One of the most sacred Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva is Kedarnath Temple. It is located in the Uttrakhand district of India. The temple is established near the banks of river Mandakini. The temple is open for pilgrims during the month of April and Kartik Purnima (autumn full moon) due to extreme weather conditions in the region. The murtis from Kedarnath are brought up at Ukimath where they are worshipped for six months. Kedar khand is the historical name of the region and Lord Shiva is worshipped here as Kedarnath, Lord of Kedar Khand. The temple was praised by Tamil Nayanar saints during 6th and 9th century.
Adi Shankaracharya is believed to have built the Kedarnath Temple and the temple is counted among the Twelve Sacred Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva in India. The temple is not accessible by road completely and a trek of around 14 Kms is made to reach the holy shrine of Lord Shiva. The older temple existed from the times of Mahabharata when Pandavas performed holy rituals to coax Lord Shiva. Kedarnath is also among the top four sites included in India’s Chardham Yatra.
Kedarnath temple is a beautiful temple made of stones, situated in the Himalayas. The myth associated with Kedarnath says, during the war between Pandavas and Kauravas, the kith and kin of Pandavas were killed. In order to hide themselves, Pandavas took pilgrimage but Lord Vishweshwara was far away in Kailasa. After knowing this, Pandavas left Kashi for Himalayas via Haridwar. On their way, they saw Lord Shankar but Lord Shankar escaped from their sight. Knowing this Dharamraj cried, “Lord, we know you are near us but are hiding just because we have sinned. One day we will seek you and then only our sins will be washed. The place you are hiding yourself will be named Guptkashi and in future it will become a holy shrine”.
While searching for Lord Shankara, Pandavas reached Gaurikund from Guptkashi. Nakul and Sehdev came across a unique he-buffalo. Bheem went after the buffalo and in order to catch the clever buffalo, he hit the buffalo with his mace. Buffalo lost his balance and hid his head under the earth’s crust. Bheem started pulling buffalo out of the crust with his tail. During this tug war the hind part of the buffalo was left at Kedarnath and the face went to Nepal. The face of Buffalo in Nepal is known as Pashupatinath. From the hind part of buffalo appeared Lord Shankar in the form of Jyotirlinga. After having Darshan of Lord Shiva, the sins of Pandavas were resolved. Lord Shankar told Pandavas, “I will be present here in the form of triangular shaped Jyotirlinga and pilgrims would attain piety”. The places near Kedarnath show evidences of Pandava Raja Pandu’s death while making love to Madri. The place is also famous as Panduskeshwasr and ‘Pandav Nritya’ is performed here by the local tribes.
Bheem and Lord Shankara once fought to gain Mashisharupa. Bheem later regretted the fight and started massaging Lord Shankara’s body with ghee. In memory of this myth, the Jyotirlinga of Lord Shankara is massaged with ghee even today.
Srimat Shankaracharya praised Lord Shiva thus:
Mahadriparshve cha Tate ramantam sampujyamanam satatam munndraih |
Surasurairyaxa mahoragadhyaih kedaramisham shivamekamide ||
Meaning: 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. As a matter of fact, as one enters the main temple, the first hall contains statues of the five Pandava brothers, Lord Krishna, Nandi, the vehicle of Shiva and Virabhadra, one of the greatest guards of Shiva. An unusual feature of the temple is the head of a man carved in the triangular stone fascia of the temple. Such a head is seen carved in another temple nearby constructed on the site where the marriage of Shiva and Parvati was held. No specific family of pujaris supervise rituals at Kedarnath, where the focus is on veneration of the stone lingam that rests in the inner sanctum of the temple.
Jyotirlinga associated with Shiv Mahapurana
As described in Shiv Mahapurana, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu got in a tiff over the supremacy of creation. To judge their supremacy, Lord Shiva separated the three worlds in the form of huge pillars of light, the Jyotirlinga. Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu parted their ways to seek the end of the light. Lord Brahma lied that he found the end and Vishnu admitted his defeat. Lord Shiva cursed Brahma for the cheat that he will have no place in rituals ad Lord Vishnu will be worshipped till the end of time. Jyotirlingas are the form of Lord Shiva and Lord Shiva is believed to appear from the Lingums. There 12 prominent Jyotirlinga out of 64 which are believed to be most auspicious. The Jyotirlingas symbolise the endless nature of lord Shiva in the form of Pillars. The twelve prominent Jyotirlingas are at Somnath, Mallikarjuna, Omkareshwar, Vishwanath, Vaidyanath, Grishneshwar, Rameshwar, Mahakaleshwar, Triambakeshwar, Nageswar, Bhimashankar and Kedarnath.
Kedarnath: One of the most sacred Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva is Kedarnath Temple. It is located in the Uttrakhand district of India. The temple is established near the banks of river Mandakini.
Tungnath: Tungnath Temple is the highest temple in the world dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is one among five Panch Kedars located in Tehri Garhwal in the state of Uttrakhand. The temple is believed to be 1000 years old and is located at an altitude of 3,680m.
Rudranath: The Rudranath Temple is located in Uttaranchal district at an altitude of 2286m. The temple comes third in the circuit of Panch Kedar Yatra. The temple is located in the midst of dense forest of rhododendron dwarfs and Alpine pastures.
Madhyamaheshwar: The Madhyamaheshwar temple is located in Mansuna village in Garhwal at an elevation of 3497m. The temple is dedicated to lord Shiva and comes fourth in the circuit of Panch Kedar Yatra. The naval part of the bull is worshipped at the temple and is considered as sacred form of Lord Shiva.
Kalpeshwar: The Kalpeshwar temple is located in Urgam Valley region of Uttrakhand state and is at an elevation of 2200m. The temple is located to Lord Shiva and can be visited throughout the year. The matted tress or jata of Lord Shiva is worshiped at the temple. Hence Lord Shiva is also named as Jatadhar or Jateshwar. The temple comes fifth in the circuit of Char Dham Pilgrimage.
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