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11th Jyotirling-Kedaareshwar

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11-Kedaareshwar Temple

Kedaareshwar or Kedaarnaath Jee's temple is the 11th Jyotirling from among the 12 Jyotirling and one of the holiest Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiv and is located atop the Garhwaal Himaalayan range near the Mandaakinee river in Kedaarnaath, Uttaraakhand in India. It is at the height of 11,753 feet. The snow on the peaks behind never melts. Kedaareshwar is the highest point where Mahaadev's presence is indeed felt in the sign of a famed Kedaareswar Jyotirling as spread out as a fairly large expanse of black stone with an inclined elevation in the middle portion. Being inaccessible excepting by a difficult 14 km trek by foot, or horse back or ‘Dolee’ (palanquins) carried by two or four humans from Gauree Kund and due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April to start of November. Here god Shiv is worshipped as Kedaarnaath, the 'Lord of Kedaar Khand', the historical name of the region.

Built in 8th Century AD, The Kedaarnaath shrine, one of the 12 Jyotirling of Lord Shiv, is a scenic spot situated, against the backdrop of the majestic Kedaarnaath range. There are more than hundred shrines dedicated to Lord Shiv in this region, but the most important one is Kedaarnaath. According to a legend, the Paandav after having won over the Kaurav in the Kurukshetra war, felt guilty of having killed their own relative and sought the blessings of Lord Shiv for Moksh.

At the end of their life, the Paandav decided to give up their kingdom and go to the Himaalaya and meditate on their favorite deity, Lord Shiv. So they set out accompanied by their wife, Draupadee. When they reached the place called Rudra Prayaag, they thought they had a glimpse of Lord Shiv. They tried to chase him but he took on the form of a buffalo and dashed off towards the North. They followed him in hot pursuit and eventually caught up with him at the place that is now known as Kedaarnaath. The Lord now dived into the earth and only the hind portion of the buffalo was sticking out. This was caught by Bheem. But as hard he pulled as he might, he could not get the rest of the buffalo out of the ground. The hump turned into a Shiv Lingam and remained at this place. Each of the other parts appeared at four other places and came to be collectively known as the Panch Kedaar or the five Kedaar. All these lie in the Garhwal Himaalayas in the modern state known as Uttraanchal.

As a matter of fact, as one enters the main temple, the first hall contains statues of the five Paandav brothers, Lord Krishn, Nandee, the vehicle of Shiv and Veerabhadra, one of the greatest guards of Shiv. An unusual feature of the temple is the head of a man carved in the triangular stone fascia of the temple. Such a head is seen carved in another temple nearby constructed on the site where the the marriage of Shiv and Paarvatee was held. The spire of the Kedaarnaath Temple is with the Kedaarnaath Mountain in the background.

It is believed that Nar and Naaraayan also did severe penance here in Kedaar Kshetra and had a glimpse of Shiv to get blessed

Gauree Kund to Kedaarnaath Trail :
The actual temple, an impressive stone edifice of unknown date, is accessible only after a steep 14 km walk [horses or palanquins are available for rent]. The most remote of the four Chaar Dhaam sites, Kedaarnaath is flanked by breathtaking snow-capped peaks. This is a part of 14 km trek from Gauree Kund to Kedaarnaath.

Beautiful Trek Towards Kedaarnaath
On the beautiful trek towards the Kedaarnaath temple, the Holy River Mandaakinee accompanies the trekkers throughout the tough, but rewarding journey to Kedaarnaath through the Himaalaya.

Shankaraachaarya's Samaadhi
Besides its affiliation with Shiv, Kedaarnaath is also believed to be the site of Shankaraachaarya's Samaadhi (achievement of beatified afterlife).

Panch Kedaar Temples
Panch Kedaar refers to five Hindu temples or holy places of the Shaivite sect dedicated to god Shiv. They are located in the Garhwal Himaalayan region in Uttaraakhand, India. They are the subject of many legends that directly link their creation to Paandav, the heroes of the Hindu epic Mahaabhaarat
The five temples designated in the strict pecking order to be followed for pilgrimage for worship are the
--Kedaarnath at an altitude of 11,760 ft (3,583 m),
--Tungnaath at an altitude of 12,100 ft (3,680 m),
--Rudranaath at an altitude of 7,500 ft (2,286 m),
--Madhya-maheshwar or Madmaheshwar at an altitude of 11,500 ft (3,490 m) and
--Kalpeshwar at an altitude of 7,200 ft (2,200 m).

Kedaarnaath - the 1st Panch Kedaar
Kedaarnaath, at the head of the Mandaakinee River, is amongst the holiest pilgrimages for the devout Hindu. The temple, believed to be very ancient, has been continually renovated over the centuries. The Shiv Ling at Kedaarnaath, unlike its usual form, is pyramidal and is regarded as one of the 12 Jyotirling. Situated at an altitude of 11,760 feet (3,581 m). Kedaar is another name of Shiv the protector and the destroyer. Shiv, is considered the embodiment of all passions-love, hatred, fear, death and mysticism that are expressed through his various forms. There is a Kalp Vriksh (Jyotir Math) also there - the wish fulfilling tree of this age. Aadi Shankaraachaarya attained enlightenment under this tree at the age of 16.

The opening date of Kedaarnaath Temple is fixed and depends on the Shiv Raatri and decided by priests in Ukhee Math. Normally Kedaarnaath Temple opens in Mid May. The closing date of Kedaarnaath is fixed on Yam Dwitiyaa (second day after Divaalee, November). Kedaarnaath Temple is open for devotees from 6 am to 2 pm and 5 pm to 8 pm. Shringaar Darshan is from 5 pm onwards and Aaratee is performed at 6:45 pm. Shraavanee Annakoot Melaa is celebrated on the day before Rakshaa Bandhan during August. Special Samaadhi Poojaa is held on the closing day of Kedaarnaath. The Kedarnath Temple committee office organizes booking for special Poojaa which is performed before the general Darshan in the morning. THis year, in 2011 it will be opened on 8th May.

Tungnath - the 2nd Panch Kedar, 12,400 ft (On the way to Tungnath Temple)
Set on the crest of a hill at an altitude of 12,100 ft (3,886 m), Tungnath is the highest temple in India. Legend has it that the arm of Shiv appeared here. Raavan, of the Raamaayan, is said to have performed penance at this temple to propitiate Shiv. The high altitude temple is a Seat of Swaayaambhoo Ling or the Lord Shiv Incarnate. The temple, one of the Panch Kedaar or one of the five Shiv temples, is situated in Chamolee district of the Uttaraakhand region.

The mythology has it that Lord Shiv was enraged at the act of homicide enacted by the Paandav by killing their brothers in the grand battle of Mahaabhaarat. Aware of Shiv's annoyance, the Paandav built the temple to please Lord Shiv and for their own salvation. Others claim that the Aadi Shankaraachaarya, during his historic visit to the region, had got it built. They cite the presence of Aadi Shankaaraachaarya' s image in the Garbh Grih or the sanctum of the temple. However, it also houses images of the Paandav. Besides, the Asht-dhaatu (of eight metals) images of Kaal Bhairav and Ved Vyaas are also among the multitude of images there. A dark left-tilting one-foot high Ling is the centre of attraction. The locals describe it as an arm of Lord Shiv. This arm of Lord Shiv is also associated with a legend.

Other Temples - Built of stone, this temple is a fine model of ancient architecture. Facing the gate of the temple is Nandee, the Divine Bull and Shiv's vehicle. There are two smaller temples dedicated to Paarvatee and Vyaas in a small courtyard. The Temple of Tungnaath, at a little over 12,000 feet, is the highest shrine on the inner Himalayan range. It lies just below the Chandrashilaa peak.

Rudranaath - The 3rd Panch Kedaar, 7,500 ft
The face of Lord Shiv is worshipped at Rudranaath Temple in a natural rock temple as Neelkanth Mahaadev. Lord Shiv is worshipped here as Neelkanth. The temple is situated amid thick forest at a height of 7,500 ft (2286 m). From Gopeshwar 4 kms drivable road is available up to village Sagar from where a 20 km trek leads to Rudranaath and can be approached from Josheemath as well, by trekking about 45 kms. The temple provides magnificent view of Haathee Parvat, Nandaa Devee, Nandaa Ghantee, Trishoolee and many others.

There are numbers of holy Kund (Tanks) near Rudranaath Temple namely Sooryakund, Chandrakund, Taaraakund etc. The Vaitaranee River, the Divine River flows pass behind the temple. Anasooyaa Devee temple is located on the trek to Rudranaath involving an additional trek of 2 m (3km).

Rudranaath Shrine : This is the only temple in India where the image of Shiv is worshipped as a symbol of his face, a sublime, tender aspect of Shiv, unusual, serene and beautiful indeed to behold. Devotees come to Rudranaath to offer ritual obeisance to their ancestors, for it is here, at Vaitaranee River (the water of salvation), that the souls of the dead cross when changing world.

Gupt-kaashee Temple : Kaashee is the old name for Vaaraanasee and Gupt means secret or hidden. Gupt-kaashee has an ancient temple of Shiv and derives its name from the fact that this is the place where Shiv is supposed to have hidden himself when the Paandav chased him. At this place he disappeared and hid himself in a cave. Hence this place is known as Gupt-kaashee or the hidden Kaashee.

Kaaleemath : Kaaleemath is situated close to Ukheemath, and Gupt-kaashee. It is one of the  Siddh Peeth of the region and is held in high religious esteem. The temple of Goddess Kaalee located here is visited by a large number of devotees round the year and specially during the Nava Raatri.

Chandee Devee Temple : Legend goes that the Goddess Chandee Devee was sitting on a rock, combing her hair when two demons that were the servitors of the two brothers Shumbh and Nishumbh saw her and were totally captivated by her intoxicating beauty. They ran back to their masters and reported the matter to them. The whole story is narrated in the Devi Mahaatmya. The rock on which she was sitting is close to this temple.

Madhyamaheshwar - The 4th Panch Kedaar Temple, 11,500 ft
The stomach of Shiva is believed to have emerged at Madmaheshwar. The temple of Madmaheshwar is located at an altitude of 3,450 m above sea level, on the slope of a ridge, 25 km northeast of Gupt-kaashee. There is a motorable road from Guptkaashee to Kaaleemath. The best statue of Har Gauree in India measuring over a meter high is found in the Kaalee Temple. The trek from Kaaleemath to Madmaheshwar is distinguished by wild unparalleled scenic beauty and engulfed by Chaukhambaa, Kedaarnaath and Neelkanth peaks. Gaundar at the confluence of Madmaheshwar Gangaa and Markangaa Ganga, is the last settlement before one reaches Madmaheshwar.

Located at the base of Chaukhambaa peak at an altitude of 11,500 ft the classic temple architecture belongs to the North-Indian style. So sanctified is the water here that even a few drops are considered sufficient for ablution. The natural scenery is dramatically wild, with deep gorges and valleys, mountain sides flung upwards towards the skies, the forests where the snow lies thick in winter, only to be replaced by a carpet of greenery in the summer. Kedaarnaath and Neelkanth peaks are visible from here, the entire ring of mountains is associated with the life and times of Shiv. The confluence of Madmaheshwar Gangaa just short of the temple, is one of the prettiest spots in the region.

Kalpeshwar Temple : The 5th Panch Kedaar, 7,200 ft
The hardier tourist may like to trek about 35 km to Kalpeshwar, where the locks (hair) and head, of Lord Shiv are worshipped as Jataadhar. Located in Urgam Valley at an altitude of 7,200 ft above sea level. The Temple is a further 7-8 m trek from Rudranaath to Helong, the motor heads on Rishikesh-Badareenaath route. The small rock temple of Kalpeshwar is where the Hair of Shiv appeared. Short of Kalpeshwar Temple is the picturesque valley of Urgam.

It is a favorite location of meditating sages. Legend has it that the sage Arghya had performed austerities here and created the nymph, Urvashee. Rishi Durvaasaa is also believed to have meditated here under the wish-fulfilling tree, Kalp Vriksh. The sage had given Kuntee the boon that she could invoke any of the forces of nature and they would appear before her and grant whatever she desired. Known for his quick temper, Rishi Durvaasaa is often recalled in context of the incident when, along with several disciples, he visited Kuntee's sons, while they were in exile. He indicated that he and his disciples would have their food at their place. There was not a grain to cook. Lord Krishn appeared at the same time and miraculously solved the problem answering an anxious Draupadee's prayers



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Created and Maintained by Sushma Gupta
Created on March 15, 2003 and Updated on February 12, 2013