and gained prominence due to the temple of Lord Shiva. It is part of the Char Dhams. It is located in the Himalayas at 3,583mts (11,755 ft) above sea level, near the Chorabari Glacier which is the source of the Mandakini River. The city is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, including Kedarnath Mountain, and is visited by thousands of tourists every year.
Kedarnath has been a center of pilgrimage since ancient times. Kedarnath literally means Lord of the Fields and is so-called because the “harvest of liberation” grows here. The construction of the temple is attributed to the Pandava brothers mentioned in the Mahabharata. However, the Mahabharata does not mention any place called Kedarnath. One of the earliest references to Kedarnath is found in the Skanda Purana, which points to Kedarnath as the place where Lord Shiva released the holy waters of the Ganges from his tangled hair, resulting in the formation of the Ganges. It is also believed that Adi Shankaracharya died near the shrine.
Kedarnath is located at a distance of 223kms from Rishikesh in Uttarakhand and near the source of the Mandakini River at an elevation of 3,583 m (11,755 ft) above sea level. The township is built on a barren expanse of land on the shores of Mandakini. River. The surrounding Himalayan landscape and green pastures make it a very attractive place for pilgrimage and trekking. Behind the city and temple of Kedarnath lies the majestic Kedarnath Peak at 6,940 m (22,769 ft), Kedar Dome at 6,831 m (22,411 ft) and other peaks in the range.
In the Himalayan climate, Kedarnath experiences cool summers while the winters are extremely harsh and harsh. Summer is ideal for sightseeing, visiting temples and enjoying nearby attractions. The average temperature is around 17 degrees in summer. The monsoon months are harsh and the region has experienced extreme rainfall several times. Monsoon weather is around 12 degrees. Winters are cold, complex and livable with 0-15 degrees. Lord Kedarnath’s palki is transferred to his winter residence near Guptkashi – Ukhimath from November to April. The temperature in this season is always very low.
Best time to visit
From the beginning of the season in April until the beginning of the monsoon and after the monsoon until the end of the season. Kedarnath has cold weather for most of the year, the best months to visit are May, June, September and October.
How to get there
Kedarnath is well connected to most major cities in Uttarakhand. It includes road, rail and air transport. The nearest road to Kedarnath is about 18 km away, Gaurikund.
Dehradun Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest airport to Kedarnath, located at a distance of 238 km. The airport is well connected to Delhi with daily flights. Taxis are readily available from the airport to Gaurikund.
The nearest railway station to Kedarnath is Rishikesh, 216 km before Kedarnath on the NH58. Moreover, Gaurikund is well connected by motorable roads to Rishikesh. Taxis and buses are readily available to reach Gaurikund.
To get to Kedarnath, the last passable point is Gaurikund. From there, you will walk almost 16 km. Gaurikund is connected to major destinations in North India. Shared buses and taxis are available from Haridwar, Rishikesh and Rudraprayag to Sonprayag, which is the last point at which private vehicles are allowed. From Sonprayag there is a shared taxi service offered by the government, where the taxi will drop you off at Gaurikund for a fee.
Char Dham Yatra
The Char Dham Yatra of Uttarakhand is the four abodes of the holy shrine: Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri. These four temples are located in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. The importance of Charm Dham Yatra is immense among Hindus.
Also, it is believed that every Hindu should go to Char Dham Yatra at least once in their lifetime. The great reformer and philosopher Adi Shankaracharya brought these sacred shrines together in a spiritual circuit around the 8th century.
Generation after generation and hundreds of thousands of devotees have carried on the tradition of visiting these shrines every year. Thus, it is very common to complete the circuit in a single religious pilgrimage.
The Kedarnath trek is in one of the most religious areas, especially in Hindu mythology. The Temple of Lord Kedarnath (Shivji), which sits at the base of the peak, has stood the test of time and is revered among spiritual believers.
Every year, millions of pilgrims move mountains to offer their prayers and seek blessings from the Hindu deity. The temple itself is located at the base of Kedarnath Peak, facing Kedar Parvat. A beginner-level trek, Kedarnath is especially beautiful during the winter months. One of the most remarkable ridges in the Himalayan region, nature lovers and hikers tend to enjoy the experience.
You can even take a helicopter ride if you don’t like hiking. Services are available from various heliports like Guptkashi, Sersi, Phata, etc.
Where to stay
There are many government-run tent colonies, as well as cabins and rooms. These are enough to house more than a thousand pilgrims and visitors. There are also hotels, guest houses and Dharamshala. Many people have started taking helicopter rides, so the places to stay are Phata, Rampur, Gaurikund, Sitapur, etc.
What to eat
The only option for a decent meal are roadside food stalls and dhabas. Most of the North Indian cuisine is available. In the name of a highly revered place in Hinduism, it should be the case that alcohol and non-vegetarian food are not served and are prohibited.
Places to visit
Although Kedarnath is a religious destination, the main tourist spots have mythological connotations. There are so many things to explore around Kedarnath Temple. So don’t forget to set aside some time to really immerse yourself in the experience.
Shrouded in the mighty Garhwal Himalayas, Kedarnath Temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Kedarnath temple is among the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams (the most powerful Shiva temples in the world) and is also the largest among the Panch Kedars. For thousands of years this place has been revered and the energy of the area is one of positivity, hope and belief for the future.
Inside the temple, you will be greeted by a small hall with images of Parvati and 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 worshiped as Sadashiva. Made of interlocking gray stones with iron clamps, the temple is truly eye-catching against the backdrop of the Himalayas.
Gandhi Sarovar is a small lake, also known as Chorabari Tal, which has crystal clear water. It is located at the mouth of the Chorabari Bamak glacier. Gandhi Sarovar is located at the foot of Kedarnath Peak and Kirthi Stambh, at a staggering altitude of 3,900 meters above sea level. The lake arises after completing another 4 km trek from the Kedarnath temple.
Kalimath is a religious place located on the banks of the Saraswati River. Located at an elevation of 1,800 meters, Kalimath is one of the 108 Shakti Peethas of India. Kalimath sits in the lap of nature providing a healthy and divine environment. The Temple of Goddess Kali is located in Kalimath. Legends believe that after killing Raktbeej, Goddess Kali went into hiding at this place.
The Bhairavnath temple of Bhairon Baba Mandir is located south of the Kedarnath temple on the eastern foothills of the Himalayas. The temple is dedicated to Bhairav, the fierce manifestation of Lord Shiva associated with destruction and devastation. The temple offers amazing views of the Himalayas and is a beautiful part of the journey from him to Kedarnath.
Gaurikund temple is a temple of Goddess Parvati. According to myths and legends, this is the place where goddess Parvati did penance with yoga and ascetic practices to win the heart of Shiva. It is believed that Lord Shiva admitted his love for the goddess here and they were later married at the Triyuginarayan Temple.
Adi Shankaracharya was a philosopher, credited with unifying and establishing the main thoughts of Hinduism. At the age of 32, he decided to attain moksha at Kedarnath and merged with the land near the Kedarnath temple. The samadhi is located just behind the temple.
Vasuki Tal Lake
Vasuki Tal is a high glacial lake located at an impressive elevation of 14,200 feet above sea level near Kedarnath Dham. Brahma Kamal and other Himalayan flowers can be seen blooming around the placid lake, providing spectacular views.
It is advisable to do the route during the day and spend the night in Kedarnath. The walking distance from Kedarnath temple is 8 km, the first 3-4 km are easy before the start of the ascent. Vasuki Tal ice is only 900 meters downhill from the top of Vasuki.
Guptkashi is located 47 km before the sacred Kedarnath shrine. It is located on the road to Kedarnath on a ridge on the west side of the Mandakini River Valley at an elevation of 1,319m above sea level. Guptkashi is a religiously significant town in Uttarakhand as it is home to ancient temples like Vishwanath temple and Ardhnarishwar temple. A much revered attraction, Manikarnika Kund is where two streams of Ganga and Yamuna meet, it is also a must-see.
Things to remember
The walk is 16km long and will take you 6 hours, depending on your state of health.
As per Uttarakhand government instructions, all travellers must do biometric registration. The facility is also available online. Alternatively, you can also do the same in Sonprayag.
You can easily find mules and porters to accompany you on your journey. Remember to check the officially published prices to avoid paying a large sum. Also, don’t forget to check their government-issued IDs.
It is always advisable to avoid mountainous terrain during the monsoon season. Especially considering the tragedy of 2013 and how hard Kedarnath was hit. If you wish to go there during the monsoon days, check with local officials and authorities.
Photography is not permitted on the temple premises. Be aware of the fact and obey the rules of the temple authorities.
Try to start your hike early in the morning to avoid the harsh afternoon sun.
Remember to eat before the hike, drink water and stay hydrated. However, don’t forget to bring your own water bottles.