Ukhimath (4,500 ft.) is on the other side of the Mandakini River Valley from Gupt Kashi--a relatively short steep walk by foot, or a much longer way by road. Ukhimath is the winter seat of Kedarnath, as well as the winter home of the priest who presides over his worship. After the Kedarnath temple closes for the winter, a movable image of Kedarnath is brought in procession to Ukhimath, where it resides until the Kedarnath temple reopens in late April or early May.
This picture shows the outer gateway to the temple complex, which is not only brightly painted and decorated, but two full stories tall (the wall also serves as the back wall of buildings inside). The stones piled at lower left were for some sort of construction project, which was in full swing when I visited (since summer is the "slow" season ritually speaking, it made sense for the place to be torn up them. And the nearby buildings are clearly residential, since a young girl is visible at upper right.
|Here's a shot inside the courtyard.
The man with the drum is something like a herald, because when anyone comes
inside he begins to drum, to announce one's presence to the deity (and
receive his gratuity for doing so). The rest of the time he stands off
to the side, as will be evident in later photos. The open-air portico
at the top right covers an image of Shiva's bull Nandi, who as usual is
right outside the main temple.
The surrounding rooms on the outside walls are offices and residences, and there is also a school on the premises--all things consistent with being a math ("monastery").
The writing on the wall at the lower right is quotations from famous religious texts. The only one I recognize is the blue one in the middle, which is the opening verse of the Isa Upanishad.
|Here's a closer shot of the portico.
Note the mixed construction styles. The roof on the left is covered
with slate slabs (traditional), the portico with tin over wood (also
traditional), and the roof on the left is a concrete slab.
Note too the casual atmosphere, with one man reading the paper, and two others lounging and talking together (this was taken as I was walking out, so they had already shown me around and received my donation). For them the summer is the slow season, and I'm sure that visitors are relatively few, and large parts of the day are spent relaxing.
|Here's a full shot of the compound, giving
some idea of its relative size (I'm backed up against the gateway here).
On the whole, it's an impressive site.|
One unusual feature is that the temple entrance is on the side of the building, after which one turns right to get to the main image (under the highest, unpainted tower). In most temples in the Himalayas the entrance is at the back, so that one has a direct line of sight to the primary deity.
The building at the far right is a school, and the young man in the yellow dhoti one of the students (there were groups of students doing lessons and other things).
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Page maintained by James G. Lochtefeld.
Last modified 28 January 2006