Monday, February 21, 2011

In the Lap of the Heavenly Himalayas... The CHAR DHAM Yatra

I have long left the mountains and the rivers… I am actually writing this almost 4 months later… but how I still long for the Himalayas…

For many years now, my Dad has had a strong desire to do a Char Dham Yatra. But, due to some unavoidable circumstances, it got cancelled every time leaving him disappointed…

It was sometime at the end of October 2010… Festive season of Diwali was fast approaching. We were contemplating the choices of destinations where we could head to during the holidays when my Dad suggested – Char Dham.

What is Char Dham?

The Char Dham (literally meaning four abodes) of the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand represents all three major Hindu sects and consists of one Vaishnava site (Badrinath) joined by one Shiva site (Kedarnath) and two Shakti sites (Gangotri and Yamunotri).

However, this should not be confused with the bigger Char Dham circuit situated at the four corners of India namely Jagannathpuri, Rameshwaram, Dwarka and Badrinath, all of them either dedicated or linked to the incarnations of Lord Vishnu.

Both the sets of Char Dham were grouped together by the great 8th century reformer and philosopher Adi Shankaracharya. According to various ancient Hindu scriptures, a yatra (pilgrimage) to these Char Dhams is said to be of paramount significance in any Hindu religious believer’s life.

Char Dham – Then and Now

In the years gone by, the Yatra was a lot tougher than what it is today. Hence, generally it was undertaken by the older people. The last rites and rituals of these people was performed even before they left their homes for this pilgrimage as it would take months to complete the circuit and with no motor able roads combined with harsh weather, landslides, cloudbursts and of course old age, there was that uncertainty if they would ever return back.

My mother recounts of how they had organized grand celebrations when her grandmother had arrived after completing the coveted course. She had alighted straight at a temple and everyone, who’s who of the locality, had gathered to welcome her. There was a bhandara (feast) for all and everyone touched her feet.

Thus, people who made it back were almost revered but what is more astounding is that those who couldn’t were considered even more blessed! They were regarded as the few fortunate ones to leave for the eternal abode from Gods own land – The Himalayas.

Today however, a pilgrimage to the Char Dham is relatively simpler… with all the modern luxuries of cars and connectivity; it just takes around 15 days to complete the entire route. What has remained constant with the changing times, though, is its significance, its importance. Even today, a pilgrimage to the Char Dham is revered as the ultimate pilgrim destination in a Hindu religious believer’s life.

My Reaction

Needless to say then, that a trip to the coveted circuit of Char Dham, to the Himalayas got me excited. I was taken back some 16 years ago (when I had visited Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath)… and though I don’t remember much, some faint memories came rushing back.

But there were some apprehensions too, as we were to travel in the off season just before the closing of the temple gates. News that was pouring in from the media and people who had just returned from the place was not pleasant either - landslides, heavy snowfall and harsh weather conditions - these fears got us thinking…

Well, ‘Us’ meant my mother, brother and me! My father was already out there, we realized, busy chalking out the plans…


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29 comments:

  1. Wow , your blog got a new look , just awesome . Thanks for sharing info on Char Dham. Will be waiting for the travel story .

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  2. Marvelous, interesting post as always, Arti! And as always, I do love reading more about your country and its history. I do find it fascinating! Thank you for sharing with us! Have a wonderful week!

    Sylvia

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  3. Must have been a v divine experience ...lovely write up!

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  4. Sounds adventorous to me. Did you actually go there - or are you planning to? I think, a pilgrimage is special - and what happens on the way has a special meaning too. But risks have to be considered of course. Have a lovely start into the week!

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  5. Wow! This couldn't have come at a better time. I'm planning to go to the Himalayas (Sarpass Range) in May. I'd love to get your stories and experiences. Are you on gmail or twitter?

    Vijayakrishna
    Gmail: vjkrgn
    Twitter: vjkrgn

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  6. So will this trip you are getting ready to show, is it from four months ago, or a new trip you are starting?

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  7. wow! looking forward to the posts of your yatra!!

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  8. Dear Arti,

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    I would like to discuss an opportunity for you involving them. I would be grateful if you can send me your email address so that I can email you the details.

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    I look forward to hearing from you soon,
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    Avantika Kapur
    Account Executive
    Madison Public Relations.

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  9. Did my Char Dham more than 10 years ago and words really can't described how I felt.
    Wrote only about part of the journey to my brothers, nieces and nephews. Perhaps I should put it in my blog some time.
    I really love Kedarnath (snows in summer), Gangotri, Yamunotri and especially Badrinath.
    Gosh, thanks for bringing back that feeling again.

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  10. Dear Arti
    So my long wait is over!!!! The intro is fantastic. Cant wait to read more.
    I will be finally travelling to Dwaraka , Somntah and will be back by 15th March. (remembering your useful tips). Then my usual annual Spring trip to Kumaon Himalayas from 26th March to 31st March, the Rhododendrons will be in bloom. ( from 1st April, tourist lodge charges double ha ha )
    Have a nice week and post fast

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  11. @ Martina, Ginny
    I am already back and the trip was in the beginning of November!

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  12. @Ushnish
    Will try to post fast:)
    Have a pleasant trip to Gujarat!
    And Kumaon is one place I would love to explore some day again!!

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  13. good account of the preparations... think this might be a rare post in ur blog, as it has no photos... from the way u finished, i think u r going to continue... looking forward...

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  14. also the new look of the blog looks good... particularly the photos at the right side of title creates a good impression...

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  15. I have visited Kedar, Badri, loved that trip. I haven't seen Gangotri and Yamunotri. shall wait for your wonderful posts.
    Nice template. Loved the banner

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  16. Himalayas really surges ones spirit...Though, I felt a change for better, I haven't realized it because of the new layout... Very nice look and feel..!
    Looking forward to some great account of your Himayalayas trip Arti..!

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  17. I found your blog when I blog hopped and I am glad did. Bookmarking, your very useful articles.

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  18. Hi. Found your post on indivine and through zephyrs blog. Beautiful pictures and descriptions. I look forward to visiting these places when I get back to India shortly!

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  19. Feels like I just visited Himalayas. Nice Blog!

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  20. So is the Char Dam's modernisation a good or bad thing?? Will be interested to see the rest of your adventure!

    Have a great weekend!!

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  21. You are so much involved in your post and blog, I am happy to see you growing like this and surely your efforts will take you long way..Though this post of yours has no pics but I really like it and its very informative too.

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  22. Good travel down memory lane......go to see this destination in detail

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  23. memorable yatra,I did it a few years back,especially the climb to Gangotri

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