Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Pandas of Kedarnath

The priests of Kedarnath temple are called Pandas. The Pandas had come to Kedarnath valley with Adiguru Sankracharya in 9th century and they remained here forever. Presently, the Pandas reside in the villages near Guptakashi and Ukhimath. The Pandas practice astrology and some are well versed in Sanskrit. The Pandas had come along with Adiguru Sankracharya from south India as the part of Hinduism revival.  It is believed that the Brahmins belonged to the saiva sect and accompanied Adiguru till the end. Adiguru passed away and left his mortal body at Kedarnath and all the accompanying priests also stayed here and their legacy still can be traced in this modern age continuing their duty to serve Kedarnath. 
The temple opening of Kedarnath has a long tradition of carrying the doli (carrier) on Akshaya Tritiya from its winter seat at Ukhimath to Kedarnath. The doli reaches on the third afternoon to Kedarnath Dham. The next day, the temple is opened for the pilgrims and the local residents with all the required rituals. The Kedarnath Dham opens normally 2 – 3 days before Badrinath Dham. All the details related to the opening of the temple is decided by the priests at Ukhimath on Mahashivratri. The opening date normally falls during the last week of April or first week of May.
The closing date of the Kedarnath is always next day of Deewali. The closing ceremony of the temple is also very important but simple and brief. The Kedarnath temple is left under the protection of Baironathji during winters. All the priests, workers and pilgrims leave Kedarnath after closing the temple and move to Ukhimath. The tradition of closing and opening of Kedarnath Dham has been existing since ancient times.
The Lord Kedar can be worshipped during winters at Onkareshwar temple in Ukhimath. Many tourists visit Onkareshwar temple during winters to take the blessing of Shiv Bhagwan. There are many other tourist places near Ukhimath like Chopta, Chandrashila, Deoriatal etc.