Char Dham, literally ‘the four abodes’, yatra refers to the journey up the mountains to four sacred temples in the North Indian state of Uttarakhand. It is also referred to as ‘Chhota Char Dham‘ to differentiate it from the bigger circuit of Char Dham sites. The four temples that comprise Char Dham are Yamunotri Dham, Gangotri Dham, Badrinath Dham and Kedarnath Dham.
Yamunotri Dham, named after the Goddess Yamuna, is the first Dham en route the yatra. A bath in the holy waters of Yamuna river is said to cleanse one of all sins and protect from untimely death. Gangotri Dham, the second temple that falls on the Chota Char Dham circuit, is the birthplace of the holy river Ganga. Kedarnath, known as the land of Lord Shiva, has the highest located jyotirling. Situated on the banks of Mandakini River, the view of this temple against its snowy backdrop is resplendent. Badrinath, named after Lord Badri(Vishnu), is located along the banks of Alaknanda River. Also part of the bigger Char Dham circuit, it stands beautifully on Garhwal Hill, rearing its golden head and fluttering its red flags with Godly presence.
Yamunotri Dham, the first Dham en route the yatra, is situated at Yamunotri- where the sacred river the Yamuna originates. It named after Goddess Yamuna, the twin sister of Yama (the God of death). A bath in the holy waters of the Yamuna river is said to cleanse one of all their sins and protect them from an untimely death. It is believed that sage Asit Muni lived in a hermitage close by and bathed in both the Ganga and the Yamuna. In his old age, when he was unable to go to Gangotri, a stream of the Ganga started to flow across the steam of the Yamuna. At the Yamunotri Dham, the idol of Goddess Yamuna is present in the form of a black marble idol and it is situated in the backdrop of the Yamuna river which jets down from one side of the temple which makes for a breathtaking sight.
Gangothri Dham is the birthplace of the River Ganga. Popular Hindu legends suggests that the River Ganga took birth here because Lord Shiva decided to release the mighty river from the locks of his hair. Dedicated to Goddess Ganga, Gangothri Dham is the second of the four temples at the Chota Char Dham Route. The foundation to this temple was laid by Nepalese General Amar Singh Thapa. Gaumukh, the sacred snout of the Gangotri Glacier is where the mighty river begins its journey. This venue is located about 19 kilometres from Gangotri. Some popular religious locations like the Bhagirath Shila and the Pandava Gufa are also present close to the Gangothri Dham.
Kedarnath Dham is an uphill trek for about 22 kilometres from Gaurikund. Pony and Manchan services are available to help the pilgrims reach the structure. The Kedarnath Dham is known to be one of the five spots believed to be where Lord Shiva resides. In the Vedas and Puranas, the word ‘Kedar’ refers to Lord Shiva. Kedarnath, as per holy belief and sacredness, is known to be the land of Lord Shiva, where Lord still resides in the form of Linga. It is also the highest located jyotirling. The temple is an old stone edifice located on the shores of Mandakini River. It is believed to have been built by the Pandavas and revived by Adi Sankara in 8th century CE. The view of this temple against its snowy backdrop is just resplendent. Kedarnath Dham is definitely one of the most important Dhams in the yatra.
Badrinath is sacred to Lord Vishnu, particularly in Vishnu’s dual form of Nara-Narayana. Badrinath temple was re-established by Adi Shankracharya in the 8th century as part of his mission to enliven Hinduism. The Badrinath Dham is situated on the banks of the Alaknanda river and neighbours many ancient sites which have both historical and religious value. It is no wonder that Badrinath, despite the difficult journey to the place, is one of the most visited shrines in the country.