India is the land of Devis (Goddesses) and Devatas (Gods). The number is 330 million and no less. This country is replete with holy shrines and temples. With the remains of rich Hindu mythology here, there are groups of pilgrims spread across vast borders in India. Of these, the Char Dham Yatra holds a significant spot. Char Dham is known as the four holiest pilgrimage sites in India that are widely revered by Hindus. These holy sites are Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri, and Rameswaram located in four different directions of India.
The Adi Shankaracharya defined Char Dham consists of three Vaishnavite and one Shaivite pilgrimage centers. The Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath of Uttarakhand were known as Chota Char Dham to differentiate them from the bigger circuit of Char Dham sites. But after the mid-20th century, they were also known as Char Dham. Among four blest sites, Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva and Badrinath is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. On the other side, Yamunotri and Gangotri are dedicated to Goddess Ganga and Yamuna (two holy rivers). It is believed highly sacred by Hindus to visit Char Dham during one’s lifetime. These four ancient temples also mark the spiritual source of four sacred rivers – Ganga(Gangotri), Yamuna (Yamunotri), Mandakini (Kedarnath) and Alaknanda (Badrinath).
In simple words, the Char Dham Yatra refers to the four holiest pilgrimage sites in India, viz. Badrinath (Uttarakhand in North), Rameswaram (Tamil Nadu in South), Dwarka (Gujarat in West), and Puri (Odisha in East). However, we are often confused with the 4 sacred destinations of Uttarakhand – the Devbhoomi. These Char Dhams – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri – are, in fact, a part of the small circuit of four seats or the Chota Char Dham Yatra.
Temple of: Lord Vishnu
Altitude: 3133 meters
Badrinath is a sacred town at Chamoli district in the state of Uttarakhand, India. The most important in the four sites in India’s Char Dham pilgrimage, and gets its name after the temple of Badrinath.
The main god here is the Lord Vishnu, worshipped in his form of Badrinarayan. This place is the only one that is a part of both the original Char Dham and the Chota Char Dham circuits.
Legend: According to the Hindu epic Mahabharata, it is the place where Nar & Narayana – the dual forms of Lord Vishnu – meditated. Badrinath has also been mentioned as a destination that the Pandavas crossed en route heaven. Another popular legend tells that the Maharshi Veda Vyasa authored Mahabharata at a cave in Mana, a destination approximately 4 km from Badrinath.
Places to visit:
Badrinath Temple: Shankaracharya who discovered a black Saligram stone image of Lord Vishnu in the form of Lord Badrinarayan. He established the same in a cave near Tapt Kund hot springs. Whom the 16th century, the king of Garhwal moved the stone idol into the present day temple.
Neelkanth Mahadev Temple – The temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Nilkanth, a form of Shiva. It is situated at a height of 1330 meters and is located about 32 km from Rishikesh in the Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, India. Is the first place to receive the sun’s light in the region.
Tapt Kund: It is a group of natural sulfur springs situated on the bank of River Alaknanda beside the Badrinarayan Temple. According to Hindu mythology consider that when Lord Vishnu was happy with Agni Dev’s (Fire God’s) penance, he granted a boon to eternally reside him in the form of this kind here. The normal water temperature is 55°c but rises gradually as the day progresses. So, when in Badrinath, do perform the ‘Agni Teerth’ that is believed to wash away all your sins.
Vasudhara Falls: Vasudhara Falls 400 feet high waterfalls are located 4 km from Badrinath in the Mana Village. It is said that the water of the falls will turn away from the visitors who are not pure at heart.
The seat of- Lord Shiva
Altitude- 3553 meters
The Kedarnath Temple is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is situated Garhwal Himalayan range near the Mandakini river in Kedarnath, Uttarakhand in India. Due to the extreme weather conditions is open only between the end of April (Akshaya Tritiya) to November (Kartik Purnima – the autumn full moon), the temple During the winters. Kedarnath temple is brought to Ukhimath and worshipped there for six months. Lord Shiva is worshipped as Kedarnath here, that the ‘Lord of Kedar Khand’. the historical name of the region.
Legend: It is said that Nar & Narayana (two incarnations of Lord Vishnu) prayed in front of a Shivalingam in Badrikashram of Bharat Khand. blessed by their devotion, Lord Shiva granted them a boon. They requested Shiva to take up a permanent seat as a Jyotirlinga at Kedarnath so as to free the devotees of Lord Shiva from all their miseries.
Places to visit:
Kedarnath Temple – This temple was Built in the 8th century by the Hindu philosopher Adi Shankaracharya. The Temple is known to be built in the same vicinity where the ancient temple built by the Pandavas. Inside the temple, a conical rock formation is worshipped by the devotees as Sadashiva, a form of Lord Shiva.
Shankaracharya Samadhi – The place situated nearby the Kedarnath Temple, the place is believed to be the place where Adi Shankaracharya took Samadhi.
Bhairon Temple – Bhairon Temple is approx located 1 km from the Kedarnath Temple, This temple is believed to be the home to the protector of the Kedarnath Temple and valley.
Gandhi Sarovar – The lake is believed that place from where Yudhishthir – the eldest Pandava – departed to heaven.
The seat of- Goddess Ganga
Altitude- 3048 meters
Gangotri – the origin of the River Ganges, It is one of the four sites in the Chota Char Dham pilgrimage circuit. The main Gangotri Temple was built by the Nepalese general Amar Singh Thapa. The river is also called Bhagirathi and acquires the name Ganga (the Ganges) from Devprayag onwards where it meets the Alaknanda river. The origin of the holy river is at Gaumukh, set in the Gangotri Glacier, and that is 19 km trek from Gangotri.
Legend: According to a popular legend, Goddess Ganga took the form of the river to cleanse the ashes(Ancestors’ bones) and liberate the souls of King Bhagiratha’s ancestors. when Bhagiratha meditated to please the goddess. for minimizing the impact of her fall, Lord Shiva placed her in his matted locks. At the point of impact, the goddess also known as Bhagirathi.
Another legend talks that Ganga as a beautiful woman born out from Lord Brahma’s Kamandal (water vessel). It is believed that Lord Brahma washed Lord Vishnu’s feet after the latter killed the demon Bali of his reincarnated form of Vaman. Lord Brahma, later on, collected this water in his Kamandal. and it is considered that Goddess Ganga was born out of it.
Places to visit:
Gangotri Temple: Built in the 18th century built by the Nepalese general Amar Singh Thapa, It is the home to the shrine of Gangotri.
Opening hours: 6:30 am – 2 pm, 3 pm – 9:30 pm; and the first week of May – Diwali
Submerged Shivling: The Shivling is submerged in the waters of River Bhagirathi at Gangotri. According to legend, it is that place their Lord Shiva sat to receive Goddess Ganga in his locks.
Bhagirath Shila: The holy rock where King Bhagirath prayed to Lord Shiva.
Pandava Gufa: it is approx 1.5 km from Gangotri takes you to the Pandava Gufa where the Pandavas are believed to have meditated and rested en route Kailash.
The seat of- Goddess Yamuna
Altitude- 3291 meters
Yamunotri is the origin of the Yamuna River. The source and glacier are situated at an altitude of 4421 meters above the sea level, approx 1 km further up. But it is not easily accessible. This is the reason that the shrine has been located at the Yamunotri Temple at the foot of the hill. Pilgrims are prayers at the temple itself.
Legend: According to popular Hindu legend, sage Asit Muni – who had lived in a hermitage here – bathed daily in both Ganga and Yamuna. when he was old, due to his old age, he could no longer go to Gangotri, then a stream of River Ganga appeared opposite Yamunotri for him to bathe.
Places to visit:
Yamunotri Temple: This holy temple is located in the Garhwal hills at an altitude of 3291 meters above the sea level, who was built in the 19th century by Maharani Gularia of Jaipur. Goddess Yamuna is a presence here in the form of a silver idol.
Opening hours – 6 am to 8 pm and the first week of May – Diwali
Aarti time: 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Divya Shila – Divya Shila is a powerful rock pillar nearby the Surya Kund at Yamunotri. The pilgrims offer prayers to this pillar before entering Yamunotri.
Surya Kund – One of many thermal springs in the region. The Goddess Yamuna is recognized to be the daughter of Surya (the Sun god) and Sangya. that’s the reason its name is Surya Kund.
Saptarishi Kund – The glacier is the actual source of Yamuna River and is located at an altitude of 4421 meters above the sea level. The strenuous trek to Saptarishi Kund involves a day for acclimatization at the temple.