The Indian state of Uttarakhand is as shrouded in mysticism as it is in beauty. From temples that date back centuries to scenic mountain terrain, Uttarakhand is rightfully dubbed as Dev Bhoomi, The Land of Gods. And in Uttarakhand lies one of the most holy pilgrimage sites in the country – Kedarnath.
Flocked by people from all over the world, the Kedarnath temple is a crucial holy site for many and one of the most important stops in the Chota Char Dham Yatra. It is a holy pilgrimage to the four most holy sites in Uttarakhand which include Yamunotri, Gangotri, and Badrinath, and is the first stop in the Panch Kedar pilgrimage journey as well.
The Kedarnath Temple
Standing tall among the mighty Himalayan peaks, legend says that the Kedarnath temple was first built by the Pandavas, and then later revived by Adi Shankaracharya roughly 1200 years ago.
The temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, has stood the test of time for centuries and has undergone several renovations and reconstructions during that time. As it stands now, the stone temple houses a representation of Lord Shiva and several smaller shrines dedicated to other deities from the Hindu mythology.
The outside is donned with intricate carvings and sculptures carved into the huge stone slabs that form the main structure of the temple. The temple’s ancient architecture is a wonderful blend of architecture and spirituality.
How To Reach Kedarnath Temple?
The Kedarnath Temple is more than 3.5 Km above sea level, nestled in the Garhwal Himalayan Mountain range on the banks of the Mandakini River.
There are no direct roads for vehicles to reach close to the temple. However, one can reach Gaurikund by road. Because of its popularity, Gaurikund has good connectivity through buses and taxis or can be reached using private vehicles. The nearest railway station is in Rishikesh, while the nearest airport is in Dehradun.
The journey to the Kedarnath temple begins from Gaurikund. This 16 km hike into the mountains is a spiritual journey that sees many participants daily, many of whom often opt to go the whole route by foot. The route follows a pre-established stone path that is partly marked by the Mandakini River.
It is an arduous journey that will be difficult for those that lack the stamina or heart to complete. But those devoted enough still make it through the exhilarating and enlightening journey among gorgeous valleys, with wonderous views of the mountains surrounding the route. For those that don’t want to go through the strenuous hike, either partially or in full, there are other options available.
Palanquins and horses are available to hire from Gaurikund. Coolies to carry people’s luggage are also an option for those that need them.
For the adventurers and thrill seekers out there, Kedarnath can also be reached via a mountainous trekking route that starts at Gaurikund. The trekking route follows the Mandakini River, with delightful views of the Chaukhamba peak and the Mandakini Valley.
A helicopter service is also available for devotees. These helicopters can be chartered from Dehradun, Phata, Agustmuni, and Gaurikund. The state government has also laid out plans to develop a series of ropeways and cable cars which can make the journey a lot easier and affordable.
Best Time To Visit Kedarnath
Kedarnath, being snuggled in the high folds of the Himalayas, has no shortage of gorgeous scenic beauty. However, being that high means that you’re expected to see some cold temperatures as well. While the temple is open to the public between April and November, the best time to visit the Kedarnath temple is certainly in the Summer, between April and June. The temperatures are comfortable during this time.
With erratic weather that can change at any time, the mountains can be particularly dangerous during the Monsoon season. Hence it is good to avoid visiting between July and August. The temple remains closed during the winter months, between November and March due to heavy snowfall and extreme weather conditions.
Places To See In And Around Kedarnath
While the Kedarnath temple is why people visit the mountain pilgrimage site, there are many sights to see around the area for both those seeking for a holy and spiritual experience, as well as those who love nature.
- The Samadhi of Adi Guru Shankaracharya – Located just behind the Kedarnath temple, the final resting place of the famous saint is considered auspicious by devotees who often come just to pray before it.
- Gandhi Sarovar – Also known as the Chorabari Tal Lake, this beautiful lake with crystal clear waters can be reached through a small trek from Kedarnath. The trek itself is a wonderful experience, with breathtaking sights along the way.
- Gaurikund – While most people visit Gaurikund just to get to Kedarnath, it in itself is a holy place, with a temple dedicated to Gauri, Lord Shiva’s consort. Gaurikund also houses medicinal hot springs.
- Phata – A small village that is located en route to Kedarnath, Phata often serves as a helicopter stop for those that cannot make the journey on foot.
- Sonprayag – Marking the confluence of the two holy rivers of Mandakini and Basuki, Sonprayag is a divine place located near Gaurikund. It can be reached easily by road, either via public transportation or private vehicles.
Sheltered between glorious mountains, Kedarnath is the perfect marriage of natural beauty and spirituality. It is a beacon of hope and inspiration for those that make the taxing hike just to get a glance of the ancient temple.
As one of the holiest sites in India, Kedarnath holds a special place in the hearts of those that seek spiritual solace amidst the majestic Himalayas. The pilgrimage is not just a journey but an experience that can forever mark your soul.
The peaceful atmosphere of the temple complex, the sound of the Mandakini River, and the awe-inspiring views of the snow-clad peaks make it easy to see why Kedarnath is considered one of the most serene places in the world. For those seeking a spiritual experience like no other, Kedarnath is a must-visit destination that offers an unforgettable journey to the heart of the divine.