Kedarnath is located 118 km north of Srinagar, near the head of river Mandakini and hosts the holy Kedarnath Mandir which is one of the five (panch) kedars in the area and one of the four sites in the Char Dham pilgrimage circuit of the Northern Himalayas. The Kedarnath temple is one of the 12 holiest Hindu temples (Jyotirlingas) dedicated to Lord (Kedar) Shiva. Weather conditions permit opening of the temple only during May to October. The winter abode of Lord Kedar is in the town of Ukhimat situated 42 km downstream.
To access the Kedarnath shrine, a 14 km uphill trek has to be untertaken from Gaurikund where the motorable road ends. However, it is also possible to travel by helicopter to the shrine from Agastyamuni, a town that is located 52 km upstream from Srinagar.
The Kedarnath temple is believed to have been built by the AdiGuru Shankaracharya (who also attained samadhi here) at the location of an older temple dating back to the Mahabharata era and said to be associated with the penance of the Pandavas. Legend has it that the Pandavas sought Lord Shiva in the Himalayas to seek his forgiveness since he was annoyed with their fratricidal war. However, the Lord assumed the form of a bull to avoid them. But the determination of the Pandavas in pursuing Lord Shiva led them to the bull, whose legs they sought to hold on to. Of course, the bull disappeared into the ground leaving a hump at Kedarnath, and reappearing in His original form in parts at four other locations: his locks at Kalpeshwar, his face at Rudranath, his arms at Tungnath, and his navel and stomach at Madhyamaheshwar. The Pandavas are believed to have made temples at all five locations to worship Lord Shiva and attain salvation. Barring Kalpeshwar, the other three temples are in mountain meadows at higher altitudes than Kedarnath; with the climb to Rudranath being the most strenuous. Apart from the prominent panch Kedars, the area boasts of more than 200 shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva.