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Uttarakhand: The Holy Panch Kedars - a Traveller's Guide
The Panch Kedars:
According to legends, Lord Shiva did not want to meet the Pandavas after the Kurukhsetra war to forgive their sins. He assumed the shape of a buffalo. But Bhima recognized him, and Shiva tried to dig and went underground. But Bhima caught his backside, and in the resultant tug of war, the buffalo was divided in five parts and fell into six different areas, which are Kedarnath, Madmaheshwar, Tunganath, Rudranath and Kalpeshwar, and are known as the 5 Kedars. The sixth part fell into Pashupatinath of Nepal.
It is said that the Kedar darshan is only complete after you have visited the 5 Kedars. Other than the religious part, all places offers unique scenic beauty, and are trekker's paradise.
Find details on the Panch Kedars below.
To know about Kedarnath, the greatest of all Kedars, visit our Kedarnath page.
Come back from Kedarnath to Gourikund and proceed to Sitapur. Triyuginarayan is only 5 kilometers from here. Start early in the next morning to reach Triyuginarayan. Alternatively, you can also reach Sonprayag from Gourikund, stay the night there, and start for Triyuginarayan the next morning. Ponies charge about Rs.300 for return journeys, trekkers will charge a bit more. Distance is 5 kilometers from here too.
It is sadi that Madadeva marries Sati at Triyuginarayan. The holy fire is still alight even after ages. Narayana also resides here, it is believed, for the three yugas, hence the name Triyuginarayan. There is a four handed metallic deity of Narayana here, along with Laxmi, Swaraswati, in the Shiva temple.
You can stay at Sonprayag or Sitapur, Sitapur offers a better scenery and ambiance to stay. River Mandakini and river Vasuki meets at Sonprayag.
Madmaheshwar: Known as the second Kedar of the Panch Kedar, it can be reached from Gourikund as well. Take the bus to Nala (closest to Madmaheshwar), or Jurani, or better still, Guptkashi (31 kilometers). There is a Shiva temple is at a short distance from the bus road of Guptkashi. There are a host of other temples too. Also check out the Manikarnika kund, where it is believed that the Ganga and the Yamuna have met. The peaks of Madmaheshwar, Kedar and Chaukhamba are also visible from here.
Start your journey from Gupt Kashi. Early in the morning. At a distance of 1.5 kilometers is Nala. Here there is a temple of Devi Jaylalita. Proceed to Ukhimath, which is 13 kilometers from Guptkashi.
From Ukhimath, you can take a bus (23 kilometers) or choose to walk (10 kilometers) to Kalimath. Kalimath is a siddhapith, where there is a Shiva Parvati temple too. Ukhimath can also be reached from Nala or Jurani by walking, and the distance is merely 4 kilometers. Walk for another 5 kilometers from Kalimath and you will reach Lenkh. You will have to trek on, though there are options to stay at Lekh. Another 5 kilometers is Ransu at a height of 6460 meters. Check out the Rakeshwari devi temple here. Further 7 kilometers is Gonder, and trek for 1 more kilometer to reach Bantoli. Bantoli will be your night stay point. Remember to carry packaged drinking water for the entire journey.
If you are late in your journey, than you can stay at Gonder or Ranshu.
Madmaheshwar is about 20.5 kilometers from Ranshu, and 12.5 kilometers from Bantoli, at the foothills of Chaukhamba mountain. In between, you will come at a place called Kadara. From Khadara, the road is steep uphill, and will challenge your bravery and test your physical capability. The 9.5 kilometers of distance will suck out every bit of power that you may have saved for the journey. However, the rhododendron flowers, and the wait for the scenic beauty that awaits you, will keep you going. Just when you thought that you cannot take the journey anymore, behold! You have reached Madmaheshwar!
And a truly beautiful and unique scenery awaits you. The white Himalayas makes a horse shoe boundary, and the simple temple sits with the Chaukhamba mountain at the backdrop. The deity is made of metal and enveloped in silver sheet. There are two more temples behind the main temple, one is of the beautifully adorned Shiva Parvati, and the other of Parvati. Sit and down and rest for sometime, for there is more in store.
Trek for another 2 kilometers to reach Buda Madmaheshwar. The Madmaheshwar river also flows down from this point. It is said that the naval of the Shiva in Buffalo form had fallen here. It is in form of a rock.
Please note that just like Kedarnath, Madmaheshwar is also brought down in the winter months to Ukhimath, and the temple remains closed. The temple is open from Akshay Tritiya (early May) to Deepavali (Mid October).
While returning, make Lekh your night stay. There is a basic Yatri Niwas here, and Lekh provides for the best point to spend the night in terms of distance, while returning.
Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary: The enthusiasts can aim to check out this unique reserve forest. Spread over an area of 967 square kilometers, its denizens are the leopard, snow leopard, Kasturi deer and many more, along with Himalayan birds. It is spread across Ukhimath to Joshimath, and Madmaheshwar, Tunganath and Rudranath, all are in parts of this Sanctuary.
The 1998 earthquake had given rise to a lake called Madmaheshwar taal, which is about 200 feet deep, and 3 kilometers long. You can take a share jeep from Ukhimath to reach it. Return journey will take about 5 hours.
Tunganath: Take a bus from Ukhimath towards Chopta. You can also hire a car, or look for a shared jeep. After 8 kilometers, you will reach Mastura, another 2 kilometrs, and you will reach Sari village.
At a distance of 3 kilometers from Sari, and at a height of 3290 meters, is the beautiful lake of Deoria Tal. The Sunsets and Sunrises are heavenly. The lake reflects all four peaks of Chaukhamba. Climb up the view tower in the vicinity to check out the evergreen beauty of the Himalayas. You can stay at Deoria lodge at Sari, but few choose to do that. It is better to stay at the camping ground of Deoria Tal, for its unique experience. You, in the midst of the Himalayas, under the starry skies.
The bus route is up to Chopta. From Chopta, Tunganath temple is only at a distance of 3.4 kilometers. But the path is very steep, and takes a minimum of 3 hours. Cool serene Tunganath is at a height of 3886 meters. Try to make your journey in the months of Mid september to Mid October, which happens to be the ideal season, though you can go anytime between May to October.
Tunganath is India's highest temple. Built in Pagoda style, it has an ornate dome in the shape of Kalashes stacked one after another. The tip of the dome has a lion. The two arms of the Shiva in buffalo form fell here. However, the left arm is worshiped as Vishnu and the right as Shiva here. In the winters, the deity is shifted to Mukimath.
There are deities of Shakaracharya and Vyaas Deva as well.
The Deity of Tunganath is made of Gold, while lower down, deities of Kedarnath, Rudranath, Madmaheshwar, Kalpeshwar and Devi Parvati is in silver. There are temples of Pancha Pandav and Bhairava too, in the complex.
Glance to the sides and you will find three mountain streams rushing down forming a kund called Akashkund. The Akash Ganga river also originates from this kund. Nature is pure, unpolluted and heavenly, calmness and serenity prevails. Absorb the divinity. Since Tunganath has all the deities of Panch Kedar, it is believed that if one visits Tunganath, then he gains the virtues of visiting the Panch Kedar in one place.
Travel for one more hour covering a kilometers to reach one of the most beautiful view point of Garhwal, Chandrashila. It is believed that Sri Ram had meditated here. There is a temple dedicated to Sri Ram as well. View the numerous peaks of Panchchuli, Nanda devi, Dhulagiri, Kedarnath, Bandar punj, Nilkanth, and other ranges from this view point. Remember to carry your cameras. If you can catch a sunrise or a sunset here, it will be etched in your memories for ever. The best part is, Alpine flowers adds to the beauty to the priestline white beauty of the Himalayas.
You can stay at Tunganath. There are hotels like Tungeshwar, Chandrashila,Nilkanth, Himalay, Ganesh, as well as Kalikamali Dharamshala and Temple committee's rest house. No prior booking is required. But the nights are very cold here, so most choose to return to Chopta and spend the night there. But it is advised that you spend a night at Tunganath, and soak in the tremendous, raw, serene beauty.
For those who choose to come back to Chopta, do not be disappointed. For Chopta too, offers its own share of beauty. Sunsets are beautiful at Chopta as well. You can see the snow covered peaks of Choukhamba, GouriShankar, Trishul, Sumeru, Kedarnath, and many other peaks. The enthusiasts can visit the Kasturi deer project 6 kilometers from here. There are a few hotels here. You can also choose to stay at Chamoli that falls en route, as it has a number of hotels. Another option is PWD's bungalow at Dogolvita, which is 8 kilometers from Chopta and 33 kilometers from Ukhimath, and is situated at the foothills of the mountains. There is no electricity however, and it has only three rooms. It was built by the British. You can book it from the District Magistrate's office, Rudraprayag. GMVN also has tourist rest house at Dogolvita. Refer to their site, or check out our hotel booking links at the end of the page.
Rudranath: Of all the Panch Kedars, Rudranath Darshan is the toughest, with almost no facilities available.
You are on your own. There are no food joints or places to stay en route, drinking water is scarce, distance is very long, and it is the steepest and toughest pathway to climb. Even seasoned trekkers gets out of breath in this path. Moreover, the pathway is though dense forests, and without a guide, it is easy to get lost.
To trek to Rudranath, you must have a guide, your own tent, arrangement to cook your food, and packaged drinking water.
Reach Mandal village from Chopta. There are trekkers plying in this way. Next morning, start from Mandal choti, for Rudranath. The distance is 22 kilometers, but the road is so steep, that you will have to take a night halt somewhere in between. Carrying your own tent is the preferred option, otherwise you may have to make arrangements with the local shepherds. Take porters and guides, or someone who can do both the roles with you, it is a must.
The beauty en route is raw. The beauty offered is that of unhindered nature at work. You will find beautiful flowers, rhododendron, sounds of cricket even in day time. A black statue of Narada Muni will greet you at the gateway to Rudranath. The temple is actually a cave., that have been cut inside a mountain rock. The deity is the head of the buffalo form that Shiva had taken. It is of mesmerizing beauty. The Baitarani tal is lower by. There are more tals (water body) too, namely Surya kund, Tara kund and Chandra kund. The Rudra Ganga flows by. The priestline peaks of Nanda devi, Nanda Ghunti, Haati and Trishul seems to be at a touchable distance. Beautiful? No words to describe the scene.
Alternatively, you can also travel to Rudranath from Gopeshwar. Journey is a shade easier in this route. You can take a bus or jeep from Mandal directly to Gopeshwar. There is a Swambhu Shiva temple at Gopeshwar too, and a Devi Parvati temple. In the winters, the Deity of Rudranath is brought down to Gopeshwar, and hence the place is special. The distance from Gopeshwar to Rudranath is 27 kilometers.
While returning from Rudranath, remember to check out the Sati Anusua temple, that will be en route to Chopta. The temple is situated at a scenic location at the shade of coniferous trees. It is made of stone. There are a few Yatri niwas here too,and you can spend the night here if you wish to.
The enthusiasts can visit the Atri muni's meditation place 2 kilometers away. It is a cave only 1.5 feet wide. Climb up higher to reach His seat. The scenery is awesome. You can see a waterfall plunging down 300 feet. The Balkhil river looks like a ribbon. Anusua temple is 5 kilometers from Mandal choti.
In three days you have covered Rudranath, the toughest of all Kedars, and comparable only to the Holy Amarnath in its hardships. Now you are left with the last of the Panch Kedars, Kalpeshwar.
Kalpeshwar: Reach Gopeshwar, and from Gopeshwar, take a bus or trekker to Helang, at a height of 4500 feet. From elang, start walking the same day, you will need to cover only 6.5 kilometers to reach Urgam. If you are late at reaching Helang, then you can stay back there, there are options to stay for the night.
Urgam has places where you can eat and take rest for the night. Kalpeshwar is only 3 kilometers from Urgam, so you can start when you want, the next day, though, earlier the better, as the morning in Himalayas offer a special beauty.
Kalpeshwar is at a height of 2138 meters, and the road is not steep either, though it is deserted. Offer your prayers at the temple, and do not stay back. Come back to Helang or Joshimath for the night. The temple offers night stay and food for those interested to stay back for the night. There are private accommodation too.
Since Kalpeshwar is not that cold, you can travel to the place all the year around.
Near Kalpeshwar, a new tourist spot have been developed by GMVN. It is called Birahi. It is at a distance of 5 kilometers from Chamoli, towards Joshimath. Badrinath is 80 kilometers from here. The fast flowing Alakananda river flows down below. Stay at Tapovan Resort or River Lodge by GMVN. They provide parking space. Refer to their website for more details or check our hotel booking links below.
And, you have completed the revered, tough, heavenly, pure Panch Kedar journey.