Panch-Kedar refers to five holy places of the Shaivite sect dedicated to god Shiva. They are located in the Garhwal Himalayan region in Uttarakhand, India. The five temples designated in the strict pecking order to be followed for pilgrimage for worship are the Kedarnath at an altitude of 3,583 m (11,755 ft), the Tungnath (3,680 m/12,070 ft), Rudranath (2,286 m/7,500 ft), Madhyamaheshwar or Madmaheshwar (3,490 m/11,450 ft) and Kalpeshwar (2,200 m/7,200 ft). According to the legend, the Pandavas sought the blessings of Lord Shiva to atone their sins after the battle of Mahabharata. Lord Shiva eluded them repeatedly and while fleeing took refuge at Kedarnath in the form of a Bull. On being followed, he dived into the ground, leaving behind his hump on the surface. This conical protrusion is worshipped as the idol in the Kedarnath shrine. Other parts of Shiva appeared throughout the Garwahl region as follows.
- Hump at Kedarnath
- Arms (Bahu) at Tunganath,
- Face (mukh) at Rudranath,
- Navel (nabhi) at Madamaheshwar
- Hair (jata) at Kalpeshwar
Once the visit is complete one has to pay homage to Badrinath to Lord Vishnu as a witness to complete the circuit which ranges from the Kedarnath wildlife sanctuary covering around 150kms by foot and 150kms by road through some amazing landscapes, wildlife and some blissful places. The trip starts from Rishikesh. We hired a Tavera for most part of our journey DAY 1 We started early morning from Rishikesh towards out first Kedar, Kedarnath. The route passes through 5 confluences of Dev, Rudra, Karna, Nanda & Vishnu Prayag and moves towards Gaurikund which is effectively the base for trek to Kedarnath. As of writing this article due to catastrophic floods in 2013 in Garwahl area, the trek route is now changed.
Early morning around 8 we commenced our uphill 13 km climb towards Kedarnath temple.
By the time we reached Kedarnath it was raining heavy and we were tired mostly due to lack of acclimitaztion coming straight from cofy sea level homes at Mumbai to around 13000ft. We booked a room at a small guest house run by Maharshtra Mandal and retired for the night. DAY 3 KEDARNATH TEMPLE [THE HUMP OF LORD SHIVA] Kedarnath, at the head of the Mandakini River, the temple is believed to be very ancient, has been continually renovated over the centuries. The lingam at Kedarnath, unlike its usual form, is pyramidal and is regarded as one of the 12 Jyotirlingas. Situated at an altitude of 3,581mts. Kedar is another name of Lord Shiva the protector and the destroyer.
We took the blessings and visited Adi sankaracharyas Samadhi behind the temple. It is beleived that the great sankara simply vanished one day behind the temple into eternal Samadhi and hence the sgructure commerates the great seer who re-established Vedic culture in India after defeating many contemperory religious schools.
Beyond Kedarnath a hard trek uphill to Vasukital a beautiful lake located 8km up was on our mind, but reasoning with the hard task we ourselves had to visit other Kedars we dropped the idea and moved towards Gaurikund.
We reached Gaurikund around evening had some light snacks packed our luggage and move towards our next destination Ukhimath at a distance of 43km from Rudraprayag, which was the base for our next Kedara, Madmaheswar. We reached around evening at Ukhimath at checked in at a lodge. For this trek we would require some guides and the hotel owner was a great chap who arranged two local lads who were very enthusiastic and as time went we developed a strong bond with them DAY 3 From Ukhimath there is a motorable road around 22.5km towards Uniana from where the trek starts. We started early morning and reached Uniana by 9. From here a dirt track starts which first leads towards a small hamlet of Ransi.
From Ransi the first major stop is Gaundhar. Many pilgrims who take Madmaheshwar pilgrimage prefer to halt at Gaundhar around 8km from Uniana and then move up again 12 km to the temple. The place to stay here is Kailash Tourist Lodge.
We decided to push on as much as we can and try and reach Nano village but we came to know that the village heads daughter had expired and hence we may not find accommodation. So we decided to reach Khadara Khal a small but beautiful hamlet just before Naano village.
We rested at Khadara for the night and had some delicious food comprising of local grown gourds and wheat roti. It was the best connect to nature with amazing night sky views from the room DAY 4 MADMAHESHWAR [THE BELLY OF LORD SHIVA]
We started early mornig from Khadara to a steep uphill climb towards the temple. One must be aware to carry energy bars during this trek or drinks like Tang or you can get exhausted pretty soon as we found out. Luckily just before hunger would get better of us we found some good refershments at the last settlement 3kms before the temple.We had some tea and the shops final set of cream biscuits before movig towards Madmaheshwar. It was almost 4pm and overcast when we saw the first glimpse of the Madmaheshwar temple The temple of Madmaheshwar is located at an altitude of 3,289 m. above sea level, on the slope of a ridge, 25 km northeast of Guptakashi in the Garwahl region of UTTARAKHAND state in India . Located at the base of Chaukhamba peak at an altitude of 3289 m the classic temple architecture belongs to the North-Indian style. So sanctified is the water here that even a few drops are considered sufficient for ablution. Kedarnath & Neelkanth peaks are visible from here, the entire ring of mountains associated with the life & times of Shiva. The stomach of Shiva is believed to have emerged at Madmaheshwar. We retired for the night at the Temple guest house. I was priveledged to interact with the temple priest an old man who informed me so much about herbs and its use. It was a treat. He further informed me about a unique hot water spring 8ks above Madmaheshwar named Nandi Kund which is a must visit. as so much we were tempted we resisted as we had much to cover but made it a point to return to this amazing place one more time. That night we slept with calmness and peace with the amazing experinece of this temple
DAY 5 We got up early and had a quick visit to the temple, clicked some group photos. We had decided to visit Budda Maheshwar a temple 2 kms above Madmaheshwar, more ancient an surrounded by beautiful meadows with views of mighty Chaukhamba
The pond water is considered holy and is used to worship the Shiva linga at the temple. One needs to remove their footwear on the outskirts , wash themselves clean with the water and then carry the water in a fresh unused vessel to the nearby temple of Budda Maheshwar and perform the worship
We had some good snaps around this very peaceful place and decided to move towards Gaundhar. We initially had decide dto halt but ultimately gave it a push to reach Uniana that very evening. It was an ardous 24kms trek but we finally reached Uniana by 6 in teh evening. From here we moved towards Chopta our base for Tungnath. We arrived Chopta late night around 10 and checked in a small restaurant come dormitory with very basic facilities. DAY 6 TUNGNATH [THE ARMS OF LORD SHIVA] Tungnath is easily accessible by foot from Chopta around 4km with good walkable road and hence it was leisure trek towards this temple which we welcomed after past 5 days of relentless hardwork which had left our legs battered and bruised. Within 3hrs we reached the Tungnath temple Tungnath is a pilgrim cum tourist hub unlike the unadulterated surrounds of Madmaheshwar. There is stark contrast in the attitude of Temple priest where as seen with commercialization thats crept into religious places. Rules are bent for money where we see many foreign tourist clicking weird pics with idols and sanctity of footwear and other basic rules are not maintained. Anyways this does not take a bit away from the grandeur and beauty of this highest Shiva temple of all Kedaras
We had some good snaps around this very peaceful place and decided to move towards Gaundhar. We initially had decide dto halt but ultimately gave it a push to reach Uniana that very evening. It was an ardous 24kms trek but we finally reached Uniana by 6 in teh evening. From here we moved towards Chopta our base for Tungnath. We arrived Chopta late night around 10 and checked in a small restaurant come dormitory with very basic facilities. Tungnath (3886m) is the highest temple in India. Legend has it that the arm of Shiva appeared here. Ravana, of the Ramayana, is said to have performed penance at this temple to propitiate Shiva. The high altitude temple is a Seat of Swyambhu Linga or the Lord Shiva Incarnate. The mythology has it that Lord Shiva was enraged at the act of homicide enacted by the Pandavas by killing their brethren in the grand battle of Mahabharata. Aware of Shiva's annoyance, the Pandavas built the temple to please Lord Shiva and for their own salvation. Others claim that the Adi Shankaracharya during his historic visit to the region had got it built. They cite the presence of Adi Shankaracharya's image in the garbha-griha or the sanctum of the temple. However, it also houses images of the Pandavas. Besides, the ashtadhatu images of Kaal Bhairava and Veda Vyasa are among the multitude of images there. A dark left-tilting one-foot high linga is the centre of attraction. The locals describe it as an arm of Lord Shiva. From Tungnath we decided owards Chandrasila peak. The Chandrashila peak presents the most beautiful views of Nanda Devi, Trishul, Kedar Peak, Bandarpoonch and Chaukhamba peaks. Known as the summit of TUNGNATH temple, the highest of Shiva temples in all Himalayas, it lies at DISTANCE OF 1KM from the Tungnath temple. The 1km trek is ardous but takes one to heights of around 4000m presenting amazing views. At the top is a small temple.
Chandrashila literally translates to "Moon Rock" and is associated with a popular legend as a place where Lord Rama meditated after defeating the demon-king Ravana. Another legend says that moon-god Chandra spent time here in penance. The summit gives an 360degrre panaromic view of the mighty Himalayas
From Chandrashila we made our way back to Chopta to move towards our next destination of Gopeshwar the base for one the most hard treks to Rudranath the 4th Kedara
After we reached Chopta we bid adieu to our two guides of Madmaheshwar who had accompanied us till Chpta as they did not know the route of our next trek. It was hard for them to parta s they had completely immeresed with us as friends.
We reached Gopeshwar around 7in teh evening and checked in a hotel. We had a brief discusion with our host about our plans. This trek was tough as we wanted to visit Rudranath and Anusuya Mata devi temple the centre of Sakti. There were two routes one from village Sagaar , a short one and one from Mandal a long one which covered Anusuya Mata . We after much contemplation decided to make a round circuit from Sagar to Mandal. This would have required us 3 days and here we erroneously decide dto let our driver go as we thougt keeping the car waiting may add to our expenses and the next destination after this trek was easy we may save some money. This was our mistake as in Uttarakhand there are taxi unions so one cannot book a taxi from one area to another for single trip but has to pay return fare which becomes very expensive. So a first hand traveller trip is that if you are short on time and want to cut hassles of erratic bus services it is better to book one car for the entire trip which works out cheaper DAY 7 Our host was very helpful to arrange for a guide come porter for our trek. We started early mornig after some refreshments towards Rudranath . The trek leads one through farm fields before converging at a rocky dusty and steep trek routes which takes one through steep curves. Our target was to reach Panar Bugyal by the night but since there was a chance that the accommodation may be full we decided to stop at Lyuti Bugyal just below Panar
Due to strong heat and fatigue not much pictures were clicked as the focus was to reach Lyuti at earliest. We reached around 6 in the evening and were very tired. Due to very less accomdation facilites on this hard trek, the make shift lodges are almost full. I enjoyed the hot Kari made from besan and the local vegetable and roti that was served. At night I had an exeperience to sleep besides the host calf almost sharing bed with him DAY 8 RUDRANATH [THE FACE OF LORD SHIVA]
Early mornig with fresh legs we started towards the revered temple of Rudranath. There was an intial climb towards Panar Bugyal and amazing meadow with peacful scenes.
We enjoyed this atmosphere and moved ahead towards Rudranath temple which takes one through amazing scenic routes and finally crosses the Pitradhar, the highest point of the Pancaganga Meadow. It is believed that souls from either worlds cross here.
The face of Lord Shiva is worshipped at Rudranath temple in a natural rock temple as Neelkantha Mahadeva. Lord Shiva is worshipped here as Neelkantha. The temple is situated amid thick forest at a height 2286 mtrs. The temple provides magnificent view of Hathi Parvat , Nandadevi, NandaGhunti, Trishuli and many other.This is the only temple in India where the image of Shiva is worshipped as a symbol of his face, a sublime, tender aspect of Shiva, unusual, serene and beautiful indeed to behold.Devotees come to Rudranath to offer ritual obeisance to their ancestors, for it is here, at Vaitarani river (the water of salvation), that the souls of the dead cross when changing world
The accomdation for temple is almost 500m down as people are not allowed to violate temple premises. Hence one must accomdate down as if at night if someone gets a nature call he may ahve to trek down 500m , not a good prospect. Unfortunately I was too keen to be close to the temple and decided to stay up which did not for best part amuse my friends
DAY 9 ANUSAYA MATA DEVI TEMPLE [2000m] After early morning prayers we decided to head back. This was a long journey as we had to first cross Naila Pass the highest point in the valley and then make our way through narrow steep inclines and dense forest towards Anusya Mata temple and reach Mandal which accounted to almost 20kms
Anusuya Devi Temple is a highly temple dedicated to Anusuya Devi, situated at an altitude of 2000 m above sea level, in Gopeshwar of Chamoli district Uttaranchal. The temple has great archaeological importance. It is believed that it is the only place where devotees circumambulate around the river as a mark of reverence. Anusaya Devi temple is known to help devotees in distress. Childless couples often take this ardous trek to Anusaya devi temple as a last resort to have a baby.
Just 2km ahead is the Atri caves, a very spiritual and specatcular site. Since we were very tired we decided to skip this and move towards Mandal once our oblations at temple were over. We had an added responsibility to arrange our transport ahead a mess we ourselves had got into due to our ignorance. We reached Mandal around 6 and with great effort got a transport back to our hotel at Ukhimath. That very night we decided to do an journey to our next stop Helang which served as a base fr kalpeshwar. For this we had to first reach Chamoli in one taxi than change to another which would take us to Helang. We reached Helang at around 11 and checke din a dormitory and went to sleep DAY10 KALPESHWAR TEMPLE [HAIR OF SHIVA]
We woke up next morning with a sense of relief that much hard work was done. We were also elated by the fact that there was a motorable road till Urgam around 8kms from where it was an easy walk towards Kalpeshwar. Earlier this 8kms were one of the most difficult trek. We had to book a vehicle towards Urgam and back. Just to point out the cost incurred by us for this trip only was equal to the car we had hired from Rishikesh and hence once again I put forth that book a vehicle from start to end unless you wish to travel local transport.
Located in Urgam Valley at an altitude of 2,134 m. above sea level, the small rock temple of Kalpeshwar is where the Hair appeared. It is a favorite location of meditating sages. Legend has it that the sage Arghya had performed austerities here and created the nymph, Urvashi. Rishi Durvasa is also believed to have meditated here under the wish-fulfilling tree, Kalpavriksha. One cannot circumambulate this temple as its inside a stone cave and it takes a trek of 50kms to do so
After oblations with ecstatic hearts we started our return journey towards Helang. On the way back we visited Dhyan Badri Temple at Urgam Village which is one of the Sapta badri's [Adi, Badrinath(vishal), Bhavishya, Yog, Dhyan, Vridh, Ardha]. Narsinha Badri is also included in this list by some. We reached Helang by evening and requested our Urgam driver to ferry us to Joshimath. We stayed at Joshimath for the night from where we were supposed to move to Badrinath to complete our circuit. After checkin in we visited the local taxi stand at Joshimath to book a vehicle to Badrinatha nd return to Rishikesh
DAY 11 BADRINATH We got up leisurely and had our breakfast as our hard trekking days were over cause badrinath was a motorable entity. We left to Badrinath around 11 in the morning and reached there around 2. Badrinath was crowded or maybe we were not accustomed ro see so many pilgrims due to the secluded nature of our treks. So we decided first go visit Saraswati river nearMana village, the last settlement on the Indian side of Indo-China border
After visiting Vyas and Ganesh gufa we moved towards Badrinath temple. we first checked in a guest house near the temple, cleaned ourselves and then moved towards the temple to complete our pilgrimage
Badrinath (3145m)located on the right bank of river Alaknanda is situated 297 kms from the holy town of Rishikesh. Badrinath is considered to be amongst the most pious of the eternal Hindu shrines of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. Badrinath is located in the lap of Nar-Narayan Parvat, with the Neelkanth peak(6,597m) overlooking in the background. Badrinath temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Sadhu and locals inform about scriptures which state that "Of all the innumerable sacred pilgrimage places in heaven and earth there is none equal to Badrinath nor shall there be one". The present temple was built about two centuries ago by the kings of Garhwal. The principal idol in the temple is of black stone and represents Vishnu seated in a meditative pose, and flanked by Nara-Narayan. Badrinath is also known as Vishal Badri and is one of the Panch Badris. The temple remains closed from October to April due to severe winter conditions. During this period the idols are taken to Pandukeshwar. Badrinath temple is the final stop to mark the completion of the legendary Pancha Kedar yatra, as being a only indigenious temple of Vishnu amidst the land of Shiva it bears testament or witness to the hard trek of Panch kedara
After completing our pilgrimage we had a sumptous meal at Saket restaurant which serves best vegetarian foods, the paneer butter masala is a dish to try. We roamed the market and retired for the night. Next mornig we had to leave early to reach Rishikesh by night. DAY 12 We had booked our return train tickets on the 15th day but since we completed our trip early we rescheduled our plan and booked next days flight back to Mumbai. hence it was imperative we reached Rishiesh that very night and started our journey early. On our way we decided to visit Adi badri temple located at karna Prayag
Adi Badri [A part of Sapta Badri], the first temple complex is an ancient shrine dedicated to Vishnu and is one among a chain of 16 small shrines located in the hill ranges. Seven temples of this chain were built during the late Gupta period (5th century to 8th century). According to tradition, Adi Shankara is attributed as builder of all the temples. The Vishnu temple is supposed to be the oldest in the region. The sanctum holds black stone 1m image of Vishnu.The image depicts Vishnu holding a mace, lotus and chakra (discus). Brahmins from South India serve as chief priests in the temple. It is considered to be the first [Adi] form of Vishnu in the region which is now moved to Badrinath in form of Vishal Badri and would be replaced by "Bhavishya Badri" [part of Pancha Badri], located at Tapovan. On shifting of Badrinath (also known as Raj Badri) to Bhavishya Badri, Adi Badri will be called the Yog Badri. The local people have a superstitious belief that in a few year the road from Joshimath to Badrinath will be closed by the meeting of the hill near the temple that stand opposite each other and that then this temple will become a place for pilgrimage. We visited all Prayags on the way to complete our journey of 5 Kedars, 5Prayags and 3Badri finally reaching Rishikesh that night. We checked in a small hotel and decided to hire a car to Delhi next morning for a flight back to Mumbai