Char Dham Tour Uttarakhand
Yamunotri is where the second most holy of river of India, the River Yamuna, takes birth. Situated in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, Yamunotri Dham is the first stop in the pilgrimage. It is believed that bathing in its water cleanses all sins and protects from untimely and painful death. The shrine of Yamunotri is believed to be built in 1839 by the king of Tehri, Naresh Sudarshan Shah. Besides the Yamuna Devi (goddess), the idol of Ganga Devi too is housed in the revered temple. There are many hot water springs near the temple; Surya Kund is the most important among them. Devotees boil rice and potatoes in the kund and accept it as a Prasad of the devi.
Yamuna Goddess is believed to be Sun's daughter and twin sister of Yama (the god of death). It is said that sage Asit Muni lived here and bathed in both Ganga and Yamuna. In his old age, when he was unable to go to Gangotri, a stream of Ganga started to flow across the steam of Yamuna.
Gangotri Dham is dedicated to Goddess Ganga, who is said to have descended on earth to absolve the sins of human kind. The river originates at Gaumukh from the Gangotri glacier which is some 18 km from the town of Gangotri. Situated in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, the original temple of Gangotri was built by by Amar Singh Thapa, a Gurkha general, in the early 19th century.
King Sagar undertook an Ashwamedha Yagna and sent his 60,000 sons along with the horse. The horse was lost; tracing the horse to the Sage Kapila's ashram, the 60,000 sons stormed the ashram and disturbed sage who was in deep meditation. Enraged Kapila opened his fiery eyes that turned all 60,000 sons into ashes. Later, on Kapila's advice, Anshuman (Sagar's grandson) started praying to Goddess Ganga, requesting her to come down to earth to cleanse the ashes of his relatives and grant salvation to them. Anshuman failed in his aim; it was his grandson Bhagirath whose rigorous meditation made Ganga to come down to earth. Lord Shiva tied Ganga and distributed its water in a number of streams to save the earth from its mighty force.
Situated in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand, Kedarnath is the most remote pilgrimage spot in the yatra. It is believed that originally the temple of Kedarnath was built by Pandavas. And Adi Shankaracharya got the present structure constructed in the 8th century adjacent to the old temple site. The grey stone structure is an architectural marvel because of its imposing design and its ability to survive for so many centuries in such a harsh terrain.
Pandavas were searching for Lord Shiva to absolve themselves from their sins committed at the battlefield of Mahabharata. Lord Shiva was in no mood to forgive them so easily, so he converted himself into a bull and went to Garhwal side of Uttarakhand. On being found by the Pandavas, he dived into the ground. Different parts of the Lord came up at different parts - hump at Kedarnath, arms at Tunganath, navel at Madhya-Maheshwar, face at Rudranath and hair emerged at Kalpeshwar. Taken together, these five sites are known as Panch-kedar. Pandavas got temples made at each of the five places.
Badrinath is considered one of the most holy places in Hindu religion. One of the 108 Divya Desams, Badrinath temple is part of both Char Dham and Chota Char Dham. Adi Shankaracharya found the idol of Lord Badri in Alaknanda River and put it up in a cave near the Tapt Kund. In 16th century, a Garhwal King got the temple erected, which has been renovated many times as a result of natural calamities. Sandwiched between Nar and Narayan peaks, the beauty of Badrinath Dham is further enhanced with the glorious background of Neelkanth peak.
As per one of the legends, the indulgent lifestyle of Lord Vishnu was criticised by a sage, after which Vishnu went to meditate as an act of penance, over here. Goddess Laxmi (his wife) became a berry tree to shade him from the sun and other harsh elements of nature. Another divine tale states that Badrinath used to be the realm of Shiva. Vishnu tricked Shiva into leaving the site and established himself instead.
The Chardham yatra in Uttarakhand has even displaced the major Char Dham yatra comprising of Badrinath, Rameshwaram, Puri and Dwarka in terms of popularity with millions flocking to these pilgrimage sites. The terrain is challenging. Apart from a sense of religious fulfillment, one also gets satisfaction in being able to complete such a tough pilgrimage. Before you set output together all information and one set comprises of knowing the route that takes you across scenic mountainous regions of Uttarakhand, Land of Gods. It is traditional Hindu practice that the circumambulation follows a clockwise pattern. Therefore, the Chardham yatra commences with Yamunotri being the first stop followed by Gangotri, Kedarnath and, finally, Badrinath. This is how the pilgrimage is undertaken on the commonly followed route map. More details below.
Concise Sketch for the Road Travel to Chardham
These are rough estimates. Be prepared to any eventuality that may cause delays like traffic jams on the narrow mountainous roads.
The route starts from Haridwar and goes on to Barkot, Yamunotri, Uttarkashi, Gangotri, Guptkashi, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Rishikesh and back to Rishikesh or Haridwar and from there to other destinations.
Yamunotri Route Map
The pilgrimage to Yamunotri is relatively easy but gives you a glimpse of how tough it can get as you proceed. Yamunotri is located in Garhwal alongside the River Yamuna and has a shrine dedicated to Yamuna Mata. Said to have been built by Maharaja Pratap Shah of Tehri Garhwal, it is the starting point to the Yatra. You can commence your journey by road from Delhi or arrive at Haridwar and then proceed onwards to Rishikesh and so on. This is the route map of Yamunotri:
Along the way you can stop at Saptarishi Kund, Surya Kund and Divya Shila, each of which has religious significance.
Gangotri Route Map
Gangotri has a shrine dedicated to Mata Ganga Devi on the banks of the Bhagirathi at a height of 3200 metres. Built by General Amar Singh Thapa in the 18th century, this is where Ganga is said to have descended to Earth in the matted locks of Lord Shiva.
After Yamunotri Darshan you travel to Uttarkashi and proceed to Bhatwari and then onwards to Gangnani and Harsil, the jumping off point for the Gangotri Yatra, a distance of 98 kilometres in all. Fortunately, you do not have to trek a long distance since Gangotri temple is only a short distance from Harsil.
Kedarnath Route Map
The next stop is Kedarnath, the toughest Yatra in that it involves an extended trek of 14 kms. From Harsil you return to Uttarkashi and go on to Tehri and travel the 100 km odd distance to Guptkashi. The next stop is Sonprayag, about 14 km by road. Phata is on the way, a starting point for the helicopter Yatra to Kedarnath. However, you proceed by road to Gaurikund, about 5 km away. From here it is a trek of 14 km to the shrine of Kedarnath.
There is an alternative route from Srinagar to Rudraprayag to Tilwara to Agastyamuni to Kund to Guptkashi to Phata to Rampur to Sonprayag and Gauri Kund, a total distance of 100 km but the road may not be accessible so the currently route is from Gaurikund to Rambara Bridge to Linchauli to Kedarnath, a distance of 16 km.
Kedarnath is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga in India, the abode of Lord Shiva at a height of 3586 metres in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. The shrine is located alongside the Mandakini River, which gushes forth in a noisy torrent while the surroundings are absolutely peaceful and calm. The present temple was built by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century but the place is as old as time, finding mention in the Mahabharata.
Badrinath Route Map
Badrinath is home to Lord Vishnu. Badrinath is the name by which he is known here since he meditated for millenia under the Badri tree, which, actually, was the form assumed by Mata Laxmi to protect him from the elements. Located in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand at an altitude of 3133 metres on the banks of the torrential Alaknanda, Badrinath is of special importance since it is also one of the major char Dham pilgrimage destinations.
From Kedarnath you drive down to Guptkashi and take the road via Chopta to Chamoli and proceed to Joshimath from where you travel onwards to Govindghat and then Badrinath, a short route. Some people, if they arrive from Rishikesh, take the straight road via Devprayag to Rudraprayag and then go on to Karnaprayag, Chamoli and then Joshimath, the winter home of Badrinath.
The distance from Rudraprayag to Joshimath is 110 Km and from Joshimath to Badrinath you travel a distance of 42 kms. After Darshan atBadrinath temple you can drive straight back to Haridwar.
Important places in the vicinity are Mana Village, Tapt Kund, Neelkanth Peak, Narad Kund, Ganesh Cave and Vyas Cave among others.
While you are in the region, take time off to enjoy brief stays at lovely resorts like Chamoli and enjoy the ropeway at Auli from where you get a breathtaking view of the valley below.