Panch Kedar - The Five Sacred Shrines of Lord Shiva

14 Jan 2021 by Swati Mamgain

Panch Kedar

Devbhoomi Uttarakhand formed in the year 2000 after being separated from the large state of Uttar Pradesh is a fantastic destination to explore and witness the riches of Indian culture, history and scenic beauty. It was formerly known as Uttaranchal. The state is labeled as Devbhoomi due to the several Hindu temples and pilgrimage centers found throughout the state. The state is renowned for the natural environment of the Himalayas.

The state is divided into 2 divisions- Garhwal, and Kumaon and has 13 districts. The winter capital of Uttarkhand state- Dehradun that is the largest city of the state and is a railhead. Gairsain is a town in Chamoli district that is the summer capital of Uttarakhand. Uttarkhand state borders Tibet to the north, Nepal to the east, the state of Uttar Pradesh to the south and Himachal Pradesh to the west. The state is full of artisans and holds numerous varieties of art and craft. This beautiful state is truly a land of untouched beauty, religious temples, abundant wildlife and umpteen adventure sports.

One coming to Uttarkhand can enjoy trekking that leads to gorgeous trails, paragliding, ropeway rides and attending the Ganga Aarti in Haridwar. There is no dearth of activities in Uttarakhand. One can find both commercial tourist hill stations and quaint offbeat hilly hamlets for a memorable vacation.

What is Panch Kedar

Devbhumi, Uttarkhand is surely one of the most picturesque parts of the earth. The beautiful state Uttarakhand holds PanchKedar or the set of five Hindu temples devoted to Lord Shiva. PanchKedar- Kedarnath, Tungnath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheshwar, and Kalpeshwar. Each temple is nestled on the most tranquil and unruffled parts of the Indian Himalayas. The village of Kedarnath is on the edge of the Kedarnath mountain slope in a remote northern part of the Garhwal Himalayas.

One can witness the Dudhganga, Madhuganga, Swargaduari, and Saraswathi stream flowing in the valley behind the Kedarnath temple. Tungnath has an amazing backdrop of the peaks of Panchachuli, Nanda Devi, Dunagiri, Kedarnath, and Bandar Poonch and is located near Chopta that is at a very short distance from Ukhimath. Kalpeshwar is nestled in the Urgam valley in a very dense forest area. The astounding Urgam valley has apple orchards, terraced fields where potato is grown extensively. The Kalp Ganga river, a tributary of the Alaknanda flows through this pretty valley.

The PanchKedar yatra takes one on a long and serene journey. The journey is filled with the element of sacredness, meadows, mountains, snow-covered peaks, wildlife and streams. The PanchKedar pilgrimage takes around 15-16 days to complete.

The mythology behind Panch Kedar temples

One of the versions of the most popular legend related to the formation of PanchKedar relates to the era of Mahabharata. Legend says that Pandavas, on the advice of sage Vyasa came here to ask forgiveness for killing their kith and kins in the Kurukshetra war. Lord Shiva hid at Guptkashi in the Himalayas of Garhwal and disguised himself as a bull. Pandavas came looking for Lord Shiva and recognized Lord shiva in the form of a bull. Bhim tried to catch hold of the bull but it dived into the ground and vanished.

Lord Shiva reappeared in parts at different parts of Garhwal. The Hump came up at Kedarnath, navel appeared at Madhyamaheshwar, a face emerged at Rudranath, arms appeared at Tungnath, and hair at Kalpeshwar. After this Pandava constructed the temples at each of these five places where Lord Shiva emerged as such. Thus these five places are together known as PanchKedar.

Panch Kedar temples

1. Tungnath

Tugnath is lying at a good height of 3680 meters and is the highest temple of Shiva in the world. It is nestled in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand state. It is the place where Shiva’s arms have said to appear. The opulent temple is built up of stones that are adorned with decorations, that are painted on the outside depicting tall towers. There is a wooden statue that is present on the top of the highest dome that has sixteen openings.

One can witness the Ashtadhatu inside the main chamber that is composed of eight metals, idols of sage Vyas and Kala Bhairav and the followers of Lord Shiva. One can reach Tungnath by trekking 4kms from Chopta. The trek offers the visitors splendid views of majestic peaks like- Nanda Devi, Kedarnath, Chowkhamba and Neelkanth. Views of pretty meadows and delightful flowers of rhododendron will surely mesmerize one. One can further trek up to 2kms to Chandrahila peak to see an incredibly picturesque view of the surrounding peaks. The temples open when the Char Dham of Uttarakhand state is opened during April or May every year.

2. Rudranath

Rudranath is the place where Shiva’s face came up the ground. There is a natural rock temple nestled at a good height of 2286 meters amid alpine meadows and thick forests of rhododendrons. It is the place where Lord Shiva is worshipped as Neelkanth Mahadev. One can witness Kunds around the temple- Surya Kund, Chandra Kund, Tara Kund, and Mana Kund. One gets a chance to witness the marvelous peaks like- Nanda Devi, Nanda Ghunti, and Trishul that surely forms a mind-blowing backdrop. The trek to reach the temple is considered harder as compared to other PanchKedar temples. Most of the treks that are leading to Rudranath start from numerous points in Gopeshwar in Chamoli district and can be stretch up to 20kms.

There is one more temple- Anusuya Devi temple that is lying near Rudranath temple. Every year several people come here to pay a visit to the temple to pay service to the dead because there is a strong belief that the dead souls pass from this temple.

3. Kalpeshwar

Kalpeshwar temple is the place where Lord Shiva Jatas- hairs appeared as per the legend. Due to the long and tangled locks of Lord Shiva is also known as Jatadhari or Jateshwar. The temple is nestled in the serene and tranquil Urgam valley in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand state at an elevation of 2200 meters. The beautiful Urgam valley is mostly covered in dense forest, proffers amazing vistas of apple orchards and potato plantations of terraced fields. Helang that is located on Rishikesh- Badrinath road is the place from where one can reach Urgam valley. One needs to indulge in 2kms of the trek from here till Kalpeshwar.

On their journey to Kalpeshwar from Helang, one can witness the pretty confluence of Alaknanda and Kalpeshwar rivers. One can easily club the two astounding destinations- Kalpeshwar and Badrinath in one’s religious itinerary.

4. Kedarnath

Kedarnath temple is situated in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand state. It is one of the most religious Dhams in India and occupies a prominent position among the PanchKedar temples. The sacred Kedarnath temple is devoted to lord shiva. This holy temple is nestled in a picturesque location and is near the source of the Mandakini river and is at a good height of 3584 meters. Here the grand structure of lord shiva’s shrine is built of grey stone.

One reaching here can witness the astounding views of snowy peaks, alpine meadows, and delightful forests of rhododendrons. One can witness the large stone statue of Nandi Bull staring at the shrine, guarding it. The temple has one GarbhaGriha that houses the primary idol of Lord shiva. The Mandapa section of the shrine has the idols of Lord Krishna, Pandavas, Draupadi and Kunti. The nearest motorable road towards this temple is Gaurikund. After which one needs to trek for about 14kms to reach the temple. One can avail of the ponies and palanquins facility to reach the shrine. Helicopter service is also available.

5. Madmaheshwar

Madmaheshwar is nestled at a good height of 3289meters. It is the place where it is believed the navel part of Shiva emerged. The beautiful temple lies in a pretty green valley in the Mansoona village of Garhwal Himalayas and is encircled by splendid snow-covered peaks of Kedarnath, Chaukhamba, and Neelkanth. The trek to Madmaheshwar is undertaken from Uniana that is almost 18kms from Ukhimath. The trek is almost 19kms long and can be traveled till Bantoli that is 10kms from Uniana. From Bantoli the slope becomes steeper and thus is a little bit difficult. Bantoli is the place where Madhyamaheswar Ganga merges with Martyenda Ganga.

One trekking can witness the verdant forest, wildlife including endangered Himalayan Monal Pheasant and Himalayan Musk deer, gushing waterfalls, and surrounding majestic peaks that truly makes the trek a memorable one.

Travel route of Panch Kedar

Panch Kedar temples are placed on the most tranquil and unruffled parts of the Indian Himalayas. There is no direct motorable road that goes straight to the temples. Each temple requires some amount of trekking with varying levels of difficulty. Panch Kedar Yatra takes one on a long and majestic journey to remember for a lifetime. The Panch Kedar pilgrimage takes around 15/16 days to complete. Panch Kedar includes- Kedarnath that lies at an altitude of 3583m, Tungnath lies at 3680m, Rudranath lies at an altitude of 2286m, Madhyamaheshwar lies at 3490m and Kalpeshwar lies at an elevation of 2200m. the sequence of PanchKedar Yatra is Kedarnath then Tungnath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheshwar, and then Kalpeshwar.

One can reach Kedarnath by traveling by any vehicle up till Gaurikund after that one has to trek 14kms to reach the temple. After visiting the Kedarnath pilgrimage head towards Tungnath that is in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand and can be reached by covering a trek of almost 4kms from Chopta. After paying a visit to Tungnath the devotees head towards Rudranath. Most of the treks begin from Gopeshwar in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand and extend up to 20kms.

After visiting Rudranath the further journey begins to visit Madhyamaheshwar. Trek till the temple can be started from Uniana that lies at a distance of almost 18kms from Ukhimath. This trek is 19kms long and can be covered very easily till Bantoli that lies at a distance of around 10kms from Uniana. Kalpeshwar is the last shrine that is visited during the PanchKedar Yatra. The beautiful Kalpeshwar temple is lying at an elevation of around 2200m in the Urgam valley in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Urgam valley is located at a distance of around 2kms from Kalpeshwar that is a very easy trek to cover.

Best time to visit Panch Kedar 

The most perfect time to explore PanchKedar is between May and October month. All the temples of PanchKedar are open only for 6 months, generally from the end of April to October each year. In the winter season, the temples are inaccessible due to rainfall and snowfall. During the winter season, the sanctified symbolic of Lord Shiva in Kedarnath is worshipped at the Omkareshwar temple situated at Ukhimath.

The representative idol of Tungnath is worshipped at Mokumath, the Rudranath symbolic image is brought to Gopeshwar, and the Madhyamaheshwar symbolic idol is venerated at Ukhimath whereas Kalpeshwar is open throughout the year. Planning for Kedarnath Yatra? Find the best Kedarnath Trip Package for you.

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