By late April, once the snow at the foothills of Himalayas starts clearing, a huge crowd of pilgrims is seen flocking around the four great temples in India, popularly known as the Char Dham. The Char Dham Yatra of Uttarakhand is located at a relatively higher altitude of the Garhwal region.
These ancient temples mark the four great holy rivers of our country, namely the Yamuna, which originates in the Yamunotri glacier, Ganga, which originates at the Gangotri glacier, River Mandakini which originates at Kedarnath and finally River Alaknanda which originates at Badrinath.
Here is a basic travel guide which can help you to plan your journey in a better way:
Overview of the Char Dham Yatra
Every year Lakhs of Hindus visit this holy land between April to November. The Char Dham Yatra is open only during a specific time of the year, which roughly starts from mid-April and early May and ends somewhere around early winters in November. However, this area’s journey during monsoon becomes quite difficult due to its mountainous terrain and slippery routes.
Visit the Char Dham is considered as an auspicious rite for Hindus. They believe that a visit to Char Dham helps to wash all the sins and also helps them achieve moksha as it releases them for the never-ending cycle of rebirth and death.
How can you reach Char Dham?
The journey of Char Dham is not very easy. Most pilgrims benefit from visiting the two temples Gangotri and Badrinath with ease as it can be reached via vehicle. However, the other two temples, namely, Yamunotri and Kedarnath, need trek. If you plan to visit all the temples trekking, let me tell you, Kedarnath will be the lengthiest. On average, it takes about ten to twelve days for having complete Char Dham Yatra. However, it comes down to two days if you wish to travel by helicopter.
The pilgrims are required to take a compulsory medical check-up as a safety measure, especially if planning to visit the Kedarnath temple. Apart from that, the pilgrims are required to undergo a complete biometric registration, available both online as well as offline. Apart from it, as a safety measure, a proper weather report is also offered to the pilgrims along with separate telecommunication coverage, medical facilities, and direct contact with the contact room.
Location of the four temples:
Badrinath and Gangotri: Both are directly reachable via road from Haridwar, Rishikesh, Kotdwar, and Dehradun.
Yamunotri: The trek starts from Janki Chatti, which is located at a distance of 225 kilometers from Rishikesh.
Kedarnath: The trek starts from Gaurikund, 207 kilometers from Rishikesh.
Visiting the Badrinath Temple:
The Badrinath temple is considered the most easily accessible temple of the Char Dham, making it the most popular. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple is surrounded by the untidy village on all sides, overshadowed by the snow-capped Nilkantha peak. The priests usually decide the temple’s opening date on the occasion of Vasanta Panchami while the closing date is fixed on Dusshera. In most cases, the temple stays open for about ten days during Diwali too.
Visiting the Gangotri Temple:
A very simple shrine is present in the Gangotri temple, which has an extraordinary significance for the pilgrims. Worshipped as Goddess Ganga, the shrine is considered the holiest place in India as it is closely related to the spiritual source of River Ganga. The temple is located in uneven terrain, amidst mountains and forests. It attracts around 300,000 pilgrims every year who look forward to being a part of the evening aarti at 8 p.m. the temple opens on the occasion of Akshay Tritiya, which usually falls in the last week of April or the first week of May. The occasion is marked with a colorful procession, the shrine’s journey from its winter home, the Mukhyamath temple in Mukhba village. The Mukhyamat temple is located 20 kilometers downstream. Every year on Diwali, the temple is closed, after which the Goddess is returned to Mukhyamath temple.
Visiting the Yamunotri Temple:
The Yamunotri temple is located quite close to the source of the Yamuna River. It is the second holiest river in India, which flows down past the Taj Mahal. The temple is undeveloped as it is not visited much. However, the scenic beauty you can experience in this beautiful land makes the journey worthwhile. Just like the Gangotri temple, the Yamunotri temple opens on Akshaya Tritiya and closes during the Diwali. The Goddess is carried from the Kharsali Village, which is considered Yamuna’s mother on opening, after which it is returned once the temple closes.
Visiting the Kedarnath Temple:
It is the most remote temple of Char Dham. Though Kedarnath temple requires a lot of effort to get to, it still attracts more than 300,000 pilgrims every year. It is considered the seat of Lord Shiva, one of the most important 12 Jyotirlingas in India. It is the largest and most magnificent temple in the Himalayas. Situated high up in Lord Shiva’s territory, it occupies a glacial terrace leftover from a long-ago melted glacier, in the Mandakini Valley. The date of opening is decided on Maha Shivaratri, and the temple closes on Diwali.
What are the available tour packages?
Well, it is not very difficult to prepare for your journey to Char Dham. There are a number of Chardham Tour Packages available. The tour packages are designed based on two basic options:
Government Designed: Every year, the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam designs and organizes a tour package via bus during May to November.
Self-planned: You can also customize the tour based on your preference, select the number of temples you want to see. You can also include the visit to the Valley of Flowers and the Hemkund Sahib.
The temples are located in a clockwise direction, starting with Yamunotri in the east, followed by Gangotri, Kedarnath, and ending in the west, at Badrinath. Being the starting point, most of the Chardham Yatra Package is available from Rishikesh. Where more buses depart from Haridwar or Rishikesh, they are a number of yatra buses that leave from Delhi, depending entirely on the itinerary. The tour’s average time is ten to eleven days, with the shortest being of four nights.
The average price ranges of these Chardham Yatra packages start from 15,000 rupees per head. It also considers the accommodation cost, which mostly consists of a Shared accommodation facility with a proper bathroom. If you want, you can also select for staying in luxury hotels, the price of which depends entirely on the package offer and deals provided by them.