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From Haridwar to Kedarnath

By Namita Sunder

Friends, here I will be sharing my experiences of Shiva temples visited by us in our country, India during the course of almost 30 years or so. Many landscapes around some of these must definitely have witnessed lot of changes from the time we were there but I feel that makes the journey more interesting as it is like documenting history, preserving the past. I will start with Kedarnath, one of the most revered and significant abodes of Lord Shiva.

We visited Kedarnath in summers of 2002. We took taxi from Haridwar and started our journey to Kedarnath.It took us four days to and fro from Haridwar to Kedarnath including stays mid-way and at Kedarnath. I will take you on this journey as we travelled alongside the Ganges.

Leaving Haridwar we travelled for about 24 Km and reached Rishikesh. As we crossed the famous Laxman Jhoola the humbug and noises of the town started receding in background and the panoramic beauty of nature started unfolding. Tall Sal trees, foaming cascading waterfalls and in the mid glimpses of the valleys deep down started to sooth our taught, tired nerves. After Rishikesh we crossed vyasi and moved towards Sakani Dhar. The road slowly rises in altitude. Ganges here flowed very deep down in valley snaking almost like a ribbon. Tall, mighty mountain ranges, the green terrace fields and far flung small villages, to us it looked so dreamy and enchanting, but life definitely is not easy here. After Sakani Dhar the road started going down to reach Devprayag.

Devprayag is one of the Panch Prayags of Uttarakhand. Devprayag is about 70 kms from Rishikesh. Sangam of bhagirathi and Alaknanda is what makes it special. Bhagirathi originating at Gomukh and Alaknanda originating at Alakpuri meet here. The confluence points of rivers always amaze me. How two different individual merges with each other forgetting all about their identity for a bigger, much nobler cause. Nature has such deep lessons to impart, if we can imbibe them life would be far more peaceful and meaningful too.

From Devprayag we reached Srinagar. Yes, there is a Srinagar in Uttarakhand too and once upon a time it was the capital of Garhwal.

After that we moved towards Rudraprayag. Rudraprayag is about 2000 ft above the sea level. This is another Prayag of Uttarakhand. Here is the confluence of river Mandakini and Alaknanda. We got down from taxi on the road and went down steps leading to gurgling, foaming waters of rivers. Here is a temple of Rudreshwar Mahadev. The folklore related to this point tells that Maharshi Narada did Tapa at this place to achieve excellence in field of music and Lord Shiva gifted him the Veena which is an inseperable part of Narada’s being. Standing there listening to high notes of Alaknanda rushing from Badrinath side and soothing murmuring of Mandakini rhythmically flowing from another side and then merging of both the pitches in perfect sync I experienced the divine magic of music by nature. An experience beyond words. There was a small bridge across waters which led to the serpentine path running on other side and beyond that ribbon like path stood the mighty chain of solemn mountains.

 

From Rudraprayag the routes to Kedarnath and Badrinath goes separate ways. From Rudraprayag Kedarnath is about 86 Kms. after crossing Rudraprayag we entered the narrow valley of Mandakini. On the way we saw many hermits, ascetics walking on foot from Haridwar to Kedarnath. About 20 Kms from Rudraprayag is the small town Agastyamuni. It is said that after drinking entire ocean, soaking it dry Agastya muni came to this place and did penance repenting his act. Here we saw a statue of Agastya Muni made of brass sitting under the open sky.

From here we moved forward to Guptakashi. As the name suggests Guptakashi holds religious importance and has many temples of Lord Shiva, main being Vishwanath and Ardhnareeshwar. A kund named Manikanika is also here. Two streams named Ganga and Yamuna comes out of mouth of a Ganesha idol and fills the Kund. So Guptakashi has Baba Vishwanath and Manikanika too. It is said that when Pandavas went for darshan of Baba Vishwanath at Varanasi, lord Shiva moved from there and came to this place and appeared before them at Guptakashi. Pandavas had to come here searching for him, hence the name Guptakashi.

After Guptakashi crossing many big, small villages and habitats we reached Gaurikund. Gaurikund was the place where we had to leave the vehicle and start our journey either on foot or on pony or doli. Distance between Gaurikund and Kedarnath is said to be 11 kms in terms of mileage but the steep rising narrow hilly path made the journey difficult yet very very enjoyable. At every step nature unfolded a different form of its beauty and though limbs tired, the spirit soared. Multitudes of people were walking up and coming down belonging to different parts of country and different age group, but all the differences were obliterated. Helping hands came forward even without asking for it. I always feel the more we are in company of nature nobler becomes our soul.

On one side of meandering path were high mountains and on other deep very deep valley, valley of river Mandakini. All along way we could see Mandakini flowing downwards. On other side of the valley was uninterrupted wall of mountains. Many waterfalls could be seen clinging to the strong hills. How so ever passionate might be the bond each of us has to walk on our destined path so did the waterfalls. Midst the green on mountains were scattered tiny grass flowers of many hues, yellow, blue, white, violet buoying our spirits. Snow on the way had not fully melted. The water made the path slippery. We needed to tread very cautiously. In our routine life in cities we hardly walk on foot but here we all were traversing the uphill, slippery rise, faith definitely is a sustainable force.

Mandakini’s origin is near the temple. We could see the temple on the hill across white, foaming Mandikini rushing and hurtling with great force. The moment I stood there waiting for my turn to cross the small bridge across Mandikini looking at the top of the temple and the snow-clad mountain peaks surroundin it from three sides is etched in my memory permanently. It was inexplicable feeling. The tiredness of treading on difficult hilly path foe eight hours, the soreness in feet, the breathlessness, all the physical aching as if evaporated and I felt burdenless, light, the spirit soaring high. It was sublime to be alive on that moment.

Kedarnath temple is at the altitude of about 12000 ft. The temple nestled in strong arms of sky kissing mountain peaks. It stood on a square platform. Outside the temple, on the platform, under open sky sat Nandi facing the sanctorum. The top of the temple was adorned by a round chakra, over which sat a resplendent Kalash. On both sides of entrance of temple stood Dwarpals. On left side was idol of Ganesha. People were first paying their homage to Lord Ganesha and then entered the sanctorum chamber. Inside this chamber on one wall there were carved images of five Pandavas and Draupadi.In the center was Swayambhoo Shivalinga. Exactly at the back of temple was a kund, known as Amrit Kund and slightly towards north was another temple with Lord Shiva in Ardhnareeshwar form as presiding deity.

At a distance from the temple stood samadhi of jagat guru Adi Shankaracharya. It is said that Adi Shankaracharya wrote his religious literature at this place only and he left for heavenly abode at the spot.

We reached at Kedarnath at about four in the evening. After keeping our luggage in the room we arrived at the small market place near the temple and roamed around imbibing the aura of the place and the nearness of snowclad mountains. We visited sanctorum both in the evening and very early next morning, attended Aartis of both the times.

In the evening we sat there behind the temple in the august presence of mighty Himalayas. There were others too, some roaming around, others sitting at one place but each of us connecting to the solitude within. The sunrays and the clouds ran a magical show on the white snow screen, and we all watched the enchanting display spellbound. A moment clouds came rushing and embracing the high peaks created a dreamy, misty feel, the next winds gushed parting the cloudy curtain and lo, in between smiled a blue patch cradling the top of snow clad peak, entered the dancing sunrays tingling the fluffy clouds with their soft touches and a silent tinkling laughter made our very existence musical. We watched agog, then submerged and surrendered. Here divinity was not just in the sanctorum chamber, but every grain was suffused with sublime existence. One just needs to be one with and heaven is within.

Very early in the morning when it was still misty all-around sun was up and awake. The bright shining rays of sunbathed the temple in a divine glow. Sun rays kissed the snowclad mountains and entire valley, temple courtyard, mountains suffused with delicate golden glow. The mantras, shlokas echoing, the devotees with pooja thal, the resplendent kalash of temple- the sacredness of the moment was to be felt, to be lived.

There were moments when entire valley was cloaked with clouds. Everything, everyone there at the moment as if became one or dissolved into one. Mandikini was not seen but it is deep gurgling sound became more sonorous and we could feel it within. The mystique moment inspired us to leave, to abandon everything, to be free and the just be.

Journey to Kedarnath is not a journey in geographical sense only. It is journey within, a walk through so many dark, hidden nooks and corners within and then arriving at the threshold of world of light experiencing liberation. It’s not a journey to escape but to accept.

 

Note –I started reliving the memory of my visit to Kedarnath on 16th and 17th july and it was on 16th and 17th of June  2013 when this pilgrimage site faced the worst disaster . Kedarnath was devastated on 16th evening and 17th morning, june 2013 due to landslides, flash floods which claimed more then 5000 lives [ the figure easily can be much more]. It was a tragedy of great magnitude. Many families were wiped out altogether, many people were torn away from the groups forever. Villages were destroyed. Roads, bridges must have been restored, rebuilt but the disastrous calamity left many lives changed for ever.

Let us pray for all those who suffered. May Lord Shiva be with us.

 

Behind the temple in august company of Himalayas, The moment to be with myself

 

Another view of Kedarnath temple

 

The moment when the clouds suddenly parted and the peak emerged to bless

 

Enroute from Gaurikund to Kedarnath

Mandikini valley

Rudraprayag , where Mandakini and Alaknanda walk hand in hand and then merged

Devprayag — Sangam of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda

All the pictures@ Sunder Iyer

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Namita Sunder

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Ushasurya
Ushasurya
2 years ago

A fabulous travelogue made more enchanting by lovely pictures!!!
Aw!! I was there in every step with you…
WE have gone to Badrinath but not Kedarnath..
Give us more :)))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

Chander Kiran
Chander Kiran
2 years ago

Very well written article,beautifully supported by pictures …pictures beauty has come alive..blessed by the divine presence keep it up

Navneet Bakshi
Navneet Bakshi
2 years ago

Thanks for a lovely first blog Namita and with such more blogs coming, we are definitely going to get many hits. Well that’s not what I have in mind. I just want some fellow writers who are passionate about their creativity. The whole description has brought back to the memories of our trip to Badrinath/Kedarnath, which we made in 1991. I have given the title to the long pending article on that and I will save the file. That’s how I save the articles lined up for being written. I won’t be able to bring it to life with the quality pictures that Sunder clicks and I will have to dig a lot deep in my memory for making a readable blog. Now about the technical part
Have you added some tags? The site has a powerful search engine assistance and I suggest that you had Tags, including a name tag…by adding your name somewhere in the blog, because that will become a unique word for search and when you will write your name in the search window, all your posted blogs will get lined up.
Secondly, I have seen that though, you have added the photos, you have not used the aligning and editing features. The moment you highlight the picture, these tools show up above the picture. The icons are simple to understand. For changing the size of the picture, you will find that when you highlight the picture, it gets enclosed withing a border that has small squares at the corners as anchors. You can simply hold on to any and stretch our reduce the size of the picture. You can make all the changes in text, pictures or adding tags etc. even after the blog has been posted. For going in to and editing mode, you will have to click at the Dashboard feature and choose your comment or the Post that you want to edit from the listed items. After making the changes, use the Update button in the Column on the Right Side. Even after updating, you are still left at the Edit mode. You can close the Dashboard window by Clicking on the Home Icon. Once again thanks for a beautiful post. I am not sure, if I can make changes in the Posts of other people by accessing the site in Admin mode, but if you say, I can try to change the size of the pictures that you have posted. I am sure, they will look much more impressive, if you increase their size and position them in the centre of the page.

Sunder Iyer
Sunder Iyer
2 years ago

Beautifully written….

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