The Chardham Yatra of Uttarakhand - Char Dham Tour Travel Guide

The Char Dham of Uttarakhand are also known as Chota Char Dham and they are known as the most important Hindu religious tourist destinations in India. The 4 sacred Dham or Badrinath, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Gangotri are revered and visited by thousands of pilgrims and tourists. Till about 50 years back…travelling to the Char Dham meant a stressful journey through rolling hills and icy boulders. Sadhus were the predominant visitors in those times. After the Indo, Chinese war, India exerted itself in building better roads and boosting conveyance in those areas. Right now, any person with a clean health record can undertake Char Dham Yatra without much difficulty.
Chardham of uttarakhand


Char Dham History

Yamunotri History: Yamunotri denotes the origin of Yamuna which is the 2nd largest river of India. The town is situated in Uttarkashi district and it’s believed to be the first pilgrimage spot. A dip in the Yamuna at this point protects against a painful death and distress. Raja Tehri Naresh Sudarshan had built original Yamunotri shrine in 1839. There are numerous hot water springs around the area; the most famous of which is Surya Kund where devotees boil potatoes and rice and consume it as Prasad.

Yamuna is the daughter of the Sun and sister of Yama (God of death). Asit Muni used to live at the point of Yamunotri and bathing in Ganges and Yamuna was a part of his daily ritual. When he was old and infirm and no longer able to visit Gangotri, the river Ganga streamed to the waters of Yamuna to serve him.

Gangotri: Gangotri is dedicated to Goddess Ganga who was summoned to the earth to eradicate mortal sin. The river flows from the Gangotri glacier that is 18 km away from the main town of Gangotri. Original temple of Gangotri was built by Amar Singh Thapa who was a Gurkha general.

Legend says that the monarch Sagar decided to conduct Ashvamedha Yagna and set along his 60,000 sons along with the horse. The horse strayed to the ashram of Kapil Muni and disturbed the sage who was engaged in meditation. The furious sage turned all 60,000 sons into ashes. However, Anshuman (grandson of Sagar) prayed to Ganga to come down and clean the ashes of his father and Uncle. Later his grandson Bhagirathi was successful in his meditation and Ganga came down with such force that lord Shiva had to tie Ganges in his tresses to save the earth.

Kedarnath: Kedarnath is the most remote point of the Char Dham and the most ancient as it was believed to be built by Pandavas and completed by Shankaracharya. The Kedarnath braved many natural calamities but is still standing intact.
Kedarnath Temple
Kedarnath Dham
After the fierce war of Kurukshetra, the Pandavas began searching for Shiva to absolve their sins. However, Shiva continued to evade them and transformed into a bull before journeying to Garhwali. Still Pandavas discovered him, after which he dived into the ground and came up in separate parts and his hump appeared at Kedarnath. Pandavas built a temple at this site.

Badrinath: The only temple that is both a part of Char Dham and Chota Char Dham; Badrinath is the 108th holy dream of Vishnu. The temple was constructed by Adi Shankaracharya after he found idol of Badri (Lord Vishnu) in the river Alakananda. The Badrinath temple is flanked by the Neelkantha peak and is sandwiched between Nar and Narayana peaks. Legends say that after being scolded by a sage, Lord Vishnu went to perform penance and Goddess Lakshmi transformed herself into a Badri tree to offer him shade.


Chardham Location


Gangotri
Gangotri Temple
Gangotri Temple
Gangotri is a small town and municipality in the district of Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand. The town Gangotri stands on the banks of the Bhagirathi River and is situated on the Greater Himalaya range at an altitude of 3100 meters. Legends say that Ganga descended here after being freed from Shiva’s locks. The origin of the Ganges is the Gomukh glacier that is a 19-km trek from Gangotri. About 1.5 km from Gangotri temple lies the famous Pandava Gufa which is major attraction.

Yamunotri: Yamunotri is the source of the river Yamuna and it is situated about 30 km north to Uttarkashi (head of Uttarkashi district) in the Garhwal Himalayas. The Yamunotri shrine is the western most shrine in India in the Garhwal mountains. The shrine is perched on top of the Bandar Punch Mountain. The main attractions are the Yamunotri shrine, holy hot water springs (7 km away) and the Champasar glacier (source of Yamuna) that is 1 km up. The famous attraction here is Surya Kund and Divya Shila.

Kedarnath: This is a small town that falls under the Nagar Panchayat of Rudraprayag district. The elevation of Kedarnath is 3580 meters above sea level near the huge Chorabari glacier which is believed to be the head of the river Mandakini. Nearest attraction is Gaurikund which is situated about 16 km away. The Kedarnath town is flanked by Kedar Dome (22412 feet) and Kedarnath Peak (22760 feet).

Badrinath:
Badrinath Temple
Badrinath Dham
Badrinath is a religious town and a Nagar Panchayat in the district of Chamoli in Uttarakhand. Badrinath has an elevation of 3100 meters and is situated on the banks of Alakananda on the Garhwal Himalayan range. The town nestles between the twin peaks of Nar and Narayana and it is located 9 km to the east of the famous Neelkanth peak and 62 km northwest of peak of Nanda Devi. From Gaurikund to Kedarnath the distance is abbot 235 km.


Importance and Significance of Char Dham

Out of the vast ranges of pilgrimages available in India, the Char Dham Yatra in Uttarakhand has its own importance. Devout Hindus say that a visit to Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath flood the mind and heart with spiritual bliss and paves the way for spiritual salvation.  Per scriptures every Hindu must undertake this journey at least once in his/ her lifetime. Adi Shankaracharya got freedom from the cycles of re-incarnation in Badrinath Dham. The highlight of the Badrinath trip is to witness the mystic Alakananda River which had produced the image of Sri Badrinath.

The door to the eternal journey is Gangotri. The major attractions here are Yamuna temple and the sacred thermal springs of Janki Chattri. Gangotri signifies the purification of the soul. The major attraction at Gangotri is the beautiful Ganga Pooja that I organised in the shrine on the banks of the Ganges and the opportunity to take a bath in its sacred waters.  Kedarnath is the highest salvation point for mankind. A visit to all the Char Dham is recommended for achieving sanctity of mind and heart.

Best Time to Visit Char Dham

The Char Dham are situated at extremely high elevations and they are subject to harsh climate and heavy snow fall. It is important to avoid the winter months when planning for a visit to the Char Dhams of Uttarakhand. The best time to visit Char Dham is between the months of May to October apart from the rainy months of July and August. The Garhwal Himalayan range becomes treacherous in the monsoons and there are chances of landslides. For reasons of safety the gates of temples remain closed from October to April and the idols are carried to other pilgrim points

Char Dham Route Map from Delhi

If you plan to drive up to the Char Dham from Delhi then you can follow this convenient route map.

  • Delhi- Haridwar: 211 km (6 hours
  • Haridwar to Barkot: 221 km (7 hours)
  • Barkot to Yamunotri: 36 km (by driving and 7 km by trekking
  • Barkot to Uttarkashi: 100 km (4.5 hours)
  • Uttarkashi to Gangotri: 100 km (4.5 hours)
  • Uttarkashi to Rudraprayag: 182 km km (8 hour)
  • Rudraprayag to Kedarnath: 74 km (driving) and 21 km trekking (new convenient route)
  • Rudraprayag to Badrinath: 160 km (6 to 7 hours)
  • Badrinath to Rishikesh: 297 k (11 hours)
  • Rishikesh to Delhi (230 km) 6.5 hours

How to Reach Char Dham 


Badrinath: Nearest airport is the Jolly Grant airport that is in Dehradun (5-hour drive) from Badrinath. Jolly Grant enjoys good connectivity to Mumbai, Delhi, Amritsar etc. 2nd nearest airport is New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi airport that is at 541 km from Badrinath.

Nearest railway station is Rishikesh which is well connected to many major cities of Uttarakhand and other parts of north India, it is located on the Delhi Dehradun rail line and many trains go from there to Haridwar, Rudraprayag and Rishikesh
Helicopters are available from sitapur, Dehradun, gauchar and Agastamuni

Kedarnath: Nearest airport is the Jolly Grant airport that is in Dehradun (7-hour drive) from kedarnath. Jolly Grant enjoys good connectivity to Mumbai, Delhi, Amritsar etc. 2nd nearest airport is New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi airport that is connected by two daily flights to Dehradun.

Nearest railway station is Rishikesh (252 km), Dehradun (256 km) which is well connected to many major cities of Uttarakhand and other parts of north India, it is located on the Delhi Dehradun rail line and many trains go from there to Haridwar, Rudraprayag. Haridwar station enjoy good connectivity to Ahmedabad, Howrah, Mumbai and Amritsar.

Helicopters are available from sitapur, Dehradun, gauchar and Agastamuni

Gangotri: Nearest airport is the Jolly Grant airport that is in Dehradun (26 km) from Gangotri. Jolly Grant enjoys good connectivity to Mumbai, Delhi, Amritsar etc. from the airport you can take a private taxi or a local bus to reach the temple.

Nearest railway station is Rishikesh which is 250 km away from Gangotri. This station is well connected to many major cities of Uttarakhand and other parts of north India and many trains go from there to Haridwar, Rudraprayag and Rishikesh. You need to take a cab or luxury bus to reach Gangotri

Helicopters are available from sitapur, Dehradun, gauchar and Agastamuni

Yamunotri: 
yamunotri temple
yamunotri Temple
Nearest airport is the Jolly Grant airport that is in Dehradun (4-hour drive) from Yamunotri. Jolly Grant enjoys good connectivity to Mumbai, Delhi, Amritsar etc. 2nd nearest airport is New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi airport that is at 200 km from Yamunotri. You must take a shared taxi/ private taxi/ luxury bus frm Airport. You can also hire a vehicle like Tavera/ scorpio/ innova/ qualis.

Nearest railway station is Rishikesh which is well connected to many major cities of Uttarakhand and other parts of north India, it is located on the Delhi Dehradun rail line and many trains go from there to Haridwar, Rudraprayag and Rishikesh. From the station you have to hire a sturdy car or take a luxury bus.

Helicopters are available from sitapur, Dehradun, gauchar and Agastamuni


Travel Tips for Char Dham

  • There are some things that you need to keep in mind while visiting Char Dham as all four places (Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, Yamunotri) are present at extremely high altitudes. The journey to these beautiful pilgrimage destinations will purify your spirit and flood your mind with joy but will test your physical stamina.
  • The Yatra season begins around May and lasts till October. It is very important to choose the right season for the Yatra. Most people choose September as the travel month as there are chances of rainfall between June to August. May is very crowded. Try aiming for September as the natural beauty is also enhanced during this time.
  • You should hire an experienced tour operator who will facilitate your journey. The Char Dham pilgrimage is not meant to be a DIY (Do it yourself) venture as the nature of the tour is arduous. Your accommodation, conveyance options and other conveniences can be properly arranged by the tour operator.
  • You need to check online reviews as well as get information from friends/ relatives who have attended the Char Dham tour. See whether the operator in question provides the best of services in the fields of flooding, accommodation, luggage carrying and arranging for preferred modes of conveyance. This is a pilgrimage tour and you need to stay tension free.
  • Get a proper medical examination done for this difficult Yatra. You need to be checked by a doctor 3 months before the Yatra and see if you suffer from any health issue like cardiac problems, diabetes, high blood pressure or any other issue. There is a strict health regulation policy for this Yatra.
  • Make sure that you carry all the required medicines for fever, tummy upset, common pain, pain relief balms and skin ointments. Probably your preferred medicine brand will not be available at these remote locations.
  • The climate is always going to be cold at the Char Dham regardless of whichever month you choose for your travel. Make sure that you pack some heavy woollen clothing with you as you will need many layers of protection to shield yourself against possible frostbite.
  • A good option for you would be to leave your heavy luggage at Haridwar and only carry necessary items with you when you visit the Char Dham. Check for a safe and secure place at Haridwar where you can deposit your luggage.
  • It’s an intelligent move to carry some packets of chocolates, dry fruits and energy bars with you that can give your body instant energy shots during the difficult treks that you must endure.
  • In case you have not trekked before, practice going on long walks from some weeks before the Char Dham journey so that your muscles are re-energised and prepared for the difficult walking sessions at high altitude.
  • The Char Dham pilgrimage trip is best undertaken in a group and not solo as the circumstances may grow challenging needing you to seek the help of others.
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1 comments:

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