Kedarnath Temple is the most important holy pilgrimage shrines of Shiva in the Himalayas. It is located in the Rudraprayag District of Uttarakhand, India. The temple is also the highest among the twelve traditional Jyotirlinga Shiva Temples (where Lord Shiva, is worshipped in the form of a Jyotirlingam. ‘Jyothi’ means ‘Radiance’ and Lingam, ‘the mark or sign’ of The Almighty).
It is also considered as the northernmost and the closest Jyotirlinga to Lord Shiva’s eternal dwelling of Mount Kailash. The 6000 year old sanctuary is placed at a height of 12000 feet on the Kedar Mount. Kedar is another name of Lord Shiva, meaning ‘powerful’.
The temple is located at the source of the river Mandakini in the quaint surroundings of lofty, snow-capped Rudra Himalaya Range. The shrine attracts thousands of Shiva devotees from all over the world. Due to perilous weather conditions, the temple is open to public only for six months in a year (from April to November). For the rest of the year, the deity will be mounted in Ukhimath, and is worshipped as Kedareshwar. The Shiva Lingam at this holy temple is in the uncommon pyramidal form.
The original temple structure is believed to be built by Pandavas. The present-day 8th century structure is believed to be built by Adi Shankaracharya – the renowned philosopher and theologian who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta. The entrance of the temple features a giant statue of Nandi, the deific bull of Shiva as the temple guard.
The Legend behind the Kedarnath Siva Temple
There are different legends related to the origin of the Siva shrine here. The most prominent one is in connection with the Pandavas. The story also explains why the temple is one of the Panch Kedars.
Pandavas, after the epic battle of Kurukshetra, came to seek Shiva’s blessings as atonement for their sins. Lord Shiva eluded them continually as he was unwilling to bless them. In an attempt to evade their constant chasing, Shiva took the form of wild boar and dived into the earth at Kedarnath. He left behind a hump on the surface. The idol worshipped here is believed to be this conical projection. The Kedarnath temple, along with other shrines where the remaining parts of the body are adulated, is collectively known as Panch (five) Kedars. The arms at Tungnath, mouth at Rudranath, navel at Madmaheshwar and hair at Kalpeshwar.