Kedarnath Temple – One of The 12 Jyotirlingas
Location of Kedarnath Temple
Kedarnath Temple (Dham) is built on the Himalayan Mountain ranges near the Mandakini River of Kedarnath in Uttarakhand, India. Due to the very cold weather, this temple remains open from April (Akshaya Tritiya) to Kartik Purnima (usually November). Kedarnath Temple situated at an altitude of 3581 meters, to reach the temple one has to go through Gaurikund. In this, one has to travel a mountainous distance of 21 kilometers.
Lord Shiva in the form of a mystic yogi, meditating alone in the hills, is called Kedar and hence his temple is situated precariously from the slopes of the Mahapatha mountain in remote Garhwal.
Significance of Kedarnath Temple
Kedarnath is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas and is the most important of the Shiva temples. Surrounded by rocky, snow-capped peaks, the Gray Granite Temple stands at an altitude of 3500 meters at a point where four small streams flow into the Mandakini River. It visited in the 9th century by the fearless saint Shankaracharya, who installed the idol of Lakshmi-Narayan and said to have attained salvation here. Kedarnath is a difficult trek from Joshimath and since it is completely covered with snow in winter, the temple remains open only in the summer months. The worship of Kedarnath continues in Ukhimath during winters.
This Kedarnath Temple is part of Panch Kedar which are five religious places dedicated to Lord Shiva. All these are located in the Garhwal Himalayas. Whoever travels to Panch Kedar has to first visit Kedarnath, Tungnath, then Rudranath and Madhyamaheshwar, and then finally Kalpeshwar.
Legend of Kedarnath Temple
Kedarnath mentioned in the Mahabharata and the Pandavas said to have built the original temple here. After the disastrous battle of Kurukshetra where their entire dynasty destroyed, the five Pandava brothers had no desire to rule. He renounced the world and began a journey of atonement which ended in the inaccessible reaches of the Himalayas. Atonement was not going to be easy as the death and duality in Kurukshetra angered Shiva and refused to listen to his prayers. The Pandavas had to follow him from Varanasi to Kedarnath, where he finally relented. Here he built a temple and meditated and prayed to Shiva for salvation. Sahadeva, the youngest Pandava, died in Kedarnath.
Mythological Story of Kedarnath Temple
In ‘Skanda Purana’, Lord Shiva says to Mother Parvati, ‘O Praneshwari! This area is as ancient as I am. I attained Parabrahmatva in the form of Brahma for the creation of the universe at this place, and since then this place is my familiar abode. This Kedarkhand is like a land heaven because of my eternal abode.
It mentioned in Kedarkhand, ‘Akritva Darshanam Vaishvaya Kedarsyaghnashinah, Yo Gachched Badri Tasya Yatra Nishfaltam Vrajet’ which means if one travels to Badrinath region without seeing Lord Kedarnath, then his journey becomes in vain.
The Architecture of Kedarnath Temple
Kedarnath temple is 85 feet high, 187 feet long, and 80 feet wide. Its walls 12 feet thick and made of very strong stones. The temple erected on a 6 feet high platform.
Like the rigid aspect of the Lord, the Kedarnath Temple is a simple stone structure. Lightly decorated with carvings, its true elegance comes from its classic design and use of dark brown stone. A flight of stairs leads to the arched doorway of the porch that opens into the mandapa.
Both the mandapa and the sanctum sanctorum have sloping stone roofs, with a shikhara above the sanctum. The sanctum sanctorum has a three-faced stone lingam and a Nandi bull at the door and small shrines of Parvati and Ganesha around it. Also, there are carvings of Lord Krishna, the Pandava brothers, his wife Draupadi, and Mata Kunti.
The inner walls of the holy site of the temple adorned with mythological stories and paintings of many gods and goddesses. We see evidence of the origin of the iconic temple in the great epic Mahabharata.
Why is Kedarnath Temple called ‘Kedarnath Dham”
According to mythology, the Asuras wanted to destroy the gods. To avoid the demons, the gods prayed to Lord Shiva to protect them. That is why Lord Shiva incarnated in the form of a bull. The name of this bull was ‘Kodaram’ which had the power to destroy the demons.
The demons were destroyed by the horns and hooves of Shiva in the form of bulls, which were thrown into the Mandakini River by Lord Shiva. The name Kedarnath Dham is derived from the same Kodaram name.
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