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| Monday, May 20 2024

Char Dham

Char Dham - set of four pilgrimage sites


Gangotri, Yamunotri Kedarnath and Badrinath




Nestled among the serene heights of the great Himalayas are four pilgrim-destinations namely Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath, collectively known as Char Dham. These pilgrimage centers draw the maximum numbers of pilgrims each year, thus becoming the most important hubs of religious travel in the whole of Northern India. Traditionally, the pilgrimage begins from the West and ends in the East. Thus, the Char Dham Yatra commences from Yamunotri, then proceeding to Gangotri and finally to Kedarnath and Badrinath. Each of these four sites is devoted to a specific deity. Yamunotri is dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna who goes along the pilgrims to the high altitudes of the picturesque Rawai Valley. It is believed that a bath in the waters of the Yamuna protects the devotee from untimely death. Gangotri is dedicated to the Goddess Ganga. The shrine overlooks the River Bhagirathi, another name of River Ganga - the name having been derived from the myth of the ancient King Bhagirath's penance that succeeded in bringing her upon the earth from the heaven. Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is also a part of the Panch Kedar. It is the northernmost Jyotirlinga and is close to the source of the holy River Mandakini. Badrinath is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is situated on the bank of the River Alaknanda. According to legend, Lord Vishnu meditated here while his consort Lakshmi took the form of a berry (Badri) tree to offer him shade.


Place to Visit

Gangotri

One of the char dhams (the most sacred pilgrimage circuits in northern India with four holy destinations), Gangotri, in Uttarkashi, is a small town with the temple of Goddess Ganga at its heart. A 12-hour drive from Rishikesh, Gangotri is nestled among lofty Garhwal Himalayan peaks, glaciers and dense forests, and is one of highest pilgrimages in India (approx 3,415 m). Other than its divine atmosphere, Gangotri offers stunning vistas all around. According to Hindu legends, the most sacred of all rivers, Ganges (or Ganga), descended from heaven to earth at Gangotri, when Lord Shiva released the mighty river from his locks. The actual origin of the river is at Gaumukh in the Gangotri glacier.

Yamunotri

Yamunotri is a part of Char Dham (along with Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath), the four most revered Hindu pilgrimages in the Himalayas. The small mountain hamlet, with the Yamunotri Temple at its centre, attracts thousands of devotees every year and is the commencing point of the Char Dham Yatra pilgrimage (May to October). Lodged in a narrow gorge, close to the source of the Yamuna, the Yamunotri Temple is dedicated to Yamuna, the second-most sacred river after the Ganges. A dip in River Yamuna is said to protect one from untimely death.

Kedarnath

One of the most revered temple destinations of India, Kedarnath town is nestled in the mighty Garhwal Himalayas. The town, built around the revered Kedarnath temple, is located at an altitude of 3,580 m, near Chorabari glacier, which is the source of the Mandakini river. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the ancient temple has exquisite architecture and is built of extremely large but evenly shaped grey stone slabs. A conical rock formation inside the temple is worshipped as Lord Shiva in his "Sadashiva" form. The Kedarnath temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a part of Char Dham pilgrimage circuit, and is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva in India. Behind the Kedarnath temple, stand the Kedarnath peak, Kedar Dome and other Himalayan peaks.

Badrinath

The Badrinath Temple also known as the Badrinarayan Temple, located in Uttarakhand's Badrinath town, is one of the four Char Dhams (four important pilgrimages) in the state. There are four pilgrim-destinations namely Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath, collectively known as Char Dham. These pilgrimage centres draw large number of pilgrims each year, thus becoming the most important hubs of religious travel in the whole of Northern India. Badrinath is located at an elevation of around 3,100 m. Located in the Garhwal Himalayas, on the banks of the Alaknanda river, this sacred town lies between Nar and Narayana mountain ranges. The temple is believed to have been established by sage Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century. With Lord Vishnu as its presiding deity, the temple remains open for six months in a year. In winter it becomes inaccessible due to heavy snowfall.

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