The Five Most Important Temples of Lord Shiva - The Panch-Kedar
1. KedarnathKedarnath temple is situated at an elevation of 3584m amongst snowy peaks and forests. It lies in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand and holds a significant position amongst the five Kedar temples. Its beauty is beyond words. Since the hump of the bull appeared at this place, the temple comprises of 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.
Architecture and Significance of Kedarnath TempleThis temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has an architecture which is 1000 years old. It comprises of some large, heavy and grey slabs of stones which are cut intricately in even halves. The temple also has a 'Garbha Griha' as well as a 'Mandap' for the visitors. Lord Shiva in his Sadashiva form in the shape of a conical rock formation is worshipped inside the temple.
The temple is constructed on a raised platform facing the South in the Rekha-Sikhara style and has three divisions namely garbhagriha which is the sanctum, Antarala which is the vestibule and Gudha Mandapa which is the closed hall. There are three entrances (South, East and West) to enter Gudha Mandapa. Garbhagriha comprises of vedibandha, jangha and shikara. Shikara is further divided into six storeys and mounted by amalaka, kalasa and andaka covered in a wooden parasol.
As per archaeologists, the temple has four phases:
First Phase: This was when Rahul Sankrityayan wrote a book in which he mentioned that he had witnessed a stone inscription in Gupta Brahmi script near the temple which he thought was somewhat related to some temple which existed in the earlier time.
Second Phase: During the 11th century AD, the temple was built again from scratch with garbagriha and antarala as their prime components.
Third Phase: The temple was renovated in the 12th century AD.
Fourth Phase: In the 18th Century AD, a mandapa was finally added to the temple.
How To Reach KedarnathOne can travel by vehicle up till Gaurikund after which one needs to trek for over 14 km to get to the shrine. Though the trek is steep, it has some fantastic landscapes to offer on the way.
Best Time To Visit KedarnathThe months from May to June and from September to October are considered ideal to visit the place.
2. TungnathTungnath 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.
Architecture and Significance of TungnathThis historical temple is constructed in the North Indian architectural style. Since the temple has a small size, at most 10 people can be accommodated in the chamber. It has a unique architecture with small shrines of numerous gods surrounding the temple. There is a black rock with its tip to the left with a height of 1 ft on the hills which are joined to the most useful part of the temple. This black rock signifies the arms of Lord Shiva. An entrance gateway named Tungnath, present on top of the arch, is the most recent construction of the temple. There are a number of small temples inside the corral which are made up of stones and painted exquisitely using bright colours representing tall towers. There are sixteen openings to the wooden stage of the highest dome.
The roofs of the temple are constructed from stone slabs. The beautiful Nandi stone image at the entrance is what attracts the attention of most of the tourists flocking by to visit the Tungnath temple. There is also an image of Lord Ganesha present on the right-hand side of the temple's entrance. Idols of sage Vyas, disciples of Shiva, Pandavas and Kala Bhairav make the temple even more striking. There is also a temple of Goddess Parvati present inside the smaller shrine of the temple. There is also a group of five shrines which are quite small in size and are dedicated to the Panch Kedar present on the right-hand side of the Tungnath temple.
At Tungnath Temple, the priests are Khasiya Brahmins who hail from South India.
How To Reach TungnathTungnath is situated in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand and can be reached by covering a trek of nearly 4 km from Chopta.
Best Time To Visit TungnathApril to November is considered the ideal time to visit the temple since the climate is pleasant and moderately chill.
3. RudranathThis 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.
A striking feature of the temple is that it is surrounded by lots of ponds and Kunds. Anusuya Devi is another temple which lies nearby the Rudranath Temple. Every year, people pay a visit to the temple in masses to pay service to the dead because it is believed that the dead souls pass from this temple. The priests at Rudranath Temple are Dasmanis and Gosains.
How To Reach RudranathMost of the treks leading up to this point begin from Gopeshwar in Chamoli district and extend up till 20km. It is always so much fun to explore the way.
Best Time To Visit RudranathMay to October is considered the ideal time to pay a visit to this temple
4. MadhyamaheshwarMadhyamaheshwar 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.
Architecture and Significance of MadhyamaheshwarMadhyamaheshwar Temple has been constructed in North Indian architectural style and is located underneath a high edge in the meadow. A Shiva linga which is navel shaped and made up of black stone is present in the chamber of the temple. The temple has two more shrines inside the temple one of which is dedicated to Parvati and the other to Ardhanarishvara (an idol which is half Shiva and half Parvati). It is believed that this temple was built by the Pandava brother, Bhima. There is another small temple right beside the main temple which is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati whose marble idol is present here. Another belief that people have regarding the place is that the water of the temple is sacred and a few drops can help wash away one's sins.
How To Reach MadhyamaheshwarTrek 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.
Best Time To Visit MadhyamaheshwarSince the temple remains closed from November to April, the ideal time to visit the place is from May to October.
5. KalpeshwarThe 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.
Architecture and Significance of KalpeshwarKalpeshwar Temple is an exotic stone marvel which has been modified several times over the years. The structure has been constructed using granite stone which is obtained from the same mountains. The temple follows the Nagara style of architecture and has an enormous tower built here with a veranda on the top. The prime sanctum sanctorum lies under this tower towards its centre. A huge brass bell hangs down from the stone pillar in front of the temple. It has a huge architectural significance and celebrates Maha Shivratri as the main festival. Numerous rituals are organised during the day as well as the night on this occasion which is witnessed by lakhs of devotees every year. Seeking the blessings of the almighty here is considered very important. Temple priests here are the Dasnamis and Gossains who are the followers of Adi Shankara.
How To Reach KalpeshwarKalpeshwar 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.
Best Time To Visit KalpeshwarThe time extending from May to June followed by September to October is optimal for visiting the temple.
Formation of Panch KedarThe 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.
At each of these places, a temple was built by the Pandavas and all these five temples together came to be known as Panch Kedar.
Panch Kedar should be paid a visit to. More than the destination, the path leading to it is interesting and fun. People who are adventurous and love going up and down the hills are likely to have a fantastic time here with their families and friends. In addition to all this, the place also has a historical significance which attracts people from all over the world. So what are you still thinking about? Pack your bags and plan a trip to this incredible scenic beauty.