Post the Indo-China war of 1962 India made investments for the development of internal infrastructures like roads and networks. It is during that period that the Chota char dham yatra became a rage among the people. As we know that there are holy places in Uttarakhand which were known as Uttaranchal(Uttar Pradesh) in yesteryears. With the development of the road network, these difficult sites were easily accessible. The Chota Char Dham yatra started replacing the original Char Dham yatra.
1. Yamunotri Dham Yatra
Seat of: Goddess Yamuna
Altitude: 3291 meters
The source of the Yamuna river is Yamunotri. The exact location where the glacier is located is at an altitude of 4421 meters above sea level. One will have to go 1 km further to reach the exact point. Now it is next to impossible to reach this point. Hence the shrine is placed at the foothills of the hill where the worshippers can pray.
According to mythology Sage Asti Muni used to have a bath in Ganga and Yamuna daily. When he came old he was not able to go to Gangotri. This is when a rivulet of Ganga appeared opposite to Yamunotri. The sage used to then have a bath in this rivulet.
Places of tourist interest:
Location is Garhwal hills. It is at an altitude of 3291 meters above sea level. Maharani Gularia of Jaipur built it in the 19th century. The silver idol of the Goddes Yamuna is placed in this temple.
Opening hours: 6 am – 8 pm; 1st week of May – Diwali
Aarti time: 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
This glacier is the original source of the Yamuna river. It is at an altitude of 4421 meters above sea level. The trek of Saptarishikund is difficult and trekkers need to spend a day in this temple to get adapted to the conditions.
Surya and Sangya are said to be the parents of Yamuna and Surya Kund is a hot water spring in this place.
This strong pillar is located close to the Surya Kund. As per customs before entering Yamunotri prayers are offered to this pillar.
2. Gangotri Dham Yatra:
Seat of: Goddess Ganga
Altitude: 3048 meters
Gangotri is the place where the Goddess Ganga is said to be located. This is one of the most popular holy sites in the country. It is said that the River Ganga originates at the Gaumukh. The Gangotri Dham is 19 kms from this place. From Gaumukh to Gangotri Glacier the river is called Bhagirathi. At Devprayag this river meets Alaknanda. It is here that it forms the river Ganga.
As per mythology, the King Bhagirath meditated in order to please the Goddess Ganga. It is then that the Goddess Ganga appeared in the form of a river and cleaned the ashes of the King Bhagirath’s predecessors and liberated their souls. The impact of the goddess’s fall was too much and in order to reduce this impact, Lord Shiva collected the river in his hair. The point of impact is known as Bhagirathi river.
According to folklore the beautiful Goddess Ganga who was a woman was born in the water vessel or kamadalu of Lord Brahma. When Lord Vishnu killed evil Bali by taking the Vaman avatar, Lord Brahma washed Lord Vishnu’s feet with water. This water was then collected by Lord Brahma and Goddess Ganga appeared from this water.
Places of Tourists interest:
Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa built this temple in the 18th century. Shrine of Gangotri is kept here.
Opening hours: 6:30 am – 2 pm, 3 pm – 9:30 pm; 1st week of May – Diwali.
As per folklore, this is rock from where King Bhagirath offered prays to Lord Shiva.
Submerged Shiv Ling:
This shivling is sunken in the river Bhagirathi. As per myth, it is said that Lord Shiva was seated at this point to collect the River Ganga in his hair.
From Gangotri you have to go trekking 1.5 kms in order to reach this place. It is believed that on their way to Kailash the Pandavas rested and prayed in this Gufa.
3. Kedarnath Dham Yatra
Seat of: Lord Shiva
Altitude: 3553 meters
It is located close to the River Mandakini in the Himalayas. The area is surrounded by beautiful mountains which are covered with snow. This place is named after King Kedar. As per mythology, he was the ruler of 7 continents in the Satya Yuga. As per myth, Vrinda who is the daughter of this king is a partial incarnation of Goddess Laxmi.
According to mythology, Nar and Narayan are the two incarnations of Lord Vishnu. These two prayed to the Shivling in the Badrikashraya of Bharat Khand. As a result, Lord Shiva granted them a boon. They asked Lord Shiva to reside permanently in the form of Jyotirling in Kedarnath so that the followers of Lord Shiva can get free from all their sufferings.
Places of tourist interest:
The great Hindu philosopher Adi Shankaracharya built this temple in the 8th century. This temple is located close to the ancient temple which is believed to be built by the Pandavas. There is a conical rock formation and this is believed to be Lord Shiva and devotees offer prayers to this rock.
According to mythology, this is the point from where the eldest Pandava Yudhishthira left for heaven.
This is the place where Shankaracharya is said to have taken Samadhi and it is very close to the temple.
It is at a distance of 1 km from the Kedarnath temple. According to folklore, this is the place where the defender of the temple and valley resides.
4. Badrinath Dham Yatra
Seat of: Lord Vishnu
Altitude: 3133 meters
There are many legends about this place. It is believed that it is this place where Nar and Narayan meditated. This is also believed to be the holy place which the Pandavas crossed on their way to heaven. It is also said that Lord Vyasa wrote the epic Mahabharata in a cave in Mana. This place is around 4 kms from Badrinath.
Places of tourist interest:
According to popular belief, Adi Shankaracharya found a black Shaligram stone. He placed this image of Lord Vishnu in the form of Lord Badrinarayan in a cave close to the hot springs Tapat Kund. The King of Garhwal moved this stone into the original temple in the 16th century.
This is also known as the Garhwal queen. This is a snow-clad peak in the background of Badrinath temple. This peak is 6597 meters above the sea level. In this region, this is the first peak that receives the rays of the sun.
This is a hot spring. It is believed to be the seat of Lord Agni. It is said to have a number of therapeutic properties. Surya Kund and Narada Kund are also located close by.
This is located in the Mana region. It is a 400 feet waterfall. As per myth, the waterfall will turn away from people who have an impure heart.
Other famous tourists’ attractions include Mata Murli Temple, Yogadhyan Badri, Alka Puri, Bheem Pal, Sheshnetra, Brahma Kapal, and Satopanth.
The timing of Char Dham Yatra:
The yatra opens in May on the day of Akkha Tij and ends on Bhai dooj that is two days after Diwali. In May and June, there is too much tourist rush. In July and August, there is road blocking due to heavy rains. So July and September is the best time to take the Char Dham Yatra.
Difficulties in the Char Dham Yatra:
This yatra is tough due to the unpredictable climatic conditions, bad roads, and landslides. At night the temperature can go down to 1° C in Kedarnath and then it can rise to 40° C. So, one needs to carry clothes accordingly. At some high points, the oxygen level is low and this can result in breathing problems.
But despite all the difficulties every year, there is a huge rush of pilgrims for the char dham yatra. It is a pilgrimage where you can pray to the Gods and Goddesses in their abode. If you too are keen to do this then opt for this yatra.