Saturday, March 5, 2011

Introduction to Uttarakhand and the Char Dhams

Before starting the Char Dham Yatra, first let us briefly know about Uttarakhand and the Yatra…

Introduction to Uttarakhand

The state of Uttarakhand is also known as Dev Bhoomi meaning the Land of the Gods as there are numerous pilgrimage sites in this region none more important than the Char Dham and Hemkund Sahib. The Pandavas are associated with the place and the epic Mahabharata is also said to have been written here.

Uttrakhand is divided into two regions, Garhwal in west and Kumaon in east. The Kumaon region covers places like Nainital, Almora, Binsar, Ranikhet, Pithoragarh etc… while the Garhwal region covers Mussoorie, Dehradun, Valley of flowers, The Char Dham etc…

Introduction to Char Dham Yatra

The Char Dham Yatra is traditionally always done clockwise, from west to east, starting from Yamunotri then proceeding to Gangotri before moving on towards Kedarnath and finally concluding at Badrinath.

The pilgrimage can commence either from the religious town of Haridwar (from where we started ours) or from the capital of Uttarakhand, the queen of the hills, Dehradun.


(image courtesy google images)

Situated at an elevation of over 10000 feet and perched on the Bander Poonch Peak, Yamunotri is the place of origin of the second most sacred river of India – The Yamuna. The Temple can be reached after a tiring trek of 14 kms from Hanumanchatti or 5 kms from Jankichatti. The main Temple here is dedicated to Goddess Yamuna. A dip here is believed to defend a person of untimely death as Yamuna is the sister of Yama, the God of death.


One of the 12 Jyotirlingas, the Kedarnath shrine is situated at a height of 3584 metres or 11800 feet above sea level amidst the majestic Kedarnath range. I had visited Kedarnath in 1996 and I can tell you that the weather there is most fickle of all the four Dhams. It was snowing there in the middle of the summer season!!

(image courtesy

Situated at the source of the River Mandakini and dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is one of the most important temples in India. The temple is believed to have been built by the Pandava brothers to atone for their sins after the battle of Mahabharata. Devotees are required to trek the last 15 kms to reach the shrine from Gaurikund onwards. Behind the Kedarnath shrine lies the samadhi (final resting place) of Adi Guru Shankaracharya, the 8th century reformer and philosopher from Kerela who established the Char Dhams.

Gangotri and Badrinath

As I have travelled to Gangotri and Badrinath, I will describe them in the due course of time as we move along.

All the four temples close down in the winter season (October/November) due to the heavy snowfall and extremely dangerous terrain and open in the summers (May/June). Thus all the temples remain closed for about six months and entire towns from the upper regions shift to lower places during this time. Even the deities are relocated to their assigned winter homes during that time.

These four different pilgrim destinations, the Char Dhams, situated in the magical Himalayas, joined by mysticism and spirituality, sometimes done together and sometimes in various combinations, beckon millions of visitors every year for a voyage into the unknown, for a flight towards the heavens, for a journey into the self…

Tips for Travellers

- When the temples open in May/June, there is a heavy pilgrim rush and if you want to evade the crowd, the best time to visit would be Mid September/November when the rush is less which keeps declining as the temple closing dates appear closer.

- You can also do a search on the internet and further extend your holidays beyond Uttarakhand by visiting enchanting destinations that are located on the northern side. There are many customized packages available today to help your planning (see this for example - Sikkim Honeymoon Package) or you can make one on your own!

For Accommodation and other tips Click Here

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  1. I find it amazing that whole towns plus the deities are moved during the winter months when pilgrimage is dangerous. Living at altitude, I see how this would be necessary. An interesting post about Char Dham Yatra.

  2. I enjoyed the journey to the sacred places with you in your blog.
    I like temples and Buddhist statues. I am amazed with that many Buddhist deities were converted from Hindu deities and how closely India and Japan related in ancient times through Silk Road!. All photos and words are very interesting and attractive. I love your great blog.
    I'll visit again.
    Have a nice weekend.

  3. gave a good idea of uttarakand... also giving the seasonal details of the temple is a great help to the tourists...

  4. Marvelous, informative post as always, Arti! I would love to visit there! The mountains are incredible as are the temples! Terrific captures! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!


  5. you are going on the chardham yatra? great!! i have been to kedar and badri ages back... i think in '90 ! things would have really changed now :( incidentally, at one time, chardham referred to the 4 most important temples in the 4 directions - kedar, rameswaram, puri and dwaraka! times change and so do names!

  6. Sounds fascinating this pilgrimage Arti! Such a beautiful adventure to embark on, a reat for the whole of your being!

  7. Hi Arti,

    Nice to see you are finally at my native state Uttarakhand.
    I miss the air the climate and over all the divine presence.

    One suggestion , I have posted one blog over light-box so that all the images can be displayed over the same page via a box then visitor opening it in another tab to have an insight of the place.
    its very simple and straightforward that you can implement it over your blogs image or contents.

    take care.
    Have a great weekend.

  8. The pictures are wonderful. The first one is right on the side of the mountain. And the second with the beautiful mountain over it, I can even see the birds! Many bells on that post, do they each make a different sound?

  9. @ Anu
    I have already returned, was there in November, during Diwali!

  10. @ Ginny
    The bells make the same sound, there are so many probably because there is a huge crowd during the season. So they have provided many bells so that everyone can get a chance to clang them!

  11. This is a very informative post - quite fascinating, and great photos as always. Thanks for this.

    All the best, Boonie

  12. great blog good to see my native place on your blog keep it up

  13. Thank you, Arti, for this informative post. Spirituality and mysticism is something we share between India and Japan despite prevailing materialism. Pilgrimage to those temples at such a high altitude is really worth spiritual journey in the heart of nature. The second photo, the temple and snow mountain closing to it, is awesome. Look forward to your next post.

  14. I had visited Kedar- Badri in 1991.The trip is very much fresh in my memory. Shall wait for your posts as I didnt visit Gangotri and Yamunotri

  15. Always a pleasure to travel with you, thanks for another enjoyable post.

  16. That looks like a promising yatra for armchair yatriks like me! Thanks for sharing.

  17. Beautiful pics!! I love to read your posts and learn more about India!!

  18. A lot of information about Char Dham,it is really fascinating to have the glimpse of the place.

  19. Hello

    Really fun to read your posts with lovely pics!
    I've always been interested in Indian philosophy so I'm very glad that you've found me and that I can come here. Looking forward to reading further posts!

  20. What lovely shrines.. such peaceful places.

  21. Hi Arti. Such an interesting post as always. I wish I had a reason to visit the travel tips link, but I don't think a trip to India is in my future sadly! But that is all the more reason to enjoy your lovely blog since I can experience it vicariously and learn so much along the way! Thanks.
    PS: I like your new blog design although I almost didn't recognize you at first ;>)

  22. A divine post..very informative! great going..

    US Masala

  23. Wow, what an insight to a totally different culture than mine. I appreciate your kind comments on my blog today. They made me very happy.

  24. Very informative post!
    The trek must surely be a testament to one's beliefs.

    Thanks for your visit.

  25. This is really exciting trip.

  26. Uttarakhand is a beautiful place.. I've only seen Binsar and Nainital and Massoori.. need to explore the rest

  27. as usual,very inspiring narrative. really felt the place. great pics.

  28. my goodness itne comment :)) ..well arti you are lucky that u are visiting such places:)

  29. @Geeta - When Arti publish the post and generally in 2 or 3 Hrs after that I reach the post, this place is flooded with comments.

    Arti this is wonderful info. My dream is to go there. I agree with Geeta you are very lucky. Coz though we decide a lot but it's not easy to reach divine places. In Marathi we say, 'Yog yava lagto.'

  30. @Geeta, Mohini
    With such kind and encouraging friends like you around for support, how can I ever face a shortage of comments:-)

    @Mohini How true! You need HIS calling to reach places... In hindi we say 'bulawa hoga tab ja payenge'

  31. Great info! Equally good pictures!!

  32. Fantastic. You might think to upload the pictures on Flicker as well.
    That will increase the chance that people can find your nice Photos.

  33. Great Artice. Very Well Written.
    Uttarakhand is awesome place ...


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