The Char Dham Yatra is one of the most sacred pilgrimages that are undertaken by Hindus. The Char Dhams or the four abodes/seats’ refer to the four shrines of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. All of them are located in Uttarakhand, a state in Northern India and are visited in this order.
While the four shrines are sacrosanct for the Hindus, many people of different faiths also participate in the Chardham Yatra. It is a pilgrimage steeped in spirituality and is believed to bestow great tranquility, calmness and peace of mind to the ones who complete it.
The 4 Dhams
The 4 Dham Yatra is undertaken amongst the grandeur of the Great Himalayas. All 4 shrines are situated amidst the pristine beauty of this mountain range. This splendid natural beauty coupled with the spiritual energy of this pilgrimage a unique experience unlike any other.
The holy town of Haridwar or the neighboring Rishikesh are the base camps for this Yatra. The Yatra starts off with first visiting Yamunotri which is the source of the River Yamuna and the abode of the goddess Yamuna.
It is a complete day’s journey from either of the two towns. The actual temple requires a six kilometer trek from the town of Hanuman Chatti. One can easily employ horses or palanquins for this journey if one so wishes.
The next shrine of the Char Dham Yatra is Gangotri. This is the source of the venerated River Ganga and the abode of the Goddess after which the river has been named – Ganga. It is a two days journey from Yamunotri or alternatively a one day journey from the base towns.
The actual source of the river is Gaumukh, which requires a long and arduous 17 kilometer trek. The temple at this shrine is majestically located at the banks of the great river. This temple conducts a grand aarti (prayer) that one must attend.
The third destination in the Chardham Yatrais that of Shiva in Kedarnath. It is higher up in the Himalayas and takes a two day journey to get there. The temple which houses the sacred lingam can be reached after a 13 kilometer trek. Again one can hire palanquins or horses to facilitate the journey.
The 4 Dham Yatra is concluded by visiting the shrine of Vishnu in Badrinath. It requires 2 days to reach it and the main temple is easily accessible by road from Kedarnath or the base towns. It is considered the most important of all the shrines.
The Yatra sees more than half a million pilgrims every year and the months before the summer monsoon are the most crowded. Later on however, the route becomes treacherous and the shrines are sealed off in winter. Thus one must plan one’s trip in the early summer months and well in advance so as to beat the rush and get one’s bookings done in time.