The land of Uttarakhand is steeped in spirituality. Pilgrims from every nook and corner of the country embark on the pilgrimage journey to Uttarakhand in quest of God and spiritual salvation. Different types of pilgrimage trips can be made to this exotic Dev Bhoomi of Uttarakhand to fulfill your spiritual aspirations. The ‘Panch Kedar Pilgrimage Yatra’ is one of those. Read on to learn more about the ‘Panch Kedars’ of Uttarakhand-
Panch Kedar: History & Folklores
The history of Panch Kedars is rooted in the great epic of Mahabharata. It is said the Pandavas after winning the battle against Kauravas at the battlefield of Kurukshetra were tormented by severe guilt pangs and sense of sin arising out of the feeling of having slaughtered their own kinsmen at the battlefield. To get rid of the sins, they came looking for Lord Shiva and went around seeking his blessings. But Lord Shiva, angered by the death of the Kauravas evaded the meeting and eluded Pandavas by disguising himself in the shape of a bull. But as Pandavas drew closer, he attempted to dive underground. Bhima however got hold of his tail and the hind legs. But the ‘Bull incarnate’ slipped the hands of Bhima and only the ‘hump’ could be retained. This hump is worshipped at Kedarnath. The rest of the body parts of Lord Shiva appeared in four different places- arms at the Tungnath dham, face at the Rudranath dham, navel at the Madhyamaheshwar dham, hair at the Kalpeshwar dham. Along with Kedarnath, these four dhams are collectively called ‘Panch Kedar’.
The Panch Kedar or Five Kedars
The temple of Kedarnath constructed around the 8th century by the great spiritual guru, Adi Shankaracharya enshrines the Lord Shiva lingam in the shape of the bull’s hump. The temple is cradled at an elevation of 3583 meters above the sea level and is located in Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag district. According to myths, when Lord Shiva attempted an escape from the hands of Pandavas in the form of a bull, his hump was left back on the ground and is worshipped at the Kedarnath dham. The Shiv lingam at Kedarnath is one among the twelve auspicious Shiv jyotirlingams that the country has.
The Tungnath Shiva temple is perched at a height of nearly 3680 meters above the sea level and falls in Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag district. This is the highest of all Panch kedar Shiva temples and also highest among all other Shiva temples that dot the globe. According to legends, when Lord Shiva divided his body encased in that of a bull into several parts and rematerialized in different locations, his ‘bahu’ or the ‘hands’ appeared at the site of Tungnath. Today Tungnath is one of the revered ‘Panch Kedars’.
The Shiva temple of Madhyamaheshwar perched at an elevation of 3497 meters above the sea level and is the temple that comes ‘fourth’ in the circuit of panch kedar yatra. When Lord Shiva according to the famous mythological tale tried to escape the hands of Bhima by diving into the ground in the shape of a bull, his body scattered in several parts and fell on different place. At Madhyamaheshwar, fell the middle portion; i.e. belly and navel part of the sacred bull. The temple situated in Mansuna village enshrines a black stone Shiv lingam carved into the unique navel shape.
The Kalpeshwar Shiva temple is situated amid the verdant green thickets of Uttarakhand’s Urgam valley. The temple looks minimalistic in terms of height and architecture. Myths have it that as Lord Shiva in the guise of a bull was trying to escape the hands of Pandavas, Bhima caught hold of him but slipped the catch. So, he as a bull divided himself into several parts and scattered in different directions. His jata or matted locks fell on Kalpeshwar which is why Lord Shiva is even called by the name of ‘Jateshwar’ here.
The Rudranath Shiva temple is lodged at an altitude of 2286 meters above the sea level and houses the Swam Bhu or self-appeared Face-shaped Shiv linga. According to legends, when the body parts of the bull which was Lord Shiva in disguise, fell into different directions, the face fell at Rudranath. The temple falls within Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag district and its construction period dates back to as much as 8th century AD. The deity that the temple has replicates a human face and rises to a height of about 3 feet. The Rudraprayag trek is one of most difficult treks to be undertaken during the panch kedar pilgrimage trip.
Best Time to Go On Panch Kedar Yatra
The best months for going on the holy pilgrimage of panch kedar yatra is between the months of May and October. All the panch kedar temples remain open for visitation for 6 months of summer. Being situated at a high elevation the panch kedar yatra shuts down during winter months since the entire routes gets blanketed in heavy snow which causes hindrance and puts the lives of visitors are risk since the area also remains prone to unexpected rainfalls. The presiding deities for each of these temples are then transferred to their winter abode which are:
Kedarnath – Ukhimath; Tungnath – Mokumath; Rudranath – Gopeshwar; Madhyamaheshwar – Ukhimath. However Kalpeshwar dham is one shrine which remains open throughout the year and does not shut down for the winter months.
Rishikesh – Rudraprayag – Guptkashi – Gaurikund – Kedarnath (1st kedar) – Ukhimath – Mansuna – Uniyana – Ransi – Madhyamaheshwar (2nd kedar) – Ukhimath – Chopta – Tungnath (3rd kedar) – Chopta – Mandal – Sagar – Gangol – Rudranath (4th kedar) – Gangol – Gopeshwar – Chamoli – Helang – Kalpeshwar (5th kedar)
Places to Visit around Panch Kedar
- Kedarnath Excursion: Sitting amongst the high altitude and serene beauty of the surrounding natural beauty there are numerous places to visit around the holy location of Kedarnath. This place is definitely a treasure trove for adventure and nature lovers. Here are a few places which you can visit during your visit to Kedarnath Dham: Chandrashila, Sonprayag, Agastmuni and Shankaracharya Samadhi.
- Madhyamaheshwar: Sitting at an elevation of 3,497 metres above sea level among the magnificent surroundings of the Garhwal Himalayan region is an ancient pious temple of Madhyamaheshwar. The temple is nestled among the rolling green valley of the glorious Chaukhamba peak, Neel Kanth along with a cluster of other high altitude Himalayan ranges. You can go on some of the most memorable treks from here to places like: Deoria Tal, Kalimath, Gaurikund and Kanchani Tal.
- Tungnath: Known for being the highest Lord Shiva temple in the world, this 5000-year-old temple is sitting at an elevation of 11,352 feet above sea level. This holy site is frequented by trekkers and hikers on a regular basis. Some of the popular excursion sites are – Chopta, Chandrashila, Kanchula Korak musk deer sanctuary and Chamoli.
- Rudranath: This small temple has peacefully found a place among the Garhwal Himalayan regions amidst the alpine meadows and thriving rhododendrons forests. You can also visit some nearby excursion destinations like – Lyuti Bugyal, Panar Bugyal, Surya Kund and Manas kund.
- Kalpeshwar: This Lord Shiva temple is situated at an elevation of 7,218 feet above sea level and is known for being the only temple that can be accessed throughout the year when the rest of the presiding deities from the rest of the panch kedar dham shrines are shifted and worshipped at their winter homes. You can go on fun excursions to – Valley of flowers, Gopinath temple, Auli and Hemkund Sahib.
- The months of May to October are the best time to go on a panch kedar trekking circuit.
- The trekking journey of the entire five kedar temples will take almost 15 days to complete.
- Make sure you carry some healthy and ideal snacks like candies and dry fruits which will provide you with some much-needed energy.
- Make sure you are physically fit before the commencement of the journey.
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