Situated at an altitude of 3,583 m above the sea level in the lap of the Garhwal Himalayan range, Kedarnath is among the twelve Jyotirlingas and Panch Kedar. It is one of the most important pilgrimage sites for devout Hindus. Kedarnath is also one of the Char Dhams of Uttarakhand including Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri Dhams.
The temple of Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Set amidst the snow-clad mountains near Chorabari glacier and on the bank of the Mandakini River, Kedarnath offers an amazing spectacle of the surrounding mountainscape. The pilgrims can trek to the Kedarnath Temple or reach the temple by pony or palki from Gaurikund. The extreme cold of the mountains and snowfall keep the temple closed for pilgrims for the months from November to April. Kedarnath can be reached by regular bus links from Haridwar, Rishikesh, Dehradun, and other major cities of Uttarakhand. If you plan to travel to Kedarnath by air you can fly to the Jolly Grant in Dehradun while if you plan your Kedarnath Yatra by the railways then the nearest railway station is in Rishikesh and Kotdwar.
Take a look at the Kedarnath travel guide for comprehensive information about the temple, its history, how to reach it, the best time to visit, and places to visit the temple. The travel guide will help you to plan the Yatra in the best way.
History and Legends of Kedarnath Temple
Kedarnath Temple is the abode of Lord Shiva, the destroyer of evil and the protector of mankind. It is among the holiest places for Hindus. According to the legend after the battle of Kurukshetra, Pandavas were burdened with the guilt of killing their siblings and they were on the lookout for Lord Shiva to atone for their sins. However, Lord Shiva or Kedar eluded them by disguising himself as a bull to roam into the Garhwal Himalayas. When he was discovered by the Pandavas, he dived into the ground and Bhim tried to catch him but only got hold of the hump. It is the hump of the Bull Nandi that is worshiped at Kedarnath.
The statue of the celestial Bull Nandi guards the entrance of the Kedarnath Temple. The rest of the body parts of Lord Shiva (in the form of the bull) falls on different places such as navel emerged Madhya Maheshwar, two forelegs appeared at Tungnath, face in Rudranath, and hairs at Kalpeshwar. Together these sacred places are known as Panch Kedar.
It is believed that the Kedarnath Temple was built by Pandavas and the present temple was restored by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD.
Kedarnath Temple Opening and Closing Dates
Kedarnath Temple will open for devotees on 14 May 2021. While the expected closing date is 6th November 2021. The opening date and time depends on the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya and declared on the Maha Shivaratri. Although, the closing date of the temple generally falls on the occasion of Bhai Dooj (October-November) every year.
This revered Jyotirlinga remains open for 6 months of the year whereas the rest of the year it remains closed due to heavy snow. The date of the opening of the Kedarnath shrine is decided by priests of Ukhimath's Omkareshwar Temple after consultation of Panchang, the Hindu calendar. The Panchmukhi Doli of the Kedarnath Ji starts its journey from Omkareshwar Temple in Ukhimath and ends on the fourth day when the doors of the Kedarnath Temple opens for the pilgrims. A large number of devotees take part in the procession.
On the closing day of the temple, the deities and the priests shift the idol of Kedarnath Temple to the Omkareshwar Temple in Ukhimath. Pilgrims can visit there to seek blessings.
Kedarnath Temple Aarti
The Pooja rituals of Kedarnath Temple starts in the early morning at 4:00 AM with the Maha Abhishek Aarti and ends at 7:00 PM with Shyan Aarti. The temple opens for darshan for pilgrims at 6:00. In the afternoon, it closes for two hours from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM. The public timings for the temple end at 7:00 PM.
Some Pujas can be booked online by the devotees and no physical presence of the pilgrims is needed. Here is the list of Pujas that can be booked online:
Places to visit around Kedarnath Temple
There are a plethora of places to visit around Kedarnath Temple that have mythological connotations, especially from the Mahabharata epic. These places offer the finest views and also let pilgrims immerse themselves into spiritual bliss. Here are the places to visit near Kedarnath:
1. Gandhi Sarovar – Lying on the foothills of Kedarnath and Kirti Stambh Peak, this is a small lake that is fed by a glacier. Set at an altitude of 3900 m above the sea level, Gandhi Sarovar is also known as Chorabari Tal. The lake owes its name to its location right at the mouth of Chorabari Bamak Glacier.
2. Phata – Located on the way to Kedarnath, Phata is a typical village of Uttarakhand blessed with the beauty of the mountains. For the pilgrims who cannot trek to Kedarnath, the village has a helipad that offers helicopter services to Kedarnath as well as other Char Dham destinations.
3. Sonprayag – The confluence point of the two holy rivers of Basuki and Mandakini, Sonprayag is a place of religious significance on the way to Kedarnath Dham. 'Prayag' means confluence and it is believed that bathing in a Prayag is to absolve sins and grant salvation.
4. Gaurikund- Dedicated to Goddess Parvati who is known as Gauri, Gaurikund Temple is a religious stopover for pilgrims to take blessings of the divine. The temple is located in Gaurikund, which is the commencement point of Kedarnath Yatra. If legends are to be believed, it is a place where Goddess Parvati performed meditation and austerities to win the heart of Lord Shiva. There are hot water springs in Gaurikund that are converted to bathing places.
5. Vasuki Tal – Set an altitude of 4,135 m above the sea level, Vasuki Tal is a high-altitude glacial lake known for its inspiring beauty. This placid lake is home to a wide range of flowers, especially the Brahma Kapal. Enveloped by towering peaks, the Vasuki Tal trek is not easy but it is equally beautiful as the water body and is worth trying.
6. Shankaracharya Samadhi - The last resting place of the great philosopher and theologian of Hinduism, Adi Shankaracharya is one of the revered sites in Kedarnath. The saint has attained salvation at a very young age and marking his resting place is the Samadhi visited by devotees in huge numbers.
7. Triyuginarayan Temple - Perched at an altitude of 1,980 m above the sea level, Triyuginarayan Temple is surrounded by panoramic views of snow-covered mountains of the beautiful Garhwal region. The temple is dedicated to the preserver Lord Vishnu, known as Triyjugi Narayan Ji. According to legends, the temple is where Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati got married. Another special feature of the temple is a perpetual fire that burns in front of the temple and it is believed that this fire burns from the time of the divine marriage. Thus, the temple is also known as Akhand Dhuni temple.
8. Bhairav Temple - Bhairavnath Temple or Bhairon Baba Mandir is one of the must-visit places in Kedarnath. Dedicated to Bhairav, he is the believed protector of Kedarnath Temple and the valley in the winters when the deities shift to Joshimath and temple doors are closed. Offering charming views of the lofty Himalayas, the temple is among the revered shrines in Uttarakhand. Devotees completed the Kedarnath pilgrimage with a visit to the temple.
How to reach Kedarnath Temple
Gaurikund is the last point till where the vehicle can travel after that pilgrims have to travel to the shrine by road. The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun, which is situated at 238 km from Gaurikund. Rishikesh railway station is the nearest railhead. Devotees can board a bus, catch a shared jeep, or hire a private taxi from airport and railway station for Gaurikund. By road it is also well-connected from the major cities and towns of North India.
Best Time to Visit Kedarnath
The best time to visit Kedarnath is from April to June and September to October when the region experiences comfortable and pleasant weather for the Yatra. During the summer season, the weather remains balmy. It is advisable to avoid the Yatra in monsoon season as the region experiences heavy downpour, which causes landslides and floods in some areas. In the winter season, the region experiences heavy snowfall due to which temples remain closed for almost six months. The idols shift to the Omkareshwar Temple in Ukhimath in winters. The devotees can visit there and seek blessings.
Where to Stay In Kedarnath?
There are not many options for accommodation available in Kedarnath, however, there are a plethora of options available at nearby places as well as in Gaurikund. GMVN camps/ tents and rest houses in Kedarnath and Gaurikund. They can be booked online from GMVN's official website.
There are many hotels, resorts, rest houses, lodges, and ashrams are available in Gaurikund, Phata, Guptkashi, and Sonprayag. Some of them are:
- Camp Nirvana, Guptkashi
- Rawat Tourist Lodge, Guptkashi
- Hotel Madhuban, Guptkashi
- Yatra Hill Resort, Phata
- Hotel Hari Shri, Phata
- Shivalik Valley Resort, Gaurikund
- Hotel Dev Dham, Gaurikund
- Hotel Kedar Resort, Sonprayag
Registration for Kedarnath Yatra
It is mandatory for pilgrims to obtain a registration slip for Kedarnath Yatra. Both online and offline options are available for registration of the Yatra. The online pass can be obtained from the official website of the Uttarakhand Char Dham Devasthanam Management Board (UCDDMB). For offline registration, you require photo ID proof and they can be obtained from Haridwar railway station, Rishikesh bus stand, Janki Chatti, Guptkashi, Phata, Uttarkashi, and Sonprayag. It is compulsory to carry the registration slip with you for commencing the Yatra.
Things to know before you visit Kedarnath Dham
- The temple remains closed for six months due to heavy snowfall. It remains open from April to October.
- It is recommendable to avoid harsh winters and monsoon seasons. The region receives heavy snowfall in the winter and heavy downpours in the monsoon, which can cause landslides.
- Keep buffer days in case you are traveling in the monsoon season.
- Do not forget to carry heavy woolens in the winter season along with sunscreen and sunglasses to avoid sunburn.
- Carry light woolens in the summer season.
- In the monsoon, do not forget to carry an umbrella and raincoat.
- Always carry a first aid kit with painkillers and antiseptic creams. Tablets for fever, cold, cough, and altitude sickness is a must.
- While trekking wears comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes.
- Carry a battery-operated torch, fully-charged power banks, and extra batteries for cameras.
- Only BSNL operates in the region.
- Make sure to book accommodation in advance as there are fewer chances of getting good accommodation at a favorable price in the peak season.
- Do not forget to carry important documents including tickets, cash, and photo identity proof.