Jyotirlinga Kedareshvara – Shiva Purana
Kedarnath temple is one of the 12 jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva, the holiest of holy shrines of Lord Shiva. This temple opens after Vaisakhi and closes on Padwa Tithi after Deepawali. It is believed that after the completion of 6 months, the priests of the temple light a lamp here and after 6 months when this door opens, then this lamp is still found burning. At the approach of winters in the month of November, the holy statue of Lord Shiva, is carried down from Garhwal (Kedar khand) to Ukhimath, and is reinstated at Kedarnath, in the first week of May. During its closure the shrine is submerged in snow and worship is performed at Ukhimath.
Kedarnath Temple is located on the Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini River. This ancient and magnificent Kedarnath temple is located in the Rudra Himalaya range. It is situated at an altitude of 3,581 mt. it is a 14 km trek from Gauri Kund.
A conical rock formation inside the temple is worshipped as Lord Shiva in his Sadashiva form. This temple, over a thousand years old is built of massive stone slabs over a large rectangular platform. The temple of Kedarnath is divided into three parts, first - sanctum sanctorum, second - Darshan Mandap and third Sabha Mandap. Visitors worship in the Darshan Mandap, and pilgrims congregate in the Sabha Mandap. The sanctum sanctorum is the inner part of the temple. Ascending through the large grey steps leading to the holy sanctums we find inscriptions in Pali on the steps. Kedarnath forms one of the four sites of the Chota Char Dham Pilgrimage.
This temple is established on a 6 feet high platform. In the main part of the temple there is a mandapa and sanctum sanctorum, while Nandi bull is seated in the courtyard.
The Dham of Kedarnath is built in the Katyuhari style, in which brown and large stones have been used and the roof of the temple is made of wood, while the Kalash is made of gold on its summit.
The Present Kēdārnāth temple was built by Adi Shankaracharya. The inner walls of the temple sanctum are adorned with figures of various deities and scenes from mythology. Outside the temple door a large statue of the Nandi Bull stands as guard.
It is believed that when the Pandavas won the war of Mahabharata, they were very sad that they had killed their relatives in the war with their own hands. When Lord Shiva came to know about this, he got angry and went to Kedarnath and to hide from the Pandavas, he took the form of a bull and joined the herd of bulls. At this time, Bhima took his huge form and all the animals were under Bhima's feet. Seeing the longing of the Pandavas, Shiva was pleased and appeared in his true form. He freed all the Pandavas from their sins. The Pandavas built the Kedarnath temple and even today, the body of the bull's back is worshiped here.
There is a lot of belief in this temple. Whoever goes here with, all of their wishes are fulfilled. Going there, with pleasure, worshipping Kedaresha and drinking the water there a person is released from re-birth.
Legend as per Shiva Purana:
The two incarnations of Vishnu—Nara and Narayana performed the penance of earthen phallic image of Shiva in the hermitage of Badarikashrama. Shiva was delighted and bestowed the boon and stayed in Kedara on the Himavat as desired by them. If anyone worships Kedareshvara with devotion he will not suffer distress even in dreams. It was he who on seeing Paṇḍavas assumed the form of a buffalo, having recourse to his magical skill and began to run away. When he was caught by the Paṇḍavas he stood with his face bent down. They held his tail and implored him again and again. He remained in that form in the name of Bhaktavatsala. His head portion went and remained fixed in the city of Nayapala. The lord stood in that form there.
Reference: Shiva Purana, Koṭirudra Saṃhita, Chapters - 19