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Chardham in India

The Holy Himalayas up in the misty heights of the majestic Garhwal Himalayas that adorn the magnificent state of Uttaranchal, awaits a rejuvenating spiritual experience for the devout.

Nestling in the lofty peaks are the four most holy pilgrimages of India -Yamunotri, Gangotri, Sri Kedarnathji and Sri Badrinathji, collectively referred to as the Char Dham ( or four pilgrimage centres) of Hinduism. For centuries, saints and pilgrims, in their search for the divine, have walked these mystical vales known in ancient Hindu scriptures as 'Kedarkhand'.

If the scriptures of HINDU RELIGION are to be believed, the holy centres of Gangotri, Yamunotri,Badrinath and Kedarnath - collectively called theChardham (meaning four sacred spots) - are the mostsacred of all pilgrimages. Undertaking a journey to these places will not just wash away one's sins butensure release from the cycle of birth and death.THE honour conferred on these places is not surprising.

For one, they are all in the icy Garhwal ranges and regarded as the most sacred of all Himalayan ranges. It is also said that heaven and earth converge in these holy spots, and to be born or die here is a boon only the very fortunate have. The Chardham must be visited from left to right -beginning with Yamunotri, going on to Gangotri, Kedarnath and culminating the journey at Badrinath.This route follows the Hindu tradition of parikrama orclockwise circumambulation.


The shrine of Yamunotri, situated at an elevation of about 3,235 m is a point of paramount religious importance for Hindus and an essential pilgrimage. Situated in the direction opposite to Gangotri, the road bifurcates from a place called Dharasu, somewhere between Rishikesh-Uttarkashi and goes on to Yamunotri. The shrine can also be visited via Mussoorie and Barkot.


The shrine of Gangotri is situated at an elevation of 3048 m amidst captivating surroundings. Gangotri is located at a distance of 99 km from Uttarkashi. The temple, constructed by the Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa, in the 18th century, is situated on the left bank of Bhagirathi. It is visited by lakhs of pilgrims every year. A number of ashrams are located on the other side, some of which provide accommodation facilities to the visitors.


Amidst the dramatic mountainscapes of the majestic Kedarnath range stands one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Kedar or Lord Shiva. Lying at an altitude of 3584 m on the head of river Mandakini, the shrine of Kedarnath is amongst the holiest pilgrimages for the Hindus. There are more than 200 shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva in the district itself, the most important one is Kedarnath.

According to legend, the Pandavas after having won over the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra war, felt guilty of having killed their own brothers and sought the blessings of Lord Shiva for redemption. He eluded them repeatedly and while fleeing took refuge at Kedarnath in the form of a bull. On being followed he dived into the ground, leaving his hump on the surface. The remaining portions of Lord Shiva appeared at four other places and are worshipped there as his manifestations. The arms appeared at Tungnath, the face at Rudranath, the belly at Madhmaheshwar and his locks (hair) with head at Kalpeshwar. Kedarnath and the four above mentioned shrines are treated as Panch Kedar.

An imposing sight, standing in the middle of a wide plateau surrounded by lofty snow covered peaks. The present temple, built in 8th century A.D. by Adi Shankaracharya, stands adjacent to the site of an earlier temple built by the Pandavas. The inner walls of the assembly hall are decorated with figures of various deities and scenes from mythology. Outside the temple door, a large statue of the Nandi Bull stands as guard. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the exquisitely architectured Kedarnath temple is considered to be more than 1000 years old. Built of extremely large, heavy and evenly cut gray slabs of stones, it evokes wonder as to how these heavy slabs had been handled in the earlier days. The temple has a "Garbha Griha" for worship and a Mandap, apt for assemblies of pilgrims and visitors. A conical rock formation inside the temple is worshipped as Lord Shiva in his Sadashiva form.


Guarded on either side by the two mountains Nar and Narayan, the Neelkanth Peak provides a splendid backdrop to Badrinath, one of the 'Four Dhams'. One of the most celebrated pilgrim spots in the country, it plays host to the famous Badrinath Temple. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu came to the area, called 'Badri Van', or the berry garden, to meditate after Narad rebuked the Lord for being immersed in worldly pleasures. The main deity is a meditating Lord Vishnu.

Facing the temple at the bank of Alaknanda River is a hot water spring known as "Tapt Kund", a bath in which is very refreshing to all travellers. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple of Shri Badrinathji, is 5 m high, built in the form of a cone with a small cupola of a gilt bull and spire. The temple opens every year in the month of April-May and closes for winters in the third week of November. Even though legend dates the temple back to the Vedic age, Guru Adi Shankaracharya has established the present temple. The temple has three parts - Garbha Grih (The Sanctum Sanctorum), Darshan Mandap (for pujas) and Sabha Mandap (for devotees to assemble).