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Kedarnath – A Traveler’s Guide

Praveen padayambath

Kedarnath Temple, a revered site dedicated to Lord Shiva, holds a significant place among the twelve Jyotirlingas of Hindu culture. Situated amidst the awe-inspiring Garhwal Himalayan range, adjacent to the Mandakini river, in Uttarakhand, India, this sacred edifice stands as a testament to Hindu spirituality and devotion.


Due to the harsh weather conditions in the region, the temple is open to the general public for visitation between the months of April (Akshaya Tritiya) and November (Kartik Purnima, the autumn full moon). However, during the winter months, the Vigraha of the sacred deity from the temple is ceremoniously carried down to Ukhimath for worship over the subsequent six months.


Kedarnath is revered as an embodiment of Shiva, the ‘Lord of Kedarkhand’, representing the historical name of this sacred region. The temple, shrouded in spirituality and mythos, can only be reached via a challenging 22-kilometer (14-mile) uphill trek from Gaurikund. For the convenience of pilgrims, pony, mule, and manchan services are made available to facilitate the journey to the temple. Helicopter service is also there.


In the rich tapestry of Hindu legends, Kedarnath Temple finds its origins in the efforts of the Pandavas, who are believed to have initially constructed this divine abode. Recognized as one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, which are the most sacred shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva, the temple holds a unique place in Hinduism. According to the legend, the Pandavas sought the blessings of Lord Shiva through rigorous penance at Kedarnath.


Furthermore, Kedarnath Temple holds eminence as one of the major pilgrimage sites within India’s Chota Char Dham yatra, an essential pilgrimage in the Northern Himalayas. It marks the beginning of the revered Panch Kedar pilgrimage sites, representing an essential spiritual journey for devotees. Moreover, Kedarnath Temple proudly claims the title of being the highest among the twelve revered Jyotirlingas dedicated to Lord Shiva.


How to Get There:

For those embarking on a journey to Kedarnath, transportation options are varied depending on your point of origin. Travelers arriving by train should make their way to Haridwar or Rishikesh via Delhi. Alternatively, if arriving by flight, landing at Delhi or Dehradun airport is the preferred choice. Regardless of your mode of arrival, the subsequent leg of your journey to Kedarnath begins from Rishikesh. Upon arrival in Haridwar, take a moment to witness the mesmerizing Ganga Aarti and indulge in a purifying bath in the sacred Ganges before commencing your expedition.


There are two primary modes of travel from Haridwar to Kedarnath. Travelers can opt for a taxi or choose a more budget-friendly local transport bus. The bus fare typically amounts to around Rs. 600, and seats should be booked a day in advance, preferably in the front rows. The bus departs from the booking office located a short walk away from the Interstate Bus Terminal. Departures are scheduled between 4 to 7 am, and an early start is recommended. Be prepared for possible landslides and roadblocks along the route. Alternatively, if opting for a taxi, the charges can range from Rs. 3000 to 6000 per day, contingent on the season.


The travel route from Haridwar to Kedarnath encompasses several key stops: Rishikesh, Devprayag, Srinagar (Uttarakhand), Rudraprayag, Thilvada, Agastyamuni, Kund, Guptakashi, Nala, Phada, Rampur, Sitapur, Sonaprayag, and Gourikund. The journey is anticipated to last a minimum of ten hours, with a possibility of longer travel times. On the first day, reaching Guptakashi or Sonaprayag by evening is a viable goal. Better stay at Sonaprayag. Accommodation options range from bed spaces priced at Rs. 400 to rooms upto Rs. 5000. An early rise at 3 am the following morning is recommended to start the trek from Gourikund to Kedarnath. A 6 km journey is there to Gourikund for which jeeps are available.


Various means can be employed to reach Kedarnath, including trekking on foot, utilizing a basket (manchen), or horseback riding. Additionally, helicopter services operate from Guptakashi, with charges varying seasonally. Prices generally start at Rs. 7000 and can go up to Rs. 15,000 or even Rs. 20,000 at times. Booking these services online can be challenging, and caution is advised to avoid fraudulent practices.


It’s important to note that individuals traveling by helicopter should allocate at least half an hour for acclimatization due to the significant change in altitude, transitioning from 5000 feet to 11000 feet. Symptoms of altitude sickness may manifest, such as dizziness, severe headaches, shortness of breath, and a sensation of suffocation. Helicopter passengers may benefit from a dedicated system for darshan at the Temple.


The journey on foot begins from Gaurikund, and while the distance was once 16 km, landslides have caused an increase to 21 km. Novices are advised to pace themselves. Move slowly, taking necessary breaks and staying hydrated. As you ascend, expect to pay around 70-80 rupees for a bottle of water. Along the way, roadside dhabas offer food options. The trek presents a steep climb until Bhairav Ghat, with some inconvenience caused by horse dung on the narrow path. Post this phase, a relatively flat path is encountered for a while. Beyond Rambada, the trail begins to ascend steeply. After crossing the bridge, you’ll embark on the big climb. Most people get tired after Lin Choli, but don’t be discouraged! I’ve made this trek five times, and I can tell you that the views from Upper Lin Choli are worth the effort.. It takes approximately eight to ten hours of walking to reach the Kedarnath temple.


Accommodation options in Kedarnath include tents and rooms.


After darshan, quickly descend from Kedarnath to avoid getting stuck due to the unpredictable weather. The walk down takes about 5 hours. Once you reach the bottom, it’s best to head to Guptakashi or Rudraprayag as soon as possible, where buses to Rishikesh are available until 6pm. The journey to Rishikesh takes around 6 hours, so you should be able to arrive back by midnight.


With careful planning and preparedness, a pilgrimage to Kedarnath can be a spiritually enriching and memorable experience.


Things to do in Kedarnath

The main attraction in Kedarnath is the Kedarnath Temple, one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is located at an altitude of 11,755 feet and is surrounded by snow-capped peaks.

Other popular attractions in Kedarnath include:

    • Chorabari Glacier
    • Vasuki Tal
    • Bhairav Temple
    • Triyuginarayan Temple

Tips for traveling to Kedarnath

Here are a few tips for traveling to Kedarnath:

    • The best time to visit Kedarnath is during the summer months (April to June) and the autumn months (September to November). The weather is mild during these months and the skies are clear.

    • Kedarnath is located at a high altitude, so it is important to acclimatize before doing any strenuous activity.

    • Be prepared for all weather conditions. The weather in the Himalayas can change quickly, so it is important to be prepared for anything.

    • Pack light, as you will be carrying your own luggage on the trek.

    • Bring a water bottle and fill it up at the many water fountains along the way.

    • Wear comfortable shoes, as the trek can be challenging.

  • Be respectful of the local culture and customs.

  • Kedarnath is a truly magical place, and a journey to Kedarnath is an experience that you will never forget. With its stunning scenery, sacred temples, and rich culture, Kedarnath is a must-visit for anyone traveling in India

Some contacts for guide / package assistance for Uttarakhand travel

Mr. Sajeesh Varier 9020168816
Ms. Anu Sherin 7593902252
Kedarnath, Bikanir House 90 279 55 79 1 (Near Temple)
Helicopter booking : https://www.heliyatra.irctc.co.in/

Rampur Stay : Hotel Shivay – Kedarnath 083739 00853
9068422012 Mr. Pramod

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