The famous pilgrimage site of Kedarnath, located in the central Himalayas of India, is believed to be a sacred land. It has been referred to as “deva bhumi,” or the “land of the gods,” for centuries.
Millions of people visit this region each year in search of divine blessings and other religious benefits as part of what is known as the Char Dham Yatra, or the pilgrimage to four sacred mountainous abodes devoted to different gods and goddesses. Situated at the base of 20,000-foot snowy peaks, Kedarnath is one of these four major destinations.
The mighty Hindu god Shiva is believed to have manifested in the middle of a meadow in Kedarnath as a conical rock formation that has long been worshiped as a lingam, an embodied form of the deity. A stone temple has stood over the lingam for at least a thousand years, at an altitude of about 12,000 feet.
I visited this area in 2000, 2014 and 2019 as part of research I’ve been conducting for decades on religion, nature and ecology; I have spent numerous summers in the Himalayas. Many in the vast crowds of people on the Char Dham Yatra told me that they believe it is important to undertake this pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime, often identifying it as the most significant journey they will ever perform.