As the name suggests this place is dedicated to the shrine of Kedar (lord Shiva) and is probably one of the most visited religious spots in the Indian pilgrimage circuit. Situated at the altitude of 3,580 meter from sea level, Kedarnath is one of the four holy places that encircle the famous Chardham Yatra. Believed to be one of the 12 Jyotirlings of Lord Shiva, Kedarnath shrine is considered as the heaven of every pilgrim and this is why people brave the distant hilly tracks to Kedarnath and in spite of its being the remotest site in all Chardhams, it always crowded with devotes. The Mandakini River flowing by this sacred spot serves the ideal setting to wash away one’s sins. But, pilgrimage is not always about washing one’s sins but to search for one’s soul.
Situated in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, the present day Kedarnath shrine was first set up by Adi Guru Sankarachrya. There are more than 200 shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva in Chamoli district itself, the most important one is Sri Kedarnath and the religious zest when blended with the natural beauty of the place enhances the charm of this mountain laced region. The elegantly carved architecture of the temple is more than a 1000 years old. However, the original temple was built by the Pandavas of Mahabharata and the mythology speaks of the Pandavas praying here to wash off their sins of killing so many people after winning the great battle at Kurukshetra. The story also refers to the ‘hide and seek’ battle played between Bhima, one of the Pandavas and Lord Shiva. The outcome of this game now appears in an incomplete idol at kedarnath and the remaining parts are worshipped at places like Rudranath, Madmaheshwar, Tungnath, and Kalpeshwar. These spots are together known as Panch Kedar.
The high altitude makes the winter season at Kedarnath very difficult. Thus, the temple only remains open for six month before the winter sets in. The gate closes during Diwali and opens once again in May. The opening of date of Kedarnath Temple depends on the Shiva Ratri and the priests in the temple fix it. During this closed period, people visit another nearby temple called Baba Baironath.
There are many other places of interest in and around Kedarnath such as Gandhi Sarovar and Gaurikund. There is also Triyuginarayan, said to be the wedding venue of Lord Shiva and Parvati and a flame at the spot is perpetually kept ablaze. Kedarnath is also the ideal spot for mountain trekking and beautiful treks leading through the virgin jungles and windy mountains are a favorite among adventure sports lovers. One can start trekking from Gaurikund itself. The celestial Jyotirling is treated as to posses the divine presence that can provide salvation to those who die at this holy land. And one can find the road to heaven at Mahapanth beyond the shrine.
Moreover, Sharavani Annakoot Mela, a fair is celebrated on the day before Raksha Bandhan during August that is very popular among visitors. Booking for special worship at the shrine is also possible at Kedarnath.