I am a traveller, not a tourist. Tourist seeks luxury whereas traveller wants raw and rustic. So straight away I will start my story from where we started without giving brief about KEDARNATH temple or place as it will be discussed in between. One more thing I want to mention here is that this travelogue is written for students so that they can explore some awesomely cool places economically. I, myself, am a travel buff. Though I was not having much money during my college days I love travelling more than anything else because it makes me feel alive. So I try to travel as economically as possible. Also, my sole motive is to see places and gain experiences from the local people & feel the diversity of INDIAN CULTURE.
We were total 8 people. We hired one Mahindra bolero. We started our journey from JAWAHAR BHAWAN hostel at IIT ROORKEE, UTTARAKHAND.
The driver came at hostel gate at 0730 hrs; we loaded all our stuff in the vehicle and finally started off our journey to KEDRANATH temple at around 0800 hrs from our hostel at IIT ROORKEE on 31/05/2015.
KEDARNATH TEMPLE is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is on the GARHWAL Himalayan range near the MANDAKINI RIVER in KEDARNATH, UTTRAKHAND, INDIA. Due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the ends of April (AKSHAYA TRITIYA) to November (the autumn full moon, usually KARTIK PURNIMA). During the winters, the VIGRAHAS (deities) from KEDARNATH temple are brought down to UKHIMATH and worshipped there for six months. Lord SHIVA is worshipped as KEDARNATH, the 'Lord of KEDAR KHAND', the historical name of the region. The temple was built by PANDAVAS and revived by ADI SHANKARACHARYA and is one of the twelve JYOTIRLINGAS, the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva. This temple is the highest among the 12 JYOTIRLINGAS. KEDARNATH was the worst affected area during the 2013 natural disaster or flash flood of north India.
I will not go much into the history of the temple because it is very vast and already a lot of INDIAN greats have written about it.
We reached SONPRAYAG by 20:00hrs same day. Although Google maps will show that it is a 9 hrs journey, it will definitely take 12 hrs as you will stop in between and it’s quite difficult to drive on hilly terrain. Before SONPRAYAG there is a village called PHATA where you need to go for pollution clearance of your vehicle. You can get pollution check control board clearance at SONEPRAYAG also but it’s very crowded and sometimes complicated. So local people told me it’s better to take clearance from here only.
We stayed at SONPRAYAG for overnight; there are lots of affordable inns. Lodges or hotels are available too. It depends on you how much you want to spend. We booked three rooms for 1500 bucks. That was quite a good deal and it included supper also. Food was plain, simple but tasty. Thali consisted of dal, one seasonal vegetable, wheat chapattis and rice.
From here only we can feel the cold. It’s much cooler then ROORKEE. We need to take out our jackets or woollen clothes. Also, breathtaking natural beauty can also be spotted from this place only. We roamed around for some time and then went to bed as we needed to wake up early in the morning so that we could start our journey as soon as possible.
As we needed to queue up for registration and medical check-up in the morning so we woke up around 05:00 hrs; and went to fall in line for getting an early approval for registration on 01/06/2015. We saw that there were lot more people already reached there to get registered and medically monitored, anyhow we cleared all the check posts and collected our registration document which consisted of our medical health standard. This is what we got as a slip after a medical check up.
It was not that tough to clear as they will ask everything from you only. Nothing else they will do and give you clearance. A nominal fee will be charged for the same and that is authentic and one good thing is that no bribery is there for early clearance, you need to follow rules and regulations and come up in the proper queue to get clearances.
We again flagged off our journey from there, up to 8 km we travelled by local vehicles as the road is somewhat good up to GAURIKUND from SONEPRAYAG. This 8km road is very treacherous but the drivers are very skilled and they will drop you there safely. For people like us, it’s very hard to drive there, that’s why it is prohibited for outsiders to drive ahead of SONEPRAYAG. From there you can only travel through the registered local vehicle. They either have jeep or Bolero in just workable condition. They drive them so carefully and elegantly that you will not feel that your heartbeat is going up due to the deep valley and narrow roads. Initially, you will be careful, basically focusing on driver’s driving skill other than natural beauty but as they proceed you got confidence on them and starts enjoying nature, and you will reach finally to GAURIKUND. If I remember correctly then they probably charged 50 rupees per person.
Then we reached to GAURIKUND by those vehicles, board shown above is the starting point of trekking for reaching KEDARNATH temple, from here either we can travel by mule or on pitthu or by our own feet. Mule would charge 1200 rupees or sometimes it depends on your bargaining skills, at what point you get the deal to settle out for travelling further. Same goes true for pitthu but they charge a bit more probably around 400 bucks more than a mule because sometimes mule could be dangerous. In the following picture, you can see that road is made up of big stones joint together through cement, which becomes slippery as it starts raining there. Also either you are going up or coming down your centre of gravity changes a lot on the back of mule, and if you got distracted a bit more because of surrounding beauty or due to breathtaking valleys beside the road you are travelling on, you will definitely come down with your vehicle i.e. mule and hurt yourself or you may die, it depends on your height of fall.
So I will suggest walking up to the holy shrine as it is always considered pristine to travel by yourself to God's place in Hindu mythology if you are not disabled or sick or tired. As you walk the whole path, you will find that it’s very beautiful. You will feel that you are travelling in the lap of nature and right away you are going to reach heaven. It’s that beautiful and adorable. Your eyes will never be getting tired of glazing towards this amasing beauty.
We went for the last option that is trekking. For reaching up to temple we need to do trekking for up to 16.0 km. During the journey, you will pass all natural breathtaking scenic beauty. Trekking is tiresome, but because of this natural beauty, you will not feel fatigue.
During your journey, you will come across all weather conditions. As you start from SONEPRAYAG, a mild cool weather around 10 degrees Celsius in morning will welcome you. As you proceed further and move up to certain heights you may get blessed by the sunlight of lord sun. As you proceed further, around halfway you will come across snow coming to embrace your soul. In between, you will be rejuvenated and resurrected by intermittent rain. Your body will get heated up as you continue your trekking as you will be reaching to new heights on your every single step and your body will be demanding more and more oxygen. It is there, but since your body is not acclimatized to those conditions, so you will feel that but you need not worry and move forward. In between, you will get lots of small stalls or shops set up by local villagers and some by the government also. They will provide you refreshments and drinks. They seem to be a little bit costly but they are worth it as it is very hard to bring those things there from SONEPRAYAG.
Finally, we reached KEDARNATH temple at around 15:30hrs, which is a closing time of temple. Anyhow we requested to some of the priests and they allowed us through back door to have DARSHAN otherwise we had to wait for next morning and as we wanted to start our journey early morning along with exploring the vicinity of the temple, we wanted to have DARSHAN on that day itself.
When you are inside pristine shrine you feel very positive. It feels that Lord Shiva is directing your inside vibes to move in the correct direction as per your goals. Lord Shiva is a symbol of God who does not want many things that’s why we offer them dhatura not ghee & processed things. They do not expect a lot from their devotees, whatever you have in its original form, that will be accepted by Mahadev and your wishes will be fulfilled properly. Priests asked for some DAKSHINA and we did so. Lord Shiva use to live in Himalaya as per various Puranas this also shows that he doesn’t like materialistic and worldly things. Priests also provided me one gift which is shown in the following picture.
Finally, we enrolled ourselves for tents, which are arranged by the government. After the natural disaster or fury of 2013, there are no private hotels or inns available. Accommodation and food are provided by the government. They will charge nominally, if I remember it correctly then they charged around 110 rupees for staying in tent and dinner. In one tent 10 people will be staying. Sleeping bags will be provided. Chairs for tents are there. This kind of arrangement seems good. Common toilets are provided. Toilets are not that clean. You need to manage in that case. This is because of the people, as they are not using them properly. There could be two reasons for this, one is temperature is very low and water is fucking cold, so everyone is in hurry to finish the job and get out from there and be around some fire or warm sleeping bag & second reason may be people do not have sanitation literacy. That’s why they are not using the toilet properly and flushing it out. After that, we sat down there on some really nice chairs available into tents and discussed the whole trip and about lord SHIVA. Sparkling moonlight was hugging the huge sky very gently. Snow on mountains was gleaming like a diamond.
We had our dinner there; it was really simple and tasty. I don’t know how they cooked it. But it was really delicious. We roamed around for some time as it was around full moon time, and mountains were looking crystal clear, moonlight was sprawling around everywhere and snow on mountains was looking sparkling white, it was an amazing scene to gaze.
But due to the limitation of time we needed to go to bed, I don’t remember the exact time but around midnight we went into our sleeping bags and took a sound sleep as we woke up in the early morning around 05:00 hrs on 02/06/2015.
Again, after roaming around and taking some nice pictures we started our down trek and reached to SONPRAYAG around 11:45 hrs, It took really less time, as we were travelling down, and it was very easy and less cumbersome process.
Finally, we started our journey from there to ROORKEE and we reached around 02:00 hrs on 03/06/2015.
The whole trip cost us around 4000 INR per person. The whole journey took around 3 D/N.
I am uploading some more photos to give you feel about the whole trip and also welcome any doubts or questions regarding the trip.