Char Dham Yatra
When a pilgrim heads towards Uttarakhand in the western Himalayas, they choose to go on a chardham tour, one of the most spiritually significant journeys in the country. A chardham yatra
is a religious journey to four Hindu pilgrimage destinations - Yamunotri (3,322 m), Gangotri(3,048 m), Kedarnath (3,581 m) and Badrinath (3,124 m). Steeped in mythology and legends, these destinations give the traveller an opportunity to take a living lesson on Hinduism, its rituals, customs and age-old traditions. Devotees undertake this tedious journey into the Garhwal Himalayas not only to purge their sins but also to free themselves from the cycle of birth and death. According to Hindu traditions, the yatra to chardham should begin from left to right in this order : Yamunotri > Gangotri > Kedarnath > Badrinath.
The whole Uttarakhand region is blessed with bountiful supplies of nature. So, as you make this religious journey, you also get to experience a pristine flora and fauna in the Himalayan region. In addition, the region gives you an opportunity to enjoy a host of adventure sports including river rafting, trekking, mountaineering, fishing, wildlife safari and mountain biking among others.
The Chardham Yatra in Uttarakhand generally begins in the month of May and ends till October every year. September is the best month both for the yatra as well as for soaking up the natural abundance in the region.
Char Dham - History
Not too much is known about the history of chardham destinations. At first, the word 'chardham' was used to refer to the India's most popular pilgrimage circuit - Puri, Rameshwaram, Dwarka and Badrinath. These important pilgrimage destinations were grouped together into a religious circuit by the 8th centruy reformer and philospher Shankaracharya (Adi Sankara). Since Badrinath was the last visited in the circuit and the most significant, it began to be called 'chota chardham'. Initially, the chota chardham was regularly visited and wandered by ascetics and religious professionals. After the 1962 Indo-China war, the chota chardham became more accessible with drastic improvement in the infrastructure for Himalayan expansionism.
Soon, as infrastructural facilities developed and more and more devotees started to arrive here, the prefix 'chota' was lost somewhere under the ever increasing popularity of the Hindu religious culture. Compelled by sites that reflect the tradions and culture of the Hindu faith so powerfully, devotees and pilgrims from all over the country and the world keep flocking to the chardham destinations regularly, even during the monsoon months. Truly, religion is like oxygen to Indians.
Char Dham Parikrama
A parikrama refers to clockwise circumambulation of a pilgrimage destination. As per the Hindu traditions, the chardham destinations (Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath) are to be circumambulated clockwise, known as
chardham parikrama. Devotees and pilgrims are required to complete their pilgrimage to chardham starting from left and ending towards the right. So, if one is performing a parikrama, they have to begin their chardham yatra from Yamunotri, which is the westernmost shrine in the circuit. The pilgrimage shrine of Yamunotri is located at an altitude of 3,165 m above sea level and is dedicated to Hindu goddess Yamuna.
The next destination as per the
chardham parikrama is the shrine of Gangotri, at a height of 3,042 m above sea level and dedicated to goddess Ganga. The shrine occupies a place on the right banks of river Bhagirathi. The chardham parikrama takes you further to Kedarnath, located at an elevation of 3,581 m above sea level.
The final destination of the
chardham parikrama is the sacred shrine of Badrinath. Located at a height of 3,133 m above sea level on the right banks of the river Alaknanda, Badrinath is the most significant among the all four
chardham destinations in Uttarakhand. The Badrinath temple in Garhwal stands in dedication to Lord Vishnu. The temple at Badrinath has been divided into Garbha Griha (the inner sanctum), Darshan Mandap (the site to perform rituals) and Sdap (where
devotees and pilgrims