Kedarnath temple- The Highest Jyotirlinga of Hindu Mythology

Kedarnath Temple

There is no one who doesn’t know about the Kedarnath Temple. Without the sight of the temple the journey of Badrinath Dham is believed to be ineffective and incomplete. There is an interesting tradition which was recorded by English Mountaineer Eric Shipton. According to a tradition recorded by the English mountaineer Eric Shipton (1926), “many hundreds of years ago,” one priest used to hold services at both the Kedarnath and Badrinath temples, traveling between the two places daily. But the interesting thing is that the distance between these places is 218 Km. Today we are going to unravel some legends of this holy temple.

Kedarnath Temple

Kedarnath Temple Jyotirlinga

Kedarnath Temple is a holy and famous Hindu temple of Lord Shiva. Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open to the general public only between April which is Akshaya Tritiya and November that is Kartik Purnima. During the winters, the vigraha of the temple is carried down to Ukhimath to be worshiped for the next six months. The temple is not directly accessible by road and has to be reached by 22 kilometers uphill trek from Gaurikund. Pony, mule and manchan services are available to reach the temple.

There are many legends attached to this holy and magical temple.

First legend of Kedarnath Temple

According to Hindu legends, Pandavas built this holy temple and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva. 

The Pandavas defeated and slew their cousins — the Kauravas in the epic Kurukshetra war. They wished to atone for the sins of committing fratricide and Brāhmanahatya during the war. Thus, they handed over the reins of their kingdom to their kin. They left in search of lord Shiva to seek his blessings. First, they went to the holy city of Varanasi (Kashi), which is known for its Kashi Vishwanath Temple. However, Shiva wanted to avoid them as he was deeply incensed by the death and dishonesty at the Kurukshetra war. Therefore, he assumed the form of a bull and hid in the Garhwal region.

Not finding Shiva in Varanasi, the Pandavas went to Garhwal Himalayas. Bhima, the second of the five Pandava brothers, stood astride two mountains and started to look for Shiva. He saw a bull grazing near Guptakashi. Bhima immediately recognized the bull to be Shiva. Bhima caught hold of the bull by its tail and hind legs. However, the bull-formed Shiva disappeared into the ground to reappear in parts, with the hump raising in Kedarnath. The arms appearing in Tungnath, the face showing up at Rudranath, the nabhi and stomach surfacing in Madhyamaheshwar and the hair appearing in Kalpeshwar. The Pandavas, pleased with this reappearance in five different forms. They built temples at the five places for venerating and worshiping Shiva.

Another interesting tale of Kedarnath Temple

A tale variant credits Bhima for not only catching the bull but also stopping it from disappearing. Consequently, the bull was torn into five parts and appeared at five locations in the Himalayas Kedar Khand of Garhwal region. After building the Panch Kedar Temples, the Pandavas meditated at Kedarnath for salvation, performed a yajna , and then through the sacred path called the Mahapanth, attained heaven or salvation. The Panch Kedar Temples are constructed in the North-Indian Himalayan Temple architecture, with the Kedarnath, Tungnath, and Madhyamaheshwar temples looking similar.

The Samadhi Of Adi Shankaracharya 

Adi Shankaracharya

According to the biography of the saint based on Madhava’s Sankshepa-Shankara-Vijaya, the 8th-century philosopher Adi Shankara died in the mountains near Kedarnath; although other hagiographies, based on Anandagiri’s Prachina-Shankara-Vijaya, state that he died at Kanchipuram. The monument’s ruins marking the purported death place of Shankara are located at Kedarnath.

2013 Floods

Kedarnath Temple after 2013 flash floods

The Kedarnath valley, along with other parts of the state of Uttarakhand, was hit with unprecedented flash floods on 16 and 17 June 2013. A huge rock got stuck behind Kedarnath Temple and protected it from the ravages of the flood. The waters gushed on both sides of the temple, destroying everything in their path. Even eyewitnesses observed that one large rock got carried to the rear side of Kedarnath Temple, thus obstructing the debris, diverting the river and debris to the sides of the temple, avoiding damage. The rock which protected the temple is worshiped as the God’s Rock (भीम शीला). 

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