Char Dham Yatra 2018

Chota Char Dham – Uttarakhand

Chota Char Dham or छोटा चार धाम is a term which is used for the pilgrimage of the four sacred temple or sites of Hindus in Uttarakhand named Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath & Badrinath respectively.  In Hindu religion, ‘Char Dham Yatra’ is a sacred trip of four most revered temples of India which includes Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram but the circuit of ‘Chota Char Dham Yatra’ is different from main char dham yatra and is situated only in Uttarakhand.

These four temples are situated in four different directions of Uttarakhand and are dedicated to different god and goddesses. Because of their extreme importance in Hindu religion, devotees from around the world come to Uttarakhand to visit these temples. The Gangotri and Yamunotri Dham are also the origin of most revered, holy and sacred rivers of India i.e Ganga & Yamuna. The Kedarnath Dham is dedicated to the Lord Shiva, which is also the part of 12 Jyotrilinga of Shiva and the last Dham Badrinath is dedicated to Lord Vishnu of Shiva.

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Opening and Closing Months of Char Dham Uttarakhand

These all four pilgrimage sites are situated in Garhwal Himalayas which receives high snow fall in every winter and accessing them is not easy to a normal traveler in these seasons. There is a local tradition of closing the temples for six months of winter in these regions because of inaccessibility. During this period, the deities of temples are shifted to there respective winter homes in Uttarakhand. The opening month of Char Dham temples of Uttarkahand is April on the occasion of Akshay Tritya. You can complete this Char Dham Circuit with our team. Below is the brief details of every Dham or shrine.

1. Yamunotri

Location: Garhwal Himalayas
District: Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand
Opens on: Akshaya Tritiya( April last or May starting)
Closes on: Yama Dwitiya (2nd day after Diwali,  Oct last or November)
Winter Seat: Kharsali village of Uttarkashi
Nearest Railway station: Dehradun
Nearest Airport: Jolly Grant, Dehradun
Trekking Distance: 6 km from Janki Chatti
Distance from New Delhi: 419 km

Char Dham Uttarakhand

Photo Credit: Vimal

A brief intro about Yamunotri

Yamunotri is the first dham or shrine in the circuit of Chota Char Dham, Uttarakhand. Yamunotri or यमुनोत्री धाम  is dedicated to Yamuna Devi temple and also known as the origin of Yamuna river, one of the sacred river of Hindus. But in actual the source of Yamuna river is Champasar Glacier, which is situated on the foothills of Kalind Mountain. The main temple of goddess Yamuna is situated at the height of 3,291 meters from sea level and can be approachable by covering a short trek of 6 km from Jankichatti.

Temple Architecture and Idols

Temple is situated on the left bank of Yamuna river which was constructed by ‘Maharaja Pratap Shah’, the king of Tehri dynasty of Uttarakhand.  The Idol placed in the temple is made up of black marble which looks astonishing.

Mythological background

The Yamunotri Temple is built to honor Goddess Yamuna who is the daughter of Sun and twin sister of Yama (the God of Death); Yamuna is better known as Yami (lady of life) according to the Vedas. It is said that having a bath in the godly waters of Yamuna scrubs away the sins of man and shields him from an untimely and grievous death. It is believed in the religious context that life on Earth is in continuation because of the support and nourishment of Goddess Yamuna. The devotees also believe that by praying to Goddess Yamuna they are also seeking the blessings of Surya Dev her father (the Sun God), Saranyu her mother (the goddess of consciousness) and Yama her brother (the god of death).

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Legend says that when Lord Hanuman set Lanka on fire, he doused his tails in the chilly waters of Yamuna River and at Banderpunch, and that is why the peak is called Bander (monkey) Punch (tail). Another legend states that an ancient sage Asit Muni had Yamunotri as his shelter. He used to bath both in the waters of Yamuna and Ganga, but due to his old age travelling to Gangotri wasn’t possible for him. Realizing this, a stream of Ganga started flowing beside that of Yamuna.

2. Gangotri

Location: Garhwal Himalayas
District: Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand
Opens on: Akshaya Tritiya( April last or May starting)
Closes on: Yama Dwitiya (2nd day after Diwali,  Oct last or November)
Winter Seat: Mukhba village of Uttarkashi
Nearest Railway station: Dehradun
Nearest Airport: Jolly Grant, Dehradun
Trekking Distance:  200-300 meters only
Distance from New Delhi: 487 km

Char Dham Uttarakhand

Photo Credit: Manish Negi

A brief intro about Gangotri

Gangotri comes on the 2nd number on the series of Chota Char Dham, like Yamunotri, this sacred pilgrimage site of Hindus is also situated in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand at an astonishing height of 3,100 meters. This small helmet is located on the bank of divine Bhagirathi river which later called as Ganga after the confluence with river Alaknanda at Deoprayag.  The Ganga temple at Gangotri or गंगोत्री धाम was first made by a Nepalese king Amar Singh Thapa. The original source of Ganga river is Gaumukh at Gangotri glacier.

Temple Architecture and Idols

The awe-inspiring temple of Ganga is situated on the right bank of Bhagirathi River. Temple is made up of white marble facing towards river Ganga. The idol looks similar to other Hindu goddesses.

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Mythological background

The legend says that when King Sagar after executing the demons on Earth wanted to proclaim his supremacy and expand his empire performed an Ashwamedha Yagya. During the Yagya the horse of the King was let loose to roam around and the 60,000 sons of King Sagar were supposed to look after it. Indra, the supreme ruler of the gods was terrified as he could be deprived of his celestial throne if the Yagya would’ve succeeded and therefore he took the horse and tied it to the ashram of Kapil Muni, who was rapt in deep meditation.

When sons of King Sagar were roving in search of the horse and found it at Kapil Muni’s ashram, they condemned the sage and accused him of theft; angered by this disruption in his meditation the sage burnt the 60,000 sons of King Sagar to ashes and showed his wrath. He also cursed their souls which would be deprived of attaining Moksha until their ashes would come in contact with the holy waters of River Ganga which flowed only in Heavens, as she was considered to be the ‘Daughter of Heavens.’

Bhagiratha, the grandson of King Sagar was the one who wanted to cleanse the souls of his ancestors so that they could attain Moksha or salvation, and therefore he performed a penance of 1000 years to please Goddess Ganga to take a step on Earth, impressed by this Ganga descended on Earth through the locks of Lord Shiva, who wrapped her in his locks to save the Earth from the destructible force with which the Ganga would have flowed on the Earth.

The Ganga temple at Mukhba village of Uttarkashi is also the winter seat of Goddess Ganga.

The Ganga temple at Mukhba village of Uttarkashi is also the winter seat of Goddess Ganga.

Another legend states that Ganga was born out of Lord Bhrama’s kamandalu (water vessel). This has two versions of the birth of Ganga. One states that Bhrama washed Lord Vishnu’s feet after he got the Earth free from the wrath of a demon named Bali in his incarnation of Vaman and collected the water in his kamandalu.

The other legend states that Ganga descended on Earth in human form and married King Shantanu – one of the ancestors of the Pandavas of the Mahabharat, yielded seven children, who were thrown back in the river by her in an unexplained manner-the seventh child Bheeshma was saved though because of the intervention of King Shantanu. She then abandoned Bheeshma, who had a vital part to play in the Mahabharata.

3. Kedarnath

Location: Garhwal Himalayas
District: Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand
Opens on: May first or 2nd week
Closes on: Yama Dwitiya (2nd day after Diwali,  Oct last or November)
Winter Seat: Ukhimath town of Rudraprayag
Nearest Railway station: Rishikesh
Nearest Airport: Jolly Grant, Dehradun
Trekking Distance:  18 km.
Distance from New Delhi: 477 km

Char Dham Uttarakhand

Photo Credit: Rohit Bansala

A brief intro about Kedarnath

Kedarnath is the 3rd temple in the circuit of Char Dham. Not only this, Kedarnath or केदारनाथ धाम is also one of the 12 divine Jyotirlinga of Hindu god Shiva. Reaching to this temple is not so easy and one have to complete the trek about 18 km from Gaurikund. However, Helicopter facilities are also available but they are not budget and Eco friendly as Himalaya is an Eco-sensitive zone. It is situated at an elevation of 3,553 meters with snow covered Himalayan peaks in the backdrop. Weather remains extremely cold even in May and June in Kedarnath. The reformation of infrastructure at Kedarnath shirne after the 2013 flood is almost completed and accommodation and basic facilities are available.

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Temple Architecture and Idols

Like most of the Shiva temples of Uttarakhand, this temple also looks same. The magnificent structure of this temple is totally made up of building blocks of giant stones. In the ‘Garbh Girah’ a natural buffalo back shape Shivalinga is attached to the ground. In the main hall of temple, stone idols of ‘Pandava’ family are carved on the walls and a ‘Nandi’ in the middle. Temple is located on the left bank of Mandakini river.

Mythological background

Legend says that when Nar and Narayana-the two incarnations of Lord Vishnu performed a severe act of austerity in the Badrikashraya of Bharat Khand, they worshipped a Shivalingam which emerged out of the Earth beautifully. This in turn pleased Lord Shiva who then appeared before Nar and Narayana and asked them to seek for a gift. Nar and Narayana then requested Lord Shiva to permanently reside as a Jyotitrilingam at Kedarnath, so that the people who come to worship Lord Shiva here won’t be enslaved to their miseries in life anymore.

The history of Kedarnath Temple also has its significance in the times of the Mahabharata when the Pandav brothers came to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva to free themselves from the sin of killing their cousins the Kauravas. Knowing this Lord Shiva disguised himself as a humped buffalo and hid himself at Kashi and the place was then known as Guptkashi. The Pandavas eventually managed to discover Lord Shiva who was hiding beneath the ground with his hump popping out; Lord Shiva then impressed with the determination of the Pandavas appeared before them. Another legend of the Kedar temple states that Goddess Parvati worshipped Kedareshwar to unite with Shiva as Ardhanareeswarar.

4. Badrinath

Location: Garhwal Himalayas
District: Chamoli, Uttarakhand
Opens on: May first or 2nd week
Closes on: Mid of November
Winter Seat: Joshimath town of Chamoli
Nearest Railway station: Rishikesh
Nearest Airport: Jolly Grant, Dehradun
Trekking Distance:  300 meters only
Distance from New Delhi: 542 km

Char Dham Uttarakhand

Photo credit: Sirsendu Gayen

A brief intro about Badrinath

Badrinath is the only shrine of Uttarakhand which is a part of both ‘Chota Char Dham’ and Char Dham – India. Badrinath temple or बद्रीनाथ धाम is the last and 4th temple in the circuit of this pilgrimage circuit because of which it is also called as ‘Moksha Dham’ (A place of Salvation). Badrinath is well connected by motor-able road. If you are planning to visit this shrine then do carry warm clothes because it is located on a surprising height of 3,300 meter. Badrinath temple is dedicated to the supreme god of Hindus i.e Vishnu.

Temple Architecture and Idols

Temple is designed in traditional garhwali architecture and situated on the right bank of divine Alaknanda river in the shade of magnificent Neelkanth peak. The black stone image of Lord Badrinarayan made of Saligram stone as discovered by Shankaracharya in the Alaknanda river is a sight to behold inside Badrinath temple.

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Mythological background

The name of Badrinath Temple originated from the local word Badri which means a type of wild berry. The legend has it that when Lord Vishnu sat on a penance in the Himalayas, his companion Goddess Laxmi took the form of a berry tree and covered Lord Vishnu from the heat of the scorching sun. Badrinath is a home to many saints, pilgrims and sages who meditate here in the hunt of enlightenment along with being an abode of Lord Vishnu.

In the context of Skanda Purana Badrinath is described in an exquisite manner and is stated to be an exclusive one as it says that “There are several sacred shrines in heaven, on Earth and in hell; but there is no shrine like Badrinath.” The Skanda Purana also states that the Adiguru Shnakaracharya from Narad Kund rediscovered the idol of Lord Vishnu and was re-enshrined in the 8th century A.D.

Adiguru Shankaracharya helped to revive the lost essence of the Hinduism and united the nation as a whole. Badrinath also known as Badri Vishal is a land that is enclosed with many other Hindu scriptures and holy tales, be it the mythological sagas of the Pandavas along with Draupadi going on to the very last pilgrimage of the Pandavas and ascending the peaks of Swargarohini, a slope near Badrinath the ‘Ascent to Heaven’ or the visit by Lord Krishna and other saints are some amongst the numerous tales associated with Badrinath.

In the times bygone, sages like Kapila Muni, Gautam, Kashyap have performed penance here, The salvation attained by Bhakta Narada and the affection of Lord Krishna for this place, the penances of Nara and Narayana (the 5th avatar of Lord Vishnu) as stated by the Vamana Purana and the lessons that were attained by the scholars of medieval age like Adi Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Sri Madhavacharya, Sri Nityananda along with some quiet contemplation, have made Badrinath a significant Dham in the sacred Chota Char Dham and the Char Dham Yatra.

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