Uttarakhand also was known as ‘Devbhumi’ or ‘Land of Gods’ is indeed one of the most sacred abodes of God on this earth. Of the many pilgrimage Yatras leading to Uttarakhand, the Panch Kedar Yatra information is a quite prominent one. The Panch Kedars are a group of the five most revered Lord Shiva temple namely Kedarnath, Rudranath, Kalpeshwar, Tungnath, Madhyamaheshwar that dot the Garhwal region of the Himalayas. The history and legends associated with the temples of Panch Kedar date back to the epic eras of Mahabharata and thus are quite ancient temples. Most of these temples lie on the most untouched and remote parts of the Himalayas that are inaccessible by the motorable roads. Thus, most routes to the temples require a good amount of seasoned trekking. Undertaking the trek to Panch Kedar lets you embark on a real magnificent tour across the most difficult terrains of the high Himalayas and it is indeed an experience worth cherishing all through your life. A proper pilgrimage tour of the Panch Kedar takes you nearly 15 to 16 days to be completed successfully.
The existence of Panch Kedar can well be associated with the legendary tales dating back to the era of the Mahabharata. According to legendary tales, the Pandavas were struck by an immense sense of guilt for having killed their own kinsmen in the battle of Mahabharata. To get rid of their sinful act, they prayed to Lord Shiva who however was too very enraged with their actions on the battlefield. So, he evaded them by taking the guise of a bull and hiding at Guptakashi. Pandava brother Bhima, however, recognized Shiva hidden in the shell of a bull and tried to catch hold of the bull by the tail. But Lord Shiva in the guise of the bull slipped out of his hands and disappeared. Later, he appeared in five different parts in the five different regions of Garhwal. Hump appeared in Kedarnath, a face appeared in Rudranath, and arms appeared in Tungnath, navel appeared in Madhyamaheshwar, hair appeared in Kalpeshwar. In order to please the lord Pandavas erected temples at all these five locations that later came to be known as Panch Kedars collectively. The Panch Kedar Yatra should be carried out in the following order first Kedarnath, second Tungnath, third Rudranath, fourth Madhyamaheshwar, and fifth Kalpeshwar.
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Kedarnath temple perched at an elevation of 3584 meters above the sea level falls within Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag district and is dedicated to Lord Kedarnath or Lord Shiva. Kedarnath temple is one of the highest Jyotirlingams of Lord Shiva where the lingam is shaped like a cone quite resembling the hump of a bull. One can reach Kedarnath shrine only after trekking a distance of 14kms from Gaurikund base camp.
Tungnath temple of Lord Shiva is perched at an elevation of 3680 meters above the sea level and can be reached by a 4 km long trek from Chopta base camp. Myths say that the arms of the lord had appeared at this place. Sights embellished with high Himalayan peaks, emerald meadows, and colorful rhododendrons will greet you on your way to Tungnath.
As per legends lord Shiva’s face had appeared at this place. A rock shrine made naturally at an elevation of 2286 meters above the sea level has been dedicated to lord Tungnath. Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of Neelkanth Mahadev at Rudranath and the lingam most uniquely resembles a face. Trek to Rudranath can be undertaken from several locations at Gopeshwar.
The shrine of Madhyamaheshwar is perched at an elevation of 3289m above the sea level. As per myths the middle part or navel region of Lord Shiva often called the ‘Madhya’ part fell on this place. Bartoli and Uniana are the two places from where the trek to Madhyamaheshwar can be started.
This temple of the Panch Dwarka lies in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district and in the valley of Urgam. As per myths, the matted locks of Lord Shiva had appeared at this place. Thus, Lord Shiva is referred to as Jateshwar or Jatadhari at the shrine of Kalpeshwar. The temple of Kalpeshwar stands at an elevation of 2200 meters above the sea level.
You may also like to read Kedarnath temple ‘The Sacred Dham to Moksha’