About Panch Kedar Temples:
Scattered throughout the state of Uttarakhand are numerous temples dedicated to various Hindu deities. There are five revered shrines where Lord Shiva is worshiped in Garhwal region. Collectively Known as Panch Kedar (panch means five in Hindi), these temples are Kedarnath, Madhmaheshwar, Tungnath, Rudranath, Kalpnath.
According to legends, the Pandavas (Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva) were advised to worship Lord Shiva as penance for bloodshed caused by war as mentioned in the Mahabharata epic. Legend has it that Lord Shiva was hiding from the Pandavas by taking the form of a buffalo, but was identified by Bhima, one of the five Pandava brothers. After being recognized, the deity disappeared and manifested in five different places in the Himalayas. Each of these sites would be dedicated to a part of the Lord: Kedarnath (the bump of Lord Shiva), Madhmaheshwar (His navel), Tungnath (His arms), Rudranath (His face), Kalpeshwar (His jata or hair).
Set against a spectacular backdrop of snow-capped peaks and forests, Kedarnath Temple is located in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand and occupies an important position among the Panch Kedar temples. The temple houses a conical-shaped Shiva lingam which is considered to be Shiva’s hump. It is located at an altitude of 3584 m. The walk to Kedarnath Temple starts from Gaurikund and consists of about 19 km. The walk can be completed in 6 to 7 hours. Kedarnath Temple is considered the First Panch Kedar temple.
Tungnath Temple is one of the highest Shiva temples in the world, Tungnath lies at a height of 3,680 m in the Rudraprayag district. Lord Shiva’s arms are said to have appeared here. To get there, one has taken a moderate trek of about 4 km from Chopta. Along the way, you will be able to see peaks like Nanda Devi, Chowkhamba and Neelkanth. Tungnath is considered the Second Panch Kedar temple.
A natural rock temple, situated at 2286m in the midst of alpine meadows and thick rhododendron forests, Lord Shiva is worshipped as “Neelkanth Mahadev”. It is believed that his face rose up the ground. Around the temple, there are sacred kunds such as Surya Kund, Chandra Kund, Tara Kund and Mana Kund. This is considered the third Panch Kedar temple.
Madhyamaheswar Temple is located at a height of about 3289m, it is said that in Madhyamaheswar the middle or navel of Shiva emerged. Nestled in a beautiful green valley in the Mansoona village, Garhwal Himalaya, the temple is surrounded by the spectacular snow-capped peaks of Kedarnath, Chaukhamba and Neelkantha. The trek to Madhyamaheswar starts from Uniana, approximately 18 km from Ukhimath. This is considered the fourth Panch Kedar temple.
Panch Kedar Temples – Kalpeshwar Temple:
The last and fifth Panch Kedar temple is Kalpeshwar Temple, which is the only temple among the sacred temples of Panch Kedar that remains open all around the year. The tangled hair of Lord Shiva is worshiped in this temple. The Panch Kedar Trail ends at Kalpeshwar or Kalpnath Temple. Motorable roads connect the village of Sagar to Helang (about 58 km) from where you can use jeeps to Urgam. A couple of few kilometers from Urgam leads to the temple.