Framed with the beautiful Mandakini river, snow-clad mountains, forests and mesmerising views, Kedarnath is a deeply spiritual experience for travellers. Each year, thousands of Hindu pilgrims flock to the temple to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. What makes the temple town so special?
The story of Kedarnath
There are various versions about the origin of the Kedarnath temple. Some say it was built by Hindu seer Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th Century. Other versions claim it was built by Raja Bhoj of Malwa in 2nd Century. But what inspired them? Again, there are multiple stories.
One of them leads on from the Mahabharat. Legend has it that following the Kurukshetra carnage, the Pandavas sought to meet Shiva to seek his forgiveness for the sins of the war. Shiva, unhappy with them, refused a meeting and left Kashi, his abode. He appeared as Nandi the bull in Guptakashi. But the Pandavas found out, and tried to catch hold of Nandi. Shiva escaped and this time, reappeared in five different parts in different places—the face at Rudranath, arms at Tungnath, navel and stomach at Madhyamaheshwar, the locks at Kalpeshwar and the hump at Kedarnath.
The second tale is Nara-Narayan, a Hindu deity, went to worship Parvita, and Shiva appeared. Nara-Narayan asked him to stay there in his original form for the welfare of humanity. Lord Shiva granted his wish and Kedarnath became his home.
Under snow for 400 years!
Geologists claim that the temple of Kedarnath was under snow for nearly 400 years, some time around 1300-1900 AD, a period known as the Little Ice Age. Scientists from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, say the several yellow lines on the temple walls point to glacial activity in the region. The temple not only survived being under the snow for 400 years but also escaped any serious damage from glacial movement, as per this report.
Scientists say that even the inside of the temple shows signs of glacial movement and the stones are more polished. The report further adds that scientists studied the architecture and concluded that the those who designed the temple not only kept in mind the terrain but also the formation of snow and glaciers, and ensured that the structure was strong enough not only to withstand natural disasters and the passage of time.
The Kedarnath flood of 2013
In 2013, massive flash floods swept through Uttarakhand. The deluge claimed 197 lives. About 236 were injured and 4,021 went missing. A total of 2,119 house were fully damaged, 3,001 severely damaged and 11,759 partially damaged, according to reports.
Kedarnath, the temple and town, also bore the brunt of nature’s fury, but the shrine survived. Some say a massive boulder blocked the path of the water and saved the temple from being washed away. Miracle or just great architecture, the shrine survives and continues to attract the devout to this day.
Where is Kedarnath?
One of Hinduism’s holiest shrines, the Kedarnath temple is located Rudraprayag, in the lap of the Garhwal Himalayas, 221km from Rishikesh. It rests against the backdrop of the Kedarnath range, at an altitude of 3580m. It is one of the four sites that make up the Chhota Char Dham pilgrimage circuit, along with Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. It is also one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, or sites holy to Lord Shiva.
How to reach Kedarnath?
Gaurikund is the last motorable point before Kedarnath. From here, it’s 14km up the mountains. One can walk up, ride a pony, or be hauled up in a palanquin. Alternatively, you can take a very short helicopter ride from Sirsi, Phata or Guptakashi and then walk up the short distance to seek the blessings of Shiva.
Source – cntraveller.in