Rudranath is located at an 2286 mts in Rudraprayag District of Uttarakhand. Rudranath is the toughest Panch Kedar temple to reach. It is the third temple to be visited in the Panch Kedar pilgrimage circuit, comprising five Shiva temples in the Garhwal region. It is the toughest trek to reach as compared to other Panch Kedar dham of Lord Shiva.
There are numerous sacred water tanks near the temple. These include Surya-kund, Chandra-kund, Tara-kund, Mana-Kund etc. Nanda Devi, Trishul and Nanda Ghunti are the famous mountain peaks, which provide the backdrop to the temple. The Vaitharini stream or Baitarani or Rudraganga flows near the temple, which has a grey stone idol of Rudranath. The Mandir Committee has a guesthouse where devotees can spend the night.
The temple was constructed way back in 8th Century AD.
According to the legends of Panch Kedar, this temple shelters the face of Shiva. There is a small rectangular space just outside the sanctum sanctorom. The deity is a Swyam Bhuva (Self Appeared) Shivalinga shaped like a human face formed by the projection of a huge rock. This face has a serene smile and a gaze of pure benevolence in the all-seeing eyes. Measuring about 3 feet from the chin to the top of the jatas, a white cloth remains bound tightly on the crown of Lord Shiva.
The Rudranath temple is believed to be established by the Pandavas, the heroes of the Hindu epic Mahabharata. Legend has it that the Pandavas came to the Himalayan mountains in search of God Shiva, to redeem them of the sins of killing in the epic Kurukshetra war. God Shiva did not want to meet them and escaped in form of a bull in the ground and reentered in parts in the Panch Kedar places: the hump raising in Kedarnath, the arms appearing in Tunganath, the navel and stomach surfacing in Madhyamaheswar, the face showing up at Rudranath and the hair and the head appearing in Kalpeshwar.
The priests at the Rudranath temple are Bhatts and Tiwaris of Gopeshwar village. Every morning priest perform the Shingar to the idol of Lord Shiva and decorates as a face and removed in the evening.
Opening of Rudranath: The Doli Yatra starts from Gopeshwar and pilgrims cross Liti Bugyal and Panar and finally reach Pitradhar. Then, after crossing Dhalabni Maidan, the Doli or the symbolic image of Shiva, reaches Rudranath. Here first the Vandevi is worshipped as local belief is that Vandevi protects the area.
During winters, a symbolic image of Shiva is brought to Gopeshwar for worship.
The temple celebrates an annual fair on the full moon day in the Hindu month of Sravan (July–August). The fair is attended mainly by locals. The priests at the Rudranath temple are Bhatts and tiwaris of Gopeshwar village. At Nandikund on the trekking route to Rudranath, devotees worship old historic swords protruding from the rocks, believed to be of Pandavas.
Rudranath trek unveils the rustic and imposing gorgeousness of a charismatic surrounding. The trek in Rudranath is somewhat tedious and risky but is highly rewarding. Nothing would stop the trekker from embarking such a nice trail since it carries him through a world of unsurpassed prettiness. The mountain peaks of Trisul, Nanda Devi, Devasthan, Hathi Parbat and Nanda Ghunti are visible from Rudranath.
Trek Route 1: A motorable road is present up to the village Sagar — 5 km from Gopeshwar, beyond which a 20 km trek has to be undergone to reach Rudranath. The trek winds through tall grass, oak and rhododendron forests. The trek path is stated to be slippery.
Trek Route 2: An uphill 17 km trek from Gangolgaon — 3 km from Gopeshwar — through the forest and Panar and Naila shepherd settlements.
Trek Route 3: From Gopeshwar to Rudranath passes via Mandal (13 km) and then additional 6 km to the Anusuya Devi temple and then another 3 km to Rudranath. The Anusuya Devi temple is home to goddess Anusuya, who is believed to help devotees in distress.
Best Months: May, June, September, October
Rudranath in Summers (April to August): are very pleasant with moderate climate, with average around 15°C. Summers is ideal for all sight seeing, temple visit and also for visiting nearby attractions.
Rudranath in Monsoons (September to November): are accompanied with scanty rains. This period is good for sight seeing as the hilly panoramic views are very attractive in rains.
Rudranath in Winters (December to March): are chilly days with average minimum touching near 4°C. Minimum can touch sub zero levels.
By Road: Rudranath is located on Gopeshwar-Kedarnath Road. From Rishikesh, the entry point is at Sagar is 219 km. A 20 km trek from Sagar will end at Rudranath.
By Air: Nearest airport is Jolly Grant, Dehradun, 258 km.
By Rail: The nearest railhead, Rishikesh is 241 km.