The Panch Kedar Trek is more of a pilgrimage than of a trek. These temples which were once traveled in order through rough terrains by Shiv Bhakts. The construction of roads along these temples has made them much closer to what they were a few decades back. Although some people still do the trek completely on foot. The numbers are dropping.
Nevertheless, the views from these temples are still much revered, the vistas of the temples still enchanting. You have to give it to the Sankaracharya and the holy men who had such a profound understanding of beauty, they tend to pick up stops for these temples which are a pleasure to eyes of the beholder. Beauty and Spirituality go hand in hand.
The altitude varies from 6,500-12,000 ft and encompasses a 14 day of intensive trekking route. This is far from the weekend camping tour in Pangot or Sattal. The shit gets real here. The Panch Kedar trek is not only for the avid mountaineers.
It can be done and has been done for people for centuries by mango people in search of a divine. All it demands from you is an unending love for the mountains and confidence in your abilities.
Trek Duration: 16 days from Rishikesh
Trek Altitude: 6,500-12,000 ft
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Panch Kedar Mythology
The trek passes through the valleys of Mandakini and Alaknanda rivers. Panch Kedar Trek is not just a trek, but a pilgrimage. It is according to the legend, during the epic Mahabharata, Pandavas killed their cousins Kauravas. Later to atone for their sins of their fratricide (gotra-hatya), they were searching Lord Shiva in the Himalayas for so that they can be blessed and can attain salvation.
Shiva took the form of bull when he found out that the Pandavas were looking for him. But the Pandavas recognized him immediately. The bull tried to run, but the Pandavas caught it by the tail. Suddenly all the other body parts of bull (Shiva) got separated due to excess pulling.
It is believed that the forehead of the bull appeared in Pashupatinath in Kathmandu Nepal, the hump appeared in Kedarnath, middle part appeared in Madhyamaheshwar, arms at Tungnath, face at Rudranath and his hair (called jata) at Kalpeshwar. The five places are referred to as Panch Kedar. It is said that Pandvas and their descendants later build temples in these five sites.
Panch Kedar Trek:
It is the north most Jyotirlinga and at an altitude of 3,553 m above the sea-level. It is close to the source of the Mandakini river, Kedarnath Dham is the third stop in the Chard ham yatra, after Yamunotri and Gangotri.
The divine trek to Kedarnath starts from the road head, Gauri Kund. The 14 km trek along the river Mandakini includes a steady accent through a stone-paved path. On a clear day, one can also enjoy the magnificent view of Sumeru Parvat on the background of the temple.
According to the Vishnu Purana, Kedarnath is the permanent abode of Lord Shiva. The shrine of the Kedarnath temple is the place where Adi Shankaracharya attained samadhi. He appointed Ravals (chief priests) of Kedarnath, and at present 337th Raval is holding the seat.
Madhyamaheshwar is located in the Mansoona village of Garhwal Himalayas perched at an altitude of 3265 mts. above sea level, Madhayamaheshwar is one among Lord Shiva temple which means Drunken God
The doors of Madhyamaheshwar opens with starting of summer or ending winters till the starting of winters, i.e., from month March/April to till October/November according to the Hindu rituals and calendar.
During the winter period, the symbolic idol of Lord Shiva is shifted with religious formalities to another abode Ukhimath for worship. The priests here are from the south India as most of the temples do have.
One of the five and with highest altitude (from sea level) among Panch Kedar Temples located in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. The temple is the highest Shiva temple in the world, Tungnath stands at an astounding altitude of 3,680 m (12,073 ft) just below the Chandrashila peak.
It is believed that Adi Shankaracharya discovered this sacred temple. Unlike the other temples where the priest is from South India, the priest of Tungnath temple is a local Brahmins from the Makkumath village.
During the winter season, the temple remains closed as it is covered with snow and during that time the symbolic idol of the god is shifted to the temple off to the Makku village that is located at a distance of 19 km from the Temple.
Tungnath just is a three kilometers trek from Chopta. A well-cemented road leads you to the temple surrounded with bugyal and Himalayas. Another one km hike lead you to the spectacular Chandrashila Peak which provides a 360-degree view of Uttarakhand Himalayas, Nanda Devi, Trisul, Chaukhamba peak Kedar Peak, and Bandarpunch peaks.
Kalpeshwar is the third kedar on the Panch Kedar circuit route and at an altitude of 2,200 m (7,217.8 ft) above sea level. It is the only temple among other kedars that can be accessible throughout the year. Kalpeshwar is only 253 km away from Rishikesh, via Rishikesh – Badrinath road.
The trek to the temple is just two km from the path head Urgam, while few years before the trek was a bit challenging as you have to trek 10 Kms from Helang to Kalpeshwar via urgam village. En-route Kalpeshwar you can also visit Boodha Kedar temple, Dhyan Badri temple and one of the Sapt Badri temples can be seen.
Rudranath is located at an elevation of 3400 mt above sea level and is the last temple of the Panch Kedar Trek. Here the Rudra face of Shiva is worshiped. It is the most challenging trek among the other Kedars, as it involves a severe five-day trek but also is the most rewarding.
There are lodges and home stays, but they only function when the Rudranath temple doors are open. One should confirm before going, or you have to carry your tent and food. Mainly the temple remains closed from November until April. The temple opens 15 days after Baisakh around April and closes around Kartik Sakranti, in October or November.