badrinath in kedarkhand

By Samridhi Dixit

“The land north of Gangadwar is known to the wise as Paradise Ground. Apart from this land, the rest is called Earth elsewhere.”
― Kedarkhand Skanda Purana

.  Kedarkhand is an old name of Garhwal region. The Shaiva scriptures describe nine regions out of which four are in the Himalayas. The Kedarkhand which is a part of the Skanda Purana divides the Himalayas into five broad regions and glorifies the tract (Garhwal), rivers, mountains and places as Kedarkhand. The earliest references regarding Garhwal and its pride spots are cited in the Skanda Purana and the Mahabharata. Skanda Purana defines the boundaries and extent of this holy land. It says that this heavenly abode of Kedarkhand extends from Haridwar in the south to perpetual snow in the north. On the west of it is river Tamsa and in the east, it is flanked by Baudhachal.Perpetual snow in the north means the Himalayas. The river tamsa is identified with river Tons in Garhwal today. It is a major tributary of river Yamuna. Badhan is not only a pargana but a mountain range too which demarcates Garhwal from Kumaon. This description of Kedarkhand to a great extent tallies with the expanse and area of modern Garhwal today The geographical outline described by the scripture as the area bound by white snow peaks and the Gangadwar, the river Tamasa and the Nandadevi, is exactly the boundary of the present-day Garhwal Commissionary.

badrinath in kedarkhand
badrinath in kedarkhand

It is believed that the universe must be destroyed in order for it to be purified and renewed therefore it is reasonable that Shiva is regarded as the lord of both creation and destruction. Shiva embodies the energy of the universe as both creator and destroyer. Kedarnath i.e the lord of kedarkhand, the Hindu mythology believes that lord Shiva dwells in the snowy mountains of Himalayas and kedarkhand being a part of it, Kedarnath is one of the most sacred shrines of the Hindus. All of the nearby holy places like the Gauri kund, the Gangotri shrine, and others are all believed to hold a story from the mythological past and are mostly related to Lord Shiva.

As residents of the valley of gods the local people of Kedarkhand worship many local gods and deities in open air temples or in oromorphic forms and where liturgical performances are conducted by sastric sacred specialists or local ritual masters. Interacting with snow, avalanches, hailstorms, excessive rainfalls, floods, landslides, forests, wild animals and other natural phenomena the Highlanders have a complete inventory of gods, protecting spirits, harmful supernatural forces, benevolent and malevolent spirits controlling the entire natural phenomena which may be described as Kedarkhand cosmogony. The belief in regional cosmogony, i.e., faith in local gods, invocation, propitiation, exorcism of supernatural powers, is of indigenous origin as the worship pattern and the sermons and rites of folk rituals have an oral tradition.

In the oral tradition expressed in the folk ritual, folk religion, customs and the ksetriya parampara, there is no systematic conception of the bhutas except as indigenous invocations and rituals performed to appease local gods and deities controlling natural elements for the benefit of local masses. The role of Agni (fire), Vayu (air) akasa (sky) in various rituals clearly indicates that these elements (tattvas) have certain special status, recognition, and expression in the indigenous cosmogony.

A naga in the caves of rishikesh
A naga in the caves of rishikesh

In the kedarkhand history formed itself in a different manner. if the traditional epical and puranic accounts are reasonable and hold credibility, then the history of kedarkhand may predate the katyuris by centuries. Since that classical history does not have any relevance to Kurmachal (Kumaon), it should exclusively be related to kedarkand (Garhwal).The names of numerous places of Kedarkhand though those have been corrupted in course of time find repeated mention in the sections of Mahabharata.It is said that dhikuli, a village on the right bank of Kosi near Ramnagar, is a place where the Pandava capital of viratnagar was situated there are also ruins of an ancient town and temples at Lal Dhank chowki, west of panduwala. Even the name Panduwala may suggest an association of that place with pandy or his five sons, Pandavas. The ruins of ancient temples, secular structures, fragments of Buddhist and Brahmanical sculptures found at various places in the depth of jungles in the foothill tract and around the habitational areas are the evidence of vigorous cultural activity in that area in the remote past. Very ancient standing temples may be found at Lakhamandal. Luni Sot, Chandi (new haridwar) and many other places of ancient Kedarkhand. The Ashokan rock inscription at Kalsi may clearly indicate that a trunk route ran to the interiors of Kedarkhand and further northwards along the Jamuna and that the Kedarkhand was not a terra incognita even during the ancient period of Indian history.

Mythologies makeup a major part of every heritage. It is a constant reminder of who we are and where we come from. Since the dawn of mankind, our ancestors have used the vehicle of storytelling to try to descend upon their offsprings the traditions, the mythologies that may have happened or not but are believed in religiously. So myths and folktales are a continuum of human existence and collective memory. With the advent of globalization and advancement in science and technology the mythical thoughts and fictions may have suffered a setback but are still prompted by several authors who research to bring out some facts that are unknown about Hinduism and even their works have proved to be bestsellers. Even the 400 years of science and technology has not opposed to myth and folklore rather it has promoted the wisdom of human creativity irrespective of them being oral or written.

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