Kedarnath is a town located in the Indian state of Uttarakhand and has gained importance because of Kedarnath Temple. It is a nagar panchayat in Rudraprayag district. The most remote of the four Chota Char Dham sites, Kedarnath is located in the Himalayas, about 3,583 m (11,755 ft) above sea level near Chorabari Glacier, the head of river Mandakini, and is flanked by snow-capped peaks. The nearest road head is at Gaurikund.
The town suffered extensive destruction during June 2013 from flash floods caused by torrential rains in Uttarakhand state.
Kedarnath is visited by pilgrims and tourists only during Chardham Yatra time i.e between April-May to Oct-Nov. Kedarnath could be visited only when Kedarnath Temple remains open (April-Nov). Exact dates of Kedarnath opening & closing is calculated each year by temple priests. Otherwise tourists have to take special permission from Rudraprayag DM Office for any treks or visit to Kedarnath or nearby.
Kedarnath is named in the honour of King Kedar, who ruled in Satya Yuga. He had a daughter named Vrinda who was a partial incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi. She performed austerities for several years and the land is named after her as Vrindavan. However, Kedarnath and its temple exist from the Mahabharata era when the Pandavas are supposed to have pleased Lord Shivaby doing penance there. But lord shiva was angry with them, so they disappeared from there. It is one of the most important dhams amongst the Chota Char Dham. The Shiva statue here is considered to be decapitated where as the head is believed to be in Doleshwor Mahadeva Temple in Bhaktapur, Nepal.
Kedarnath is located at a distance of 223 km from Rishikesh in Uttarakhand and close to the source of Mandakini river at a height of 3,583 m (11,755 ft) above sea level.The township itself cannot be called attractive, as it is built on a barren stretch of land on the shores of Mandakini river but the surrounding scenery of Himalayas and green pastures makes it a very attractive place for pilgrimage and trekking. Behind the town and Kedarnath temple, stands the majestic Kedarnath peak 6,940 m (22,769 ft), Kedar Dome 6,831 m (22,411 ft) and other peaks of the range.
As of 2001 India census, Kedarnath had a population of 479. Males constitute 98% of the population and females 2%. Kedarnath has an average literacy rate of 63%: male literacy is 63%, and female literacy is 36%. In Kedarnath, none of the population is under 6 years of age. The floating population from May to October every year is more than 5000 per day.
During winter due to heavy snowfall, the Temple is closed and no one stays in Kedarnath. For six months (November to April) the Palki with the utsava murti of Lord Kedarnath is transferred to a place near Guptakashi called Ukhimath. People shift their settlement too from Kedarnath to nearby villages. Around 360 families of Tirtha Purohit of 55 villages and other nearby villages are dependent on Kedarnath for livelihood
Other than Kedarnath temple, on the eastern side of the town is Bhairava temple and the deity of this temple, the Bhairava, is believed to protect the town during winter months. About 6 km upstream from the town, lies Chorabari Tal, a lake cum glacier also called Gandhi Sarovar. Near Kedarnath, there is a cliff called Bhairav Jhamp.