Kedarnath Temple is one of the holiest Hindu temples dedicated to the god Shiva and is located on the Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini river in Kedarnath, Uttarakhand in India. Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April (Akshaya Tritriya) to Kartik Purnima (the autumn full moon, usually November) every year. During the winters, the vigrahas (deities) from Kedarnath temple are brought to Ukhimath and worshipped there for six months. Lord Shiva is worshipped as Kedarnath, the ‘Lord of Kedar Khand’, the historical name of the region.
The temple is not directly accessible by road and has to be reached by a 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) uphill trek from Gaurikund. Pony and manchan service is also available. The temple is believed to have been built by Pandavas and revived by Adi Sankaracharya and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva. Pandavas were supposed to have pleased Shiva by doing penance in Kedarnath. The temple is also one of the four major sites in India’s Chota Char Dham pilgrimage of Northern Himalayas.
Kedarnath was the worst affected area during the 2013 flash floods in North India. The temple complex, surrounding areas and Kedarnath town suffered extensive damage, but the temple remained unharmed to a large extent.
The first hall inside the temple contains statues of the five Pandava brothers, Lord Krishna, Nandi, the vehicle of Shiva and Virabhadra, one of the guards of Shiva. Statue of Draupadi and other deities are also installed in the main hall. A medium sized conical rough stone formation is worhispped in the Garbagruha of Kedarnath temple and considered as Sadashiva form of Lord Shiva.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 marriage of Shiva and Parvati was held. Adi Shankara was believed to have revived this temple, along with Badrinath and other temples of Uttarakhand and he is believed to have attained mahasamadhi at Kedaranath. Behind the temple is the samādhi mandir of Adi Sankara.
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