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Panch Prayag and Panch Kedar | Char Dham Yatra Information

The Char Dham yatra is one of the most exciting journeys that one can go on. Besides its spiritual significance, the yatra promises a treasure trove of unknown places to be explored. On the yatra route and with slight diversions there are scores of relatively lesser-known temples, sacred spots, and places where nature’s bounty has been very very generous. Here we will talk about Panch Prayag and Panch Kedar.

Panch Prayag and Panch Kedar | Char Dham Yatra Information

Panch Prayag

The five sacred meeting points or confluences of rivers in Garhwal, Uttarakhand are known as ‘Panch Prayag’. In descending order from North to South they are – Vishnuprayag, Nandaprayag, Karnaprayag, Rudraprayag and Devprayag. Over the centuries towns with the same name have come up in all these places with the exception of Vishnu Prayag. There is no settlement around Vishnuprayag which is about 12 km from Joshimath. The more devout visit and bathe in all of these prayags before visiting Badrinath. The Panch Prayags are on the route from Rishikesh to Badrinath, with Vishnuprayag a little off the route. As per stories in the Puranas and other texts, this route of the Panch Prayag matches with the Swargarohana (Ascent to Heaven) route taken by the Pandavas.

 

Vishnuprayag

Located at the confluence of the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers on the way from Joshimath to Badrinath. The Alaknanda originates from the Satopanth glacier and the Dhauliganga comes from Niti Pass. An eight cornered temple was built by Devi Ahilyabai Holkar in 1889. A staircase leads to the Vishnu Kund at the confluence. It is believed Sage Narada prayed to Lord Vishnu here. Pilgrims bathe in the Vishnu Kund and pray at the Vishnu temple.


Nandprayag

Situated at the confluence of the Alaknanda and Nandakini (not to be confused with the Mandakini) rivers, Nandprayag is the place where King Nand prayed to Lord Vishnu for the boon of God himself being born as his son. There is a small temple dedicated to Gopal here which is visited by countless devotees. 

 

Karnaprayag 

Situated at the confluence of the Alaknanda and Pindar rivers, Karnprayag is where Karna worshipped the Sun God. Another legend says Lord Krishna cremated Karna at this place. There is a large pasture on the river bank which is dedicated to Badri Narayan and is to be used exclusively for cows. Swami Vivekananda meditated here for 18 days. Two temples grace the town – the ancient Karna temple and Uma Devi temple. Once in every twelve years the Murti of Uma Devi is taken out in a procession around the town and a few villages.

 

Rudraprayag
is located at the confluence of the Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers. It is believed that Lord Shiva appeared here to bless Sage Narada. The sheer beauty of this town attracts visitors all round the year. Rudraprayag has many temples. Some of them are: Rudranath temple, Chamunda Devi temple, Koteshwar temple, Hariyali Devi temple and Kartik Swami temple. The last one mentioned – Kartik Swami temple is a major attraction. At a height of 3050 metres, it is dedicated to the elder son of Lord Shiva and Parvati Mata. Fabulous views of the Himalayas can be had from the temple.

Devprayag

Situated at the confluence of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers, Devprayag is also a popular stop for tourists and pilgrims. These two rivers – the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda are known as heavenly rivers. Devprayag also has a Raghunath temple, dedicated to Shri Ram and one of the three in India. The temple has carved idols of Ram, Sita and Lakshman. Other places to see are Brahm and  Vashisht Kunds at the convergence of the rivers and Betal Shila – A small water spring with curative properties. Devprayag is also home to Nakshatra Ved Shala – an observatory established in 1946 by Pandit Chakradhar Joshi. 

Panch Kedar

The Pandavas wanted to atone for sins committed during the war. Rishi Vyas, author of the Mahabharata, advised them to approach Mahadev and seek pardon. Mahadev was displeased with the Pandavas at that time and was hiding from them in the form of a bull in Guptkashi. The Pandavas first went to Kashi (Varanasi) known to be Mahadev’s abode. They did not find Him there. After much searching far and wide the Pandavas managed to locate Mahadev in Guptkashi and tried to catch Him. The bull (Mahadev) dived into the ground to escape, but Bhim managed to catch its tail. When he tried to pull it out, the bull disintegrated into five parts. The five parts landed in different places. The Pandavas built temples in each of those places to pacify Mahadev. Now pleased, Mahadev forgave and blessed the Pandavas. These five temples are now collectively known as Panch Kedar, which are Kedarnath, Tungnath, Rudranath, Madhyamaheshwar and Kalpeshwar.

 

Kedarnath

Perched at an altitude of 3580 metres above sea level, Kedarnath Jyotirling Mandir is the first of the Panch Kedars and the most prominent. Kedarnath is where the hump of the bull landed.

The present temple, amidst spectacular snow clad Himalayan peaks, is built of stone slabs. It is believed to have been established by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century. The Shivling here is conical in shape. Kedarnath is one of the Chhota Char Dhams and a jyotirling temple. The 16 km trek to Kedarnath begins from Gaurikund. This is a slightly challenging trek with some steep patches to overcome. Horses and palanquins are available for those not inclined or not able to walk the distance. Helicopter rides to Kedarnath are also available for those with deep pockets.

 

Tungnath Mahadev  

The second of the five Kedars, is high up in the Himalayas, at an altitude of 3680 metres (12,073 ft) above sea level. Tungnath is the spot where Mahadev’s arms (Bahu) landed. 

The temple is made of stone and has an ‘Ashtadhatu’ idol of Mahadev. At the entrance there is an idol of Nandi, Mahadev’s beloved bull facing Mahadev. Atop the temple is a wooden stage with 16 openings. Inside the temple there are images of the Pandavas and the remaining Panch Kedars. Adjacent to the temple are various shrines dedicated to Rishi Vyas, Bhairav and Ganeshji. The 4 km trek to Tungnath begins from Chopta which is 45 km from Guptkashi. This is the easiest of all the Panch Kedar treks. Chandrashila peak at an altitude of 4130 metres (13550 feet) is a short distance from Tungnath. 

Rudranath

At an altitude of 3600 metres (11800 feet) above sea level Rudranath is the third of the Panch Kedars. This is the place where Mahadev’s face landed.

Rudranath can be loosely translated as ‘Angry Lord’.  Rudranath is also known as Neelkanth Mahadev. With Nanda Devi and Trishul Parbat in the background, this ancient temple is surrounded by the sacred Surya, Chandra, Tara and Mana Kunds. The holy Vaitarni river flows near the temple. This river has great relevance as a place to offer ‘Pind Daan’.  It is said one offering here is equal to a hundred million in Gaya. It is the ‘River of Salvation’.

The trek to Rudranath can be started either from Mandal or Helang village. It is a rather challenging trek, involving a distance of over 20 km, with some steep inclines. At the same time it is an exhilarating and unforgettable experience which takes you through beautiful rhododendron forests and lush green alpine meadows while criss-crossing numerous streams.

Rudranath Temple Close Dates:-

As per the latest updates, the Rudranath temple closes on 17th October 2021.

 

MADHYAMAHESHWAR 

At an altitude of 3490 metres (11450 feet) above sea level, Madhyamaheshwar is the fourth of the venerated Panch Kedars. This is where the navel or the middle part  of Mahadev fell. 

Bhim, the second Pandava is believed to have prayed and built the temple here. There are two smaller shrines in the temple. One is dedicated to Mata Parvati and the other to Ardhnarishwar. On one side is a temple dedicated to Saraswati Mata. The entire village gathers here for the evening aarti and guests are welcome. The idol of Madhyamaheshwar is taken to Ukhimath for the duration of winter.

Located in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand, the 16 km trek to Madhyamaheshwar begins from Ransi Village, which is 21 km from Ukhimath. A shorter trek of 2 km from here takes you to Vriddh (Elderly) Madhyamaheshwar temple.

KALPESHWAR 

Kalpeshwar is the fifth and last of the Panch Kedars. It is situated at an altitude of 2200 metres (7217 feet) above sea level. This is the spot where Mahadev’s Jata (hair) fell.

Kalpeshwar is also known as Jatadhari or Jateshwar. This is a small temple that is approached through a cave. Many great saints including Arghya Rishi and Durvasa Rishi have meditated here. It is believed the famous Apsara – Urvashi was created here by Arghya Rishi. The Kalpganga river flows nearby. There is a Kalpavriksha tree here that is believed to grant the wishes of devotees. 

The trek to Kalpeshwar is the easiest of the Panch Kedar treks.  It is the only one of the Panch Kedar that is accessible throughout the year.  From Helang, which is on the Badrinath road, one can avail of taxis or jeeps to Urgam. From Urgam it is an easy 1 km walk. As with all the other Panch Kedars, this too is amidst idyllic and enchanting surroundings. On the way from Helang, one can catch sight of Dhyan Badri temple in the distance.

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Pooja
Pooja
1 year ago

“Great read”, this is the most important list for every travel blogger When you travel live freely and enjoy every moment of the journey-:)

Last edited 1 year ago by Pooja
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