Saturday, December 24, 2011

Magnificent Kedarnath

The magnificient Kedarnath
We all had a very good nights sleep at Gaurikund and got up very early in the morning. Having taken bath we started for Kedarnath from Gaurikund and having heard exaggerated tales about the legendary trek, considering that we had to return the same day we engaged dolis/palkis for this leg of the journey. However, in my opinion the trek to Yamunotri is far more difficult as the gradient is not only very steep but is also very narrow as compared to that of Kedarnath. Although the road is lengthy (14 Kms.)and almost double the distance from Yamunotri trek (7 Kms.) but the climb is much gradual and roads much more wider and properly laid out. Having passed the congested bazzar of Gaurikund one reaches the open stretch wherefrom all the ponies and other means of transport converge & start. Although the official rates displayed at Gaurikund are hardly applicable but the same can be used to drive in a hard bargain. The dolis/palkis usually charge around Rs.2500/- for one round trip (with cost of refreshments & fooding to be borne by the hirer), similarly the ponies charge anything upwards of Rs.800/- for a round trip as also the Kandi/Pitthu walas. It is however advisable that the hirer hires only registered operators and these persons have been issued Government licences and the hirer should take these licence in their custody till the time the entire journey is performed. This step ensures that these operators do not disappear to bring in another load and also for identification of your porters. Having got past this crowded spot we started the gradual climb towards Kedarnath and one of the first of the eye catching spots was the Kedar falls -
View of Kedar falls -
Kedar falls close-up -
The porters who carry pilgrims are mostly Nepalis and migrate to Kedarnath in late March early April and stay in batches at Gaurikund. The rooms are provided by the local hotel walahs who do not charge anything forlodging, but these porters have to compulsorily pay fordaily fooding for night at pre-determined rates. Therefore, these porters seek out the daily day fooding expenses from the pilgrims apart from their fee. The porters having got past Gaurikund usually head towards Rambara which is midway at around 7 Kms. from Gaurikund where they take a break for having breakfast -
For young Nepalese porters this particular eating joint is a particular favourite at Rambara being manned by a Nepalese mother daughters combine -
View of Mandakini or Kedar Ganga from the GMVN rest house at Rambara -
After having rested for about half an hour or so at Rambara and having have had their morning breakfast the porters were again ready for launching for the onward journey towards Kedarnath. After Rambara the road gradient becomes a bit stiffer but the distant mountains also appear and there was a definite cold nip in the wind herefrom. Having passed Rambara the sun started making its appearance just behind the lofty mountain peaks and with some clouds drifting around, the natures paintbrush was at its best -
First glimpse of Sun peeping from behind the lofty mountains -
Natures' paintbrush at play over Kedarnath sky -
Enjoying the play of light & clouds, I did not notice that we had climbed almost to the vicinity of Kedarnath -
Distant snow covered Kedarnath peaks -
The mighty Kedarnath peaks close-up -
Awestruck by the scenic beauty all around and totally engrossed in imbibing the ambviance I did not realise that we had reached the footsteps of Kedarnath and temple of Garur appeared at Garur Chatti -
Garur temple at Garur Chatti -
Just beyond Garur Chatti after a sudden spurt ot steep slope ahead we reached a pleatau shaped valley and the Kedarnath temple complex/village surfaced -
First view of the Kedarnath temple valley -
I had reached the point where all the porters disembark their loads at 9.30 A.M sharp but was delayed due to late arrival of others. Having disembarked at the designated spot we walked for a kilometer before reaching the temple gate and by this time clouds also had started shrouding the lofty snow clad mountains above. There was a very big que for the darshan and I stood in the que almost a kilometer & half away from temple gate. Having joined the que at 10.30 A.M. sharp, we were able to have our darshan at around 1.45 P.M. But the panda who had arranged for our darshan fecilitated a good darshan & puja for almost 5-7 minutes, which is an astounding feat in itself looking at the rush of pilgrims inside the sanctum sanctorum. I do not feel the necessity to describe the temple in details and will let the photographs do the talking instead -
Magnificient Kedarnath temple in all its glory -
Peak of Kedarnath temple -
Nandi guarding the doors of Kedarnath temple -
Kedarnath temple door -
Amrit kund behind Kedarnath temple -
Eshaneshwar temple inside the Kedarnath temple complex -
Having completed the puja and darshan, completely anointed with the religious fervour prevalent all around, we proceeded to have our lunch at Bharat Sevashram Sangh canteen. By the time we had finished with our lunch, the weather had become very gloomy and rain too had started petering in droplets. However, I could not stop myself from going astray and appreciating the old 12th century south Indian style architecture still existing in nooks & corner of Kedarnath -
One of the many ancient building architecture surving at Kedarnath -
Mythologically speaking Kedarnath is the seat of Lord Shiva. It is one of the twelve "Jyotirlingas" of Lord Shiva. Lying at an altitude of 3584 m at the head of river Mandakini, the shrine of Kedarnath is amongst the holiest pilgrimage for the Hindus. It is no wonder that Adi Guru Shankaracharya - a great scholar & saint, chose to enshrine Lord Shiva in this land, where the unholy becomes holy and the holy becomes holier. It is the place where Lord Shivaanionted Pandavas from the sin of killing their own cousins Kauravas in the battle of Kurukshetra. The origin of the revered temple can be found in the great epic Mahabharata. Further, accoriding to legend this place came into being after the five Pandavas on advise of sages set forth to seek blessings of lord Shiva to seekhis blessings to be absolved of the sin of having killed or murdered their fellow brothers. However, lord Shiva was in no mood to oblige the Pandavas and therefore, went into hiding to live incognio in Guptkashi.Here he took form of a buffalo and started wandering around and was eventually spotted by Bhima. Seening Bhima in pursuit, lord Shiva tried to evade him by burrowing through the earth, however, Bhima caught hold of his tail and thus, at Kedarnath thehumpportion of the bull remained overground and is worshipped in this form in Kedarnath. This thus became one of the Panch Kedars.The remaining of the four panchkedars are - Navel at Madmaheshwar, Arms at Tungnath, Face at Rudranath and his matted hair at Kalpeshwar.
Beyond the temple of Kedarnath is a path leading through Vasuki tal etc. and is said to lead to heaven called the Mahapath. Another belief that is prevalent in this place is regarding the temple of Bhairon who is supposed to guard the temple of lord Shiva at Kedarnath during the time the temple remains closed during winters from all evil forces. A local folklore narrated by people around is that some greedy villager had stolen some gold ornaments from the temple and the entire village got afflicted by Cholera, which is very uncommon at this high altitudes. Having realized the folly the villager returned the stolen articles and saved the villagers from the wrath of Bhaironathji. There are numerous other small temples scattered around the temple complex.

Brahm kund at Kedarnath -

The weather was deteiorating by the hour and ominous rain clouds started looming large over Kedarnath -
Rain clouds looming over Kedarnath valley -
Due the deteriorating weather conditions, the helicopter services were also being announced for early departure -
Helicopter flying out of Kedarnath valley -

However, there are many fake sadhus who have made Kedarnath their home and fleece the pilgrims on some pretext or the other.
Sadhu - fake or original?

We concluded this leg of the journey by returning to Gaurikund late in the evening. Thereafter, on the next day we started for our journey backvia Rudraprayag, Deo prayag, Srinagar, Rishikesh to Haridwar. We stayed at Haridwar for the night and proceeded for Delhi earlynext morning.

Check out the video of Kedarnath  -
(I had visited Badrinath temple way back in 2001 and would narrate the journey in next part to conclude the Chardham yatra travelogue.)


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