Kēdārnāth Mandir (Kedarnath Temple) is a Hindu temple at a height of 3,583 m (11,755 ft), 223 km from Rishikesh on the shores of Mandakini river, a tributary of Ganga, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April (Akshaya Tritriya) to November (Kartik Purnima - the autumn full moon). During the winters, the vigrahas (deities) from Kedarnath temple are brought to Ukhimath and worshipped there for six months.The temple is not directly accessible by road and has to be reached by a 18 kilometres (11 miles) uphill trek from Gauri kund.
Pony and manchan service is available to reach the structure. According to Hindu legends, the temple was initially built by Pandavas, and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva.The temple is one of the four major sites in India's Chota Char Dham pilgrimage of Northern Himalayas. This temple is the highest among the 12 Jyotirlingas. 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 a few cracks on one side of the four walls which was caused by the flowing debris from the higher mountains. A large rock among the debris acted as a barrier, protecting the temple from the flood. The surrounding premises and other buildings in market area were heavily damaged.
Kedarnath is well known for its spirituality and picturesque Panorama. The town is located in the Indian State of Uttarakhand. Best time to visit Kedarnath is around summer months, ie, from March to June. The town has soothing and mildly warm weather in summers. While it is very chilling in winters and the town faces scanty to heavy rains in monsoons.
Inside The Temple
The presiding image of Kedaranth in the form of lingam is of irregular shape with a pedestal 3.6m (12ft) in circumference and 3.6m (12ft) in height. There is a small pillared hall in front of the temple, that has images of Parvathi and of the five Pandava princes. There are five temples around namely Badari-kear, Madhya Maheswara, Tunganatha, Rudranatha and Kallesvara. The first hall inside Kedarnath Temple contains statues of the five Pandava brothers, Lord Krishna, Nandi -the vehicle of Shiva and Virabhadra, one of the guards of Shiva. Statue of Draupadi and other deities are also installed in the main hall. An unusual feature of the temple is the head of a man carved in the triangular stone fascia. Such a head is seen carved in another temple nearby constructed on the site where the marriage of Shiva and Parvatiwas held. The head priest (Raval) of the Kedarnath temple belongs to the Veerashaiva community from Karnataka. However, unlike in Badrinath temple, the Raval of Kedarnath temple does not perform the pujas. The pujas are carried out by Raval's assistants on his instructions. The Raval moves with the deity to Ukhimath during the winter season. There are five main priests for the temple, and they become head priests for one year by rotation.
A triangular shaped rock is worshiped in Garbhagriha of the temple. Surrounding Kedarnath, there are many symbols of the Pandavas. Raja Pandu died at Pandukeshwar. The tribals here perform a dance called "Pandav Nritya". The mountain top where the Pandavas went to Swarga, is known as "Swargarohini", which is located off Badrinath. When Dharmarāja was leaving for Swarga, one of his fingers fell on the earth. At that place, Dharmarāja installed a Shiva Linga, which is the size of the thumb. To gain Mashisharupa, Shankara and Bheema fought with maces. Bheema was struck with remorse. He started to massage Lord Shankara’s body with ghee. In memory of this event, even today, this triangular Shiva JyotirLinga is massaged with ghee. Water and Bel leaves are used for worship.