By Swami Harshananda
Kedāranātha is actually a very small town almost like a hamlet. It famous due to the ancient Śiva temple. It is one of the twelve Jyotirliṅgas. It was built by the Pāṇḍavas to atone for the sin of killing their cousins and others in the Kurukṣetra war.
It is located in the Garhwal district of Uttaranchal at a height of 3600 meters (11,760 ft.) above the sea-level. The liṅga in the garbhagṛha or sanctum is of an irregular shape. It is of 3.6 meters (12 ft.) in circumference at the bottom and 0.6 meter (2 ft.) in height.
There is a maṇḍapa (hall) in front of the sanctum. In the maṇḍapa, there is a large idol of Nandi and many idols of gods and goddesses, including those of the Pāṇḍavas. A light is always kept burning in the sanctum. The worship is simple and there is no abhiṣeka or bathing of the liṅga with water.
The devotees generally offer ghee balls and are also permitted to embrace the idol. The priests of the temple belong to the Liṅgāyata sect. The temple is opened on the Akṣayyatṛtīyā day in April or May. It is closed on the day after Dipāvali in November. During the winter months, the utsavamurti is taken to the place called Ukhimath. The worship is continued there. The temple structure is very beautiful. The roof is very high. The river Mandākinī flows at the back of the temple.
At the backside of the main temple there is a shrine of Śaṅkara (CE 788-820). He is said to have disappeared into a cave from here. According to some legends, the first teacher of the Liṅgāyata or the Viraśaiva sect, Ekorāmārādhya, had his Maṭha (monastery) here.
There are five other temples in the nearby area. They are:
All these together are called ‘Pañcakedāra’.
- Kedāranātha is also spelt as ‘Kedārnāth’.
- Jyotirliṅgas are liṅgas full of divine effulgence.
- Nandi is the bull mount of Lord Śiva.
- Utsavamurti is the processional idol.
- Mandākinī is a tributary of river Gaṅgā.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore