KEDARNATH in Himalayas
This is one of the best known Shivastalams in India and is considered
to be one of the most sacred pilgrimage centers of the country, located in the lofty Himalayas. It is revered as one of the
12 Jyotirlingams - the Northern most one, while the Southernmost one is Rameswaram. The spiritual leader Adi Sankaracharya is closely
associated with Kedarnath. Kedarnath is a shrine steeped in antiquity, rich in legend and religious significance.
Four Himalayan shrines dedicated to Shiva have been glorified by the
Tamil Tevaram Hymns composed by the Nayanmars of the 1st millennium CE. These shrines are Indraneela Parvatam in Nepal, Gowrikund,
Kedarnath and Mount Kailash in Tibet. Although none of the Nayanmars visited Kedarnath, Sambandar sang its praises from Kalahasti.
The Tamil hymns of the Nayanmars refer to Kedarnath as Tirukkedaram.
The Temple: Located in the Himalayas at a height of 12000 feet
in awe inspiring surroundings, this small shrine is accessible by foot, only 6 months a year. The temple at Kedarnath enshrining
the Jyotirlingam of Shiva opens only when the sun enters the zodiac sign of Aries and it is closed when the sun enters Scorpio.
The priests then go to Ukhimath, where the worship of Kedareshwara is continued during the winter season.
Kedarnath is located on a ridge which juts out at right angles from
below the 23000 feet high snowy peak of Mahapanth. Kedarnath is located on the Rudra Himalaya range.
The Rudra Himalaya range is also known as the Pancha Parvata; its
five peaks are Rudra Himalaya, Vishnupuri, Bhramapuri, Udgari-Kanth and Swargarohini. It is believed that four of the Pandavas
died on the last of these peaks.
Legend has it that Parvati worshipped Kedareshwar to unite with
Shiva as Ardhanareeswarar. Kedara Munivar is also said to have established this shrine visited by the Pancha Pandavas.
Legend also has it that Nara and Narayana - two incarnations
of Vishnu practised severe penances at Badrikashramam, in front of a Shivalingam fashioned out of earth. When Shiva appeared in
front of them, they requested him to take up a permanent abode as a Jyotirlingam at Kedarnath.
Legend also has it that the Pandava princes were advised to
visit Kedarnath after the great Kurukshetra battle. Shiva upon seeing the Pandavas, assumed the form of a male buaffalo and
entered the earth. It is believed that the rear of its body remained here, as Kedareshwar. The front part is believed to be
in Nepal. This legend says that when Shiva entered the ground, he became five fold - his hind remained at Kedar, his arms
Tunganatha, his face Rudranatha, his belly Madhyameswara and his Jata Kalpeswara. These five shrines together as known as
the Pancha Kedara.
The Pandavas are believed to have visited this area several times.
Arjuna is believed to have come here to pray to Shiva to obtain the coveted Pasupataastra. The other Pandavas are believed to have
come here in search of him, where Draupadi came across the heavenly lotus Kalyana Saugandikam, and requested Bhima to bring
here some more of the same. It was during his venturing out to seek these flowers that Bhima met Hanumaan.
Tradition has it that pilgrims first visit Yamunotri and Gangotri
and bring with them the holy waters from the sources of the rivers Yamuna and Ganga and offer abhishekams to Kedareshwara.
The traditional pilgrim route is Haridwar - Rishikesh - Devaprayag - Tehri - Dharasu - Yamunotri - Uttar Kashi - Gangotri - Triyugnarayan - Gowrikund and Kedarnath.
Alternatively, the route to Kedar from Rishikesh is via Devprayag, Srinagar, Rudraprayag and Ukhimath.
Shri Kedareshwar is situated on the Himalayas, on a mountain named
Kedar. Before the mountains, on the banks of the Alakanada Badrinarayana is situated. And on the west, on the banks of Mandakini
Kedarnath Jyotirlinga is situated. This place is approximately 150 miles away from Haridwar and 132 miles north of Hrishikesh.
Nar Narayan the incarnation of Lord Vishnu has performed severe penance in Badrikashraya of Bharat Khand. He would regularly
pray to the Shivirlinga and Lord Shiva used to be present there in the linga.
After some time Lord Ashutush appeared
before Nar Narayan and said – I am very pleased with your undeterred faith and devotion, so you may ask a boon for yourself.
Nar Narayan, said that if you are really pleased then O’ Devesha please assume form and reside here eternally so that
all people who worship you shall be freed from their miseries. Granting the boon, Lord Shiva assumed form of a linga and was
installed in Kedar Mountain. After that Nar Narayan worshipped him ardently and then after he was named Kedareshwar.
praying to Kedareshwar, one can get all his desires fulfilled. Upamanyu had prayed to Lord Shiva in this place, in Satayuga.
In Dwapar the Pandavas had worshipped Lord Shiva here.