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Uttarakhand: Kedar Nath - Where Lord Shiva Resides - A Traveller's Guide
No Kedarnath Yatra for the next three years. 21st June, 2013.
Officials of the two shrines say the two places have been so badly devastated that there was nothing "but mud, devastation and death" around the highly revered temples visited by millions.
B.D. Singh, chief executive Officer of theBadrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee, told IANS that the chances of reviving the pilgrimage "for the next few years" was grim.
"What we are seeing is very painful and unbelievable," he said. "We don't expect the Char Dham Yatra to resume in the next three years."
To reach Kedarnath, you have to reach Gaurikund first, which is the gateway to Kedarnath. Gaurikund is situated at height of 6500 feet. It is about 73 kilometers from Rudraprayag, 212 kilometers from Rishikesh and 228 kilometers from Badrinath. If you donot get a direct Bus to Gourikund, then get down at Rudraprayag and you will have no dearth of communication.
Reach Gaurikund within afternoon, and rest for the day here. You can keep your excess luggage at cloakrooms of hotels here. Early in the morning, take a bath in the warm waters of the Kund, or ask the hotel boy to fetch you a pail of warm water from the kund, for a bath. And you are ready for one of the most coveted journeys of India. You can also have the bath in the evening before the journey, on the day you reach.
Kedar is a 8 hours journey by foot from Gaurikund. If you choose to take a pony, then the time will reduce to 3.5 hours. You can also take Dandi (a cot carried by 4 people) or Kandi (a basket to carry a human being) operated by one man. Dandi takes about 6 hours.
A pony will charge you about Rs.500 for a one way trip and Rs. 750 for a day return trip and Rs.1000 for a overnight return trip. Dandis will charge you double of horses.
You can also get porters and donkeys to carry your luggages. Rates may vary and may be subject to bargaining.
You can also avail of the 5 seater helicopter service. Takes about 15 minutes from Phatta. Charges are Rs.7000 return journey,add Rs.1100 for Darshan extra. Contact Pawan Hans, Phatta at 09818093968 Or their Delhi office at 9810352955/ 001-24651248/24690924/24622230
Start your journey as early as you can the next morning. Have your tea at Jangal Choti, along with some snacks. Do not ponder here, carry on with your journey.
Your next stop will be at Rambada. Here you will have your breakfast, at a height of 2590 meters. GMVN has a tourist rest house here too. You are only at a distance of 6 kilometers from the magical Kedar. Do not rest here too long, chant His name and egg on to your journey.
Midway from Ramwada and Kedar is your penultimate halt, the Garur Choti. Have a full glass of warm tea to kill your tiredness. Cross this Choti, and you can see Kedar at a distance. The Golden apex of the dome of the temple is visible, with the magnificient, white Kedarnath Peak at the backdrop. Jai Jagadish!
GMVN has a tourist lodge near Garur choti, but staying here is not advised, and it is quite far off from the temple. There are n number of options to stay beside the temple, most of which are managed by the temple committee (Rishikesh contact: 0135-2430261). There is Bharat Sevashram too. Choose one when you reach.
Kedarnath is the 2nd Yotirlingam amongst the 12 Yotirlings. Here, the deity is not in form of a Lingam, but like a pyramid, representing the backside of a buffalo. Puja can be offered at charges ranging from Rs.25 to Rs.1101. Some pujas also allow the pilgrims to tough the deity. Aarti is conducted at 6 in the morning and again at 6 in the evening, and is a scene to watch. Only the blessed ones can make a journey to Kedar.
The temple was built by Shankaracharya in the 8th century. Its architecture is different from all other temples of India. Many Gods and Goddesses are carved in the inside walls. The door is also intricately designed. The ceiling of the dome has a lotus carved in it. The scenario is serene, calm and holy.
Kedarnath temple is open from Akshay Tritiya to Deepavali. Rest of the time, the temple remains closed and the place is covered in snow. May to June and September and October are the best times to visit. The summer temperatures are 17 degrees Celsius to 5 degrees Celsius , while the winter temperatures are always below zero degrees Celsius.
It is said that even if the whole place is filled with snow, there will not be a spec of snow on the revered temple.
Do not make the mistake of coming down the same day from Kedarnath. It is necessary that you spend at least one night to soak in the place. You will also be able to see both the aartis, one on the day you reach, and one on the next day. You will also be able to save your health, and it is very very tiring to make return journeys in the same day. You can also choose to stay for more than a night, especially if you want to check out the beautiful places nearby.
Pay your reverence to Adi Guru Shankaracharya, His samadhi is just behind the temple. He had died at the age of 32 years at Kedarkhand. Also check out the four Kunds, the Ret kund, Udak, Rudra and Rishi.
If you have decided to stay back, then start for Gandhi sarovar after you have witnessed the morning aarti at the temple. It is at a distance of 4 kilometers. The pathway is not tough, but you will have to tread over icy glaciers. Gandhi sarovar is a lake amidst snow covered mountains, at a height of 14000 feet. The beauty - better experienced than explained. The source of river Mandakini is just 10 kilometers from this place. Rest here for sometime, and listen to the silence. Do not talk, just listen.
Incidentally, Mahatma Gandhi's remains were washed in this lake.
The enthusiasts can trek for another 8 kilometers to Vasuki taal, another lake on the mountains. The Chaukhamba peak is clearly visible from the taal. However,this pathway is tough, and you may need all your 4 limbs at times to scale the pathway. Moreover, you must have a guide, else you may be lost in no time.
You can also check out the are the Bhairav Jhamp, the suicidal point, from where people used to commit suicide to escape the cycle of life and death.
Its now time to return to Gourikund, so start your journey back home.