At 6500 feet, Gauri Kund is the roadhead for Kedarnath, another nine miles further up the path. Kedarnath is sacred to Shiva, and Gauri Kund ("Gauri's Pool") is connected with Shiva's wife Parvati, also known as Gauri. In Hindu mythology, Gauri first tries to attract Shiva with her beauty, but when that fails (since Shiva is the model yogis) she began to carry out ascetic and yogic practices to win him in that way. Local tradition claims that this is the spot where Gauri lived while carrying out these practices, it was here that Shiva finally revealed his love for her, and the pair were married at Triyugi Narayan, which is 10 miles away.
This photo shows the ornamental gateway with the lion motifs; you can see that the temple is built at a lower level than the surrounding plaza.
Here's a little more angled shot to give a better view of
the temple as whole. It's not very large, and shows similar
architectural features with other Himalayan temples: a low entrance hall,
a taller tower in the back (covered with a a wooden-framed cap, bright
colors, and a guardian figure (probably Bhairava) over the doorway.
The garlands were part of the decorations for Diwali (which included some
strings of colored lights).
Just as the Kedarnath temple closes for the winter, so does this one too--an image of Gauri is taken further down to a nearby village, where she is worshipped during the winter months.
Here it is clear how the decorative sandstone railing helps to define and demarcate the temple space.
|This image of Gauri and of Ganesh (to the
right) sit outside the temple itself, and the sign above the Ganesh statue
alludes to another event in Hindu mythology. Ganesh was born when
Parvati was taking a bath--she scrubbed the dirt and cosmetics from her
body, molded them into the shape of a boy, and then animated it. The
young boy was ordered to guard the door to her chamber, and proved a valiant
servant--repelling everyone from entering, until Shiva himself came, fought
the boy, and eventually cut off his head. Parvati was furious, and to
placate her Shiva promised to replace that head with the head of the first
animal he encountered, which happened to be an elephant. The red
lettering informs people that this is the very spot where Ganesh was formed,
and thus again seeks to connect mythology with geography.
|Of course, people come to Gaurikund on the
way to Kedarnath--in earlier times it would have been a night stop on the
pilgrim road, and even now many people stay there a night while coming and
going. But not surprisingly, people's efforts here are focused on
This board begins with a Sanskrit verse detailing the religious merit of simply taking a vow to go to Kedarnath--which by itself brings hosts of one's ancestors into Shiva's heavens as a reward--and then lists the special ceremonies that can be commissioned at the Kedarnath temple, and their cost. The temple is reserved for these special ceremonies from 4 to 6 in the morning (the holiest time of day), and the cost is significantly higher for that time (of course, it is also probably much less crowded then, so people are paying more for the experience). Costs run from 11,551 rupees for a full-day ceremony, to 3501 rupees for the Mahaabhisheka Puja, down to 301 for a morning puja.
I'm sure that this board is here so that visitors can know what to expect at Kedarnath; the sign also warns people that they should make arrangements the evening before, and get a receipt.
||Where Parvati is, Shiva is
never very far, and he is enshrined in this humble little temple across from
the Gauri temple. It's not very large, but nicely painted and
decorated. The verses painted on the outside come from the Shiva
Purana, and give the names and locations of the 12 jyotirlingas--sites
especially sacred to Shiva. They are:|
Also across from the temple is the welcome center of the Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee--where pilgrims can find information about the temples and sites in the Himalayas. The center is staffed by a local brahmin who was also the priest at the Gauri temple--at one point he took off for the temple in mid-sentence when he saw some people entering the gates.
Of course, jobs are scarce in the hills, and any employment is desirable; this is particularly with regard to traditional occupations, which often don't pay very well.
|Aside from its temple, Gaurikund has a hot
spring--and this is one of the reasons that supposedly prompted Gauri to
pick this as a place to stay. The waters are a little above body
temperature0--very pleasant but by no means scalding (as at Badrinath).
Half of the tank has been covered with building, and this is the ladies'
bathing place. Men simply bathe in the open part at the top of the
In late October the weather was very chilly, and a hot bath is a very pleasant prospect!
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Page maintained by James G. Lochtefeld.
Last modified 28 January 2006