Among the twelve JyotirLingas of Bhagwan Shankara, the one at Kedarnath is located in the snow-covered area of the Himalayas. This JyotirLingas can be visited only during six months is a year, From the month of Vaishakha to Ashwin (Ashwiyaja) is the time when pilgrims can make the journey to this. The rest of the year it is too cold and the Himalayas are covered in show.Therefor, the kedarnath Temple remains closed for pilgrims.
During the month of Karthika, due to snowfall, Sri Kedareshwar idol is brought out of the temple after fighting a ghee (buffer oil lamp) lamp, “Nandadeep”. Then the temple is closed for the winter. From the month of Karthika to Chaitra Sri Kedareshwar’s abode is shifted to the Urvi Math, which is in the valley. In the month of valshakh, when the temple doors are opened, the lamp “Nanda Deep” still keeps burning. People come to see this glorious lamp and the Shiva devotees consider themselves blessed.
Hardware or Hardware is considered to be the gateway to heaven, the magic city or Mayapur. Ahead of Hardware, there are holy places like) Rishikesh, Devprayag, son-prayag and Triyugi Narayana, Gaurikund. To kedarnath one has to pass through these places. Some part of the jouney is motorable and the rest has to be walked. This part of the way through the Himalaya is very difficult and dangerous. But devotees go through all this! with dedication and determination. They overcome all the ditficuties with, perseverance.
To climb the steep path, some use mules, some use Dolis (Swing like carriages) and some others use walking sticks. There are arrangements for acquiring these here. There are chowltries and resting places in between for the tired yatris. After reaching Gaurikund, the tired pilgrims get to have a bath in the not springs there. After this, they take a Darshan of the head-less Ganesha. It is here in Gaurikund, that Shiva cuff off Ganesha’s head with his trident and later replaced with the head of an elephant.
A little farther from Gaurikund, near the snow-clad mountains, on the banks of River Mandakini, the kedarnath temple of the glorious JyotirLingas of Lord Shankar becomes Visible. This is Kailash, where Lord Shankar had originally made his abode. But there is no idol of Linga here. There is just a triangular shaped high mound. It is said that this is the hind part of Mahisha (he-buffalo). There is a unique strong that goes with this unusual sight:
‘ During the war between the Kauravas and Pandavas, their own kith and kin got kill, In order to absolve themselves of this sin, the Pandavas went for a pilgrimage. But Lord Vishweshwar was away in Kailasa in the Himalayas. On learning this, the Pandavas, left Kashi. They reached the Himalayas via Hardware. They saw Lord Shankar from a distance. But Lord Shankara hid from them. Than Dharmaraja said,” Oh, Lord, you have hidden yourself from our sight because we have sinned. But, we will seek you out somehow. Only after we take your Darshana wouldour sins be washed away. This place, where you have hidden yourself will be known as Guptakashi and become a famous shrine”.
From Guptakashi (Rudraprayag), the Pandavas went ahead they reached gaurikund in the Himalaya valleys. They wandered there in search of Lord Shankara. While doing so Nakul and Sahadev found a he-buffa!o. It was unique to look at. Dharmaraje Commented, “it is indeed Lord Shankar who has taken this form. He is testing us”.
Then! Bheema went after the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo was clever and Bheema could not catch it. But Bheema managed to injure the buffalo with his mace. The buffalo sat with its face hidden in a crevice-in the earth. Bheema started to pull it by its tail. In this tug-of war, the face of the buffalo went straight to Nepal, leaving its hind part in Kedar. The face of the buffalo is known as Pashupatinath in Nepal.
On this hind part of Mahesha, a glorious JyotiLinga appeared. Lord Shankara appeared from this great light. He appeared before the pandavas. By getting a Darshan of Lord Shankar, the Pandavas were absolved of their sins. The Lord told the Pandavas, “From now on, will remain here as a triangular shaped JyotirLinga. By taking a Darshan of Kedarnath, devotees would attain pieity,” Near kedardham, there are many symbols of the Pandavas Raja Pandu fied here, when he tried to make love to Madri. This place is famous as Nandikeshwara. The tribals here perform a dance called “Pandav Nritya”. The mountaintop where the Pandavas went to Swarga, is known as ’Swargarohini”. When Darmaraja was leaving for Swarga, one of his fingers fell or the earth. At that place, Dharmaraj installed a Shiva Linga, which is the size of a Thumb.
‘To gain Mahisharupa, Shankara and Bheema fought with maces. Bheema was struck with remorse. He started to massage Lord Shankara’s body with Ghee. In memory of this event, even today, this triangular Shiva ‘JyotirLinga is massaged with Ghee. Shankara is worshipped here in this manner, here. Water and Bel leaves are used for worship.
When Nar-narayan went to Badrika village and started the worship of Parthiva, Shiva appeared before them. A few days later, a pleased Shiva granted them some boons. Nar-Narayan wished that for the welfare of the humanity, Shiva should remain there in his original form. Granting their wish, in the snow-clad Himalayas, in a place called Kedar, Mahesha himself samd and stayed there as a Jyoti. Here, He is known as kedareshwara.
By visiting kedareshwar, sorrows do not come even in dreams. By worshipping Shambara (Kedareshwar) Pandavas were rid of all their sorrows. Badri-Keshwar’s Darshan rids one of the material ties.Whoever gives Dan (alms) at Kedareshwar, just gets assimilated into Shivaroopa.
Around the main Kedarnath Temple, there are many holy places. At the back, there is the Samadhi of Shankarachrya. A little ferther up, there is dangerous cliff called Bhariguptan (Bhairav Udan). One has to pass through dreadful, and life threatening circumstances. But what one gets is not Mrityu (Death) but Moksha (Salvation). On all the eight sides of the temple, there are eight shrines.
In short, it is to say that in order to visit Kedarnath JyotirLinga, one has to go through a treacherous route. But when people are determined and dedicated, they never get tired. Every one keeps chanting – Jay Kedarnath! Jay Kedarnath!!