Panch Kedar is a collective name of the five abodes of lord Shiva in Dev Bhoomi Uttarakhand state of India. Namely Kedarnath, Madhyamaheshwar, Rudranath, Tungnath and Kalpeshwar; the Panch Kedar pilgrimages are believed to be the places where five different body parts of lord Shiva appeared while he dived into the earth at Guptakashi.
Head of lord Shiva appeared in Pashupatinath of Kathmandu in Nepal and rest of the body parts hump, navel, face, arm and hair locks appeared in Kedarnath, Madhyamaheshwar, Rudranath, Tungnath and Kalpeshwar respectively.
Panch Kedar pilgrimages are sacred abodes of lord Shiva traveled by Hindu pilgrims around the globe with much faith and devotion. Devotees believe that darshan (devotional visit) of Panch Kedar and Pashupatinath relieves one form all sorts of sins and leads to the attainment of salvation.
Every year, Panch Kedar pilgrimages witness hundreds of thousands pilgrims and other adventurer trekkers paying visit to these holy abodes of lord Shiva.
Panch Kedar temples are believed to be established by Pandavas, the heroes of Hindu holy epic Mahabharata who were supported by Shri Krishna (the incarnation of lord Vishnu) in the war of Kurukshetra.
The five pilgrimages connected to the legendary history of Pandavas and lord Shiva and believed to be established by Pandavas, Panch Kedar witness thousands of pilgrims and non-pilgrims every year. The travel route to Panch Kedar, if the tourists is making trip only to Panch Kedar pilgrimages in Dev Bhomi Uttarakhand, usually begins from Haridwar and the route is as follows:
Legend of Panch Kedar
The story of formation of Panch Kedar goes back to Dwapar Yuga where Pandavas and Kauravs, the sons of kin brothers Pandu and Dhritarastra of Bharat Bansa (clan) fought a holy war as described in the Hindu holy epic Mahabharata.
Mahabharata turned to be a kind of world war killing millions of people of different states who participated in the war. After the holy war Mahabharata in Kuruchhetra, Pandavas- the winners, felt guilty about killing their kinsmen, Brahmins and others in the war. As per the suggestion of Lord Krishna, Pandavas went to lord Shiva for blessing them with salvation. Lord Shiva didn’t want to meet Pandavas because he was unhappy about the war, death of millions of people and the deceiving nature of each party applied to win the war.
This is why, lord Shiva went to Garhwal Himalayas changing himself as a bull – Nandi. Pandavas first went to Kashi (Varanasi) where lord Shiva usually lived, but he was not there. Then they went to the Garhwal Himalayas in his search. Pandavas recognized the grazing bull at Guptakashi as lord Shiva and so tried to catch hold of him. As Bhima, the second Pandava, caught the bull by its tail and hind legs, lord Shiva dived into the earth reappearing at 5 places with five different body parts.
The place lord Shiva had dived was Kedarnath, his hump remained there and different body parts appeared at different places- jata (hair locks) at Kalpeshwar, nabhi (navel) and stomach at Madhyamaheshwar, face at Rudranath and bahu (arms) at Tungnath. When Pandavas realized the reappearance of lord Shiva at these five different places, they built temples in each of those places and thus were blessed with salvation from lord Shiva.
But these five are not the only places where lord Shiva’s body parts appeared. The main body part ‘head’ of lord Shiva appeared at Pashupatinath in Nepal. It is believed that the hindu devotees who pay visit to Panch Kedar must visit Pashupatinath to complete their pilgrimage tour and be blessed by lord Shiva. Thousands of devotees from India and elsewhere visit Pashupatinath in group every year.