Panch Kedar refers to five holy places of the Shaivite sect dedicated to god Shiva
All of them are situated in the Kedar Valley. At Kedarnath, situated at the head of the Mandakini River, the Linga is a natural rock that resembles the hump of a bull. Madhyamaheshwar, situated at the base of Chaukhamba Peak is at an altitude of 3500 m. Here the Linga is worshipped in the form of a navel. Tungnath, where the arm of Shiva appeared is the highest temple in Garhwal is situated at an altitude of 3810 m. 500 m above the temple at Tungnath is Chandrashila. The panoramic view of the Himalayas is breathtaking. Rudranath is where the face of Shiva is said to have appeared. Here there is a natural rock temple in which the Shiva Mukha is worshipped. To reach Rudranath, one has to trek through alpine meadows and dense forests. Kalpeshwar is situated in the beautiful valley of Urgam. There is a cave temple here and Shiva is worshipped in his matted hair form. Each temple has it's own uniqueness and historical importance.
According to the legend, after the battle of Kurukshetra, the Pandavas went to sought the blessings of Lord Shiva to atone their sins. But Lord Shiva, who din't want to meet them finally eluded. When the Pandavas came to know where Lord Shiva is, the Lord took the form of a bull to hide himself.
The Pandavas were not ready to accept it. One of the Pandava, Bhima tried his best to pick up the bull (Lord Shiva) but failed and the bull sacattered into pieces. The pieces sank into the earth but however Bhima managed to retain the hump of the bull (Lord Shiva)
Impressed by the determination of Pandavas, Lord Shiva finally blessed them and freed them from their sins. The lord then asked them to worship his hump at Kedarnath. This conical protrusion is worshipped as the idol in the shrine.
The other parts of bull's (Lord Shiva's) body went as Arms (Bahu) at Tungnath, Face (mukh) at Rudranath, Navel (nabhi) at Madhyamaheshwar and Hair (jata) at Kalpeshwar.
It is held that the Pandavas and their descendents built the temples at kedarnath, Madhyamaheshwar and Tungnath. Rudranath and kalpeshwar however remained cave temples. But these five are not the only places where lord Shiva’s body parts appeared. The main body part ‘head’ of lord Shiva appeared at Pashupatinath in Nepal. It is believed that the hindu devotees who pay visit to Panch Kedar must visit Pashupatinath to complete their pilgrimage tour and be blessed by lord Shiva. Thousands of devotees from India and elsewhere visit Pashupatinath in group every year.
The yatra of Panch Kedar is said please Lord Shiva immensely. It is said that completion of the yatra results in ablution of one's sins as well as fulfillment of the wishes. This tedious trek is a test of a person's physical as well as mental toughness. It can be extremely satisfying, not just spiritually but also to feel the beauty and culture of the Himalayan terrains.
Best time to Visit
The best time for Panch Kedar Visit is during the summer season starting from May to mid-June and in the spring season starting from mid-September to late-October if you are planning to visit the five abodes of lord Shiva on the same tour. Otherwise you can plan to visit the different abodes at different times. You can plan tour to few of the pilgrimages during winter too but in most cases, you must trip during summer and avoid monsoon season too.
How to reach
Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport. If you choose to travel by rail, board at the railway station at Rishikesh which is the closest railways ought to get you for Panch Kedar temples.
The rest of the journey till the corresponding base-camps needs to be traversed by road.
- For Kedarnath: One can easily find buses from Delhi to Haridwar. One can travel to Kedarnath by road from Delhi/Haridwar/Rishikesh. The road till Gaurikund from Rishikesh is open only between 4 am – 8 pm. Buses start towards Gaurikund from Haridwar every morning. It is 240 km long route till Gaurikund.
- For Tungnath: Chopta can be easily accessed from most places in Uttarakhand. Chopta is hardly 5 hour drive from Rishikesh (164 km).
- For Rudranath: Gopeshwar, the starting point for trek till Rudranath is a 7 hour long drive on NH 7 from Haridwar (231 km).
- For Kalpeshwar: Drive from Rishikesh till Urgam to travel till Kalpeshwar. It is 253 km drive on Rishikesh- Badrinath road.
- For Madhmaheswar: Ukhimath can be reached after a 6.5 hour journey from Haridwar (202 km). Uniana, the starting point of the trek till Madhmaheswar is another 18 km road journey.
Accommodation for Panch Kedar Temples
One can easily find provision for accommodation near the starting points of the trek. Here’s a list of information on accommodation.
- Accommodation near Kedarnath: Provision for basic accommodation in the form of camp tents exist near Kedarnath temple. But, one can find only good accommodation facilities downhill. People tend to stay at Gupt kashi, Sitapur etc.
- Accommodation near Tungnath: One can stay in village houses in Chopta for trekking till Tungnath Temple.
- Accommodation near Rudranath: Some basic facility for accommodation exists near Panar and the temple premises. One might also pitch in one’s own tent.
- Accommodation near Kalpeshwar: You can stay at homestay accommodation at Devgram or Kalpeshwar. Alternatively, one can set up tents as well.
- Accommodation near Madhmaheswar: Along the trek-route, one can stay at Ransi village which is 3 km into the trek. Also, Gaundhar, which comes after 6 km from Uniana (trek starting point), offers 3 lodges for accommodation. You might have to rely on tents if you wish to stay at any place in the rest of the 13 km long trek route.
Things to carry
- Good condition trekking boots
- Camp shoes for crossing rivers and for visiting Devariyatal
- A pair of thick woolen socks never hurt when trekking in the Himalayas
- Keep a thick winter jacket for dealing with the cold
- Trekking Pants are a must for scaling the peaks
- Keep a woolen cap to protect yourself from the biting cold
- A pair of sunglasses to avoid the glaring sun
- Sun Screen
- Water bottle
- Trekking pole
- A first aid box is a must have on this trek. It is advisable to carry your own personal supply of first aid items such as antiseptics, insect repellents, prescription drugs etc.
- Keep a swiss knife with you at all times.
As the nearest city of this trekking expedition is Haridwar / Rishikesh, please keep with you at all times the following emergency contact details.
- Uttarakhand Helpline: 0135 – 2710334, 0135 – 2710335, 0135 – 2710233
- Surya Medical Emergency Helpline: 18001805558, 18004190282
- Army Control Number: 0135 – 2716201, 0135 – 2710925, 0135 – 2716201, 0135 – 2710925
- Army Medical Emergency Numbers – 18001805558, 18004190282, 8009833388