Holy Pilgrimage – Temples in Uttarakhand State
Amongst the four Char Dhams, Yamunotri and Gangotri are dedicated to goddesses Yamuna and Ganga respectively. On the other hand, Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva while Badrinath is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Moreover, people also visit Hemkund Sahib in the vicinity, which is one of the highest located religious sites in the country. Thus, pilgrims visit all these places in aspiration of washing away their sins and to attain salvation, by the blessings of the Lord.
Badrinath is also one of the four seats of a larger Vaishnava pilgrimage route Char Dham. Char dham was originally called the popular pilgrimage path in the four holy places of Hinduism, positioned at opposite ends of the Indian subcontinent Puri, Rameshvaram, Dwarka, and Badrinath. It is believed that the custom of pilgrimage to Char dham, a Hindu truth-seeker and started the VIII century reformer Shankara. Only later, the last of the four sites Chardham, Badrinath, a holy place has become a main Himalayan pilgrimage path that became known as "Char Dham".
Owing to the significance of this religious circuit, devotees from all over the world, come here to experience the eternal bliss. Char Dhams are hustling and bustling with activity during the summer months, as hundreds of devotees embark upon the holy journey. The picturesque surroundings of the mountainous region are simply enthralling, giving the visitors a perfect opportunity to unwind themselves by filling their lungs with fresh air. Moreover, these otherwise silent and tranquil locales resound with the names of the Lord as the pilgrims advance towards their destination.
Earlier known as Chota Char Dham or 'Little' Char Dham to differentiate them from the bigger circuit of Char Dham sites, after the mid-20th century they themselves started being called the Char Dham Today, the term "Char Dham" usually refers to the all-denomination Himalayan Char Dham. The Char Dham are often considered the most revered sites for Hindus that have to be visited in one's lifetime.
Gangotri (Hindi: गंगोत्री) is a town and a Nagar Panchayat (municipality) in Uttarkashi district in the state of Uttarakhand, India. It is a Hindu pilgrim town on the banks of the river Bhagirathi. It is on the Greater Himalayan Range, at a height of 3,100m.
Gangotri, the origin of the River Ganges and seat of the goddess Ganga, is one of the four sites in the Char Dham pilgrimage circuit. The original Gangotri Temple was built by the Gurkha general Amar Singh Thapa. The river is called Bhagirathi at the source and acquires the name Ganga (the Ganges) from Devprayag onwards where it meets the Alaknanda. The origin of the holy river is at Gaumukh, set in the Gangotri Glacier, and is a 19 km trek from
Mythological relationAccording to Hindu mythology, Goddess Ganga took the form of a river to absolve the sins of King Bhagiratha's predecessors, following his severe penance of several centuries.
According to this legend, King Sagar, after slaying the demons on earth decided to stage an Ashwamedha Yajna as a proclamation of his supremacy. The horse which was to be taken on an uninterrupted journey around the earth was to be accompanied by the King's 60,000 sons born to Queen Sumati and one son Asamanja born of the second queen Kesani. Indra, supreme ruler of the gods feared that he might be deprived of his celestial throne if the 'Yagya' (worship with fire) succeeded and then took away the horse and tied it to the ashram of Sage Kapil, who was then in deep meditation. The sons of the King Sagara searched for the horse and finally found it tied near the meditating sage. Sixty thousand angry sons of King Sagara stormed the ashram of sage Kapil. When he opened his eyes, the 60,000 sons had all perished, by the curse of sage Kapil. Bhagiratha, the grandson of King Sagar, is believed to have meditated to please the Goddess Ganga enough to cleanse the ashes of his ancestors, and liberate their souls, granting them salvation or Moksha.
Bhavishya Badri TempleDense forests near Tapovan surround the Bhavishya Badri. The Bhavishya Badri is at a distance of about 17 km. east of Joshimath. Pilgrims trek beyond Tapovan up the Dhauliganga River to reach this holy spot. The idol of narsingha (the god with the head of lion) is enshrined here. Traditionally, it is believed that a day will come when the present route to the Badrinath will be inaccessible and the Lord Badrinath will be worshipped here and this is why the place is called Bhavishya Badri.
HOW TO REACH
- Air: Nearest airport is Jolly Grant (26 km from Rishikesh)
- Rail: Nearest railhead is at Rishikesh, 249 km.
- Road: Gangotri is connected by road to
Uttarkashi, Tehri Garhwal and Rishikesh and from there to other parts of
the country. Important road distances are Uttarkashi 97 km, Tehri 167 km,
Dharasu 125 km, Yamunotri 232 km, Mussoorie 250 km.
Bus Bus services of Samyukt Rotaion Yatayat Vyawastha Samiti connect Gangotri with many centers in the region like Haridwar, Rishikesh, Tehri, Uttarkashi etc.
KedarnathKedarnath (Hindi: केदारनाथ) is a Hindu holy town located in the Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is a nagar panchayat in Rudraprayag district. The most remote of the four Char Dham sites, Kedarnath is located in the Himalayas, about 3584m(11759 Ft.) above sea level near Chorabari Glacier, the head of river Mandakini, and is flanked by breathtaking snow-capped peaks.
Kedarnath hosts one of the holiest Hindu temples, the Kedarnath Temple, and is a popular destination for Hindu pilgrims from all over the world, being one of the four major sites in India's Chota Char Dham pilgrimage.
Kedarnath is named in honor of King Kedar, who ruled in the Satya Yuga. He had a daughter named Vrinda who was a partial incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. She performed austerities for 60000 years. In honour of her, the land is named Vrindavan. However, Kedarnath and its temple exist from the Mahabharata Era when the Pandavas are supposed to have pleased Lord Shiva by doing penance there
AccessibilityKedarnath is difficult to reach. There are 2 ways to reach the town:
1. By foot for a steep 14 km trek through a paved path (horses or palanquins are available for rent) from Gaurikund, which is connected by road from Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun and other known hill stations of Garhwal and Kumaon regions in Uttarakhand
2. Through helicopter service.
Over ViewThe temple opens on Akshaya Tritiya (April end or first week of May) and closes on Bhai Duj (October end or 1st week of November) due to heavy snowfall and extreme cold weather during winter. Gaurikhund is 75 km from Rudraprayag. In between Rudraprayag and Kedarnath there are several places of pilgrimage such as Agastyamuni, Ukhimath, Phauli- Pasalat Devi Maa, Bamsu (Lamgoundi) Vanasur, Maa Kali at Kalimath, Trijugi Narayan (7 km from Son Prayag) (Where Lord Shankar got married to Goddess Parwati from when the fire of hawan kund is still alive) and Kashi Vishwanath at Guptakashi.
Udar Kund is located here. It is written in Kedar Khand of Shiv Mahapuran that the water of Udak Kund is mixture of all the 5 Oceans and always remain fresh even when kept for many years. The holy water of Udak Kund is used for purification rituals. Hans Kund, Bharo Nath, Navdurga Mandir, Shankaracharya Samadhi, Ishaneswar Mahadev Temple, Ret Kund, Panch Ganga Sangam, Chaurwari Taal now known as Gandhi Sarowar, Bashuki Taal are also places to visit here. There are several guest houses in Kedarnath with reasonable rates
During winter due to heavy snowfall, the Temple is closed and no one stays in Kedarnath. For six months (November to April) the Palki of Lord Kedarnath is transferred to a place near Guptakashi called Ukhimath. People shift their settlement too from Kedarnath to nearby villages. Around 360 families of Tirtha Purohit of 55 villages and other nearby villages are dependent on Kedarnath for livelihood.
Kedarnath TempleKedarnath Mandir (Hindi: केदारनाथ मंदिर, Kēdārnāth Maṃdir ) is one of the holiest Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva and is located atop 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 to Kartik Purnima (the autumn full moon). During the winters, the murtis (idols) from Kedarnath temple are brought to Ukhimath and worshipped there for six months. In this region Lord Shiva is worshipped as Kedarnath, the 'Lord of Kedar Khand', the historical name of the region. This temple is a Paadal Petra Sthalam (the 275 Holy Abodes of Shiva on the continent), praised by the Tamil Nayanars saints in the 6th-9th century CE.
The temple is not directly accessible by road and has to be reached by a 14 km uphill trek from Gaurikund . The temple is believed to have been built by Adi Sankaracharya and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva. The older temple existed from the times of Mahabharata, when the Pandavas are 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.
JyotirlingaAs per Shiv Mahapuran, once Brahma (the Hindu God of creation) and Vishnu (the Hindu God of saving) had an argument in terms of supremacy of creation. To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. Vishnu and Brahma split their ways to downwards and upwards respectively to find the end of the light in either directions. Brahma lied that he found out the end, while Vishnu conceded his defeat. Shiva appeared as a second pillar of light and cursed Brahma that he would have no place in ceremonies while Vishnu would be worshipped till the end of eternity. The jyotirlinga is the supreme partless reality, out of which Shiva partly appears. The jyothirlinga shrines, thus are places where Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light Originally there were believed to be 64 jyothirlingas while 12 of them are considered to be very auspicious and holy. Each of the twelve jyothirlinga sites take the name of the presiding deity - each considered different manifestation of Shiva. At all these sites, the primary image is lingam representing the beginningless and endless Stambha pillar, symbolizing the infinite nature of Shiva. The twelve jyothirlinga are Somnath in Gujarat, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andra Pradesh, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnath in Himalayas, Bhimashankar in Maharastra, Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Triambakeshwar in Maharastra, Vaijanath at Parali in maharashtra, Hingoli at Hingoli in Maharashtra, Rameshwar at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu and Grishneshwar at Aurangabad in Maharastra.
Temple and significanceThe actual temple is an impressive stone edifice of unknown date. During the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, the kith and kin of the Pandavas were killed; in order to absolve themselves of this sin, the Pandavas undertook a pilgrimage. But Lord Vishweshwara was away in Kailasa in the Himalayas. On learning this, the Pandavas left Kashi. They reached the Himalayas via Hardwar. They saw Lord Shankar from a distance. But Lord Shankara hid from them. Then Dharmaraj said: “Oh, Lord, You have hidden yourself from our sight because we have sinned. But, we will seek You out somehow. Only after we take your Darshan would our sins be washed away. This place, where You have hidden Yourself will be known as Guptkashi and become a famous shrine.”
From Guptakashi (Rudraprayag), the Pandavas went ahead till they reached Gaurikund in the Himalayas valleys. They wandered there in search of Lord Shankara. While doing so Nakul and Sahadev found a he-buffalo. It was unique to look at.
Then! Bheema went after the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo was clever and Bheema could not catch it. But Bheema managed to hit the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo had its face hidden in a crevice-in the earth. Bheema started to pull it by its tail. In this tug-of war, the face of the buffalo went straight to Nepal, leaving its hind part in Kedar. The face of the buffalo is Doleshwar Mahadev located in Sipatol, Bhaktapur, Nepal
On this hind part of Mahesha, a glorious JyotirLinga appeared. Lord Shankara appeared from this great light. He appeared before the pandavas. By getting a Darshan of Lord Shankar, the pandavas were absolved of their sins. The Lord told the Pandavas, “From now on, I will remain here as a triangular shaped JyotirLinga. By taking a Darshan of Kedarnath, devotees would attain piety”. Near Kedarnath, there are many symbols of the Pandavas Raja Pandu died here, when he tried to make love to Madri. This place is famous as Pandukeshwar. The tribals here perform a dance called “Pandav Nritya”. The mountain top where the Pandavas went to Swarga, is known as “Swargarohini”. When Darmaraja was leaving for Swarga, one of his fingers fell on the earth. At that place, Dharmaraj 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. Shankara is worshipped here in this manner. Water and Bel leaves are used for worship.
When Nar-Narayan went to Badrika village and started the worship of Parthiva, Shiva appeared before them. A few days later, a pleased Shiva granted them some boons. Nar-narayan wished that for the welfare of the humanity, Shiva should remain there in his original form. Granting their wish, in the snow-clad Himalayas, in a place called Kedar, Mahesha himself stayed there as a Jyoti. Here, He is known as Kedareshwara.
By visiting Kedareshwar, sorrows do not come even in dreams. By worshipping Shambara (Kedareshwar) Pandavas were rid of all their sorrows. Badri-Keshwar’s darshan rids one of the material ties. Whoever gives Dan (alms) at Kedareshwar, just gets assimilated into Shivaroopa.
Srimat Shankaracharya praised Lord Shiva thus:
mahAdripArshve cha taTe ramantaM sampUjyamAnaM satataM munIndraiH | surAsurairyaxa mahoragADhyaiH kedAramIshaM shivamekamIDe || Meaning: Oh Lord, who resides in the great heights of Himalayas, oh Lord, thou, who art worshipped forever by saints, Hermits, Demons, Gods, Yakshas and Maha Nag (giant snakes), I bow and offer millions of Pranams. As a matter of fact, as one enters the main temple, the first hall contains statues of the five Pandava brothers, Lord Krishna, Nandi, the vehicle of Shiva and Virabhadra, one of the greatest guards of 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. No specific family of pujaris supervise rituals at Kedarnath, where the focus is on veneration of the stone lingam that rests in the inner sanctum of the temple.
Behind the temple is the samādhi mandir of Adi Sankara.
Tamil saints Nayanars of 1st century like Sundarar and Sambanthar praised the deity in their hymns famous by the name of Tevaram.
The head priest (Rawal) of the Kedarnath temple belongs to the Veerashaiva community from Karnataka. However, unlike in Badrinath temple, the Rawal of Kedarnath temple does not perform the pujas. The pujas are carried out by Rawal's assistants on his instructions. The Rawal moves along with the deity to Ukhimath during the winter season. The present Rawal of Kedarnath temple is Shri Bhima Shankar Ling Shivacharya who is one of the five Jagadgurus of (Shakti Vishistadwita philosophy) veerashaiva.
HOW TO REACH
- Air: Jolly grant (Dehradun)-239 km away from Kedarnath of which 225 km is by road and rest 14 km is on foot.
- Rail: Railhead at Rishikesh, 221 km away of which 207 km is by road and the rest 14 km is on foot.
Railhead at Kotdwara, 250 km away, of which 236 km is by road and rest 14 km is on foot.
- Road: Kedarnath is approachable on footfrom
Gaurikund, which is connected by road with Rishikesh, Kotdwara, Dehradun,
Haridwar and other important hill stations of Garhwal and Kumaon Hills.
Bus This service is available at Rishikesh, Haridwar and Kotdwara for Gaurikund. During Yatra season, some special Yatra services are also arranged to Gaurikund.
Distance from Rishikesh to kedarnath 223 km, via Deoprayag 70 km, Shrinagar 35 km, Rudraprayag 34 km, Tilwara 9 km, Agastyamuni 10 km, Kund 15 km, Sonprayag 3 km Gaurikund 5 km, Rambara 7 km, Garurchatti 4 km, Sri Kedarnath 3 km.
- Transport : Buess, private taxies and other
light vehicles also ply between Rishikesh and Garikund-Badrinath and back.
The charges are not fixed.
Horses, Dandies and Ponies are available at Gaurikund for going and carrying luggage to Kedarnath.
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to the great devotees , wikisources and Pilgrimage tourist guide for the collection )