Kedarnath has been a pilgrimage centre since ancient times.The temple’s construction is credited to the Pandava brothers mentioned in the Mahabharata. However, the Mahabharata does not mention any place called Kedarnath. One of the earliest references to Kedarnath occurs in the Skanda Purana (c. 7th-8th century), which names Kedara (Kedarnath) as the place where Lord Shiva released the holy waters of Ganga from his matted hair, resulting in the formation of the Ganges River.
According to the hagiographies based on Madhava’s Sankshepa-Shankara-Vijaya, the 8th century philosopher Adi Shankaracharya died near the Kedarnath mountains; although other hagiographies, based on Anandagiri’s Prachina-Shankara-Vijaya, state that he died at Kanchipuram. The ruins of a monument marking the purported resting place of Adi Shankaracharya are located at Kedarnath. Kedarnath was definitely a prominent pilgrimage centre by the 12th century when it is mentioned in Kritya-kalpataru written by the Gahadavala minister Bhatta Lakshmidhara.
Majestic view of kedarnath Temple during snowfall
Kedarnath is located at a distance of 223 km from Rishikesh in Uttarakhand and close to the source of the Mandakini River at the height of 3,583 m (11,755 ft) above sea level. The township is built on a barren stretch of land on the shores of Mandakini river. The surrounding scenery of the Himalayas and green pastures makes it a very attractive place for pilgrimage and trekking. Behind the town and the Kedarnath Temple, stands the majestic Kedarnath peak at 6,940 m (22,769 ft), the Kedar Dome at 6,831 m (22,411 ft) and other peaks of the range.
As of the 2011 India census, Kedarnath has a population of 830. Males constitute 99% of the population and females 1%. Kedarnath has an average literacy rate of 63%: male literacy is 63%, and female literacy is 36%. Out of total population, 604 were engaged in work or business activity. Of this 601 were males while 3 were females. Kedarnath, none of the population is under six years of age. The floating population from May to October every year is more than 5000 per day with the pilgrim influx rising upto 10 lacs (1 million) in 2022.
The Kedarnath Temple is closed during the winter months due to heavy snowfall. For six months, from November to April, the palanquin with the Utsava Murti (Idol) of Kedarnath and of the Madhyamaheshwar Temple is brought to the Omkareshwar Temple in Ukhimath, near Guptakashi. Priests and other summer-time residents also move to nearby villages to cope with the winter. Around 360 families of the Tirtha Purohit of 55 villages and other nearby villages are dependent on the town for livelihood. According to the Köppen-Geiger climate classification system, Kedarnath’s climate is monsoon-influenced subarctic climate (Dwc), bordering a uniform rainfall subarctic climate (Dfc) with mild, rainy summers and cold, snowy winters.