Badrinath and Kedarnath are two major centres of pilgrimage in Uttarakhand; both are shut during winter months. Both centres are closely associated with Adi Shankara, the scholar who revived Vedic scholarship, about 1,200 years ago. He was the one who identified pilgrim spots and connected intellectual Hinduism (gyana marga) with emotional Hinduism (bhakti marga). Along with Gangotri and Yamunotri, the traditional sources of the Ganga and Yamuna rivers, Badrinath and Kedarnath form the choti-char-dham, or the minor four-point pilgrimage.
Badrinath, Kedarnath and the entire hilly region of Garhwal are linked to the epic Mahabharata. It is here that local people perform the Pandava Leela that retells the local version of the tale. In this version, after the war, Yudhishtira gives five village—denied to them by the Kauravas before the war—to five Kauravas: Duryodhana with broken thighs, Bhurishrava with broken arm, Karna, Drona and Ashwatthama. They are worshipped as local gods. But more popular is the shrine of Shiva and Vishnu established by the Pandava brothers.