Udayavni Special

Legs and Wheels – Har Har Mahadev Chalo Kedarnath

Team Udayavani, Nov 12, 2018, 1:37 PM IST

Har Har Mahadev- Chalo Kedarnath

The Himalayas had haunted me for a long a time. These mighty ranges have unexplainable power- once you come under their spell you develop a ravenous desire to renew the experience. I will not be surprised if you will plan a trip to the mountain ranges again and again. Amongst the ranges, Kedarnath- was one place that I was desperate to visit. As I set my eyes on this part of the mighty range of the Himalayas where the lord is installed by Adi Shankaracharya, it appeared to me as though I knew the path. Every pattern that was standing tall and mighty looked familiar. If you think that I am establishing this feeling of familiarity because of the continuous and long journeys through the terrain for the last couple of days. I have no arguments.  However, I am sure of one distinct experience as we travel through the ranges of the Himalayas (which I have not felt while traveling through other mountain ranges of the world) – it is the journey of the inner self.  The journey through these rocks and mountains encourage you to make an attempt to understand the real meaning of life.  Probably that is the reason many seekers have found solace in the Himayalas to attain self-realization. The power rests nowhere but within you – “Shivo…hum”.  How I wish I had more time on my hand!

About Kedarnath  

Kedarnath- the field of the lord, is a town in the Rudraprayag district; the state of Uttarakhand has gained importance because of Kedarnath Temple.  Located at  a height of 3,583 m (11,755 ft) above the sea level is the Chorabari Glacier, close to the temple,  from where river Mandakini, takes her birth.  Nestled in the snow-capped peaks, Kedarnath temple provides a picture-perfect scene, to the visitor. 

This town which suffered extensive destruction during the June 2013 flash floods caused by torrential rains in Uttarakhand state, is gradually being rebuilt. Among the religiously recognized  ‘panch kedars’ – (Madyamahehaswar, Tunganath, Rudranath, Kalpeshwar ) Kedarnath is considered very important.  Situated at an altitude of 3586 mts, in the lap of the majestic mountain peaks and near the head of river Mandakini, Kedarnath earns its importance as the ‘linga’ here stands out as one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.

History of the Temple

The history of the temple is very interesting and goes back to the mythological times of Mahabharath. The sacred shrine of Kedarnath is said to have been renovated in the 8th century AD by Adi Shankaracharya which was originally built by  Pandavas of the Mahabharata fame.  After killing their half-brothers, Kauravas, in the war at Kurukshetra the Pandavas were advised by Lord Krishna to seek forgiveness from Lord Shiva.  After strenuous search, the Pandavas could spot Lord Shiva who was hiding from them disguised in the form of Nandi, the bull.   Bheema could identify Lord Shiva and was able to catch the lord only the tail, while the rest of the body vanished, through a secret cave underneath the ground. Lord Shiva, who disappeared from Guptkashi reappeared in five different forms namely, hump at Kedarnath, face at Rudranath, arms at Tungnath, navel and stomach at Madhyamaheshwar and the locks at Kalpeshwar which are popularly known as ‘panch kedar’. Another tale about Kedarnath is related to Lord Vishnu who requested Shiva to remain in Kedarnath in his original form for the welfare of humanity. Granting their wish, Lord Shiva stayed in that place which is now known as Kedar, thus he is known as Kedareshwara. Kedar is also believed to be the place where Lord Shiva releases river Bhagirathi, whom he had arrested in his ‘matted hair’. There are also stories about Adi Shankara, breathing his last here. However, complicated the stories might go let’s just live in the present as it is time to experience the richness of spirituality and as an admirer of nature, it’s time to get amalgamated with the surroundings.

How to Reach Kedarnath Temple

Reaching Kedarnath Temple calls for meticulous planning.  A check on weather conditions is a must. The nearest place to stay being Gupta Kashi, it is advisable that we reach Gupta Kashi one day before. The trekkers start their trek from Gauri Kund and easily it is a two-day program as it is not advisable to trek in the night.  Apart from this the chances of frequently altering weather conditions cannot be shrugged off.

We chose a helicopter flight to reach the temple. There are many agencies which provide the service to the pilgrims.  We can book our schedule and date using online facilities. We left Kedar Valley-the hotel, by 5 am and by 5.30 we were near the Arrow helipad station. Each Helicopter can carry on an average can carry 5- 6 persons in one scheduled flight. Which then means we first need to register our arrival. Here you need the identity card of Chardham traveler and your address proof.  The authorities will check the weight of the traveler and will charge Rs.150/kg if you are above 80kgs.  I was hesitant to stand on the weighing machine, but there was no alternative. As the needle moved my husband slowly removed my shoulder bag, to avoid paying for extra baggage.  The weight carried by each traveler is also restricted to 3 kgs.  

Helicopters will take 7 to 10 minutes (one way) and they fly in their slot period. On an average, each helicopter agency completes as many as 20 trips in a day.  The passengers in a flight are grouped in a permutation and combination method based on their weight.    

At Arrow, we met the ever smiling and friendly Sanjay Tiwari, who provided us with all the details of what to see and what to expect in the temple. Sanjay can tell you eyewitness stories of disaster. Being a temple ‘purohit’ – priest at Kedarnath, during the time of disaster, Sanjay narrates every incident that happened. As he explains – how the big boulder that rolled and stopped just behind the temple protected the temple structure, people’s struggle for life, military role in rescue operations etc.. He keeps all the passengers in a lively mood. We can purchase special darshan tickets, in case there is a huge rush, this special darshan ticket will facilitate the darshan at a fast pace mode.

At the helipad instructions are very clear, hence there is no occasion for confusion or arguments. Before you understand what is happening your body is already parked inside the helicopter. You are assisted by the crew members to board.  

As you fly, what you see out of the window is breathtaking. Hold on your heart and lap up the milieus.   It is good not to socialize with the fellow passenger, sorry if I sound like an anti-social element, but even before you begin you may be at the base camp of Kedarnath temple and the experience of floating through the clouds, crossing snow-capped ranges is something which cannot be compromised. As you look down you will get a panoramic view of the trekking path and  River Mandakini. I wish I were a poet.

A guide is already waiting for you, he will take the team which has been just dropped by the helicopter towards the temple. 

Kedarnath Temple: What to see and what to do?

The last leg of the 1 Km distance is an assemblage for all pilgrims.  Trekkers and other pilgrims who have used alternative methods as horse and palanquin join you here. There are ‘bittos’ here, who are ready to carry you on their back. In case you are totally dependent, you can use their services. Since the path is not very steep in the last leg, you actually can walk, even if you are just a little fit.

Smearing ghee on the Lord’s idol is the special service you render in this temple.  Devotees buy ghee, along with other pooja materials and smear ghee on the thin lines felt on the idol. These lines are believed to be the scars, caused by Pandavas when they tried to grab Lord Shiva who is in the hidden form of a cow.  What we should also not miss seeing are the statues of the Pandavas, Draupadi,  Lord Krishna, Nandi and Virabhadra inside the temple premises.

Temple surroundings

As we move on the Kedarnath Temple arena holds a charm and divine aura around it. The scenery has spectacular attractions on offer.   You will cross River Mandakini, easy steps enable you to reach the river where you can take a dip;  if you are a trekker there are many places and glaciers.  After paying respects at the Adi Shankaracharya Samadhi, get ready for a for a safe return trip.

Temple timings

The temple remains closed between November and April due to heavy snowfall. Normally the temple opens on Akshay Tritiya – an auspicious day according to Hindu calendar and closes soon after Deepawali.  During this period the worship of Lord shifts to Ukhimath, in Gupta Kashi. The opening date and time of temple are declared on the Maha Shiva Ratri by the priests of Omkareshwara Temple of Ukhimath who are also privileged to take the first glimpse of the ‘lord’ when the doors open.  Thousands of pilgrims plan their Kedarnath visit to take the first glimpse of Lord Shiva who is also popularly addressed as ‘Babaji’.  

O Traveller please remember

  • If you are on Char Dham yatra, amongst all the four Dhams, Kedarnath is the longest and toughest trek, so trek only if you are physically fit.  The weather is highly unpredictable. Even if you have reached the temple using helicopter services, bad weather may force the helicopters to stop flying and they may fail to resume for hours. It happened on the day we visited the temple. So mentally be prepared to face any challenges. It is good to remain relaxed and accept things as they come.  The weather will remain cold, so it is good to wear warm clothes.  The high altitude problems may cause sickness, so keep medicines always with you.
  • In the monsoon season, the trekking trail to Kedarnath might become specially challenging, carry trekking gears and rainproof coats and boots.  It is advisable to carry glucose and water, or any other edible like a chocolate bar that can give immediate energy while trekking.  Near the temple area, you will get stalls selling food, which includes roti, dal, rice, and noodles.  If you have reached the temple using helicopter services, the agencies will give you 90 minutes of time. Which is actually sufficient, unless there is a big rush.
  • Remain silent, enjoy the surroundings, experience the chilly weather. Come back and before doing anything register to take a flight back, and then go in search of food.

Kedarnath is certainly a memorable trip. One needs to visit this place despite being a devotee, or nature or adventure lover. Live every moment try to capture as much energy you want or you can.

Dr. Nandini Lakshmikantha

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