Panch Kedar : Kedar Valley
Uttarakhand is known as the Devbhoomi, or Land of the Gods, since ancient times. It has been an abode to the gods and great sages of our ancient Bharat and truly is one of the most heavenly parts of the earth. It has been a place of worship and pilgrimage for millennia.
Many incidences took place during the Epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata described by our ancestors for ages and have its mention in our holy scriptures. A story from our rich history relating to a set of 5 Shrines of Bhagwan Shiva known as Panch Kedar. The names of the 5 Shiva Shrines are:
These 5 Shrines of Bhagwan Shiva have a location in the Kedar Valley, Garhwal Region of Uttarakhand. The Panch Kedar are located amidst the serenity of the Himalayan Mountains and are the highest Shiva temples in the world. Each of the Keadr requires some amount of trekking with various levels of difficulty.
The origin of these shrines is associated with the Pandavas from the epic of Mahabharata. According to famous legends, after eliminating the blood relatives and Gurus, the tremendous load of repentance made the Pandavas seek Bhagwan Shiva for atonement. They went to Kashi in search of Bhagwan Shiva. Enraged with their actions, Bhagwan Shiva did not accept their request and hid at Guptkashi in the Garhwal region of the Himalayas in the form of a bull. Pandavas reached the Garhwal region searching Bhagwan Shiva, where they saw a bull grazing near Guptkashi.
They instantly recognized the disguised form of Bhagwan Shiva and tried to catch the bull. Bhima tried to grab the bull from its tail, but it disappeared in the ground and reappeared in the five different regions of the Garhwal. The hump emerged at Kedarnath navel appeared at Madhya Maheshwar, the face emerged at Rudranath, arms at Tungnath, and hair at Kalpeshwar.
Pandavas constructed temples at all the five places where Bhagwan Shiva appeared as a bull. Together these five places came to be known as Panch Kedar. However, there were more than five parts of the bull. Lastly, the head appeared near the banks of the Bagmati River. It came to be known as Pashupatinath.
The Kedarnath temple, having a location at the height of 3,584 meters in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. Surrounded by mountain peaks, and forests the temple occupies a prominent spot amongst the Panch Kedar temples. The present structure of the temple is said to be established by Adi Shankaracharya. The temple has a unique form of Shiva lingam resembling closely to the hump of a bull as Bhagwan Shiva.
The front hall inside the temple has idols of the Pandavas, Bhagwan Krishna, Nandi, and Virabhadra. Statues of Draupadi and other gods take place in the vital area of the temple. The 16-kilometer trek of Kedarnath starts from Gaurikund. The pilgrims can witness the immense beauty of nature during the trek, which keeps them highly motivated and energized during the trekking.
The Tungnath temple, having a location at the height of 3,470 meters in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. The Tungnath Shrine recognize as the place where the arms of Bhagwan Shiva appeared. According to the legend, Bhagwan Rama meditated at the Chandrashila peak, which is nearby Tungnath temple. You can witness the views of splendid peaks like Nanda Devi, Kedarnath, Chowkhamba, and Neelkanth during the moderate 5 km trek to the temple.
One can further trek 2 km to Chandrashila peak to enjoy an incredibly picturesque view of the neighboring peaks. The temple is just a few Kilometers from the Chopta, a popular winter destination of Uttarakhand.
The Rudranath temple having a location at the height of 2,290 meters, is in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. It is the spot where Shiva\’s face came out from the earth. There are numerous sacred Kunds near the temple, such as Surya Kund, Chandra Kund, Tara Kund, and Mana Kund.
The trek to Rudranath temple is considered the hardest among all the Panch Kedar temples. One can witness the famous mountain peaks of Nanda Devi, Trishul, and Nanda Ghunti during the 20 km trek. The path goes through tall grass, oak, and rhododendron forests. There are different trekking routes for the Rudranath temple, but most of them start from Gopeshwar.
Madhyamaheshwar Temple, having a location at the height of 3,289 meters in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. It is the spot where Bhagwan Shiva\’s navel came out of the ground. The temple is built in ancient North Indian style architecture and is located in a green meadow, just below a high mountain ridge. The temple has a navel-shaped Shiva lingam in the Garbhagriha. There are two other shrines of Mata Parvati and the other dedicated to the Ardhanarishwara form of Bhagwan Shiva and Mata Parvati. The Madhyamaheswar trek starts from Uniana, which is around 18 km from Ukhimath.
The Kalpeshwar temple, having a location at the height of 2,200 meters in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. It is an ancient temple surrounded by dense forest in the picturesque Urgam Valley. As per the legend, the Hair of Bhagwan Shiva appeared at his spot. One can witness the beautiful confluence of Alaknanda and Kalpganga Rivers during the trip from Helang to Kalpeshwar.