M. KAMAL NAIDU
Day 13: Leaving Joshimath very early, we came down to Chamoli, and had a sumptuous lunch of hot ‘puries’ and ‘subji’ followed by hot tea. This was, for we were advised, this shorter route we proposed to take, was very isolated and rugged, though had a very rich beautiful pristine deodar and related forest, with great chances of seeing a tiger. We took this deviation for Kedarnath at Gopeshwar, via Anasya Devi, through a much curving, rising and dropping gradient route, but missing the tiger, reached Ukhimath, on the Mandakini river, coming down from Kedarnath. After cooling the car engines, and refueling ourselves with hot ‘chay’(tea) proceeded on towards Gaurikund. Here we left our vehicles, and proceeded on the 14km trekking to Kedarnath on foot, while porters carried our limited baggage.
The route from Gaurikund was littered with tea stalls selling snacks, so we could trek up easily and leisurely, though we kept a pony as a standby. As we approached Kedarnath, we could sight it from a distance, but actually it was far, with having to traverse a lot of ups and downs, not visible to the eyes. As a result we always felt so near, but it was yet long way off, until the last lap, when we heaved a sigh of relief. We reached Kedarnath temple, a very scenic spot, situated against the backdrop of the majestic Kedarnath peak(6970m) in the background, and so also our place of stay. Here we got to know that Mandakini actually originated at a place yet another 12km up the mountain ranges of Kedarnath. However it was only on ascending this mountain slope to the temple, we could absorb the beauty and enormity of the view around. Kedar is another name of Lord Shiva, the protector and the destroyer. The Kedarnath shrine is reputed as one of the ‘Twelve Jyotirlingas’ of Lord Shiva. This temple we were told opens on ‘Akshaya Tritiya’(April end or first week of May,every year) and closes on ‘Bhai Duj’(October end or 1st week of November) due to heavy snowfall, and extreme cold weather during winter.
We heard another legend about Kedarnath as being named in honor of King Kedar, who was said to have ruled in the ‘Satya Yuga’ period. He had daughter named Vrinda, who was a partial incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. She was said to have performed austerities for 60,000 years. The land around was named Vrindavan in honor of her.