Kedarnath has been a pilgrimage centre since the ancient times, although it is not certain who constructed the original Kedarnath temple and when. A mythological account ascribes the temple’s construction to the legendary Pandava brothers mentioned in the Mahabharata. However, the Mahabharata does not mention any place called Kedarnath. One of the earliest references to Kedarnath occurs in the Skanda Purana (c. 7th-8th century), which names Kedara (Kedarnath) as the place where Shiva released the holy water from his matted hair, resulting in the formation of the Ganges river.
According to the hagiographies based on Madhava’s Sankshepa-shankara-vijaya, the 8th century philosopher Adi Shankara died at Kedaranatha (Kedarnath); although other hagiographies, based on Anandagiri’s Prachina-Shankara-Vijaya, state that he died at Kanchi. The ruins of a monument marking the purported resting place of Shankara are located at Kedarnath. Kedarnath was definitely a prominent pilgrimage centre by the 12th century, when it is mentioned in Kritya-kalpataru written by the Gahadavala minister Bhatta Lakshmidhara.
Kedarnath is located at a distance of 223 km from Rishikesh in Uttarakhand and close to the source of Mandakini river at a height of 3,583 m (11,755 ft) above sea level. The township itself cannot be called attractive, as it is built on a barren stretch of land on the shores of Mandakini river but the surrounding scenery of Himalayas and green pastures makes it a very attractive place for pilgrimage and trekking. Behind the town and Kedarnath temple, stands the majestic Kedarnath peak 6,940 m (22,769 ft), Kedar Dome 6,831 m (22,411 ft) and other peaks of the range.