Panch Kedar are the five temples dedicated to Lord Shiva situated in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, India. These five temples are Kedarnath which lies at an altitude of 3583m, Tungnath which lies at a distance of 3680m, Rudranath which lies at an altitude of 2286m, Madhyamaheshwar which lies at a distance of 3490m and Kalpeshwar which lies at an elevation of 2200m. These temple are visited in this order of importance only. Panch Kedar are important pilgrimages in India as they are believed to be built by the Pandavas of Mahabharat.
The most famous legend behind the creation of Panch Kedar traces back to the fierce battle of Mahabharata. During the fight, the Pandavas killed their blood relatives and gurus and went to Lord Shiva in order to repent for their guilt. However, Lord Shiva was furious with them due to the dishonesty portrayed by them on the field as a result of which, he dodged their requests and hid in at Guptakashi in the Garhwal Himalayas camouflaged as a bull. This is how Guptakashi (literally meaning hidden Kashi) got its name. The Pandavas came looking for Lord Shiva in the region and Bhim tried to catch hold of him but the bull divided in the ground and vanished away. Its hump appeared at Kedarnath, navel emerged at Madhya-Maheshwar, face at Rudranath, arms at Tungnath and its hair came up at Kalpeshwar.
Kedarnath temple lies in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand and is the most important of the Panch Kedar temples. Its beauty is beyond words. Since the hump of the bull appeared at this place, the temple comprises a Shiva lingam in the shape of a cone representing the bull's hump. The temple which exists today is made up of grey stone slabs and was built by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th or 9th century AD.
One can travel by vehicle up till Gaurikund after which one needs to trek for over 18 km to get to the shrine. Though the trek is steep, it has some fantastic landscapes to offer on the way.
The months from May to June and from September to October are considered ideal to visit the place.
Madhyamaheshwar is the place where the navel of the bull appeared. It lies at the height of 3289m in the Mansoona village of Garhwal Himalayas. The village is situated in a beautiful green valley and is surrounded by peaks such as Kedarnath, Neelkantha and Chaukhamba covered in snow. The path becomes a bit rough right from Bantoli where Madhyamaheshwar Ganga merges with Martyendra Ganga. One is likely to spot the rich and unique wildlife of the place on the way including some very endangered species.
Trek till this temple can be started from Uniana which lies at a distance of 18 km from Ukhimath. The trek is 19 km long and can be covered easily till Bantoli which lies at a distance of 10 km from Uniana.
Since the temple remains closed from November to April, the ideal time to visit the place is from May to October.
Tungnath temple lies at the height of 3680m and is regarded as the highest temple of Lord Shiva in the world. This was the place where the hands of the bull emerged. One is likely to come across beautiful peaks such as Nanda Devi, Chowkhamba, Neelkanth and Kedarnath on the way here. There are meadows filled with the exotic rhododendron flower and if one trek further 2 km to Chandrashila peak, they will be likely to come across some beautiful mountains.
Tungnath is situated in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand and can be reached by covering a trek of nearly 5 km from Chopta.
April to November is considered the ideal time to visit the temple since the climate is pleasant and moderately chill.
This temple has been formed by natural rock formation and is situated at the height of 2286m. This is where the bull's face appeared. Rudranath Temple lies amidst the alpine meadows and thick forests covered with rhododendrons where Lord Shiva is worshipped as 'Neelkanth Mahadev'. Surya Kund, Chandra Kund, Tara Kund and Mana Kund are some of the holy pools surrounding the temple. Some fabulous peaks present here include Nanda Devi, Nada Ghunti, and Trishul. The trek to this temple is considered to be the hardest trek as compared to all the other temples.
May to October is considered the ideal time to pay a visit to this temple
The hair of the bull (Lord Shiva) appeared in this region around which the Kalpeshwar temple was built. Lord Shiva has also been given the name 'Jateshwar' due to his long and knotted hair locks. Urgam valley is an exotic location due to the apple orchards and potato plantations present here. One can reach the Urgam Valley from Helang which is situated on the Rishikesh-Badrinath road. On the way lie the very beautiful Kalpganga and Alaknanda rivers which are an absolute delight for the eyes.
Kalpeshwar temple lies at an elevation of 2200m in the Urgam valley in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Urgam is situated at a distance of 2 km from Kalpeshwar which is an easy trek to cover.
The time extending from May to June followed by September to October is optimal for visiting the temple.
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