Kedarnath is one of the holiest Hindu shrines in Uttaranchal and ranks next only to Badrinath. It forms one of the Chardham tours which is held in higest esteem by devout Hindus. The Chardham yatra as it is called comprises of a visit to the following four shrines - Yamunotri (Source of River Yamuna); Gangotri (Source of river Ganga/Ganges); Kedarnath (Abode of Lord Shiva) and Badrinath (Abode of Lord Vishnu/Narayan). While taking the circuitous route one usually travels in the order I have described hereinabove or else in the reverse order. In case one is following the route starting from Yamunotri the approach is from the Uttarkashi side. This route again offers two choices - the shorter one running from the Lambagaon side (already described in my travelogue going by similar title) or else the longer one from Tehri side. In case one approaches from the other reverse order one has to pass through Rudraprayag.
All routes leading to the Chardham route emnate either from Rishikesh or Dehradun/Mussourie. In case one intends to visit Yamunotri first one should take the Dehradun/Mussourie route. For direct access to Kedarnath one should take the route from Rishikesh via Rudraprayag. The distance from Rishikesh to Kedarnath is about 223 Kms. of which the last 14 Kms. from Gaurikund is to be performed either on foot or by Pony or Dandi. Enroute there are several prayags, whose literal translation is confluences. The most notable are Doprayag Rudraprayag also dedicated to Lord Shiva is the confluence of rivers Alaknanda & Mandakini. The mingling of the waters of muddy Alakananda with the clear waters of Mandakini is a treat to watch. At this confluence is the temple of Rudranath. After crossing Rudraprayag one reaches the confluence of Sonprayag which is at the final leg of the journey.
Deo prayag - confluence of mighty Alaknanda & Bhagirathi- en-route Kedarnath
Rudraprayag - enroute Kedarnath
Close-up of the mingling waters of Alaknanda (foreground) & Mandakini -
Son Prayag -
The journey from Rishikesh to Gaurikund is ardous and the distance of 209 Kms. takes about 7 hours by road in ones vehicle and a little longer by Bus. Although as of now there is a helicopter service operating upto Kedarnath from Agasth muni but being costly (approximately a little more than Rs.8000/- for return trip) the ordinary people still prefer to make the journey in traditional form from Gaurikund i.e. either by foot, pony or dandi. The trek from Gaurikund to Kedarnath although has a easy gradient but the 14 Kms. trek is ardous none the less and I have seen instances where ponies have slipped injuring the pilgrim badly. Helicopter service from Agasth muni to Kedarnath -
Usually the pilgrims start from Gaurikund early in the morning and go past Rambara, which is mid point of the trek at 7 Kms. from Gaurikund. During the yatra period a bustling market comes up at this place and both the porters, who are mostly Nepalis as well as Ponies & Ponywallahs take a break here for tea and breakfast. Thereafter, the pilgrim goes past the Garur Chatti just before entering the Kedarnath valley. Enroute to the temple is the Bhairon Kund and a pictograpic description of the place or trek from Gaurikund to Kedarnath would be more appropriate - Gaurikund -
Kedar falls on way -
Garur Chatti -
The back drop of snow clad mountains looming over Kedarnath -