Traditionally, the Char Dham Yatra is performed from west to east, thus, the yatra starts from Yamunotri, then to Gangotri and finally to Kedarnath and Badrinath. Pilgrims traditionally first go to Yamunotri and Gangotri and bring with them holy water from the sources of the Yamuna and Ganges rivers and perform Abhishek to Kedareshwar. The Char Dhams of Uttarakhand are also called the Chota Char Dham of India.
Uttarakhand is known as Devbhoomi (Land of the Gods), as it is the land of great pilgrimages, holy temples and places, which attract lakhs of pilgrims and spiritual seekers seeking enlightenment. The pilgrimage of Char Dhams located in the Garhwal region is considered to be the holiest place in India: Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri.
These four ancient temples also mark the spiritual source of the four holy rivers: the Yamuna River (Yamunotri), the Ganges or Ganges River (Gangotri), and the Mandakini River (Kedarnath) and the Alaknanda River (Badrinath).
Uttarakhand’s Char Dham Yatra can be traversed in one go and takes 10-15 days (depending on your schedule). You can even get helicopter services to cover Char Dham in two days.
Basically, Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva while Badrinath is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Yamunotri and Gangotri are dedicated to the goddesses Ganga and Yamuna respectively.
The great reformer and philosopher, Adi Shankaracharya, brought these sacred shrines together in a spiritual circuit around the 8th century. Generations have passed and hundreds of thousands of devotees have continued the tradition of visiting these pilgrimage sites every year.
However, it should be noted that during the winter season all Char-Dham is closed for six months due to heavy snowfall, and all temples are inaccessible. The gods and goddesses move into their “winter abodes” during this time.
Why Char Dham Yatra?
The Char Dhams are the famous four holy places of Hindu pilgrimage, located amidst the high peaks of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand. There are four sites in this Hindu pilgrimage Char Dham circuit: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. All these places are considered highly sacred by Hinduism. It is the last wish of every Hindu to visit holy temples at least once in a lifetime to attain Moksha (salvation).
Char Dham Yatra Course
According to Hindu mythology, the auspicious and all-important Yatra is to be undertaken from west to east, covering the sacred sites in a clockwise direction. So it means that you should start your pilgrimage from Yamunotri and then proceed to Gangotri, Kedarnath and end your journey in Badrinath.
The Yamunotri Temple is dedicated to the goddess Yamuna. It should be noted that the main deity of the temple is made of black marble. Built by Maharani Gularia of Jaipur in the 19th century, the present temple was created after the previous one was destroyed by weather conditions. The Yamunotri shrine was originally built by Maharaja Pratap Shah of Tehri Garhwal on the left bank of the Yamuna River.
According to Hindu mythology, Ganga was born as a result of the granting of Shivji to King Bhagirath for his penance. Because of her superiority and the fact that the earth would be overwhelmed if Ganga fell hard, Shivji caught her in her hair.
There is a sacred stone near Gangotri Temple that marks the place where Ganga first descended to earth in the form of a river. Hence Ganga is also called Bhagirathi (ie daughter of Bhagirath).
The Gangotri Temple in its present form was built in the 18th century by the Gorkha commander Amar Singh Thapa. It is believed that at the time of the construction of the present temple, the Gaumukh Glacier was present here but has retreated to its present location due to global warming and climate change.
Dedicated to the incarnations of Shivji, Kedarnath is named after King Kedar, a ruler of the Satya Yuga. This is where Shivji is said to have apologized to the Pandavas for killing their own Kaurava cousins in the Mahabharata.
There is even an interesting story behind the city and its temple. According to the Puranas, the Pandava brothers performed great austerities in Kedarnath to please Shivji.
Earlier the temple was built by Pandavas and the present temple was built by Adi Shankaracharya. Just behind the temple, you can see the Samadhi of Adi Shankaracharya.
The original Badrinath Temple was built by Adi Shankaracharya who originally discovered the Badrinarayan idol in the Alakananda River. It was he who moved the shrine to the Tapt Kund hot springs. Due to the natural passage of time, it was necessary to build a new temple.
The present temple was built in the 16th century by the king of Garhwal. Stunning gemstones, traditional carving, and pillar designs are breathtaking at first glance! In terms of architecture, the appearance is similar to the Vihara Buddhist Temple.
In the Satya Yuga, Shivji meditated here for thousands of years while the goddess Lakshmi cast a shadow over her husband in the form of a Badri tree. Thus the place is named after Badrinath! In fact, the whole valley around Kedar-Badri would be Shivji’s home. This is why Badrinath becomes a staple around Mahashivratri when the festival is celebrated with much fanfare.
We care for you thus I’m sharing some essential travel tips which you must keep in mind before travelling to the Char Dham Yatra of Uttarakhand.
- Don’t forget to check the exact opening and closing dates of the Yatra.
- Do not forget to cover your head, and take off your shoes before entering a holy place.
- Make sure not to make a mess on this trip. The hills and isolated places must be kept in their original state to ensure the biodiversity of the region.
- Wear thick wool clothes to protect yourself from the cold during the month of October to November and wear medium wool clothes during the summer season.
- Packaging of creams, moisturizers, and sunscreen.
- Pack a medicine cabinet with painkillers, antibiotics, cough drops, antiseptic cream, iodine, squeezable cream, and cold and fever medicine along with your usual medicines. Don’t forget to pack snacks.
- Do not take pictures if cameras are not allowed in a certain area. Don’t play with the feelings of any particular religion.
- At least one month before the Yatra it is advisable to start with the preparatory exercises
- Bring extra batteries and film for your camera, as electricity is not common in these remote locations.
- Do not travel during the rainy season as there are many landslides during this period. Book hotel rooms in advance if you travel near the temple opening dates, there is a large influx of pilgrims.
- Alcoholic drinks and non-vegetarian food are not allowed on the Char Dham Yatra Tour.
I hope, you enjoyed reading this article. If you need more information regarding this Char Dham Yatra, feel free to ask me in the comment section below!