The Kedernath Temple, situated at a height about 3600m in the Himalayas, is one of the holiest places of worship for the Hindus. It is believed that a devotee visiting this shrine in Uttarakhand State of India would be exonerated of all his sins and would attain Swarga (Heaven). For about 1200 years millions of devotees have made the hazardous trip to Kedernath which is not accessible by road, to obtain absolution.
The beautiful photograph of the Temple (from Wikimedia Commons) given below was taken in 1860 by the Geological Survey of India (GSI):
Who built the sanctuary and when? According to Indian Mythology the Pandavas went to Kedernath to meet Lord Shiva after the Kurushetra War to obtain forgiveness for having killed many, including some of their gurus and several relatives. The Lord avoided meeting them.
But the Pandavas persisted in their search for Shiva and made a promise that they would build a temple for him. Finally they were able to meet the Lord and were cleansed of their sins. And they built the temple at Kedernath on the banks of Mandakini River which is a tributary of the Ganges. The place is about 225kms from Rishikesh.
Over the many centuries that passed the Pandava structure might have been destroyed. But in the 8c Adi Shankara went to the place with his disciples. It is believed that he built the present Temple at the same location as the Pandava shrine or near it. The walls of the existing structure, it is said, are 3m thick.
Adi Shankara with his desciples
by Raja Ravi Varma.
Twelve centuries later, in June 2013, the clouds burst over the western Himalayas, and the deluge threatened Kedernath Temple. There is a claim that a huge rock rolled down and stopped itself behind the Temple so that the flood waters would flow to either side and not directly hit the building.
The Archaeological Survey reports that nevertheless there have been some cracks on the structure. The Temple is shut down and the ASI has been asked to repair whatever damage there is. A photo of the temple by ASI after the floods is reproduced below from the web:
The Uttarakhand Government has announced that the shrine would remain closed for at least one year. A more practical estimate says pilgrims may be able to visit Kedernath only after three years.
There appears to be an interesting comparison in this to what had happened millenniums back. Lord Shiva made the Pandavas wait for long to obtain an interface. That would have enhanced the immensity of their remorse. Perhaps the Lord now wants those who plan to visit Kedernath to stay at home, lead a good life and do penance for their sins till he is ready again to grant them audience.