It is revered as one of the most sacred pilgrimages in the world - four temples nestled in seclusion, among the mighty Himalayan peaks. Nothing spells devotion more than a visit to the Char Dhams. Ganga, Yamuna, Vishnu, and the mighty Shiva exist in their purest incarnations up there, and for a Hindu, it is the closest one can come to experiencing heavenly bliss.
What is Char Dham Yatra and why is it so important?
Char Dham, literally ‘the four abodes’, yatra refers to the journey up the mountains to four sacred temples in the North Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is also referred to as 'Chhota Char Dham' to differentiate it from the bigger circuit of Char Dham sites. The four temples that comprise Char Dham are Yamunotri Dham, Gangotri Dham, Badrinath Dham and Kedarnath Dham.
Yamunotri Dham, named after the Goddess Yamuna, is the first Dham en route the yatra. A bath in the holy waters of Yamuna river is said to cleanse one of all sins and protect from untimely death. Gangotri Dham, the second temple that falls on the Chota Char Dham circuit, is the birthplace of the holy river Ganga. Kedarnath, known as the land of Lord Shiva, has the highest located jyotirling. Situated on the banks of Mandakini River, the view of this temple against its snowy backdrop is resplendent. Badrinath, named after Lord Badri(Vishnu), is located along the banks of Alaknanda River. Also part of the bigger Char Dham circuit, it stands beautifully on Garhwal Hill, rearing its golden head and fluttering its red flags with Godly presence.
Char Dham yatra opens on the auspicious day of Akshay Tritiya of Chaitya month and remains open until Bhai Dooj. The complete yatra will take you 11 to 12 days. If time permits, there are a lot of other diversions such as Gaumukh, Tapovan, Along valley, Bhauravnath Temple, Vasuki Tal, Chopta, Auli, and Hemkund Sahib. You can choose to start your yatra from Delhi, Haridwar, Rishikesh, or Dehradun, according to your convenience. Delhi, being the capital, is connected to all major cities. It is also just a 4-hour train ride away from Haridwar.
Char Dham yatra begins with a visit to Yamunotri Dham after a 36 km drive from Barkot, followed by a 7 km trek. Barkot also connects to Uttarkashi which is just about 100 kms from the Gangotri Dham. Kedarnath can be driven to from Rudraprayag, which is about 180 kms from Uttarkashi, followed by a 21 km trek up the mountain. Rudraprayag is also just 160 kms away from Badrinath Dham, which is the final dham in your yatra.
From Badrinath, there are a number of routes that will lead you back to Delhi via Haridwar. If you are not able to accommodate all four dhams in your itinerary, Badrinath and Kedarnath Dhams are the recommended ones.
You may choose either GMVN (Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Ltd.) or private agencies. Leisure Hotels is a popular and reliable luxury Chhota Char Dham tour operator. We provide customized packages according to your budget. For accommodation, the best options are Char Dham camps in the form of Swiss
cottages which are located reasonably close to the shrines, and are well equipped with all the basic necessities. There are other deluxe and budget options including GMVN's tents.
So, how do you best prepare for your Char Dham Yatra?
There is no fixed age limit for Char Dham yatris but due to the strenous demands, the preferred age bracket is between 7 and 65 years. You will, however, require a medical certificate to validate your health condition. All Char Dham Camps are equipped with first aid boxes & oxygen cylinders, but carrying your own first-aid kit for the road is a good idea. Char Dham yatra consists of two treks - a 6 km one-way trek from Jankichatti to Yamunotri, and a 21 km one-way trek from Gaurikund to Kedarnath, so comfortable shoes with a good grip are a must! Ponies, Pithus, and Palkis are available for those not willing to or unable to trek.
The weather at Char Dham is mostly pleasant from April to June. Winters are cold but have a zero percent chance of rains and consequent landslides. The air gets thin and cold, and so, warm jackets, sweaters, gloves, and woollen socks are highly recommended. If you are travelling in rainy season, carry a raincoat as well.
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