Kedarnath Yatra is undertaken piously by thousands of Shiva devotees each year. Most remote of the Chota Char Dhams is Kedarnath, the abode of Lord Shiva. These glorious jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva prove to be the epitome of beauty and tranquillity. Surrounded by the snow-capped majestic Garhwal Himalayas, it is a sight that lives on in the heart forever.
Situated in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand, it rises 3,581 m above sea level. The present temple was built by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD. Kedarnath Yatra is what leads to it.
Kedarnath Temple: An Overview
|Dedicated to: Lord Shiva|
|Built in: 8th Century AD|
|Elevation: 3,581 m|
|Distance from Sonprayaga: 21 Kms|
|Accessibility: Horses, Ponies, Palkis, Pitthus, Trekking or by Helicopter (from Phata)|
|Air: The nearest airport is Jolly Grant, 260 Kms|
|Rail: Nearest railhead is at Rishikesh, 243 Kms|
|Road: Well connected to Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun and Delhi|
|Nearby places to visit: Bhairav Temple, Vasuki Tal, Shankaracharya Samadhi|
|Food: Tea, chocolates, Maggi, parathas etc. (strictly vegetarian)|
|Cost of trip: INR 12000/- per head for a round trip from Haridwar|
|Open During: From end (Akshaya Tritiya) to Kartik Poornima (usually November)|
|Cost of a round trip by Helicopter: INR 8500/- per head|
A beautiful and powerful Trishul on the way to Kedarnath Yatra. Photography by Somak Chatterjee
Kedarnath Yatra: A Pious Experience
Our Kedarnath yatra was a family trip of 15 people. We started the journey from Haridwar. The stay, guide, cook and a private bus were all booked online. We paid INR 12000/- per head which was inclusive of everything from the hotel at Sonprayaga and then at Kedarnath and the food during the journey.
We took off in the morning in our comfortable bus, cheering and playing antakshari throughout the way. Our guide was a localite named Gagan, a warm and friendly person. From Haridwar, we travelled to Sonprayaga only stopping at two points where our cook prepared a tasty meal for us all. The windows of the bus provided a breathtaking view of rivers and steep cliffs and those enchanting snow-capped peaks, which seemed so near yet were so far.
All the others experienced dizziness at the sight of narrow roads lined by steep, dangerous falls but I, being the adventurous kid enjoyed sitting by the window throughout. Ferns, fog, rivers, snow, waterfalls and landslides were all one could see. Being an animal lover, I found Bhutia dogs adorable. The area, though beautiful, was risky. Landslides were common, fearful sights. We reached Sonprayaga at night and stayed there in a hotel pre-booked by our guide. Cold and tired everyone fell quickly to sleep.
The next day we had to wake up at 4 a.m. Shivering with cold but filled with excitement we started off the much-awaited journey of Kedarnath yatra. On reaching Gauri Kund, we bathed, but not in the Kund. Though it is said to be holy, the dirty water didn’t seem good at all. There, a man held his frail, ill mother in his hands. He dipped her in the kund and took her on his back throughout the trek and that, to me that was the warmest scene I saw.
Kedarnath Yatra: Distance from Gauri Kund to Various checkpoints
|Jangal Chatti||4 Kms|
At the base of the Kedarnath yatra trekking path, we hired horses for my aunts and grandmother and the rest of us decided to walk on foot. They didn’t want to trouble the palki carriers 😉.
The Trek at Kedarnath Yatra
The Kedarnath yatra trek was 14 kms long with occasional shops. The effects of the tragedy of 2013 were clearly visible. The place is under reconstruction and the work is progressing very fast. The Kedarnath yatra trek is gradual for the first seven kilometres and gets steeper after Rambara. The path is completely lined with iron bars which makes the trek much safer. It was clean but at some places the residues of the floods were visible.
Our guide kept the company of my grandma throughout and ensured her safety. They reached the top in 3 hours while we reached there by the evening. We carried a few packets of food and water and that seemed to be a bad decision. You can buy those things en route. Most shops were closed due to restoration but there were many tapris. There are makeshift toilets available frequently. Next to the path, Mandakini river and many beautiful waterfalls kept us motivated to reach to the top. Frequently we got surrounded by fog which came and disappeared within minutes!
Whenever we stopped to have some rest, the enthralling sight of the valleys, mountains, trees and far off snow kept us constantly mesmerized. There were many fluffy, hairy goats lying in the sun and we occasionally photographed along with them. Many helicopters flew to the top with tourists in them. Finally, we reached the top by nightfall. Gagan was waiting for us there and he guided us to our hotel which was a humble place. The adults pushed everyone to eat, we were too exhausted for it but had to. Filled with newfound energy I sat down outside and watched the sky, lit up with stars and a streak of the milky way (a white-purplish streak), it was a charismatic sight. I didn’t want to go inside but then chilling winds forced me to. Then we slept under the thick, plush blankets like horses.
I should add that before planning the Kedarnath yatra trek people should prepare for a month or two. A brisk walk of an hour would be sufficient. Since we didn’t do that, we were very exhausted and that to some extent did ruin the fun.
The next morning, we woke up at 6, put on multiple layers of warm clothes and headed out towards the temple (without bathing :D), which cloaked with serenity and snow-clad peaks, looked like a dream. The destruction caused by the 2013 flood was clearly visible but this brave Uttarakhand managed to progress like nothing ever happened. After 3 hours in the line, we reached the garbha griha, worshipped the majestic deity and left the sanctum. Though the line was long, and we were burned out, the white, barren hills tantalized us. Seeing the sparkling snow but not being able to touch it was a tragedy.
After the darshan, we left the place and hiked down. Here, I want to share with you all an incident which could have been very horrible if it wasn’t for our guide. My grandma came down on a pony and was ahead of everyone. She reached Gauri kund and got worried and felt lost as night was approaching fast, but fortunately, Gagan saw her and told her to sit in a shop until we all came. When we reached her she became very emotional and we all thanked Gagan for his commendable care. So, throughout the hike ensure that the group stays together, the crowd and mess make it easy for people to get lost.
Safety of woman backpackers at Kedarnath Yatra
Due to the presence of the military, the place feels safer. They are involved in the reconstruction process along with the locals. Along with this, the locals also seem friendly and helpful. Moreover, constant awareness, pre-planning and self-confidence are all that is required for a solo trip. Carry a detailed map of the place which will leave no room for confusion or being misdirected.
Senior citizens and people with health problems should be careful as the trek is difficult, and the air pressure is low on the top. Proper medical supplies should be carried always. The Valley as seen from the trekking path
Kedarnath Yatra in Pictures
Kedarnath is a great place, for both pilgrims and nature lovers. The way is treacherous and the weather unpredictable. With adequate planning, supplies one can really enjoy what nature offers at this extreme location.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
THIS POST ENTITLED ‘KEDARNATH YATRA: THE CONSECRATED JOURNEY TO SHIVA’S OWN DHAM’ IS AN EXCLUSIVE PROPERTY OF BUDGET WAYFARERS. ANY INDIVIDUAL OR ASSOCIATION INDULGING IN PLAGIARISM WILL BE DEALT WITH STRICTLY. IF YOU WANT TO USE INFORMATION FROM THE ARTICLE ABOVE, KINDLY QUOTE THE SOURCE.