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Sunday, 8 May 2011

7. SHRI KEDARNATH in HIMALAYAS

OM NAMOH SIVAYAM


SHRI KEDARNATH in HIMALAYAS
This is one of the best known Shivastalams in India and is considered to be one of the most sacred pilgrimage centers of the country, located in the lofty Himalayas. The spiritual leader Adi Sankaracharya is closely associated with Kedarnath. Kedarnath is a shrine steeped in antiquity, rich in legend and religious significance.
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.
The Temple
 Located in the Himalayas at a height of 12,000 feet in awe inspiring surroundings, snow-covered area of the Himalayas. This small shrine is accessible by foot, only 6 months a year. The temple at Kedarnath enshrining the Jyotirlingam of Shiva opens only when the sun enters the zodiac sign of Aries and it is closed when the sun enters Scorpio. The priests then go to Ukhimath, where the worship of Kedareshwara is continued during the winter season.
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.
Kedarnath is located on a ridge which juts out at right angles from below the 23000 feet high snowy peak of Mahapanth. Kedarnath is located on the Rudra Himalaya range. The Rudra Himalaya range is also known as the Pancha Parvata; its five peaks are Rudra Himalaya, Vishnupuri, Bhramapuri, Udgari-Kanth and Swargarohini. It is believed that four of the Pandavas died on the last of these peaks.
Architecture
 Situated at an elevation of 3,580 m (11,750 ft), this celebrated Hindu pilgrimage spot in the high Himalayas is dedicated to Shiva. An imposing sight standing in the middle of a wide plateau surrounded by snow covered peaks. The temple faces south, which is an unique feature, as most temples face east. This temple is very solidly built. The Kedarnath Temple is believed to have been built by the Pandavas and is almost 1000 years old. The present temple built in 18th century A.D. by Adi Guru Shankaracharya lies adjacent to the site of an ancient temple built by Pandavas.
The inner walls of the assembly hall are decorated with fixtures of various deities and scenes from mythology. Built of extremely large heavy and evenly cut gray Slavs of stones. It evokes wonder as to how these heavy Slavs had been handled in the earlier days. The enternce of the temple has a Conical lingam- the main idol, a statue of Nandi – the celestial bull of Shiva, a ‘Garbha Griha’ for worship and a mandap for assemblies of pilgrims and visitors. A conical rock formation inside the temple is worshipped as lord Shiva in his sadashiva form.
Inside the temple there is an irregular three-faced linga, representing the hump of Lord Siva when he took the form of a bull. It is about 9 ft long, 3 feet wide, and 4 feet high. Pilgrims are allowed to touch the linga, perform worship, abhishika (bath), and massage the linga with ghee. There are deities of goddess Parvati and Ganesh in front of the main altar door. Outside the second door are Lord Krishna, the five Pandavas, their wife Draupadi, and their mother, Kunti. In the temple is a Laksmi-Narayana Deity which was installed by Adi Sankaracarya. Outside the temple door a large statue of the Nandi bull stands as guard.
The interiors of the Kedarnath temple are exquisitely carved with image. It was at Kedarnath, narrates the epic Mahabharat, that Yudhishthir, the eldest of the Pandav brothers, departed to Heaven. Another legend has it that the Pandavas of the Mahabharat epic underwent severe penance’s here to atone the killings of their kith and kin in the great battle of Kurukshetra and so established this shrine. The present temple is credited to Sri Shankaracharya while the remains of an earlier structure, believed to belong to the Pandava age, are seen behind this temple. The temple of Sri Kedarnath is visited by hundreds of devotes every year. According to a belief, Shankaracharya, the great philosopher, died here in about 820.
Along with Badrinath, it is famous among the Hindus as one of their four prime pilgrimage centers. The structure of the temple is much like other temples in Uttaranchal. There is a large Nandi facing the main entrance. Inside the temple is a rectangular space with railings around it. All along the wall there are niches in which there are idols of the Pancha Pandavas, Parvati, Lakshmi & Narada. A small archway and a short flight of stairs lead to the deity. The method of worshipping is also unique. One is supposed to try to grab the large conical stone with both hands and embrace it. It is cold and damp in the confined space and during darshan time there is a fervent rush to embrace this Ashutosh linga. Outside at the north-east corner is a small temple of Ishaneshwar Mahadev.
Legend
Legend has it that Parvati worshipped Kedareshwar to unite with Shiva as Ardhanareeswarar. Kedara Munivar is also said to have established this shrine visited by the Pancha Pandavas.
Legend also has it that Nara and Narayana - two incarnations of Vishnu practised severe penances at Badrikashramam, in front of a Shivalingam fashioned out of earth. When Shiva appeared in front of them, they requested him to take up a permanent abode as aJyotirlingam at Kedarnath.
Legend also has it that the Pandava princes were advised to visit Kedarnath after the great Kurukshetra battle. Shiva upon seeing the Pandavas, assumed the form of a male buaffalo and entered the earth. It is believed that the rear of its body remained here, as Kedareshwar. The front part is believed to be in Nepal. This legend says that when Shiva entered the ground, he became five fold - his hind remained at Kedar, his arms Tunganatha, his face Rudranatha, his belly Madhyameswara and his Jata Kalpeswara. These five shrines together as known as the Pancha Kedara.
The Pandavas are believed to have visited this area several times. Arjuna is believed to have come here to pray to Shiva to obtain the coveted Pasupataastra. The other Pandavas are believed to have come here in search of him, where Draupadi came across the heavenly lotus Kalyana Saugandikam, and requested Bhima to bring here some more of the same. It was during his venturing out to seek these flowers that Bhima met Hanumaan.
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!!
Shri Kedareshwar is situated on the Himalayas, on a mountain named Kedar. Before the mountains, on the banks of the Alakanada Badrinarayana is situated. And on the west, on the banks of Mandakini Kedarnath Jyotirlinga is situated. This place is approximately 150 miles away from Haridwar and 132 miles north of Hrishikesh. Nar Narayan the incarnation of Lord Vishnu has performed severe penance in Badrikashraya of Bharat Khand. He would regularly pray to the Shivirlinga and Lord Shiva used to be present there in the linga.
After some time Lord Ashutush appeared before Nar Narayan and said – I am very pleased with your undeterred faith and devotion, so you may ask a boon for yourself. Nar Narayan, said that if you are really pleased then O’ Devesha please assume form and reside here eternally so that all people who worship you shall be freed from their miseries. Granting the boon, Lord Shiva assumed form of a linga and was installed in Kedar Mountain. After that Nar Narayan worshipped him ardently and then after he was named Kedareshwar.
To climb the steep path to reach the temple, 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).

By praying to Kedareshwar, one can get all his desires fulfilled. Upamanyu had prayed to Lord Shiva in this place, in Satayuga. In Dwapar the Pandavas had worshipped Lord Shiva here.
TOUR
Tradition has it that pilgrims first visit Yamunotri and Gangotri and bring with them the holy waters from the sources of the rivers Yamuna and Ganga and offer abhishekams to Kedareshwara. The traditional pilgrim route is Haridwar - Rishikesh - Devaprayag - Tehri - Dharasu - Yamunotri  - Uttar Kashi - Gangotri - Triyugnarayan - Gowrikund and Kedarnath. Alternatively, the route to Kedar from Rishikesh is via Devprayag, Srinagar, Rudraprayag and Ukhimath.
By Road : Kedarnath is connected by road with Badrinath (242 KM), Dehradun (268 KM), Delhi (450 KM), Haridwar (250 KM), Kotdwar (256 KM), and Rishikesh (226 KM). Route : Rishikesh to Kedarnath vai Rudraprayag :- Rishikesh -> Rudraprayaga -> Agastamuni -> Kund -> Gupta kashi -> Phata -> Soneprayag -> Gauri Kund. Gouri Kund to Kedarnath is 14 KM. This ditance has to be covered by foot, ponies, palkies.
By Rail : The nearest convenient railway station are Dehradun and Haridwar. These are well connected with Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and rest of India through Rail netwaork.

By Air : The nearest convenient Air port is Delhi. Which is further well connected with Mumbai, Calcutta and rest of India through Air netwaork.

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