Before we embark on my Char Dham trip, let me first tell you more about Char Dham.

Char Dham literally means Four holy places.

India is a land of holy places. Every city, every temple, every hill, every river will have something holy or spiritual associated with it. There are many places that are connected with each other spiritually too. These places collectively form a travel circuit. For example,

  • 12 Jyothirlingams – These are 12 holy shrines spread across India dedicated to Lord Shiva. Read more here.
  • 51 Shakthi peetas – 51 temples all over India (some even in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal) dedicated to Mother Goddess.

One such travel roundup is called Char Dham.

Actually, there are two Char Dhams, a bada char dham and a chota char dham.

The bada char dham or the big char dham is a trip covering 4 corners of India. Badrinath in the north, Rameshwaram in the South, Dwarka in the west and Puri in the east.

The trip that we undertook is the chota char dham, mostly called char dham. This circuit is entirely situated in the Uttarakhand region of India, high up in the Himalayas, in the Garhwal region.

The four principal holy places here are

  • Yamunotri – the birthplace of river Yamuna. This is at a height of 3235 mts above sea level
  • Gangotri – the birthplace of river Ganga, at a height of 3215 mts above sea level
  • Kedarnath – one of the 12 jyotirlingas, dedicated to Lord Shiva. This is the highest of the four at 3553 mts above sea level
  • Badrinath – dedicated to Lord Vishnu, situated at 3300 mts above sea level

Of these, the temples of Yamunotri and Kedarnath can only be reached after trekking. Vehicles cannot reach these peaks. Gangotri and Badrinath temples are more easily accessible.

These temples are high up in the Himalaya mountain range. The unique feature of these temples are that they are closed for half the year during winter months and open only for 6 months in summer. They open on the Akshay tritya day every year. This date is according to the lunar calendar so it will be a different date every year. Akshay tritiya is the 3rd day of the 2nd Hindu month of Vaishakha. It falls in the first half of the Vaishakha month. It is an auspicious day in the Hindu calendar.

In the winter, the main deities of Kedarnath and Badrinath are brought down from the peaks to lower ranges and the pujas are conducted there for the next six months.

This image shows the char dham and the other holy places on the way. It is a rough map and not to scale. pic courtesy: google images

En route to these shrines, we would also be visiting Haridwar, Rishikesh, Devaprayag, Rudraprayag, Uttarkashi and a few other places. Each of them is holy and awe inspiring at the same time.