THE HOLY YATRA OF CHAR DHAM
Char Dham Yatra Highlights
- The Char Dham Yatra of Uttarakhand is one of the holiest yatras taken up by the Hindus at the holy shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
- All of these shrines fall under the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. It is considered to be of immense importance among Hindus and it is believed that every Hindu should do Char Dham Yatra at least once in their lifetime to pay homage to the Hindu lords and to attain salvation for their sins. Not only Hindus from India but also foreigners from various cities visit here to know more about the Indian culture.
- The Hindu lords dedicated to Kedarnath and Badrinath are Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu respectively whereas Yamunotri is dedicated to the goddess Yamuna river and Gangotri is dedicated to the goddess Ganga river.
Char Dham Yatra Overview
CHAR DHAM’S HISTORY
These holy pilgrimage places were drawn into this divine and spiritual circuit around the 8th century by the great reformer and philosopher Adi Shankaracharya. It went on to be followed by generations and hundreds of thousands of devotees captive the generation by visiting these shrines every year.
One thing to be noted here is that during winters Char Dham is closed for 6 months and it is moved to its “winter abodes” namely Ukhimath, Joshimath, Mukhba and Kharsali for the lords of Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri respectively.
Hence you can take part in this Yatra from April end to October end during the summers at its original locations.
STARTING THE JOURNEY
To start upon your Char Dham Yatra journey you should always start your journey from west to east as per Hindu mythology. That means you should cover these holy places in a clockwise manner starting from Yamunotri to Gangotri and Kedarnath and then finally finishing off at Badrinath.
The starting point of your journey should be Haridwar.
You can either reach Haridwar via Dehradun by landing at Jolly grant airport or you can hire a bus or a taxi to reach Haridwar to start your journey.
WHY IS CHAR DHAM YATRA A PERFECT TOURIST SPOT?
Situated at an altitude of 3293 metres at an elevation of 6387 near Bandarpunch peaks, Yamunotri is located 40 km away from Barkot in Uttarkashi.
Yamunotri Glacier is the source of the Yamuna river which is surrounded by high peak forests and large Valleys. As per Hindu mythology, Yamuna is the second holiest river after Ganga in India. It is believed to be the sister of Yama(God of death) and the daughter of Surya (God of the sun). It is believed to be the home of sage, Asit Muni.
Why should you visit?
The Yamunotri temple is dedicated to the goddess Yamuna made up of black marble which was originally constructed by Maharaja Pratap Shah of Tehri Garhwal. It is believed to wash away your sins if you visit Yamunotri because of its tough journey. It will restore your faith in the power of the divine. Yamunotri has hot springs where raw rice and potatoes are cooked to turn it into Prasad for its devotees. The notable attractions in Yamunotri are Yamunotri temple, Divya Shila, Janki Chatti, Hanuman Chatti, Saptarshi Kundli and Surya Kund.
There are various activities to do in Yamunotri such as:
Camping: Camping around Yamunotri for nature lovers is the ideal thing to do due to its picturesque location. Not only that, camping in various local villages around Yamunotri will help people understand their cuisine and local culture.
Trekking: The trek starting from Janki Chatti to Yamunotri is a challenging one but you should take it up if you wish to be surrounded by the mighty Himalayas.
Located at an altitude of 3100 metres and situated on the banks of the Bhagirathi river, Gaumukh, set in the Gangotri Glacier is the starting point of the river Ganga which is one of the most important and the holiest river for Hindus. The river Bhagirathi attains the name Ganga from Devprayag where it meets with Alaknanda to form Ganga. The Gangotri Temple opens on the auspicious occasion of Akshay Tritiya which is in May and closes down around Bhai Duj or Yama Dwitiya which is around October/November.
Why should you visit?
The temple of Gangotri present in its today’s form was originally constructed by Gorkha commander Amar Singh Thapa in the 18th century. It is a place of various flora and fauna including several temples offering the history behind the creation of the Ganga river. It is said that Ganga was born as an award given by Lord Shiv to king Bhagirath for his unshakable penance. Shivji caught the river Ganga in his locks since it would destroy the Earth if it came down in full force. It has the sacred stone situated near the temple which is a place where Ganga first came down on the earth in the river form hence it is also known by the name Bhagirathi which means daughter of Bhagirath. The various notable attractions around the town of Gangotri are the Pandava Gufa, Tapovan, Bhaironghati, Bhojbasa, Gangnani, Harsil, the Gaumukh Glacier, Jalmagna Shivlinga and the Gangotri Temple.
The activities that can be done in Gangotri include:
Trekking: There is a 19 km trek that can be assessed from Gangotri to Gaumukh set in the Gangotri Glacier which is the origin of the river Ganga.
Shopping: There are many shops in this revered place which sells religious idols of duties and local handicraft such as shawls, woollens, religious paintings and Tibetan artefacts.
Located at an altitude of 3584m and situated on the banks of the Mandakini river Kedarnath was historically also known as ‘Kedar Khand which is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva in India. The town of Kedarnath is one of the most sacred pilgrimages in India, filled with snow-covered peaks and scenic beauty.
Why should you visit?
Kedarnath is perfect because it is one of the most worshipped Hindu shrines and thousands of pilgrims come here every year to offer their prayers.
There are a lot of attractions to visit in Kedarnath like Gandhi Sarovar, Sonprayag, Gaurikund Temple, Vasuki Tal lake etc. It is one of the major Dhams among the four other Dhams.
It is known according to the Hindu mythology that Pandavas for their redemption begged for mercy from Lord Shiva after the Mahabharat for killing so many people.
Various activities can be done in Kedarnath such as:
Camping: There is a problem with accommodation in Kedarnath which can be used by tourists to their advantage. They can set up tents under the clear night sky to enjoy the starry night and the beauty that envelopes the town
Trekking: Gaurikund is 19 km away from Kedarnath temple which has road connectivity. Hence you can trek to Gauri Kund for an amazing trekking experience. You can also track further to places like Chorabari Tal, Vasuki Tal and Bhairo Mandi.
The town of Badrinath lies between the mountain ranges of Nar and Narayana on the banks of the Alaknanda river at a height of 3100 m. Many Hindus visit it every year to offer their prayers to Lord Vishnu. It is said that Pandavas carried out one of the most important Hindu rituals ‘Pind Daan’ of their ancestors at Badrinath. Since then a lot of devotees come here to offer libations of holy water belonging to their ancestors’ for the salvation of their soul and for them to attain moksha. Lord Shiva also attained his moksha and an exemption from his sin for killing Lord Brahma at Badrinath.
Why should you visit?
There are many notable attractions of Badrinath which include Vasudhara falls, Satopanth Trek, Ganesha Cave, Saraswati River, Alkapuri Glacier, Bheem Pul which is located at Mana village(a natural stone bridge) and Hemkund Sahib.
The best thing for tourists here is to visit the local villages and ashram.
It has some beautiful nearby destinations such as Ghangaria, Valley of Flowers and Auli.
There are many activities to do in Badrinath which include visiting the Badrinath Temple, taking a dip in the holy Tapt Kund and visiting Vasudhara falls.
Visiting Badrinath temple
You have to wake up early in the morning to offer your prayers at Badrinath Temple. The temple opens at 4:15 a.m. Hence if you want to attend the famous Aarti ritual you should go early in the morning to avoid the long queue.
Trekking-Trekking to Mana village, Satopanth, Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib takes place at Badrinath which gives you an experience of a lifetime.
Village Tour-Mana village is known as the last Indian village which claims to have the last tea shop in India. You can go for a tour of this village to know about its people, their cultures and traditions.
Day 1: Start your journey from Delhi towards Haridwar which will be about 210 km taking 6 hours of your time. As soon as you reach Haridwar do visit the evening Aarti and prayers which are offered at ‘Har ki Pauri’
Day 2: In the early morning start your journey towards the first Dham-Yamunotri from Haridwar to Barkot which is at a distance of 200 km which will take you about 10 hours. The surroundings of this city are also equally mesmerizing due to not being touched by modernization that much. Stay the night at Barkot.
Day 3: On your third day you have to drive for 36 km with a 7 km trek to reach Yamunotri in around 5 hours. You can cover this distance by hiring a horse or a doli at rupees 1000-2500. After you reach Yamunotri, visit its shrines and temples and return to Barkot and stay the night in Barkot.
Day 4: Start your early morning journey towards Gangotri which is at a distance of 210 km and it will take you about 9 hours. Do not forget to take breaks. You can halt at Ganganani (hot water spring) which is on the way to Gangotri. After you reach Gangotri, visit its temples and nearby places and stay the night here.
Day 5: After waking up at Gangotri and taking in the aura as much as possible, start your journey towards the town of Uttarkashi which is at a distance of 95 km and it will take you about four hours.
Uttarkashi is a very small town situated between two rivers namely Varuna and Ashi. Once you reach Uttarkashi, don’t forget to visit Vishwanath Temple, Annapurna temple and Bhairav temple. Stay the night at Uttarkashi.
Day 6: On this day start your journey towards Sitapur which is at a distance of 212 km which will take you around 10 hours. It is situated at the confluence of the Vasuki and Mandakini rivers. Do visit the Gauri Devi temple which is known as the place where goddess Parvati meditated to attain Lord Shiva. Stay the night at Sitapur.
Day 7: Proceed towards Gaurikund from Sitapur which is at a distance of 32 km. From here you have to trek for another 154 km to reach Kedarnath. This whole journey will take you about 9 hours. If you are not able to trek you can always take a horse and a Doli to reach Kedarnath. After reaching Shivji’s own home, visit its surroundings. Stay the night at Kedarnath.
Day 8: Come back to Gaurikund to drive towards Rudraprayag. This whole journey is 75 km which will be covered in 6 hours. Rudraprayag is situated at the confluence of the Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers. It is believed that Shivji appeared here in his Rudra Avatar to bless Narad Muni. After reaching Rudraprayag, visit its surroundings and stay the night here.
Day 9: Now you will start your journey towards your final Dham Badrinath from Rudraprayag which is at a distance of 160 km and it will take you around 8 hours. After you reach Badrinath, visit its surroundings and stay the night here.
Day 10: Start your journey from Badrinath to Birhi which is at a distance of 95 km which will take you around 5 hours. After having lunch at Birhi, you can proceed towards Rishikesh which is at a distance of 160 km and it will take you around 7 hours to reach. After you reach Rishikesh it would be amazing to explore it for its amazing view, situated in the foothills of the Himalayas. Don’t forget to visit Lakshman jhula and Ram jhula here. Stay the night at Rishikesh.
Day 11: Go back to your original location Delhi from Rishikesh.