The temple is magnificent in its style and architecture, and to construct such a temple at this height over one thousand years ago (believed to be this old) must have been quite a feat. The temple must have been constructed when the temple architecture in India was at its peak, but it is difficult to understand the devotion and resources of the person, certainly a devout royalty, who got this made in this difficult terrain where the working season is maximum six months only. There are no historical records relating to its origin and construction. It is built of extremely large evenly cut, grey slabs of stone on a rectangular platform. The temple has a mandapam and a garbh griha. In the centre of the garbh griha there is a conical rock formation, encircled by a narrow pradakshina path, which is worshipped as Lord Shiva. In the mandapam, right in front of the Shiva pinda, is Nandi, the divine bull and Shiva’s mount, whilst in the courtyard facing the garbha griha is another large Nandi. There are many idols and subordinate temples on the outer pradakshina path. The Shiva pinda is considered one of the twelve jyotirlings of Lord Shiva.
Some of the large grey slabs on the temple’s inner wall bear inscriptions, either in Pali or Brahmni, but as yet, no attempt has been made to decipher them. They can be of great archaeological value and once deciphered, could reveal important historical information. According to an inscription printed in the Epigraphica Indica, King Bhoj Tribhuwan Narain of Malwa constructed, amongst other temples, the Temple of Sri Kedar. The question does arise, as to whether or not the Kedar Temple referred to is the temple of Sri Kedarnathji. Rahul Sankritayan is one scholar who has attempted to decipher the inscriptions on the temple slabs. He believes the temple dates back to before the twelfth century A.D. In one of the inscriptions, he has read the word “Rajdev,” but Rajdev really cannot be identified with Bhojdev, the King of Malwa referred to in the Epigraphica Indica. Further research is needed to answer the question of who constructed the temple.
The Temple of Sri Kedarnath faces east and each day hundreds of devotees throng the Sabha Mandap for that cherished darshan of Lord Shiva.
Puja timings are in the morning and evening. Morning puja is called Nirwan darshan, when the Shiva pinda is worshipped without any ornamentation, floral or otherwise. Ghee and water are the main offerings. Evening puja is called Sringar darshan when the Shiva pinda is adorned with ornaments and flowers. The pinda is graced with a golden umbrella suspended from above and the sabha mandap wears a devotional air, charged with emotion.
According to Hindu scriptures Lord Shiva is said to be in deerskin and besmeared with ashes. Therefore, some people tend to think that the Sringar darshan of Lord Shiva at Sri Kedarnath is quite contrary to the known ways of Lord Shiva. One thing must be born in mind; the Lord has no shape, no form, no colour and nothing that can be described as His physical features. His Supreme Being is to be acknowledged in whatsoever form one may wish to see Him. The Sringar Darshan arouses a sence of complete surrender to the Lord.
The yogis and sanyasis can focus their thoughts and mind on the formless and omnipresent God and see the divine light out of nothing, but the Karma Yogis, who have the worldly obligations to perform, have neither time nor mental frame for this type of meditations. Therefore, Puja and worship are the only means of seeking divine blessings. A puja with profound faith can bring peace and happiness. The NIRWAN and SRINGAR darshans are earthly ways of arousing bhakti in devotees. The pujaris chant mantras, the chandeliers glow and the bells chime, disseminating a message of love and peace. The devotees are overcome with profound feelings of devotion and withdraw themselves completely from all worldly thoughts. Darshan is most inspiring and satisfying.
The important pujas which can be performed in the morning are:- shubh prabhat, balbhog, mahabhisek, rudrabhisek, ashtotar, Shiva puja etc.
The important pujas which can be performed in the evenings:– Shiva ashtotar, Shiva sahasranam, Shiva namavali, Shiva mahima stotra, ekanta seva etc.
From the Puranas
After the massacre of the Kauravas in the battle of Kurukshetra, the Pandavas set out on a yatra to Kashi in order to be blessed by Lord Shiva and be absolved from the sin of killing their own kinsmen–the Kauravas. Lord Shiva, unwilling to give darshan to the Pandavas, fled from Kashi to Himalayas and lived incognito in Guptakashi, the Kashi in hiding.
On being detected at Guptakashi by the Pandavas, Shiva went to Kedarnath, but the Pandavas followed him there too. To avoid detection He assumed the form of a bull and started grazing amongst the cattle, but even then He could not escape identification by the Pandavas. At dusk, when it was time for the cattle to return home, Bhim (of gigantic stature, great courage and strength) stretched his legs across the mountains (standing on either side of Kedarnath Valley) in order to detect Shiva. All the cattle passed under his legs, except Shiva in the form of a bull, whom Bhim noticed. As Bhim bent down to catch hold of Him, Shiva dived into the earth and only his back portion (the hump) came in Bhim’s hands. Shiva was pleased with the determination of the Pandavas and gave them Darshan, exonerated them from their sin, and bestowed upon them the opportunity to worship his hump. It is from that date that the hump of Shiva is worshipped in the Temple of Sri Kedarnath in the conical Shiva pinda form.
Legend also has it that after disappearing into the earth at Kedarnath the front portion of the Lord appeared at Pashupatinath, Kathmandu, and the other four parts —arms, face, navel and hair coils—appeared at Tunganath, Rudranath, Madmaheshwar and Kalpeshwar. The latter four, along with Sri Kedarnath are known as the Panch Kedars. The puranic story lends support to many of the philosophical ideals. The foremost is that GOD is omnipresent. HIS presence can be felt every where, whether it is Sri Kedarnath, Tunganath or Pashupatinath, HE is everywhere. But how does the Karmayogi feel HIS presence? It is the temples and the connected stories that make devotees feel and understand that God is there. Then the other message from the story is that God is amenable to dedicated worshippers. Those who are determined to seek, they do find HIM. The Pandavas did the same. And the third and most important aspect is that Uttarakhand is a sure place to find or feel the presence of God. Pandavas had to go to Uttarakhand for the fulfilment of this cherished desire.
The Pandas of Sri Kedarnath
The pandas of Sri Kedarnath reside in the villages around Guptakashi and Ukhimath. Some are scholars of Sanskrit and are also competent astrologers. It is generally believed that an entourage of Brahmins from South India, belonging to the Shaiv sect accompanied the Adi Guru Shankaracharya to Sri Kedarnath. The Adi Guru gave up his mortal remains at Sri Kedarnath and the Brahmins of the entourage had no reasons for going back to the places of their origin as they had come on the mission of Hindu revivalism. They all settled down near Gupta Kashi and are today the Pandas of Sri Kedarnath. They are very helpful to their Yajmans and any other visitor who may come across them.
According to tradition Sri Kedarnath Bhagwan’s doli ( carrier ) leaves the winter seat at Ukhimath on the day of Akshaya Tritiya and reaches Sri kedarnath Dham on the third afternoon. On the fourth morning , the temple opens to bless the hundreds of residents and pilgrims waiting for this auspicious occasion. This happens generally 2 to 3 days prior to opening of the temple of Sri Badrinath Ji. This date usually falls during the last week of April or the first week of May and is formalised on the day of Mahashivratri by the priests of the temple at Ukhimath. This year the opening date of the Kedarnath kapat is 3rd May 2104.
The temple closes on the day after Deepawali, with a brief and simple ceremony. Pujaris and workers return to their winter resorts and Bhaironath ji takes care of this Shiva Lok. The curtain draws on this heavenly theatre of Lord Shiva for the winter months and the next summer, when the land opens fresh and clears out of the melting snows, the pilgrim trail begins again.
The River Mandakini
The extremely large glacier that forms the backdrop for the temple is the source of the Mandakini. Three streams come out of this glacier and the fourth stream, which is known as Dudha Ganga comes tumbling down a mountain on the opposite side, and they all merge to form the fabulous Mandakini.
At Kedarnath dham there are several kunds that are known for their religious significance. Hans Kund, Udak Kund and Ret Kund are the important ones.
This small temple is about 1/2 km from Sri Kedarnath temple, and is dedicated to Bhaironathji who is ceremoniously worshipped at the opening and closing of Sri Kedarnath Dham. The belief is held that, when the Temple of Sri Kedarnath closes, Bhaironathji protects this land from evil forces if any.
The samadhi of Adiguru Shankracharya is located at the back of the Sri Kedarnath temple.
The Adiguru set up four Maths and four dhams in the four corners of India, and revived the Hindu religion which had suffered a setback during the rule of Emperor Ashoka who had propagated Buddhism through his Dhamma Yatras. After completing the mission he was born for, the Adiguru’s eternal soul passed away from his mortal body at Sri Kedarnath. He was just 32 years old. A memorial to the Adiguru has been constructed at Sri Kedarnath just behind the main temple.
 kund = pool, tank
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