The Char Dham Yatra is considered he most sacred pilgrimage for Hindus, due to the pious nature of the Chardham sites and the historical relevance associated with them. People of all ages seek to go on the Chardham Yatra in pursuit of god and nbature's exotic beauty, and it is considered extremely dutiful of children to take their parents to Chardham. You can either visit Chardham to cleanse your soul with divine blessings or express gatitude and love to your parents by taking them on this Yatra.
The four sites of the Chardham are namely Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. All four of these are nestled in the mighty Himalayas in the state of Uttarakhand, which is popularly also known as Dev Bhoomi or the Land of God. Even though each of these 4 sites has a holy significance of its own, a person going on the Char Dham Yatra will seek to visit all 4 of the sites and in the said order to complete the Yatra. This Yatra is basically a form of sacred pilgrimage termed as the Teerthayatra or Teerth Yatra.
The ultimate aim of living the Hindu life is the pursuit of Moksha, which means eternal salvation from the cycle of death and rebirth. One of the ways to achieve Moksha for your soul is said to be the Char Dham Yatra. People travel to the Chardham sites to forget everything but god and thereby leave their problems and their sins at the feet of god. The ancient origins of the Chardham sites facilitates this, as it allows people to leave the modern world they live in behind when they go on this ultimate quest to reach god.
Because of the highly sacred nature of the Chardham sites, many Hindus fervently seek to complete the Char Dham Yatra at least once in a lifetime, to acquire the blessings from each of these four sites. These blessings are said to be unattainable anywhere else. Such a uniquely auspicious significance of these sites has always motivated thousands and thousands of people every year to complete the Yatra, garnering a total of 4 lac visitors to the 4 Chardham sites per year.
All 4 of the Chardham sites have origins before recorded history. Because of this, the mythology and legends related to the stories of these four places deal with ancient figures and gods from Hindu scriptures. Therefore, going on the Chardham Yatra serves as a means to directly reach god.
Even the origin of the Chardham Yatra pilgrimage dates back centuries ago. The complete circuit of the Yatra was established in essence by the ancient Hindu philosopher Sri Adi Shankaracharya, who coined the term and therefore got the concept of the Char Dham Yatra going. It is believed the Shankara lived somewhere around 500 BCE to 500 ADE. However, sages and sadhus had ventured to these remote Chardham sites way before that in pursuit of the sacred nature associated with these places.
It was only as recent as in the 1960s that road connections began to be established to the Chardham sites. This gradually allowed common people to travel to these sites as well, and not just the select few who were capable of braving the harsh mountainous weathers and terrain. As of now, almost anyone is well-equipped to travel to all 4 Chardham sites thanks to the facilities provided by the government. Despite these ample aids, the rigorousness of the trek to Chardham sites stands for a test of willpower for reaching god, and the fruit of divine blessings at the end of that test.
The Chardham Yatra circuit can be fully traversed in 10-11 days if your trip is well planned and scheduled in advance. All of the four sites are open only for about six months of the year from May to November approximately. The rest of the year they are closed off for tourists as they are draped with snow and the pilgrimage journey is on halt.
Since Yamunotri is the first stop in the Chardham Yatra, the complete Yatra officially begins when the Yamunotri Dham opens. The tentative date for the opening of pilgrimage to Yamunotri Dham in the upcoming season is around 15-20 May, 2021.
During the monsoon season, i.e., in July and August, the roads to Chardham are often frequented by landslides. Although rarely ever dangerous to travelers, they often cause traffic jams resulting in delays in reaching the Char Dham sites. Moreover, the opening month and closing month of the Char Dham Yatra are hosts to a rush of eager pilgrims. Hence, you should plan your trip when your personal schedule falls in line with these dates.
Most people prefer to go on the Chardham Yatra in May or June when the weather is least harsh temperature-wise and there is almost zero chance of rainfall or landslides caused by that. However, this makes this period the rush season for Chardham pilgrims. If you can stand colder temperatures, you might want to make this Char Dham Yatra around the months of October and November.
The Chardham Yatra is supposed to be completed in the order of Yamunotri first, followed by Gangotri, then Kedarnath and finally Badrinath, This specific route follows a west to east (clockwise) order for the Yatra to be considered auspicious in the true sense.
Haridwar and Dehradun are very well-connected to the rest of India by train and by road. The road connectivity is being re-enforced at the Chardham sites to eliminate delays caused by landslides and this project is due to be completed by the year 2022. In addition, you can reach the Jolly Grant Airport of Dehradun from any of the major cities in India like Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, etc., by air.
The total distance from New Delhi to Yamunotri is 419 km. The ideal starting location for the Yatra is considered to be Dehradun or Haridwar. It takes only about 4 hours to reach Haridwar by train from Delhi, while Dehradun is well-connected to the major cities in India not only by railway and roadway but by air as well through its Jolly Grant Airport, which is located at a distance of 28 km from Dehradun city, and 210 km from Yamunotri.
From Dehradun, the next ideal location to travel through is Barkot, which is at a distance of 136 km from Dehradun. It takes about 4 hours to reach Barkot by road from Dehradun. The distance of Yamunotri from Barkot is 40 km.
Bus services operate from Dehradun not only till Barkot but up to Hanuman Chatti which is further ahead of Barkot. From there traveler jeeps operate over the 5 km distance till Phool Chatti. From there you need to walk 3 km on foot to reach Janki Chatti, then trek 8 km to finally reach Yamunotri. This foot complete hike includes breathtaking views of the scenic mountains and refreshing sights of numerous waterfalls.
The perennial Yamunotri glacier is the origin spot of the holy river Yamuna. Yamunotri shrine is located at an altitude of 3,291 m from mean sea level, and showcases a black-colored idol of the goddess of the sacred river Yamuna, who is the sister of god of death Yama. This temple is located in the vast backdrop of Bandarpunch.
A popular spot to visit in Yamunotri before reaching the actual shrine is Surya Kund, which is a refreshing hot water spring with the waters of the Yamuna river. In case you wish to bathe in less warm and tepid waters then you can visit Gauri Kund. Another spot nearby is Divya Shila, which is a stone pillar nearby and is regarded as the “slab of divine light”. The oldest Shani Dev temple in India is also situated not far from here.
You can reach the village of Uttarkashi from Yamunotri, which is at a distance of 82 km and takes about 4 hrs to reach. Over here you can take a rest and stay at cheap yet comfortable lodging like Divine Palace, Hotel Jahanvi, etc. While here, you can visit Vishwanath Temple and Prakateshwar caves, which are formed of limestone and dedicated to Lord Shiva.
The next morning is the ideal time to drive to Gangotri, which houses the Gangotri glacier, where the most sacred river for Hindus the river Ganga originates. It was here that Lord Shiva is said to have opened the locks of his long hair and the river Ganga was released trickling down those locks of hair into the world of humans. You can even take a dip in the river Ganga over here.
While in Gangotri, you can also visit Bhagirath Shila where King Bhagirath prayed to Lord Shiva, and Pandav Gufa, where the Pandavas are said to have rested and meditated as well.
You will be traveling by road by means of a drive back to Uttarkashi and then to Guptkashi after your Gangotri visit. The total drive from Uttarkashi to Guptkashi stretches over 223 km and takes about 10 hrs.
Once in Guptkashi, you can stay at one of the several hotels like Hotel Shivam and Camp Nirvana. You will find yourself amidst the exhilarating beauty of nature, the smell of flowers and the fantastic view of Chaukhamba peak. Guptkashi is regarded as the Abode of Gods and is regarded as one of the most scenic and beautiful places you will ever see around.
The trek to Kedarnath is considered the most rigorous part of the Char Dhar Yatra. It is also the lengthiest trekking route of the Char Dham Yatra, as the last motorable road is only up to Gaurikund from where you will have to complete a 16 km trek. The trek is lined by exotic and panoramic views of the snow-clad mountains. It is advisable to start the trek in the morning so you can reach the shrine by late afternoon.
Kedarnath is also at the highest altitude amongst all of the Chardham sites, located at a height of 3,553 m from mean sea level. Once you reach the Kedarnath shrine, you will find the high-reaching snow-covered Himalayas cusping the shrine in their mighty hold. You will actually feel an exhilarating sense in being in such close proximity to these mountains, besides the beauty and spirituality that dwell at Kedarnath. It is said that Kedarnath is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas, where Lord Shiva took the form of a bull and hid underneath the ground.
At Kedarnath, you can stay overnight at one of the cheap government lodging facilities (shared as well as private) or set up your own camp behind the Kedarnath shrine amidst the snow, confers and mountains of Kedarnath. However, if you wish to camp you will have to obtain prior permission from the authorities for your scheduled arrival dates.
You will drive to Rudraprayag directly from Gaurikund. This drive takes about 4-5 hours, as it covers a distance of 80 km. Rudraprayag is located at the confluence of River Mandakini (Ganga) and River Alaknanda, and is also a common base for those traveling to Kedarnath and Badrinath. Here you can stay at one of the several hotels like Hotel Suri, Hotel Sital, Hotel Shangrila and Hotel Monal which offer good facilities.
The journey from Rudraprayag to Badrinath will take around 3 hours on average, as it stretches over a edistance of approximately 70 km. Badrinath is not only the most accessible but also the most developed of the four Char Dham sites. The shrine which is also known as Badrinarayan Temple actually looks royal and regal as it is plated in gold color. It is ornamented with decorative engravings and items of offerings to the shrine.
The shrine is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, with the blessings of Lord Shiva. It is said that Vishnu was so engrossed in meditation that he was completely amiss of the cold weather around him, so Goddess Lakshmi manifested in the form of a Jujube tree to protect him from the extreme weather. Impressed by her efforts, Lord Vishnu named the place after her as Badrikashram.
If you get to the temple early in the morning you will be able to participate in the prayers and complete your Darshan without any hassles or rush. You will also get to take a holy dip in Tapt Kund. Other spots of interest nearby are Narad Kund, Bhim Pul, Vyas Gufa, all of which have tales rooted deep in the Hindu mythology and texts, and are thus of religious significance. Mana Village which is famously regarded as the last Indian Village on the Indo-Tibetan border is situated at a short distance of 4 km from Badrinath at an altitude of 3,219 m from mean sea level. It is definitely an enthralling place to visit thanks to the pristine beauty of the location, and you can even take walks on the trails around the village and discover the several beautiful spots scattered all around the location.
You can get back to Radrayaprayag from Badrinath by the same bus route following your Badrinath Dham visit. From Rudraprayag you can board another bus to get back to Dehradun. This journey stretches over 180 km and takes about 5 hrs. You wil be immersed in the satisying sense of revelry and devotion while on this ride having completed your Chadham visit fully.
By going on the Char Dham Yatra you will find yourself amidst the most exhilaratingly scenic mountains of the Himalaya range, the natural beauty of the terrain and vegetation and the purifying sense of atmosphere. This will actually quite literally feel like you are leaving behind your problems and your sins at the Chardham sites and coming back refreshed and purified. The Chardham Yatra experience is sure to transform your life once you get back, and the beauty and the richness of experience will leave you wishing to revisit the place, in order to re-enliven the collage of memories of this pursuit of Moksha that you will hold in you not just for the rest of your life but for eternity