Chardham Yatra, as the name suggests, is the sacred journey to the four most important religious destinations in India. The Chardham in Uttarakhand which is also known as the Chhota Chardham is considered as the most sacred religious place which is a must visit destination for the Hinduism follower to get rid of their sins and pave the path to the ultimate goal of the human life - the Moksha, redemption from the cycle of birth. The journey to these religious destinations in Uttarakhand is considered as the must-visit sacred place on earth at least once in a life for every Hindu follower. The Chardham in Uttarakhand is known as the combination of four sacred places which are Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath.
The actual Char Dham in India refers to the bigger circuit of Chardham which includes the four most holy pilgrimage of Hinduism in India, which are Badrinath, Dwarka, Rameswaram, and Puri. These holy places are located at the four corners of the India - Badrinath in North, Dwarka in West, Puri in East and Rameswaram in South corner of the Indian landscape. In order to differentiate the Chardham destination in Uttarakhand, it is called as the Chhota Char Dham. Nestled in the lap of the Himalayan mountain range in the state of Uttarakhand in India, the sacred shrines of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath are the most visited pilgrimage circuits in India.
These four pilgrim sites are the known as the epicenter of religious activity in the northern part of the India. All the four shrines are devoted to the particular deity of the Hindu religion and are broadly worshiped for thousands of years of the Hindu civilization. Since ages, Hinduism followers from various parts of the country as well as the world used to visit these shrines for the refinement of their thoughts and deeds. It is the firm belief in Hindu culture that visiting these sacred shrines at least once before departing from this earth will wash away all their sins and pave the way for Moksha and they will get rid of the cycle of birth and death. Below are the details of these four shrines which are collectively known as the Chardham and journey to these shrines are known as Chardham Darshan or Chardham Yatra.
Yamunotri Dham: Considered as the first destination in the Chardham Yatra circuit, the Yamunotri is known for being the source of the sacred Yamuna River. In Hinduism, the Yamuna River is considered as a goddess Yamuna and thus shrine at the Yamunotri is the seat of the Goddess Yamuna. Located at an altitude of 10,804 ft, the shrine of Yamunotri is nestled in the mountain range of Garhwal Himalaya at the distance of around 30 km north of Uttarkashi in the Uttarakhand state of India. Being the one among the four pilgrim site of Chardham, the Yamunotri is visited by thousands of devotees every year.
The temple dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna is situated at the Yamunotri and considered as the first to be visited in the Chardham circuit. The main places to visit at the Yamunotri are the temple of Goddess Yamuna and the sacred springs of hot water at the Janki Chatti located just 7 km from the Yamunotri. The temple of Goddess Yamuna, which is situated on the left bank of the River Yamuna was said to be built by the King of the Tehri Garhwal, Maharaja Pratap Shah. The River Yamuna, considered as the divine mother in the Hindu religion, has been nurturing the civilization of India for thousands of years and thus the people of Hindu religion respect and worship the River.
The shrine of Yamunotri opens for the devotees on the auspicious day of the Akshaya Tritiya every year and devotees visit at the shrine for Darshan and to offer Puja to the Goddess Yamuna. The shrine remains open till the auspicious day of Diwali and gets close on that day. The opening day generally falls on any day during the last week of April to the first week of May and the closing day falls during the mid of October to the first week of November every year. During the winter season, the area of Yamunotri gets covered with the white sheet of snow and becomes the no man's land till the shrine opens next year in the summer season.
Gangotri Dham: Highly revered and worshiped as a goddess, the River Ganga is considered as the mother river who washes away all your sins and purifies your soul. The Gangotri is considered as the source place of the divine river Ganga and visited by thousands of devotees every year. Located amidst the great Himalayan range of India at the height of 10,200 ft, the Gangotri is a profoundly honored pilgrim of the Hindu culture. This pilgrim city is situated on the bank of river Bhagirathi in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. The river Bhagirathi is later known as the river Ganga when the river Alaknanda meets it in Devprayag. It is believed that bathing in the sacred river of the Ganga will liberate you from the all the sins of previous or present birth and let you attain the Moksha means free from the birth and death cycle.
According to the religious legend, the river Ganga is the river of heaven and it had been brought to the earth by the Bhagirathi. After many years of the prayer of Bhagirathi, the goddess Ganga agreed to descend on the earth for the welfare of the human beings. But, the flow of the mighty river was so powerful that it may destroy the earth so Lord Shiva was prayed for the help. Then Lord Shiva donned the powerful flow of the River Ganga in his locks while she was descending to earth from the heaven, and then he released the comparatively cool, calm and collected flow of River Ganga at the landscape of Gangotri. That's why the landscape of Gangotri known as the source of Ganga and worshiped as the sacred seat of the goddess Ganga.
The religious place of Gangotri is one among the four pilgrims in the Uttarakhand Chardham circuit and the Gangotri temple, which is dedicated to the goddess Ganga, is the must-visit place for the Hindu devotees to get the 'Mukti' from life cycle. It is said that the original temple of Gangotri was constructed by Amar Singh Thapa, a Nepalese General. The actual origin place of the holy river Ganga is Gaumukh located in the Gangotri glacier at a trekking distance of 19 km from the Gangotri. At Gangotri, there are few places of religious value to visit such as Bhagirath Shila (a holy rock where Bhagirath worshipped Lord Shiva), Pandava Gufa (a place where Pandavas have meditated and rested while going to Kailash mountain), Gaumukh (the glacier which is the source of the Ganga river). The trekking is the only option to visit the Gaumukh or Pandav Gufa.
Kedarnath Dham: Most prominent among the twelve jyotirlingas, the Kedarnath Dham is the highly revered Hindu pilgrim destination for the devotees of Lord Shiva. Located in the Rudraprayag district of the Uttarakhand state at the height of 11,755 ft from the sea level, the Kedarnath Dham is one of the Char Dham pilgrim destinations in the Uttarakhand visited by thousands and thousands of devotees every year. The Kedarnath is situated at the remotest location than other three Chardham destinations at the bank of the river Mandakini just near the source of the river and surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan mountain range. The nearest populated place near the Kedarnath is Phata and Gaurikund. Gaurikund is the endpoint of the state road and thereafter, one has to track to Kedarnath Dham.
The Kedarnath Dham is one of the most revered abodes of Lord Shiva and the Kedarnath temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is known to be built by the Pandavas when they worshiped the Lord here en route to the Mount Kailash. Over the time, the temple destructed by nature which later revived by the sage Adi Shankaracharya and since then it is visited by devotees from various corner of the country. The white snow clad peaks such as Kedarnath peak at the height of 22,769 ft, Kedar Dome at the height of 22,411 ft and other peaks are majestically standing behind the shrine of the Kedarnath making the place highly spiritual and tranquil.
Except in the winter season from November to April, the Kedarnath Dham remains open all round the year for the devotees and religious traveler. During the winter season, the Kedarnath Dham is closed for any visit as no one stays there due to heavy snowfall and the idol of the Lord Kedarnath is relocated to the Ukhimath near Guptakashi for the six months and worshiped there. All the people who are staying or working at the Kedarnath for their livelihood shift their base to nearby villages. In order to reach the Kedarnath temple, you have to trek around 18 km from Gaurikund. The Pony and Palki facilities are also available here to reach the Kedarnath. The helicopter service is also available at Phata to reach Kedarnath by the 10 min flight journey.
Badrinath Dham: Surrounded by the pristine snow clad mountain range of the Garhwal Himalaya, the Badrinath Dham is located on the bank of the Alaknanda River in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. The Badrinath Dham is the most revered pilgrim destination as it is the common one Dham among both the Char Dham circuits - Bigger Chardham circuit of India and Chhota Chardham circuit of Uttarakhand. Located at the height of 10,170 ft from the sea level, the town of Badrinath is nestled between the two mountain ranges named Nar and Narayan around 9 km east of the famous Nilkantha peak and around 62 km northwest of the Nanda Devi peak. The Badrinath temple becomes highly revered and famous when Shri Adi Shankara revived the temple and established the Math in Joshimath near the Badrinath in the 7th century.
According to the legend in the Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu descended on the earth and sat in the meditation at this place for the welfare of the mankind as the region is getting corrupted by the meat-eating monks and immoral people at the Thuling, a locality in the Himalayan mountain region. While in meditation, Lord Vishnu was unaware of the highly cold weather so Goddess Lakshmi turned herself into the Badri tree and protected him from the bad weather. Lord Vishnu pleased with the devotion and care of Lakshmi, his consort, named the place as Badrika Ashram. According to the legend, the area of Badrinath used to be a Badri forest which was destroyed over the time and not found today. Lord Vishnu worshipped as the Badrinath in the temple dedicated to him having his idol meditating in the Padmasana posture.
The Badrinath temple, also known as Badrinarayan temple, is the most revered shrine of Lord Vishnu and also it is one among the 108 Divya Desams which are the temples dedicated to Vishnu. The temple remains open only for the six months every year and remains closed for the rest six months. The opening time varies between last week of April to the first week of May and the closing time is around the first week of November. During the winter season, from November to April, the Badrinath Dham is closed for the devotees due to the bad weather condition of the Himalayan mountain region.
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