A Detailed Guide To Uttarakhand’s Chardham Yatra: Everything you need to know
One of India’s most famous pilgrimage journeys, the Uttarakhand Char Dham Yatra, is a sacred tour for many Hindu devotees. People set out to build their spiritual connection every year with this journey to the Chardham. It is said that over 30 lakh people set out for this Yatra every year, making it the biggest attraction for travelers. The Char Dham yatra consists of four dhams, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri, and Gangotri, situated in Uttarakhand state. People who undertake this pilgrimage try to find salvation or Moksha. Every Hindu aims to visit the Char Dham at least once in life.
Chota & Bada Chardham
People who enjoy scenic routes and such adventures also look forward to this Yatra. The journey to the above-mentioned holy shrine is called Chota Char Dham. In contrast, visiting Badrinath, Puri, Dwarka and Rameshwaram are called the Bada Char Dham as they are located in the four directions of the country. To receive God’s eternal blessing, one must go on this pilgrimage at least once. Let us learn about the Char Dham Yatra in detail.
Shri Adi Shankaracharya, a Hindu philosopher, was the one who founded the Char Dham some 1200 years ago. The Char Dham he mentions is actually of the Bada Char Dham, where the holy shrines are located in four directions of our country. A shorter version called Chota Char Dham was created as well. It is an ancient belief that the people who make this journey will be welcomed into Heaven.
Significance of Char Dham Yatra
Hindu people believe that each of them shall visit the Char Dham at least once in their lifetime as these holy places hold a lot of religious significance. Upon the completion of the journey, people are granted Moksha, or salvation, as their sins are washed away. By visiting the Char Dham, the person attains eternal peace of mind. As a result, millions of Hindu devotees visit these auspicious abodes to pay homage to their God. To attain mindfulness, purity of heart and peace, people go to the Char Dhams.
Importance of Char Dham
The Yatra starts from Haridwar, Uttarakhand, the first point where the pilgrims start the journey. The first destination is Yamunotri, which then moves further to Gangotri. This is followed by visiting Kedarnath and ending the pilgrimage at Badrinath. One may wonder why this particular order is followed. The answer to that is that this sequence holds an important significance.
The Char Dham Yatra begins with Yamunotri, situated at the origin of River Yamuna. According to Hindu mythology, Yamuna is the sister of Yamraj, who made a pact with her. He promised her that anyone who takes a dip in the river on the event of Bhai Dooj shall never have to face the gates of Yamlok and will attain salvation. It is situated amidst the Garhwal Himalayas at an altitude of 3293 meters, surrounded by scenic glaciers and lofty peaks. One needs a lot of courage and stamina to start this journey.
The next leg of this iconic pilgrimage is visiting the Gangotri Dham situated 3200 meters above sea level at Gomukh, the alleged source of River Ganga. A Gorkha Commander in the 18th century built the Gangotri Temple. The Pujaris of the Semwal family are responsible for performing religious rituals.
In Hindu mythology, it is said that Goddess Ganga transformed herself into a river to absolve the sins of King Bhagirath’s ancestors. He used to meditate there as penance. Hence, River Ganga is one of the holiest rivers in India, known for its purity. People take a dip in her waters to wash off their sins.
Located in the state of Uttarakhand amongst the scenic Gharwal region, Kedarnath is one of northern India’s most essential and pious pilgrim centres. Snowy peaks and alpine forests surround it. It is also considered to be one of Lord Shiva’s jyotirlingas. Ancient texts mention that Lord Shiva had turned himself into a bull to evade the Pandavas, and when they noticed him, he vanished into the earth, leaving behind the hump on the ground.
Badrinath is located between the Nar and Narayan mountains in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. It is the final destination of the Char Dham Yatra, also a part of the Bada Char Dham. The temple of Shri Badrinath Ji is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the protector. Its scenic beauty consisting of sacred ponds, mountain ranges, and lofty peaks, is unparalleled. The rivers Rishi Ganga and Alaknanda contribute to its significance. Badrinath is considered important as it is believed to be where Adi Shankaracharya attained salvation.
The right time to Visit
The Yatra commences in April or May, on the auspicious event of Akshay Tritiya every year and ends before the onset of winter, during October/November on the event of Bhai Dooj. The journey is said to take 11-12 days, depending on where one wishes to travel. Most people visit during May and June, whereas September has little rush. People who wish to embark on this journey must consider all factors before starting the pilgrimage. You can start the journey from Delhi, Rishikesh, Haridwar, or Dehradun at your convenience.
Things to Remember
The journey from Yamunotri to Badrinath consists of varying climate conditions, poorly constructed roads, and landslides, making it difficult. The temperatures are said to fall as low as 1° C at night, which can go up to 40° C in the daytime. One must carry thick woollen clothes to tackle the extreme cold conditions and light clothes to beat the scorching sun. People with difficulty breathing are advised to be careful as people face difficulty breathing at higher altitudes. Also, work on your physical fitness at least three months before the trip.
Regardless of the endless difficulties in the Char Dham Yatra, millions of devotees take up this challenge. Faith and devotion in the heart is the driving factor to finish this pilgrimage. You, too, can be free from worldly worries and absolve yourself of sins by visiting the most pious shrines in India. Visiting the Char Dhams is worth it as you will experience a world where you can feel the presence of God strongly, making it the most memorable event of your life.
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