M. KAMAL NAIDU
Day 14: This temple is however revered as the source of Mandakini, and is dedicated to Lord Shiva, and is located at the highest elevation of the ‘Char Dhamas’ at 3548m. Here we realized that the temple was on a protruded dome shaped hillock, which was said to be the hump of a bullock, for Lord Shiva had taken the form of a bullock at this place, and tried to hide away into the ground to escape from the Pandavas on their passage to heaven. The legend behind the hiding was, since the Pandavas after having won over the Kaurava in the Kurukshetra war, felt guilty of having killed their own brother, and so sought the blessing of Lord Shiva for redemption. Therefore Pandavas are supposed to have ultimately pleased Lord Shiva by doing penance here in Vrindavan. This reminded me of a similar hide away act by Lord Shiva at Srisailam(AP State), when Sri Rama was searching for his consort Sita Devi. Probably here also it must have been the clever advice of Sage Narada to him, for keeping out of controversies of destiny. It was in the process of hiding the hump was left behind. The remaining portions of Lord Shiva are seen at four other places and are worshipped there as his manifestations. The ‘arms’ appeared at Tungnath, the face at Rudranath, the ‘belly’ at Madhmaheshwar, and his ‘locks(hair) with head at Kalpeshwar. Thus Kedarnath and the four above-mentioned shrines are treated as ‘Panch Kedar’.
The temple here was built by Sankaracharya in the 8th century, after having traversed the entire country starting from Kerala to Kashmir, and he was ultimately buried here behind this shrine. Here the holy water of ‘Udak Kund’ about which is written in ‘Kedar Khand’ of Shiv Mahapurana as a mixture of all the five Oceans. It is said this water of Mandakini, we had the ‘ darshan’ at the temple, once again enjoyed the superb surrounding scenery, admiring the massive Kedarnath peak, and made our descent down to Gaurikund.
On reaching Gaurikund, which was fairly easy going and fast, we drove along the winding road along the river Mandakini via Ukhimath to the confluence with the turbulent Alakananda coming down from Joshimath. Here I stopped for several moments, recollecting about the ‘Man eating leopard of Rudraprayag’ by Jim Corbett, again read by me in childhood after being fascinated by man eating tigers of Kumaon. I recollected the towers at the gate to the suspension bridge, where Jim Corbett spent several sleepless nights waiting for the elusive leopard, moving in the terrain on either side of the bridge, and its ultimate tame ending. we moved on via Srinagar on the winding path along the precipitous Alakananda, and thence reached Deoprayag, where it met the Bhagirathi coming down from Gangotri through Uttarkashi, to become the holy Ganga. Seeing the turbulent Bhagirathi, and the legend for its descent from Mount Kailash, roused my passion to follow it to the source; but it had to be for another occasion. We reached back late in the evening at the FRH in Rishikesh, after the long circuitous route. This FRH was located high on the hill- top overlooking the town, the surrounding regions, and the Ganga down below, roaring and fuming, in its pristine purity.