Panch Kedar: Mystical Journey to the Five Sacred Shiva Temples in the Himalayas
Uttarakhand, also called Devbhumi or the Land of Lords, is undoubtedly among the most breathtaking places on the planet. Among the many stories that make up its rich history is the legend of the Panch Kedar mandir, a group of five Lord Shiva temples that includes Kedarnath, Madhyamaheshwar, Tungnath, Kalpeshwar and Rudranath. These sacred shrines of God Shiva are situated in Garhwal, Uttarakhand and are believed to have been established by the Pandavas, the legendary figures from the Mahabharata.
Every holy shrine is located in a serene and peaceful region of the Himalayas, where no explicit motorable road leads directly to either shrine. In order to visit them, one must undertake a trek of varying tiers of difficulty through the mountains, meadows, snow-capped peaks, streams that dot the landscape and wildlife.
The Panch Kedar trek is a magnificent journey that will leave a lasting impression on your mind and soul. Its spiritual significance is enhanced by the natural beauty of the surroundings, which adds an extra layer of enchantment to the experience. The pilgrimage usually takes around 15 to 16 days to finish, and it is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse oneself in the magic of this divine region.
History of Panch Kedar
As legends pass down through the ages, they often become twisted and distorted. One famous tale related to the origin of the Panch Kedar temple is said to have taken place during the time of the Mahabharata. According to this version of the legend, the Pandavas, filled with guilt and remorse after their brutal war, sought out God Shiva to seek forgiveness for their sins.
However, Shiva, still angry with them for their treacherous actions, refused to appear before them. He disguised himself as a bull and took refuge in the region Garhwal of the Himalayas, specifically at Guptkashi. When the Pandavas arrived at the Himalayan Garhwal region, they stumbled upon the bull and recognized it as Lord Shiva. Bhim attempted to capture the God, but it escaped by diving into the ground, hence the name Guptkashi.
Shiva then revealed himself in different regions of Garhwal: his hump appeared at Kedarnath, his navel in Madhya-Maheshwar, his face at Rudranath, his arms in Tungnath, and his hair in Kalpeshwar. The Pandavas subsequently constructed temples at every location to commemorate the Lord’s appearances.
Jointly, these five holy sites are called as Panch Kedar Mandir. Although there are various versions of this legend, they all share the common theme of seeking redemption through pilgrimage and the power of God Shiva’s presence.
Legend has it that the Pandavas, in their quest to seek Lord Shiva’s blessings, erected temples at every location where God arose as such. These five panch kedar name are of great significance to devotees of Lord Shiva.
For those who wish to pay their respects to the deity, it is recommended to visit the five holy shrines in the Garhwal region of the Himalayas in a particular sequence.
Perched at an altitude of 3,584 m, Kedarnath is a sight to behold, surrounded by majestic snow-covered peaks and verdant groves. It is situated in the district of Rudraprayag in Uttarakhand and is one of the most important Panch Kedar yatra. The shrine houses a cone-shaped God Shiva lingam, thought as the bump of God Shiva. The present structure of the temple, built using grey stone slabs, is believed to have been inaugurated by King Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th or 9th century AD.
To reach the holy shrine of Kedarnath, pilgrims must travel to Gaurikund, which is the closest motorable road. From there, they must embark on a 14-kilometre trek that takes them through some of the most breathtaking landscapes imaginable. While the trek may be steep at times, the awe-inspiring natural beauty of the region keeps the souls of the pilgrims high throughout the journey. Panch kedar trek
to Kedarnath temple is truly an unforgettable experience that will stay with visitors for a lifetime.
Perched at an altitude of 3,680 m, Tungnath is home to the most elevated shrine of God Shiva in the whole world. It is situated in Rudraprayag region of Uttarakhand and can be accessed by embarking on a moderate 4-kilometre hike from Chopta village. It is believed that the arms of Lord Shiva appeared here. Strolling on the path towards temple Tungnath, panch kedar yatra trekkers are treated to breathtaking views of stunning hills such as Chowkhamba, Nanda Devi, Neelkanth and Kedarnath. Along the way, beautiful meadows and delightful rhododendron flowers dot the landscape, providing a feast for the eyes.
For those seeking a more adventurous experience, a further 2-kilometre trek up to Chandrashila Peak promises an incredible panoramic view of the surrounding peaks. The trek to Tungnath is truly a mesmerizing experience that is sure to leave visitors spellbound with its natural beauty and spiritual aura.
There exists a location where Shiva’s visage emerged from the earth, a crude rock sanctuary that stands at an elevation of 2,286 m amidst a breathtaking landscape of dense rhododendron forests and alpine meadows. At this panch kedar temple, Shiva is glorified as the revered ‘Neelkanth Mahadev’, and one can find a plethora of sacred pools in its vicinity, including the likes of Surya pool, Chandra pool, Tara pool and Mana pool. As a backdrop, the magnificent peaks of Trishul, Nanda Ghunti and Nanda Devi are visible, forming a stunning vista. However, it must be noted that reaching this temple is considered more arduous in comparison to other temples of Panch Kedar, as the trek can span up to 20 kilometres and commences from different loactions in Gopeshwar.
Nestled in the breathtaking Garhwal Himalayas lies the Madhyamaheswar temple, where legend has it that the navel or middle part of God Shiva emerged. Located in the serene Mansoona village, this panch kedar mandir is situated in a picturesque green valley surrounded by snow-capped peaks such as Kedarnath, Neelkantha and Chaukhamba. The trek to Madhyamaheswar, which is around 19 km long, can be initiated from Uniana, located about 18 km from Ukhimath. The first 10 km of the trek, till Bantoli, is relatively easier, while the slope gets steeper and more challenging thereafter.
Bantoli is the confluence point of Madhyamaheswar Ganga and Martyenda Ganga, and it’s also a great spot to soak in the stunning views of the lush forests, diverse wildlife, mesmerising waterfalls, and the majestic peaks that surround the area. All in all, this panch kedar trek is an unforgettable experience that leaves a lasting impression on anyone who undertakes it.
The Kalpeshwar shrine is where Lord Shiva’s jatas or long, tangled locks are believed to have appeared, giving him the monikers Jateshwar or Jatadhari. This revered temple is nestled in the scenic and serene Urgam canyon in the district Chamoli of Uttarakhand, standing tall at a height of 2,200 m. The Urgam Valley boasts dense forests, and one can marvel at the picturesque potato plantations and apple orchards on the terraced fields.
To reach Urgam Valley, one can travel to Helang via the Rishikesh to Badrinath road. From Urgam, a straightforward 2 km trek leads to the Kalpeshwar panch kedar temple. During the journey from Kalpeshwar to Helang, anyone can notice the breathtaking convergence of the Kalpganga and Alaknanda rivers. With its convenient location, one can conveniently include Kalpeshwar in their religious itinerary, along with a visit to Badrinath.
Location of Panch Kedar
The Panch Kedar name shrines are nestled in the upper reaches of the Himalayas, surrounded by stunning snow-capped peaks such as Neelkanth, Chaukhamba, Nanda Devi and Kedarnath. While Kedarnath is situated in the valley of the Mandakini River, the other shrines are perched on the plateau between the Alaknanda gorge and the Mandakini Valley. All these holy places are situated in remote locations, and with exception of Rudranath, the remaining four temples are still inaccessible by roads.
Kedarnath village is situated on the periphery of a mountain pitch in the Garhwal part of the Himalayas and is surrounded by streams such as Saraswathi, Dudhganga, Swargaduari and Madhuganga. Tungnath has a breathtaking background of the mountains of Panchachuli, Kedarnath, Nanda Devi, Bandar Poonch and Dunagiri, and is located near the village Chopta, which is a quick stretch from Ukhimath. Panch kedar mandir Kalpeshwar is nestled in the dense forest area of the valley of Urgam, which is home to apple orchards and terraced pastures where potatoes are grown extensively.
The Ideal Time To Visit Panch Kedar
The ideal time to embark on the Panch Kedar is between October and May, a period during which all the temples of Panch Kedar are open for visitors. The temples usually remain open for about six months, starting from the end of April until October every year. During the month of winter, the temples become unavailable because of heavy snowfall and rainfall. However, even during this period, the sacred symbolism of God Shiva is revered in various other locations. It’s worth noting that only Panch Kedar temple Kalpeshwar remains open all around the year, making it a must-visit destination for the devotees of Lord Shiva.