We all must have heard the word “Panch Kedar,” but very few people know about the story of the Panch Kedar Yatra and the temples of Lord Shiva. If you do not know about the story of “Panch Kedar” yet, you will know today. But before that, let’s know about all the “Panch Kedar” temples and how to reach there.
Altogether there are 5 temples of Lord Shiva in Panch Kedar. The name of panch Kedar begins with the first being called Lord Kedarnath, also known as the twelfth Jyotirlinga. The second Kedar is known as Madmaheshwar. The third Kedar is Tungnath, the fourth Kedar is Lord Rudranath, and the fifth Kedar is Kaleshwar. Let us see; here is the story, and then plan your Panch Kedar yatra.
Panch Kedar Story
On being victorious in the Mahabharata war, the Pandavas wanted to eliminate the sin of fraternity. They wanted to get the blessings of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva was not happy with the killing of the Brahmins. The Panch Kedar story tells that Lord Shiva took the form of Nandi (bull) to escape from the Pandavas and went to the Garhwal region of the Himalayas. The Pandavas reached the Himalayas in search of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva did not want to give darshan to the Pandavas, so he meditated and settled in Kedar.
Further, the Panch Kedar story tells that the Pandavas followed them and reached Kedar. Lord Shankar disguised himself as a bull and mingled with other animals, but when the Pandavas grew suspicious, Bhima revealed his true identity by transforming it into his gigantic form. Bhima spread his legs on two mountains. All the other cows and bulls left, but Lord Shankar was not ready to go from under the feet of the bull. When Bhima pounced on the bull, the bull started meditating on the ground. After Bhima got suspicious of Lord Shankar disguised as a bull, he grabbed the triangular part of the bull’s back. Lord Shankar was pleased with the devotion and determination of the Pandavas and revealed himself to free them from their sins. Since then, Lord Shankar has been worshipped as the bull at the Shri Kedarnath temple.
It is believed that Lord Shankar’s upper body part manifested in Kathmandu during his meditation as a bull. Presently, the renowned temple of Pashupatinath stands, where it is believed that the arms of Lord Shiva appeared in Tungnath, the face in Rudranath, the navel in Madmaheshwar, and the locks of hair (Jata) in Kalpeshwar. Therefore Kedarnath Dham, along with these four places, is called Panch Kedar, and Panch Kedar yatra is a famous cultural event in India.
Kedarnath Temple is situated in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand at an altitude of about 12 and a half thousand feet above sea level. Thw Kedarnath Dham has the highest place among the twelve Jyotirlingas. Also, it is one of the Panch Kedar. As per the Panch Kedar story, the backside of Lord Shiva is seen in Kedarnath Dham. There is a deity of God here in a triangular form. Kedar means swamp. The Katyuri-style temple made of stone is believed to have been built by the Pandavas. While Adi Shankaracharya got the temple renovated. The temple’s specialty is that even in the horrific disaster of 2013, the temple did not reach the flames. The doors of the temple open for darshan only between April and November. So, plan your Panch Kedar yatra accordingly.
How To Reach Kedarnath
By Road: Visitors can reach Kedarnath by regular buses from Rishikesh and Kotdwar or by hiring private taxis. The National Highway from Delhi to Mana (538 km) remains open throughout the year. Additionally, Kedarnath can be reached on foot from Gauri Kund, which is connected to Rishikesh, Dehradun, Kotdwara, and Haridwar by state buses. The cost of bus fares may vary according to the season.
By Air: The nearest domestic airport to start experiencing the Panch Kedar story path is Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, about 239 km from Kedarnath, and it operates daily flights to Delhi. Taxis are available from Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun airport to Kedarnath. The nearest international airport is Delhi.
By Rail: Rishikesh is the nearest railway station, located 221 km away from Kedarnath. Pre-paid taxi services are available at the railway station, which charges around Rs 3,000. To reach Kedarnath, one has to travel 207 km by road and the remaining 14 km on foot.
Many people may need to learn that Tungnath is the highest Shiva temple in India. The Tungnath Temple, renowned as the third Kedar, sits 3680 meters above sea level. Here Lord Shiva is worshiped in the form of an arm. The temple, made of black stones, and located beneath the Chandrashila Peak, is incredibly scenic. According to the legendary Panch Kedar story, the Pandavas built the temple to please Lord Shiva. The age of this temple is believed to be over 1000 years old. Maithani Brahmins of Makkumath are the priests here. In winter, the doors are closed here for six months. Lord Tungnath is worshiped in Makkumath during winters.
How to Reach Tungnath
By Road: To reach Tungnath, one can take a bus from Rishikesh or Dehradun or drive up to Rudrapryag or Ukhimath. From there, a taxi can be hired to reach Chopta, the starting point of a 3.5-kilometer trek to Tungnath. If driving, the route is via National Highway 58 to Rudraprayag, taking National Highway 109 and a right turn to Ukhimath.
By Rail: Tungnath does not have a railway station. The nearest one is in Rishikesh, which is around 210 kilometers away. From Rishikesh, you can take a bus or hire a taxi to Rudraprayag or Ukhimath. From there, you can hire a car or taxi to reach Chopta.
By Air: Dehradun Airport is the closest airport to Tungnath. From Dehradun, Tungnath is about 232 kilometers. From Dehradun, you will get a bus to Rudraprayagor Ukhimath. To reach Chopta from these locations, hiring a taxi is the usual mode of transportation.
Madmaheshwar Temple is situated at the foothills of Chaukhamba Peak at an altitude of twelve thousand feet. Madmaheshwar II is Kedar; here, the central part of Lord Shankar is seen. The Sheva priests of South India worship here like Kedarnath. According to the legendary Panch Kedar story, lord Shiva and Parvati celebrated Madhuchandra Ratri here because of the natural beauty. It is believed that the water here is holy. Few drops of it are enough for salvation. The doors are also closed here for six months in winter. Worship is performed here when the doors are opened.
How To Reach Madmaheshwar
By Road: The nearest airport to Madmaheshwar is Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, just 198 km away. After reaching Dehradun airport, you can get a taxi up to Ukhimath and another taxi to Unaina village. Madmaheshwar is located at a trekking distance of 21 km from Unaina village.
By Rail: The nearest railway station to Ukhimath is in Rishikesh, only 174 km away. You can find regular trains to Rishikesh from major cities across India. Once you reach the Rishikesh railway station, it’s easy to find taxis and buses to get to Ukhimath. Hence, opting for the railway network to reach Madmaheshwar is also viable.
By Air: Madmaheshwar is 198 km from Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun. After reaching the Dehradun airport, one can take a taxi to Ukhimath and then to Unaina village. Madmaheshwar is 21 km from Unaina village and can only be reached by trekking.
Lord Rudranath is famous as the fourth Kedar. This temple is situated in a cave at 2286 meters above sea level and is the second-highest Shiv temple in India among the Panch Kedar temples. In the cave among the burials, the face of Lord Shiva is seen in the darshan of the face. This is the only place in India where the face of Lord Shiva is worshipped. In Rudranath in the form of Ekanan, Pashupati in the form of Chaturanan, Lord Shiva is seen in Indonesia as Panchanan Deity in Nepal. A route to Rudranath via Damuk village in the Urgam valley exists, but it is highly challenging to access, and therefore, it takes devotees two days to reach there. Hence most of the devotees start their journey from Sagar village near Gopeshwar. The doors of Rudranath temple are also closed in winter. During this, Lord Rudranath is worshiped at Gopeshwar.
How To Reach Rudranath
By Road: Rudranath is located on Gopeshwar-Kedarnath Road. If you’re starting from Rishikesh, the entry point to Rudranath is at Sagar village, 219 km away. From Sagar village, it’s a 20 km trek to reach Rudranath.
By Rail: Rudranath is located on Gopeshwar-Kedarnath Road. Haridwar, Rishikesh, and Dehradun all have railway stations. The closest railway station to Gopeshwar is in Rishikesh, approximately 241 km away. To get to Gopeshwar from Rishikesh, you can take a bus or hire a taxi.
By Air: Gopeshwar’s closest airport is Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun, approximately 258 km away. Taxi and bus services are readily available from the airport to Gopeshwar.
Kalpeshwar Temple is famous as Pancham Kedar as per the Panch Kedar story. It is also known by the name Kalpanath. Lord’s hair is seen here. Lord Shiva is seen here for twelve months. It is said that at this place, the great sage Durvasa performed rigorous penance under the Kalpa tree at this location. As a result, the place became known as ‘Kalpeshwar’ or ‘Kalpnath.’ According to another story, the Gods, afflicted by the atrocities of the Asuras, worshiped Narayan in Kalpasthala and received the boon of Abhay after seeing Lord Shiva. To reach the temple situated at an altitude of 2134 meters, one has to walk 10 km. Here the devotees reach the rock, which looks like the hair of Lord Shiva. The way to the sanctum passes through a cave. The doors of the Kalpeshwar temple are open throughout the year.
How To Reach Kalpeshwar
By Road: To reach Kalpeshwar, you must trek from Urgam village, which has excellent connectivity to the state’s road network. You can hire a taxi from major destinations in the Garhwal region, such as Rishikesh, Dehradun, Rudraprayag, and Joshimath. Buses to Rishikesh are available from Kashmiri Gate ISBT Delhi, and from there, you can hire a taxi to reach Urgam village.
By Rail: The closest railway station to Joshimath is Rishikesh, 251 km away. It is well-connected to major states nationwide through an excellent railway network, with frequent trains to Rishikesh. You can hire a taxi from Rishikesh to reach Joshimath or Urgam village.
By Air: The nearest airport to Kalpeshwar is Jolly Grant Airport, 268 km away. Daily flights connect Jolly Grant Airport to Delhi, and taxis are available from there to Joshimath and Urgam village, the starting points of the trek to Kalpeshwar.