Kedarnath is situated in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. Rudraprayag is the junction point for pilgrims of Char Dham Yatra as it it the junction between Badrinath and Kedarnath.
The holy town is 86 kms from Rudraprayag Uttarakhand.
Kedarnath is located in the Garhwal Himalayas, about 3584m above sea level near Chorabari Glacier, the head of river Mandakini.
Kedarnath is around 255 km from Haridwar, 225 km from Rishikesh and 275 kms from Dehradun city. The entire route takes you through numerous inter winding mountain paths, prayags, medicinal thermal springs with the beauty of the fabulous mountain peaks on the backdrop making it a journey of a lifetime.
The holy site is one of the most important pilgrim centres of Uttarakhand.It is a part of the Char dham Yatra with around lakhs of pilgrims visiting here every year. It is the most important among the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.
Kedarnath spreads over an area of 3 sq km and is surrounded by Kedarnath mountains peak ( 6940 mts )and the Kedarnath Dome ( 6831 mts ). The gorgeous view of majestic mountains peaks of Gangotri I, II & III peaks of the Gangotri Group is the highlights of the region.
The population of Kedarnath is not fixed as people from nearby such as Guptkashi, Ukhimath come here and stay for 6months during the summer. Most of the people staying here are Badrinath Temple priest, merchants, shopkeepers and people who work in hotels and restaurants here.
The people leave Kedarnath during the winters for their villages as it is covered by a snow blanket for nearly 6months during which the idol of Shiva is shifted to its winter residence in Ukhimath.
Hindus form the majority of people in Kedarnath and Hindi and Garhwali and the major languages spoken by the people. Other languages spoken in the region are Kumaoni and English.
Kedarnath has a cold climate so summers are cool and winters colder. Kedarnath is covered with snow during the winter months during the months between November and April. Kedarnath can be visited during the summer months and rainy seasons should be avoided..
According to the Koti Rudra of Shiv Puran, Vishnu avatar Nar Narayan used to worship Lord Shiva by making a temporary shivling. Lord Shiva on happy appeared in front of Nar Narayan and granted them a wish.
Nar Narayan asked Lord Shiva to make this place his home. Lord Shiva agreed and hence the The holy town got it name Kedar which is an another name of lord Shiva
Legends also believe that once King Kedar the father of Goddess Lakshmi ruled over Kedarnath and so the land came to be known after his name.
According to Shiv Puran, the pilgrims, who will die in Kedarnath or on the way, will be absolved from their sins and the pilgrims who drink the water of Kedarnath after they had offered prayers to Lord Shiva receive salvation. Thus Kedarnath has high religious importance in the hindu mythology.
Kedarnath is home to the holy temple. The Kedarnath Temple stands facing the Mandakini Valley. According to legends, the Pandavas came here to ask forgiveness from lord Shiva after the battle of Mahabharata.
Lord Shiva eluded them repeatedly and while fleeing took refuge here in the form of a bull. On being followed, he dived into the ground leaving behind his hump on the surface. This hump is worshipped at the Kedarnath temple.
The Bhaironathji Temple located 1/2 kms from the Kedarnath is a well known and revered temple dedicated to Bhairo Devta. It is believed to be the guardian of Kedarnath temple during the winters. The view form the temple is simply fabulous and one can see the whole of Kedarnath Valley from here.
The Mahapanth or the eternal leap to heaven is believed to be the place where the pandavas perished and went to heaven. This place atop the Satopanth behind the Kedarnath temple.
Many pilgrims have believed to leapt to their death from here in order to attain nirvana via this gateway to heaven.
Guptkashi is 35kms on the way to Kedarnath. It is also known as the Kashi of the North. The well known Ardhanareeshwar and Vishwanath temples are a must see for the pilgrims on the way to Kedarnath.
The temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva and according to legends, Lord Shiva hid here for a brief period of time to avoid a meeting with the Pandavas.
The Triyuginarayan village is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The temple is believed to be constructed by the Pandavas in Dwaapar Yug. It is believed to be the place where the marriage between Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati took place.
A havan kund that is still burning in front of the temple is believed to be burning from 3 yugs ( 3000 yrs ) is the holy fire where the marriage took place.
Chopta is one of the most beautiful hillstation in Uttarakhand. It is surrounded by the majestic Garhwal Himalayan ranges, such as Trishul, Nanda Devi and Chaukhamba peaks.
Deoria Tal is a natural lake surrounded by dense green surroundings and snow-covered peaks. The tourists can visit this place in winters from December to February and enjoy trekking in snow.
The Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary has a very large and diverse variety of flora and fauna. It is also famous for musk deer, snow leopards and the Himalayan Black Bear. The opening season April to June and again from September to November. Prior permission is needed to visit the park.
Ukhimath is a beautiful small hill town. It is also the winter seat of the two Kedars Kedarnath and Madmaheshwar shrines when the temples are covered under snow.
Ukhimath is also the starting point for Tungnath and Deoria Tal lake trek in Chopta.
The Kedarnath Vasuki Tal Trek or the Kedarnath Panwali Kanta Trek can be taken by the avid trekker during ones visit to Kedarnath
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The Kedarnath temple is one of the most important of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva in the world. It is built of large grey coloured rocks and is said to be around 1000 years old.
According to legends, the Pandavas came here to ask forgiveness from lord Shiva after the battle of Mahabharata. Lord Shiva eluded them repeatedly and while fleeing took refuge here in the form of a bull.
On being followed, he dived into the ground leaving behind his hump on the surface. This hump is worshipped at the Kedarnath temple. Lord Shiva's arms are believed to have appeared at Tungnath, face at Rudranath, navel at Madmaheshwar and head at kalpeshwar. These all five shrines together make the Panch Kedar.
The temple door stands guard a huge statue of Nandi. The temple walls are adorned with idols of the five Pandavas, Draupadi and Lord Ganesha.
The holy Kedarnath temple opens in Vaishakh ( Apr - May ) every year. The aarti starts at around 6.30 am sharp till 1 pm and again starts at around 4 pm till 9 pm everyday.
The morning aarti consists of Shubha Prabhat, Balbhog and Shiv Puja while the evening aarti are the Shiv Namavali, Shiv Mahima, Shiv Ekanta and more.
Lakhs of devotees come from all over the world to offer their puja and prey for their well being and happiness. Sugar candy, Tulsi, and dry fruits are offered as prasad at the holy Kedarnath temple.
The Kedarnath temple opens every year in the month of ( April - May ) 4 - 5 days before the opening of the Badrinath Temple and depending upon the climatic conditions.
Heavy snowfall during winters and landslides during rainy season can disrupt your visit to this shrines so the summer season from May to June is the best time to visit Kedarnath.
The rapid melting of ice and heavy rainfall has resulted in the formation and expansion of moraine dammed Chorabari Lake, as so creating a potential danger from the natural moraine dammed lake outburst floods. The recent climatic changes also had significant negative impact on high-mountain glacial environment.
On 16 and 17 June 2013, heavy rains together with moraine dammed lake (Chorabari Lake) burst and caused heavy to heavy flooding of the Saraswati and Mandakini Rivers in Rudraprayag Uttarakhand.
This outburst caused a lot of damage to the Kedarnath, Rambara and other surrounding small villages. Lot of lives were lost in this tragedy.
Kedarnath has a lot of hotel and restaurants which serve good Indian foods on the way to the temple. No alcohol of non veg food is served here. The food joints are opened all day long.
Similarly shopping can be done on the way to the temple. The market has a lot of religious items, semi precious stones, rudraksh mala, ayurvedic herbs and so on.
Ornamental Brass items, handmade local woollens and local wooden handicrafts can also been seen in the shops around the temple.
Image courtesy - Summit Post
Image courtesy - BeyondLust Ukhimath