Char Dham Yatra Uttarakhand – 4 Dham Yatra
Land of Uttarakhand is also known as Dev Bhumi (Land of Gods) because of the various tales of divine beings finding its permanent home in the ever flowing rivers, river confluences, shrines, rocks, caves and, most importantly, in people’s faith.
Going to the four sacred places would take you through the most picturesque landscape involving dense mountain forests, meadows, large valleys, waterfalls, rivers, river confluences and flowers. With plentiful of nature’s presence in every nook and corner of Uttarakhand, pilgrimage in Himalayas becomes more rejuvenating and spiritually uplifting.
Glorious shrines including Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and lastly the Badrinath Dham.This glorified expedition starts from Haridwar, the perfect gateway to God and can be reached to Uttarkashi for Gangotri and Yamunotri shrine and be completed at Chamoli by visiting the Badrinath Temple.
The Chardham tour is welcoming numerous pilgrims at such tremendous locations.
What is Chota Char Dham
Smaller circuit of Hindu pilgrimage is formed by the four hallowed places of Indian Himalayas, which are also known as Chota Char Dham. ‘Chota’ means small in Hindi. Alternately called Char Dham of Himalayas or Char Dham of Uttarakhand, the revered group possesses four sacred sites – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamnotri.
Chardham Yatra is India’s most devoted and featured part of India spiritual tour. 4 dham is the most renowned and holy expedition in India that includes visiting to four glorious shrines including Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and lastly the Badrinath Dham. A visit to these holy shrines together forms the Chota Chardham Yatra in India.All these holy destination are situated in “Land of God” Uttarakhand. This CharDham Yatra or Chota Char Dham is famous because it is easily covered in a stretch of 10-11 days. All these famous sacred destinations are being located in the astonishing Himalayan foothills of Uttarakhand at distinct districts.Thousands of people from all over the world visit this sacred site every year during the pilgrimage season.
History Of Chota Char Dham
This exalted trip was being initiated thousands years ago in 8th Century by the great reformer and philosopher Adi Shankaracharya .The amazing valleys of the Great Himalayas proudly reflect thousands years old legends and history by beholding these sacred shrines at different districts namely Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Rudraprayag on the splendid Garhwal hills.
Till 1950s going to the four most sacred sites of Uttarakhand meant embarking on a strenuous journey on foot through the hilly trails. People, like wandering sadhus, and those who could afford to travel with an entourage, were the most likely and regular pilgrims of Chota Char Dham. After the 1962 Indo – China war, India put massive efforts in building means of better connectivity to and infrastructure at border areas. Now the roads could take one till the nearest points of the holy abodes. This encouraged people from other backgrounds (economic or social) to initiate a tour of Char Dham circuit in Himalayas.
Why is Char Dham Yatra Extremely Significant for Hindus
‘Nestled in the lap of mesmerizing Indian Himalayas in Uttarakhand, Char Dham is the epicenter of spiritual actions for Hindus in India.’
India is a nation full of the tourist charms. In this country, the spiritual beliefs, cultural values and heritage wonders are the major reasons that influence the pilgrims to plan an expedition. The land of temples with plenty of sacred destinations, India is undoubtedly a paradise for the seekers of tranquility and spirituality. Out of these pilgrimages, Char Dham Yatra in the state of Uttarakhand, boasts of some of the most visited centers. The Hindus describe it as the Teerth Yatra (pilgrimage) to four well known dwellings of the Hindu Gods namely Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.
Importance of Chota Char Dham in Hindu Religion
Four pious spots of Garhwal Himalayas find mention in many great Hindu texts such as Vedas and Puranas and assume a very important position in Hindu religion.
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The Char Dham Yatra is considered as a must visited pilgrimage tour in order to get salvation. Every year, more than 2 Lac tourists visit these holy shrines. In Hindu mythology, it is believed that the prehistoric Hindu philosopher Shri Adi Shankaracharya coined the term ‘Char Dham’. The literal meaning of this term is four abodes of God or Holy Destinations. These four shrines are in the region that is famous for the captivating mountains surrounded by a thick layer of snow and unadulterated atmosphere.
In India, the Hindus believe that the Char Dham tour opens the gates of salvation by washing away all their sins. It is also believed that this journey must be undertaken at least once in a lifetime. These four shrines have a great significance and place in Hindu mythology. According to this mythology, Shri Adi Shankaracharya acquired freedom from reincarnation in the Shri Badrinath Dham. The doorway to the Yatra is Yamunotri. Next destination is the renowned Gangotri shrine. Thereafter the pilgrim has to visit Shri Kedarnath Dham and finally Shri Badrinath Dham. After completing the Char Dham pilgrimage tour, the pilgrim achieves an absolute serenity of the mind.
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Located at Uttarkashi at an elevation of 3164 meters from the sea level, Yamunotri Dham temple sanctifies thousands of moods and spirits bringing the origin of River Yamuna. It is the only place where the devotees can find both the amalgamation of hot and cold environment. The Himalayan environment is purified and freezes with the cold tides of the glaciers of River Yamuna and the sides are remained warmed up with thermal springs which are known as ‘Kunds’ of Goddess Shakti.
A visit to Yamunotri temple is a full day tour from Uttarakhand’s main towns including Rishikesh, Haridwar or Dehradun. The temple is accessible by 13 Kilometers trek from the town of Hanuman Chatti and six Kilometer wals from Janki Chatt during the months of May to June and September to November for the best spiritual expedition.
The holy river Ganga is known to be originated from Gangotri itself, through the prayer made by king Bhagirath. Gangotri lies at an altitude of 3,200 mts about the sea level in Uttarkashi district where thousands of devotees pay their visit to wash away their sins in the urge of salvation. The Ganges is believed to be the sacred source of purity and sanctity and so before visiting the temple, devotees take a holy dip in this mighty river.
The shrine of Gangotri temple is 18th century old with an exquisite 20 ft structure made of white granite and people can enjoy the tour fully during the months of May to June and September to October.
Kedarnath Temple in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand state is elevated at an altitude of 3584 m above the sea level flanking around the river Mandakini. It is considered as the most pious abode of Lord Shiva as Mahadev, the ‘Anant’, one who can never be born or die.Lord Shiva embraces ‘bhasma’ over his body, application of ‘bhasma’ all over his body holds is of prime importance, which signifies his soulful connection with the dead. It is believed that one of the 12 forms of Lord Shiva in the shape of “Jyotirlin-gas” was dropped at the hills of Mandar where the main temple is located.
The famous Jyotirlinga shrines are must visit places where Lord Shiva appeared as a fiery column of light. This is the reason tremendous pilgrims visit this original place to seek blessings of Lord Shiva.
The temple was being constructed by Adi Shankaracharya and was privileged by the name of King Kedar, the ruler of Satya Yuga. Due to heavy snowfall during winters, the temple is open only between the ends of April to Kartik Purnima. During winters, the idols from the Shri Kedarnath Dham are brought to Ukhimath and worshipped there for six month.
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A perfect example of devotion for humanity and mankind, the Badrinath Temple is elevated at an altitude of 3415 meters in the Garhwal Hills on the bank of Alaknanada River. One of the famous shrines of the Char Dham Yatra of Uttarakhand, it is the sacred place devoted to Lord Vishnu. Legend says Lord Vishnu meditated at this place for thousand incessant years under the Badri tree and so the name is given as Badrinath.
The idol is made of the Shaligram statue in the meditative pose and is the ideal site for the Vaishnavites. It is being believed that the temple was established by Adi Shankaracharaya in the 9th century. From Haridwar, Rishikesh and Kotdwar, the devotees can easily reach to Shri Badrinath Dham Temple.
Best Time for the Uttarakhand Char Dham Yatra
Unlike the original Char Dhams that can be visited throughout the year, the Char Dhams of Uttarakhand are open only at a certain period of the year. Perched at the altitude of over 10,000 feet above the sea level, all the four sites receive heavy snowfall during the winter season, making them inaccessible to the devotees.
Usually the Chota Char Dham tour opens in the month of May after the snow clears at the foothills of the Himalayas in late April. The season lasts till October before the winter season sets in. Pilgrims begin the Char Dham tour as soon as the circuit is declared open in the first week of May. May to mid of June is the best time to plan your trip, as monsoon looms over the sky from the latter part of June. Monsoon often runs havoc, washes away the roads and causes landslides, making the access to Char Dham more difficult. Fortunately, rainy season is short-lived in this region and it usually bids goodbye within a period of one and half months.
The later part of September is characterized by clear sky and pleasant weather. So if you are unable to plan your Uttarakhand Char Dham trip in the early season, then it is better to opt for the closing period.
How difficult is the Chota Char Dham Yatra
Varying climate, poor road conditions, and frequent landslides make this pilgrimage both strenuous and difficult. The temperatures may fall to as low as 1° C at night in Kedarnath and go as high as 40° C after a few hours. So, you will have to carry thick woolens for the extreme cold temperatures as well as light fabrics for the hotter places.
Note: At some of the highest points, the poor oxygen concentration may cause breathing problems.
But regardless of all the difficulties and hardships of the arduous pilgrimage, millions of pilgrims flock in and take up the Char Dham Yatra annually. So, if you have faith in the gods & goddesses and wish to offer prayers to them in their known abodes, it is time to head for a Char Dham Yatra.
Important Tips & Things To Carry On Your Chota Char Dham Yatra
- Do carry a first aid box with pain killer tablets, antibiotic medicines, cough/cold remedy, antiseptic cream, hand sanitizer, cotton rolls and bandages.
- Carrying a torch light is important, as electric supply in these areas are often cut off due to power cuts or faults.
- Always keep your mobile phones, camera batteries and other electrical instruments fully charged as you never know when and where you can get them charged again.
- Mountain sickness can be experienced due to the high altitude. So if possible, spend a couple of days acclimatizing with the elevation at either Rishikesh, Haridwar or Dehradun.
- If you have asthmatic issues, then carry your medicines all the times and if possible, a small oxygen cylinder as well.
- Keep some dry fruits, biscuits, glucose, chocolates and drinking water with yourself.
- Carry enough cash. ATMs are rare and even if you manage to find one, there is no guarantee that it would be in working condition.
- Alcohol and nonvegetarian food items are strictly prohibited at all the four dhams. Don’t hurt local sentiments by carrying any controversial things.
- If you are traveling in your own vehicle, make sure to service it properly before embarking on the journey. Always carry all relevant documents and permits.
- Carry woolens and warm clothing as the temperature can be pretty cold even during the summer time.