The Kedarnath Temple is one of the Jyotirlingas, one of twelve Hindu temples of particularly special importance to the deity Shiva. It is traditionally the fifth temple of the list, though not necessarily in either importance or in order to be visited. Per the Jyotirlinga legend, Shiva appeared on the spot as a beam of light. The Kedarnath Temple is the northernmost of the Jyortlingas and is closest to Mount Kailask where Lord Shiva is believed to make his permanent abode.
The Kedernath Temple is one of the relatively younger Jyotirlingas, and probably ‘only’ dates back to the 8th century AD. Its construction is tied to a legend concerning an early conflict known as the Mahabharatha war. During this war, a people known as the Pandavas fought a terrible battle in which they killed many of their own kin. Afterwards, they sought desperately to atone for their collective sin.
Treking to the mountains, they sought out Lord Vishweshwara in order to receive absolution, but did not find him. However, they did briefly spot the Lord Shankara, and sought instead to meet with him instead. Following his trail into the mountains, the Pandavas had all manner of adventures, but Shankara eluded them.
Eventually, the Pandavas encountered an unusual buffalo, in which the buffalo was ultimately caught. From his hindquarters sprung Lord Shankara, and this was a taken as a sign that the sins of the Pandavas were forgiven. A shrine was built on the site where Shankara appeared.
At a later point, a new and larger temple was constructed next to the older one, and this temple has since stood for over a thousand years. In 2013, massive flooding, mudslides and avalanches ravaged the Kedarnath Valley, destroying everything in its path and killing hundreds of people. However, the temple survived, an event that both devotees and scientists claim was nothing short of a miracle.
The Kedarnath Temple is arguably one of the finest Jyotirlingas to visit. A mid-size structure that is architecturally unique among the Jyotirlingas, it bears a resemblance to traditional Greek-style Christian churches. Also, it is not hemmed in on all sides by other building, giving it an even more dramatic appearance among the dramatic, mountainous scenery.
The temple interior has some of the best religious art and sculptures in Northern India. There are statues of a number of Hindu gods, as well as members of the Pandavas. A stone in the sanctuary, which is the focus of worship, is associated with the point of light that Shiva formed.
The Kedarnath Temple is one of the most isolated major temples in India. It is located in the Kedarnath Wildlife Sanctuary deep in the Himalayas, about 150 miles northeast of New Delhi. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: www.badarikedar.org (official website)
There’s not much else in the general vicinity of the Kedarnath Temple, especially since the flooding and destruction of 2013. However, not too far away is the Badrinath Temple, an incredibly important sacred site dedicated to Vishnu.