As it once said, “should I say heaven or Kedarnath, it is the same”. Kedarnath is a paradise and one of the most beautiful shrines located at an altitude of 3580m above the sea level in the mighty Garhwal Himalayas on the bank of river Mandakini near the Chorabari Glacier in Uttarakhand. It forms one of the four sites of the Chota char Dham Pilgrimage. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Kedarnath Temple is also the most important among the Panch kedars. As the name suggests "Kedarnath" means "the lord of the field". It is derived from the Sanskrit words Kedar (field)and natha (lord).
It is said that the Kedarnath temple was built by the Pandavas to please Lord Shiva with their penance. Later the temple was revived by the great Hindu philosopher, Adi Shankaracharya in 8th century CE, when he visited the place with his four disciples. A legend says that, its history dates back to when Nar and Narayana the two incarnations of Lord Vishnu performed the act of austerity, Lord Shiva was impressed and they persuaded Lord Shiva to reside as a Jyotirlinga in Kedarnath, so that devotees who would come to seek the blessing of Shiva will seek salvation here.
Kedarnath temple is one amongst the 12 Jyotirlingas in India and has its significance since the epic Mahabharata. According to mythology,it is said that the Pandavas after the battle of Kurukshetra went on a journey to Varanasi to seek blessings from the Lord shiva as they were guilty of killing their own kith and kin. However, Lord Shiva avoided meeting them, thus hiding himself in Guptakashi in the Himalayas. Lord Shiva was ignorant towards the Pandavas and further had moved to Kedar and disguised himself as a bull and hid with other animals in the Himalayas. Although Bheema was able to recognize Lord Shiva through his hump.Seeing them coming closer Lord made a decision to become invisible by going underground. While doing that, Bhima made a great effort in stopping him by holding on to the legs and tail of the bull. Unfortunately, the Lord dived and evaporated at that place leaving behind his hump which is now worshipped at Kedarnath Temple.
The head priest of Kedarnath temple are of the Veerashaiva community of Karnataka also known as Raaval. Although the Raaval do not perform the puja in the temple. The pujas are carried out on the instructions of the Raaval by other priests. The Raaval moves with the deity to Ukhimath during the winter season.
During the 2013 catastrophic floods in Uttarakhand the entire town of Kedarnath was almost ruined, but the temple was not so harmed, as a huge rock behind the temple diverted the massive flood water coming towards the shrine.