We are ready to welcome pilgrims for The Char Dham Yatra 2023! Yamunotri and Gangotri usually open on the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya. Kedarnath temple and Badrinath temple open later. We will update the exact dates as soon as they are announced.
A Yatra in India usually means a pilgrimage. The Char Dham Yatra is one of the holiest pilgrimages in India. It is a collection of 4 prominent spots of spiritual significance in Hinduism. The 4 spots are Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. There is a temple at each of these spots dedicated to the presiding deity. Interestingly, there is a hot spring at each of these 4 pilgrimage spots.
The Yamunotri and Gangotri temples open every year on the auspicious occasion of Akshaye Tritiya followed by the opening of the Kedarnath and Badrinath temples.
Char Dham Yatra 2023 – Yamunotri
The Yatra usually starts at Yamunotri. Yamunotri is the source of the River Yamuna emanating from the Champasar glacier, located at the Kalind Mountain at a height of 4421 metres above sea level. Interestingly, the idol of goddess Yamuna at Yamunotri is black in color and so she is also known as Kalindi, the dark one. A legend describes that Lord Krishna defeated the serpent Kaliya in the Yamuna. While that happened, the waters of the river became dark.
Another legend narrates that when Lord Shiva, overcome by the grief of his beloved wife Sati, was driven to madness and wandered through the earth, he plunged into the Yamuna which absorbed his sorrow and thus became black.
The Yamuna is the holiest of the rivers in India, second only to the Ganga. Yamunotri temple is at a height of 3185 metres above sea level at the foot hills of the Kalind Parvat. There is a beautiful waterfall behind the temple and a 1km trek higher up will take one to the source of the river Yamuna.
There are a few hot water springs here and the Surya Kund is one of them. Devotees boil rice, lentil and potatoes covered in muslin cloths in the waters of this pond which is then offered to the deity and is later offered as prasad to the devotees.
To reach Yamunotri, one must trek 6km from Janaki chhatti, the nearest road head. Ponies, palanquins and “pitthus” are also available for those who cannot make the distance on foot.
Char Dham Yatra 2023- Gangotri
Gangotri is a temple dedicated to the Goddess Ganga. It stands at an altitude of 3100 metres above sea level. King Bhagirathi meditated here for centuries to seek the blessings of Goddess Ganga to absolve his ancestors of their sins. His penance pleased Goddess Ganga and she agreed to come down to the earth to bless him. However, Bhagirathi feared that if the great Ganga indeed came down with all her force, the earth would be destroyed by her sheer power. He thus, prayed to Lord Shiva who then received the Ganga in his matted locks and released her from his locks.
The river here is known as Bhagirathi. It takes the name Ganga at Devprayag at the confluence of the River Bhagirathi and River Alakananda flowing from Badrinath. 18km away from Gangotri is Gamukh, the source of the river Ganga. It’s generally a 3 day trek to Gaumukh (up and down).
Char Dham Yatra 2023 – Kedarnath
Kedarnath is a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is also one of the 12 Jyotrilingas (pillars of light) of Lord Shiva. During the Himalayan Tsunami of 2013, this was the worst affected area but has now been rebuilt owing to the massive efforts taken by the Govt. and the team from Nehru Institute of Mountaineering.
As the surrounding areas were devastated, the temple stood erect with only minor cracks on one side. It was protected by a huge boulder that came hurtling down along with the debris. Interestingly, the boulder positioned itself behind the temple so perfectly that the raging waters could not damage the temple. Locals and devotes believe this to be a miracle and since then the significance of this holy shrine has only increased. No one removed this and it is worshipped today as “Bhim Shila”.
The lingam itself inside the shrine is not the usual one that we see but looks like a mountain peak. Kedarnath stands at an altitude of 3583m above sea level. One can trek up to Vasuki tal, an emerald lake 8 km away from Kedarnath. However, an able guide must accompany you. Another famous trekking route is right from Gangotri to the Kedarnath temple via Auden’s Col Pass, Khatling glacier, Mayali Pass and Vasuki Tal. This is a very challenging trek and only those who have prior experience in high altitude trekking should try this.
Char Dham Yatra 2023- Badrinath
Badrinath is a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and marks the end of the Char Dham Yatra. It also is symbolic of the legend that the Pandavas of the Mahabharata, embarked on their journey to heaven from here. Badrinath is also one of the shrines of the larger Char Dham circuit. There is a hot water spring here too called Tapt Kund. The waters in the pond here are so hot that one feels warm simply by standing close to it and by the steam emanating from the pond.
500 meters away from the temple is a small village called Bamani and locals revere it as Parvati’s (Lord Shiva’s wife) maiden home. A trek of 2km from the temple will take one to a place called “Charan paduka”. Locals say that this place has the impressions of Lord Vishnu’s feet. A further trek of 1km up will bring one to the base of Mount Neelkanth. On a clear day, one can see Mount Neelkanth from Badrinath itself.
Another place of interest here is the village Mana, 3 km away from Badrinath. Vehicles can ply till there. Mana is the last Indian village after which there is China. Hence, it is heavily guarded too. The places of significance here are the Vyas Gufa and the Ganesh Gufa which are over 5000 years old.
It is said that the sage Vyas dictated the epic Mahabharata to Lord Ganesha while he wrote it down. Lord Ganesha agreed to write it down on one condition that Vyas should never pause the dictation. If he did, he would stop writing down. Vyas, in turn, told Ganesha that he agreed to his condition but Ganesh also must write down the dictation only after he fully understood the verses. Thus, Vyas composed complex verses so that it would take time for Ganesha to understand and write them down while that gave him more time to compose subsequent verses!
There is another place to visit here called the Bhim Pul. It is a large boulder laid across the valley and is believed to have been laid by Bhima (2nd Pandava brother) to enable their wife Draupadi to cross the valley. There is a waterfall here which the locals believe to be the waters of the river Saraswati owing to its white color. The Satopanth tal trek starts from here and is a 5 day trek. One can also visit the Vasudhara falls which is a day hike of 5 km from Mana.