Kedar­nath Tem­ple

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Kedar­nath Tem­ple is a Hindu tem­ple ded­i­cated to Lord Shiva. It is 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 Aprilto Novem­ber (Kar­tik Purn­ima - the au­tumn full moon). 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 18 kilo­me­tres (11 mi) up­hill trek from Gau­rikund. Pony and man­chan ser­vice is avail­able to reach the struc­ture. Ac­cord­ing to Hindu leg­ends, the tem­ple was ini­tially built by Pan­davas, and is one of the twelve Jy­otir­lin­gas, the holi­est Hindu shrines of Shiva. It is one of the 275 Paadal Pe­tra Stha­lams, ex­pounded in Te­varam. Pan­davas were sup­posed to have pleased Shiva by do­ing penance in Kedar­nath. The tem­ple is one of the four ma­jor sites in In­dia's Chota Char Dham pil­grim­age of North­ern Hi­malayas. This tem­ple is the high­est among the 12 Jy­otir­lin­gas. 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 struc­ture did not suf­fer any "ma­jor" dam­age, apart from a few cracks on one side of the four walls which was caused by the flow­ing de­bris from the higher moun­tains. A large rock among the de­bris acted as a bar­rier, pro­tect­ing the tem­ple from the flood. The sur­round­ing premises and other build­ings in mar­ket area were heav­ily dam­aged.

His­tory and leg­ends of ori­gin

The tem­ple, at a height of 3,583 m (11,755 ft), 223 km from Rishikesh, on the shores of Man­dakini river, a trib­u­tary of Ganga, is a stone ed­i­fice of un­known date.[8] It is not cer­tain who built the orig­i­nal Kedar­nath tem­ple and when. The name "Kedar­nath" means "the lord of the field": it de­rives from the San­skrit words kedara ("field") and natha ("lord"). The text Kashi Kedara Ma­hat­mya states that it is so called be­cause "the crop of lib­er­a­tion" grows here.

Ac­cord­ing to a mytho­log­i­cal ac­count, the god Shiva agreed to dwell here at the re­quest of NaraNarayana.[9] Af­ter the Ku­ruk­shetra War, the Pan­dava brothers, came here to meet Shiva on the ad­vice of the sage Vyasa, be­cause they wanted to seek for­give­ness for killing their kin dur­ing the war. How­ever, Shiva did not want to for­give them: so, he turned into a bull and hid among the cat­tle on the hill. When the Pan­davas man­aged to track him, he tried to dis­ap­pear by sink­ing him­self head-first into the ground. One of the brothers grabbed his tail, forc­ing him to ap­pear be­fore them and for­give them. The Pan­dava brothers then built the first tem­ple at Kedar­nath. The por­tions of Shiva's body later ap­peared at four other lo­ca­tions; and col­lec­tively, th­ese five places came to be known as the five Kedaras ("Panch Kedar"); the head of the bull ap­peared at the lo­ca­tion of the Pashu­pati­nath Tem­ple in present-day Nepal.

The Ma­hab­harata, which gives the ac­count

of the Pan­davas and the Ku­ruk­shetra War, does not men­tion any place called Kedar­nath. One of the ear­li­est ref­er­ences to Kedar­nath oc­curs in the Skanda Pu­rana, which con­tains a myth de­scrib­ing the ori­gin of the Ganges river. The text names Kedara (Kedar­nath) as the place where Shiva re­leased the holy wa­ter from his mat­ted hair.

Ac­cord­ing to the ha­giogra­phies based on Mad­hava's Sankshepa-shankara-vi­jaya, the 8th cen­tury philoso­pher Adi Shankara died at Kedaranatha; al­though other ha­giogra­phies, based on Ananda­giri's Prachina-Shankara-Vi­jaya, state that he died at Kanchi. The ru­ins of a mon­u­ment mark­ing the pur­ported death place of Shankara are lo­cated at Kedar­nath.[13] Kedar­nath was def­i­nitely a prom­i­nent pil­grim­age cen­tre by the 12th cen­tury, when it is men­tioned in Kritya-kalpataru writ­ten by the Ga­ha­davala min­is­ter Bhatta Lak­sh­mid­hara.

Ac­cord­ing to a tra­di­tion recorded by the English moun­taineer Eric Ship­ton (1926), "many hun­dreds of years ago", the Kedar­nath tem­ple did not have a lo­cal priest: the priest of the Badri­nath tem­ple used to hold ser­vices at both the tem­ples, trav­el­ing be­tween the two places daily.

In­side the tem­ple

The pre­sid­ing im­age of Kedaranth in the form of lingam is of ir­reg­u­lar shape with a pedestal 3.6 m (12 ft) in cir­cum­fer­ence and 3.6 m (12 ft) in height. There is a small pil­lared hall in front of the tem­ple, that has im­ages of Par­vathi and of the five Pan­dava princes. There are five tem­ples around namely Badari-kear, Mad­hya Ma­h­eswara, Tun­ganatha, Ru­dranatha and Kallesvara. The first hall in­side Kedar­nath 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. An un­usual fea­ture of the tem­ple is the head of a man carved in the tri­an­gu­lar stone fas­cia. 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; he is be­lieved to have at­tained Ma­hasamadhi at Kedaranath. Be­hind the tem­ple is the samādhi mandir of Adi Sankara.

The head priest (Raval) of the Kedar­nath tem­ple be­longs to the Veerashaiva com­mu­nity from Kar­nataka.[18] How­ever, un­like in Badri­nath tem­ple, the Raval of Kedar­nath tem­ple does not per­form the pu­jas. The pu­jas are carried out by Raval's as­sis­tants on his in­struc­tions. The Raval moves with the de­ity to Ukhi­math dur­ing the win­ter sea­son. There are five main priests for the tem­ple, and they be­come head priests for one year by ro­ta­tion. The present (2013) Raval of Kedar­nath tem­ple is Shri Vagee­sha Lin­gacharya.[18] Shri Vageesh Li­gaacharya who be­longs to the Vil­lage Banu­valli of Taluka Har­i­har of Da­van­agere district in Kar­nataka.

A tri­an­gu­lar shaped rock is wor­shiped in Garb­ha­griha of the tem­ple. Sur­round­ing Kedar­nath, there are many sym­bols of the Pan­davas. Raja Pandu died at Pan­dukesh­war. The trib­als here per­form a dance called "Pan­dav Nritya". The moun­tain top where the Pan­davas went to Swarga, is known as "Swar­garo­hini", which is lo­cated off Badri­nath. When Dhar­marāja was leav­ing for Swarga, one of his fin­gers fell on the earth. At that place, Dhar­marāja 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. Wa­ter and Bel leaves are used for worship.

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