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. These four pilgrimage sites are located in the different districts of Uttarakhand.
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.
Yamunotri Dham is a preferred pilgrimage destination for Hindus as it boasts Yamunotri- the source of the sacred Yamuna River. For this holy river there is a mythological story among Hindus that the Yamuna was the sister of Yamraj and therefore on Bhai Dooj, Yamraj promised Yamuna that whosoever will take a dip in the Yamuna River will not be taken to Yamlok and he would attain salvation. Yamunotri Dham, situated at the altitude of 3164 mts from sea level, sanctifies millions of visitors visiting this holy pilgrimage. The shrine is the seat of Goddess Yamuna and the source of the Yamuna River. It is the westernmost pilgrimage in Garhwal. The major points of attraction here are the temple devoted to the Goddess Yamuna and the Janki Chatti’s sacred thermal springs. The environment here is purified with the cold tides of Yamuna. The sides remain warmed up with the thermal springs popular as Kunds of Hindu Goddess ‘Shakti’.
The major highlight of Gangotri Dham is Gomukh, which is the origin point of the Holy River Ganges. It is believed that after King Bhagirath meditated for a long time, river Ganga came to earth. The stone on which King Bhagirath did his meditation is located near Ganga Temple in Gangotri. The Gangotri Dham is located at an altitude of 3200 meters in the middle of imposing surroundings along the bank of river Bhagirathi. Here, a special ‘puja’ of Ganga River is organized both inside the shrine as well as on the bank of the river. A beautiful temple dedicated to Goddess Ganga is located in this pious area. It is believed that the holy river Ganga is the source of sanctity and purity. Therefore, before visiting the temple, the pilgrims take a dip in this great river. Shri Kedarnath Dham is a prominent pilgrimage for Hindus as it is one of the twelve jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva, the God of destruction. Kedarnath, Kalpeshwar, Tungnath, Madhmaheshwar and Rudranath shrines are together known as Panch Kedar. Adi Shankaracharya restored the temple. Kedarnath Temple is named after the ruler of Satyuga ‘Kedar’. The shrine is open from April end till Kartic Poornima.
The Significance of Shri Badrinath Dham can be understood from the fact that it is considered as the most sacred among the four shrines. Located at an elevation of 3,133 meters from the sea level, the Dham is on the left bank of the Alaknanda River. The Dham is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the protector and preserver of the divine Hindu Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva). These sacred temples of Lord Vishnu are also known as Vishal Badri. This region has also witnessed Saint Adi Shankaracharya getting freedom from the process of reincarnation.
One of the holiest religious circuits for Hindus, Char Dham Yatra in Uttarakhand, is flocked by pilgrims every year. Nevertheless, a devotee should keep in mind the best time to visit these holy destinations, before embarking on the trip. The peak season or perfect time to go for this pilgrimage tour is during the months from May to October, except the monsoon season. The four holy sites perched in the Garhwal Himalayas, are prone to heavy snowfall. Consequently, all the routes leading to the Dhams are blocked. Furthermore, at the time of monsoon season, there is an excessive threat of landslides that can further disrupt the trip. The gates of the shrines are closed for this duration keeping the safety of pilgrims into the consideration. The idols of these temples are shifted to the pilgrim sites nearby.
It is a common misconception among the people that the Char Dham touris only for the old aged Hindus. This misapprehension vanishes when a pilgrim starts his or her tour. A visitor starts believing and experiencing that the devotees of all age groups equally enjoy the tour, which is not only full of spiritual values, but also a fascinating adventure!