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Exploring the Mystical Panch Kedar Temples in Uttarakhand

Panch Kedar is a group of five Hindu temples located in the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand state in India. These temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva and are considered highly sacred by Hindus. The five temples that make up Panch Kedar are Kedarnath, Tungnath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheshwar, and Kalpeshwar

Each of these temples is located at different altitudes and requires a different level of physical fitness to reach. The trek to Panch Kedar is not only physically challenging but also takes one through some of the most scenic and picturesque landscapes of the Himalayas.


History of Panch Kedar:

The history of Panch Kedar dates back to the era of Mahabharata when the Pandavas defeated and killed their Kaurava cousins in the Kurukshetra war. After the war, the Pandavas wanted to seek forgiveness from Lord Shiva for the sin of killing their own kin. However, Lord Shiva was not easily pleased, and he kept eluding them.

In desperation, the Pandavas disguised themselves as shepherds and started looking after Lord Shiva's cattle. One day, Bhima, one of the Pandavas, recognized Lord Shiva in the form of a bull and tried to catch him. Lord Shiva ran away and vanished into the ground, leaving behind his hump.

The hump is believed to have appeared in five different places, which are now known as Panch Kedar. The Pandavas built temples at each of these places to worship Lord Shiva in his different forms.Here's a detailed guide on how to reach each of the five temples of Panch Kedar:


The Five Temples of Panch Kedar:

  • Kedarnath Temple:

Kedarnath temple is believed to be built by the Pandavas, and it is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. The Kedarnath Temple is located at an altitude of 3,583 meters and is one of the most visited temples in the Panch Kedar circuit. To reach Kedarnath, one needs to travel to the town of Sonprayag, which is approximately 220 kilometers from Rishikesh. From Sonprayag, one can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach the town of Gaurikund, which is the starting point of the trek to Kedarnath. The trek to Kedarnath is about 16 kilometers long and takes about 6-8 hours to complete. The trek passes through beautiful landscapes, including dense forests, meadows, and a steep climb to the temple.


  • Tungnath Temple:

The Tungnath Temple is located at an altitude of 3,680 meters and is the highest of all the Panch Kedar temples. To reach Tungnath, one needs to travel to the town of Ukhimath, which is approximately 210 kilometers from Rishikesh. From Ukhimath, one needs to trek for about 3.5 kilometers to reach the temple. The trek to Tungnath is relatively easy and takes about 2-3 hours to complete. The trek passes through beautiful meadows and offers breathtaking views of the Himalayan range.


  • Rudranath Temple:

The Rudranath Temple is located at an altitude of 2,286 meters and is the toughest to reach among all the Panch Kedar temples. To reach Rudranath, one needs to travel to the town of Gopeshwar, which is approximately 235 kilometers from Rishikesh. From Gopeshwar, one needs to trek for about 19 kilometers to reach the temple. The trek to Rudranath is challenging and takes about 3-4 days to complete. The trek passes through dense forests, beautiful meadows, and steep climbs. The route is well-marked, and camping sites are available along the way. Rudranath Temple is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva's face appeared.


  • Madhyamaheshwar Temple:

The Madhyamaheshwar Temple is located at an altitude of 3,289 meters and is the least visited among all the Panch Kedar temples. To reach Madhyamaheshwar, one needs to travel to the town of Ukhimath, which is approximately 200 kilometers from Rishikesh. From Ukhimath, one needs to trek for about 16 kilometers to reach the temple. The trek to Madhyamaheshwar is moderately challenging and takes about 6-7 hours to complete. The trek passes through beautiful meadows and offers panoramic views of the Himalayan range. Madhyamaheshwar Temple is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva's navel appeared.


  • Kalpeshwar Temple:

The Kalpeshwar Temple is located at an altitude of 2,134 meters and is the only Panch Kedar temple that can be reached by road. To reach Kalpeshwar, one needs to travel to the town of Joshimath, which is approximately 250 kilometers from Rishikesh. From Joshimath, one can hire a taxi or take a bus to reach the temple, which is about 12 kilometers away. The road to Kalpeshwar is narrow and winding, and it passes through beautiful landscapes and scenic villages. The temple is situated in a cave, and the trek to the cave is relatively easy, taking about 1-2 hours to complete Kalpeshwar Temple is believed to be the place where Lord Shiva's hair appeared.


Importance of Panch Kedar:

Panch Kedar is considered highly sacred by Hindus and is a popular pilgrimage destination. The temples are open to devotees from April to November, and during this time, thousands of pilgrims visit the temples to seek.


Trekking to Panch Kedar:

The trek to Panch Kedar involves trekking to each of the five temples in a specific order. The trek starts from the town of Sonprayag, which is approximately 220 kilometers from Rishikesh. From Sonprayag, one needs to trek to Gaurikund, which is the starting point of the trek to Kedarnath. After visiting Kedarnath, one needs to trek to Tungnath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheshwar, and Kalpeshwar in the same order. The trek takes about 12 to 15 days to complete and requires a good level of physical fitness. The trek passes through some of the most scenic and picturesque landscapes of the Garhwal Himalayas, including dense forests, beautiful meadows, and snow-capped mountains. There are several camping sites and rest houses along the way where trekkers can rest and recharge.


Accommodation and Facilities:

There are several camping sites and rest houses along the way where trekkers can rest and recharge. The trekking route is well-marked, and there are several tea shops and small eateries that offer food and drinks. However, trekkers are advised to carry their own food and water as the availability of food and water sources may be limited at some places.


Travel Tips for Panch Kedar:

If you're planning to visit the Panch Kedar temples, here are some tips that might come in handy:

  1. Physical fitness: Trekking to the Panch Kedar temples requires a good level of physical fitness, as the routes can be challenging and steep in some places. Make sure you are physically fit before embarking on the journey.

  2. Clothing: The weather in the Garhwal Himalayas can be unpredictable, and it can get quite cold in the higher altitudes. It is important to pack warm clothing, including a windproof jacket, gloves, and a hat.

  3. Trekking gear: Make sure you have the necessary trekking gear, including sturdy hiking boots, a backpack, a water bottle, and a headlamp. Ponies and porters are available for those who cannot carry their own gear.

  4. Acclimatization: It is important to acclimatize properly before trekking to higher altitudes. Spend a few days in the lower altitudes before starting the trek to allow your body to adjust to the altitude.

  5. Permits: Make sure you have all the necessary permits before starting the trek. These can be obtained from the local authorities or tour operators.

  6. Respect local culture: The Panch Kedar temples are considered sacred by the locals, and it is important to respect their culture and traditions. Dress modestly and follow local customs.

  7. Carry sufficient cash: Many of the remote areas in the region may not have access to ATMs or credit card facilities, so it is essential to carry sufficient cash to cover your expenses.

  8. Carry your waste with you: Panch Kedar trek routes are remote and fragile, and it is essential to carry your waste with you and dispose of it properly to preserve the environment.

  9. Hire a guide: Hiring a local guide can be helpful as they have in-depth knowledge of the area and can help you navigate the trek safely.

  10. Follow safety guidelines: Always follow safety guidelines such as sticking to the designated trekking routes, avoiding trekking alone, staying hydrated, and taking rest breaks as required.

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