Locations of Kedarnath
Among the twelve JyotirLingas of Bhagwan Shankara, the one at Kedarnath is located in the snow-covered area of the Himalayas. This JyotirLinga can be visited only during six months in a year. From the month of Vaisakha to Ashwin (Ashwiyaja) is the time when pilgrims can make the journey to this. The rest of the year it is too cold and the Himalayas are covered in snow. Therefore, the Kedarnath temple remains closed for pilgrims.
During the month of Karthik, due to snowfall, Sri Kedareshwar idol is brought out of the temple after lighting a ghee lamp, “Nanda Deepa”. Then the temple is closed for the winter. From the month of Karthik to Chaitra Sri Kedareshwar’s abode is shifted to the Urvi Math, which is in the valley. In the month of Vaishakh, when the temple doors are opened the lamp “Nanda Deepa” still keeps burning. People come to see this glorious lamp and the Shiva devotees consider themselves blessed.
Hardwar is considered to be the gateway to heaven, the magic city or Mayapur. Ahead of Haridwar, there are holy places like Rishikesh, Devprayag, Sonprayag and Triyugi Narayan, Gaurikund. To Kedarnath one has to pass through these places. Some part of the journey is motorable and the rest has to be walked upon. This part of the way through the Himalaya is very difficult. But devotees go through all this with dedication and determination. They overcome all the difficulties with perseverance.
To climb the steep path, some use mules, some use Dolis (swing like carriages) and some others use walking sticks. There are arrangements for acquiring these here. There are chowltries and resting places in between for the tired yatris. At Gaurikund, the pilgrims get to have a bath in the hot springs there. After this, they take a Darshan of the head-less Ganesha. It is here in Gaurikund, that Lord Shiva cut off Ganesha’s head with the trident and later replaced with the head of an elephant.
A little farther from Gaurikund, near the snow-clad mountains, on the banks of River Mandakini, the Kedarnath temple of the glorious JyotirLinga of Lord Shankar becomes visible. This is where Lord Shankar had made His abode. The shivalinga here is self-manifest and not installed by anyone. It is said that this is the hind part of Mahisha (he-buffalo).
Purana of Kedarnath
During the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, their own kith and kin gor killed. In order to absolve themselves of this sin, the Pandavas went for a pilgrimage. But Lord Vishweshwara was away in Kailasa in the Himalayas. On learning this, the Pandavas, left Kashi. They reached the Himalayas via Hardwar. They saw Lord Shankar from a distance. But Lord Shankara hid from them. Then Dharmaraj said: “Oh, Lord, You have hidden yourself from our sight because we have sinned. But, we will seek You out somehow. Only after we take your Darshan would our sins be washed away. This place, where You have hidden Yourself will be known as Guptkashi and become a famous shrine.”
From Guptakashi (Rudraprayag), the Pandavas went ahead they reached Gaurikund in the Himalayas valleys. They wandered there in search of Lord Shankara. While doing so Nakul and Sahadev found a he-buffalo. It was unique to look at.
Then! Bhemma went after the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo was clever and Bheema could not catch it. But Bheema managed to hit the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo had its face hidden in a crevice-in the earth. Bheema started to pull it by its tail. In this tug-of war, the face of the buffalo went straight to Nepal, leaving its hind part in Kedar. The face of the buffalo is known as Pashupatinath in Nepal.
On this hind part of Mahesha, a glorious JyotirLinga appeared. Lord Shankara appeared from this great light. He appeared before the pandavas. By getting a Darshan of Lord Shankar, the pandavas were absolved of their sins. The Lord told the Pandavas, “From now on, I will remain here as a triangular shaped JyotirLinga. By taking a Darshan of Kedarnath, devotees would attain piety”. Near Kedarnath, there are many symbols of the Pandavas Raja Pandu died here, when he tried to make love to Madri. This place is famous as Pandukeshwar. The tribals here perform a dance called “Pandav Nritya”. The mountain top where the Pandavas went to Swarga, is known as “Swargarohini”. When Darmaraja was leaving for Swarga, one of his fingers fell on the earth. At that palce, Dharmaraj installed a Shiva Linga, which is the size of the thumb.
To gain Mashisharupa, Shankara and Bheema fought with maces. Bheema was struck with remorse. He started to massage Lord Shankara’s body with ghee. In memory of this event, even today, this triangular Shiva JyotirLinga is massaged with ghee. Shankara is worshipped here in this manner. Water and Bel leaves are used for worship.
When Nar-nrayan went to Badrika village and started the worship of Parthiva, Shiva appeared before them. A few days later, a pleased Shiva granted them some boons. Nar-narayan wished that for the welfare of the humanity, Shiva should remain there in his original form. Granting their wish, in the snow-clad Himalayas, in a place called Kedar, Mahesha himself stayed there as a Jyoti. Here, He is known as Kedareshwara.
By visiting Kedareshwar, sorrows do not come even in dreams. By worshipping Shambara (Kedareshwar) Pandavas were rid of all theor sorrows. Badri-Keshwar’s darshan rids one of the material ties. Whoever gives Dan (alms) at Kedareshwar, just gets assimilated into Shivaroopa.
Around the main Kedarnath temples, there are many holy places. At the back, there is the Samadhi of Shankarachrya. A little further up, there is dangerous cliff called Bhariguptan (Bhairav Udan). One has to pass through dreadful, and life threatening circumstances. But what one gets is not Mrityu (Death) but Moksha (Salvation). On all the eight sides of the temple, there are eight shrines.
In short, it is to say that in order to visit Kedarnath, JyotirLinga, one has to go through a treacherous route. But when people are determined and dedicated, they never get tired. Every one keeps chanting Jay Kedarnath! Jay Kedarnath!!
Srimat Shankaracharya praised Lord Shiva thus:
mahAdripArshve cha taTe ramantaM sampUjyamAnaM satataM munIndraiH |
surAsurairyaxa mahoragADhyaiH kedAramIshaM shivamekamIDe ||
Oh Lord, who resides in the great heights of Himalayas, oh Lord, thou, who art worshipped forever by saints, Hermits, Demons, Gods, Yakshas and Maha Nag (giant snakes), I bow and offer millions of Pranams.
sambandhar, and sundharar have sung one padhikam (1) each on the Lord of Kedharam.
Badrinath which is near the Kedarnath is also a significant pilgrimage spot for the devotees of Lord shiva. The Neelkant peak behind the Badrinath temple is an abode of Lord shiva – like how the Mount Kailash is. It is called Indra Neel Parvat. It has been sung by saint Sambandhar (2).
. Website of Shri Badrinath Kedarnath