Char Dham Yatra
Char Dham is the term which when, even if mistakenly, heard by any Hindu makes him close his eyes for a moment while remembering the Godís grace. Perched in the misty Garhwal Himalayas, the pride of Uttarakhand, are the four pilgrimages of India - Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, together called Char Dham. For years, sages and pilgrims have hiked these numinous vales, called ďKedarkhandĒ in the ancient scriptures, to seek the divine. Over and above, Char Dham Yatra becomes a memorable divine journey for the devout, amidst holy rivers and their confluences and picturesque surroundings that truly make the abode of God.
Resembling Gangotri, Yamunotri celebrates the appearance of River Yamuna, and is the seat of Goddess Yamuna. Set high, at an altitude of 3,235 m, the pilgrimage draws devotees from everywhere. The splendid surroundings of the place really make one sit and think about Creatorís manifestation. Snow covered mountains, chilling breeze and cascading river adds to the mysticism of the pious place.
At an elevation of 3048 mts, Gangotri lies peacefully amidst charismatic setting. The pilgrimage celebrates the emergence of the holy Ganga River. Itís a place where the fall of the river inspires oneís awe. Built in the 18th century by Amar Singh Thapa, the divine temple is sited on the left bank of the river. Pilgrims from all parts of the world, come every year to pay their homage at the revered shrine of Gangotri.
Immersed in the divinity of the very old stories, Kedarnath emerges high in the middle of snow-capped peaks. Said to be over 1000 years old, the present temple is supposed to be built by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century. The exquisite architecture of this temple is worth admiring. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Destroyer of the Universe, the pilgrimage is visited by hundreds of people every year.
Badrinath, undoubtedly, appears all the more spiritual with Neelkanth Peak as its impressive background. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, Badrinath Temple too, has many stories behind its origin. Alaknanda River flowing ceaselessly in its forefront sends chills down the spine, while the hot water spring called ĎTapt Kundí really portrays the conjecture of the Creator. Like all the other Dhams, this temple was also established by Guru Adi Shankaracharya.
Things to Remember
Char Dham, the most-revered pilgrimages of India, must be visited starting from Yamunotri, moving towards Gangotri, Kedarnath and concluding the journey at Badrinath. Remember, this is the traditional Ďparikramaí route going from left to right or clockwise circumambulation. All of these temples are located at the banks of rivers, but donít attempt to enter the waters because the terrific water flow can cause accidents.
While youíre in Kedarnath, pay a visit to Samadhi of Adi Shankaracharya - the great saint. Visiting Valley of Flowers, which lies close to Badrinath, would definitely be a nice idea. All these pilgrimages are located at staggering heights, so climate is usually chilly. Carry adequate clothing with yourself. Itís recommended to take bath in hot springs, wherever available, as their waters have healing properties. Make sure to take care of your belongings at such places.
Since Char Dham is visited by innumerable pilgrims every year, there are a large number of accommodation options at each pilgrimage. Obviously, at such height, you cannot get five star hotels but yes, there are good quality hotels, lodges, rest houses, cottages, ashrams, dharamshalas and guest houses which offer decent services. The hotels in Char Dhams and their vicinity offer excellent services and amenities. There are also many vegetarian restaurants that offer really tasty food.
How to Reach
By Air: The nearest airport to the Char Dhams is located at Jollygrant, which is 314 kms, 239 kms and 265 kmsfrom Badrinath, Kedarnath and Gangotri,respectively.
By Rail: Thenearest railhead is sited at Rishikesh, about 222 kms, 248 kms, 221kms, and 297 kms from Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, respectively.
By Road: From Rishikesh, one can go to Char Dham by hiring taxis, boarding busesor by taking private cars.After reaching a specific point,the remaining distance has to be covered by foot.