A Journey into the Inner World!
The char Dham (‘the four abodes) is a term coined for four most revered Hindu pilgrimage destinations of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand, in the Himalayas. While each site in the circuit has a unique history and singnificance that predates and remains distinct from their status as a circuit. The particular word Char Dham has, over the times, ingrained in popular imagination and pilgrimage practice. According to the Puranas and various Hindu scriptures, the Char Dham yatra is of the highest religious singnificance in a religious believer’s life. Pilgrims from all around the world brave the severe conditions of landscape and weather to visit the shrines for holy darshans of the revered deities.
The Evolution of a Pilgrimage
The beginning of the idea of ‘Char Dham’ is mirrored into obscurity and the word Char Dham four important pilgrimage centres Puri, Rameshwaram, Dwarka, and Badrinath were grouped together by the great 8th century reformer and philosopher Shankaracharya (Adi Sankara), into the archetypal all-India pilgrimage circuit to the cardinal points of the subcontinent. The three major sectarian movements in modern devotional Hinduism have representation, with the Vaishnava site (Badrinath) joined by one Shaiva site (Kedamth) and two Shakti sites (Yamunotri and Gangotri). Today, the Char Dham receives upwards of 250,000 visitors during an average pilgrimage season, which lasts from approximately April 15 until Diwali (sometime in November). The rush is heaviest in the two-month period before the monsoon.
Holy confluences, scenic surroundings and the aura of spiritual serenity make Char Dham an ideal religious destination. Traditionally, the yatra is done from the west to the east- starting from Yamunotri, then proceeding to Gangotri and finally to Kedarnath and Badrinath. Most pilgrims to the Char Dham enter the circuit at the famous town of Haridwar. Others disembark at Rishikesh, or from Dehradun, the capital of Uttarakhand. From there, the route is followed in this order:
The source of the Yamuna River is a full day’s journey from Rishikesh, Haridwar or Dehradun. The temple of Goddess Yamuna is accessible by a 5 km walk from the town of Janki Chatti. Ritual duties are performed by the Uniyal family of priests. Unique aspects of ritual practice at the site include the hot springs where raw rice is cooked and made into Prasad.
The holy source of the river Ganga and seat of the Goddess Ganga, can be reached in one day’s travel from Rishikesh or Haridwar and in two days from Yamunotri. Gangotri is also accessible directly be car and bus. Ritual duties are supervised by the semwal family of pujaris. The aarti ceremony at the Gangotri is especially impressive, as is the temple, on the bank of the Ganga. The adventurous can make 17 km. trek to Gaumukh, the actual current source of the Ganga.
Here the very form of God Shiva is venerated as one of the twelve Jyotirlingas. It is a two-day’s journey from Gangotri or from the journey points on the plains. Besides its affiliation with Shiva, Kedarnath is also believed to be the site of Shankaracharya’s smadhi. The most remote of the four Char Dhams, Kedarnath is known for its breathtaking view of the snow covered Himalayan peaks.
The seat of the lord Vishnu in his aspect of Badrinarayan, is generally a two-day’s journey from either Kedarnath or one of the destination points on the plains. Perceived as the most important of the four Char Dhams, Badrinath gets more visitors than the other three sites, since the route to Badrinath is for much of the way to Hemkund Sahib also, the holy Sikh pilgrimage site.
The first stopover for the Char Dham Yatra is the westernmost shrine of Yamunotri in the Garhwal Himalayas. Dedicated to Goddess Yamuna. Perched atop a flank of the Bandar Poonch peak (3165 mts. above sea level) and is situated opposite to Gangotri, the shrine attracts devotees in large numbers from May to October. Yamunotri is the source of the revered river Yamuna which originates from the Champassar Glacier, lying 1 km ahead of the shrine, at an altitude of 4421 mts. as it is not easily accessible. The source of Yamuna lies about 1 km. ahead at the altitude of about 4421 metres. The approach is extremely difficult. Pilgrims do not frequently visit the source of the river and offer pooja at the temple itself.
The motorable road to Yamunotri continues till Jankichatti via Syanachatti, Ranachatti and Hanumanchatti, 50 km. from Barkot. From Jankichatti it is a 5 km. trek to Yamunotri for which ponies, dandies and kandies are also available. Yamunotri finds a special mention in the Hindu mythology. According to a legend, this secluded hilly spot was the home of an ancient sage, Asit Muni. Yamuna is the twin sister of Yama, the Lord of Death. It is believed that anyone who bathes in her waters will be spared a torturous death. Yamuna is also the daughter of Surya the Sun. Near the temple there are three hot springs. The most important, Surya Kund, is a tank full of boiling water into which rice and potatoes are dipped to be cooked and taken as “Prasad”. Near the Kund, a rock slab, the “Divya Shila” is worshipped before puja is offered to the black marble idol of Yamuna. A bath in the springs is very refreshing after a tedious 13 kms. trek from Hanumanchatti or 5 km. from Janki Chatti. The trek to Yamunotri is spectacular, dominated by a panorama of rugged peaks and forests.
What to See
Yamunotri Temple: The main temple is dedicated to Goddess Yamuna. The present temple was built by Maharani Guleria of jaipur in the late nineteenth century. Once destroyed by hot springs and cooking rice in its water are common rituals performed by the devotees. The temple remains closed from November to May.
Surya Kund: There are a number of thermal springs in the vicinity of the temple which flow into numerous pools. The temperature of the water is very high 190 F. The most important of these is Surya Kund.
Divya Shila: A rock pillar, worshipped before entering the Yamunotri Temple. Origin of the Shila is not known. But this holds a place of reverence in the rituals in and around Yamunotri, since time immemorial.
Sayanachatti: A majestically located scenic spot on the banks of river Yamuna. The surroundings offer great relief to the tourists trekking to the shrine.
Jankichatti: Noted for its thermal springs, where tourists can enjoy a refreshing bath. Most of them wait here after a bath to freshen up the remaining journey.
Hanumanchatti: The confluence of Hanuman Ganga and Yamuna rivers, from where the trek to Dodi Tal (3,307 mts) starts.
Dodital: Literally meaning the Dodi Lake, is at an elevation of 3024 m north of Uttarkashi. Crystal clear waters are surrounded by dense oak woods, pine, deodar and rhododendrone. The lake is full of fish and is known for some rare species like the Himalayan Golden Trout. The trek from Dodital to Hanumanchatti via Darwa Top takes two days, moves on to the upper reaches of the Garhwal Himalayas in Yamunotri, the place where the sacred river Yamuna originates from
P.W.D. Inspection Bungalow at Barkot, Hanumanchatti
Forest Rest Houses at Dharasu, Janakichatti, Barkot, HanumanChatti
Ashrams & Dharamshalas At Yamunotri: kali Kamli Dharamshala, Mandir Samiti Dharamshala
AT Barkot: Shiva, Raturi, Rawat, Chauhan, Mishrwan, Agarwal Lodge, Rain Basera.
At Sayanachatti: Kalindi, Dipin Tourist Lodge, Jai Himalayan
At Ranachatti: Krishna Lok, chauhan, Ganga Yamuna, Sandeep
At JanakiChatti: Himalaya Darshan, Ganga Yamuna, Kalindi Mangal, Arvind Ashram
Dodital Yamunotri Trek
Haridwar-Kalyani: Drive to the road – head at Kalayani. The drive takes you through the picturesque Garhwal Mountains along the Ganges. Camp overnight by the side of river Asi Ganga. Overnight in Tents.
Kalyani-Dodital: A gradual uphill trek through beautiful landscape of thick forests and steep cliffs brings you to the mysterious Dodital Lake (3307 m) – surrounded by dense forests, which is an ideal place for the nature lover. Overnight in Forest Rest House / Tents. Dodital – Day at leisure.
Dodital–Seema-Trek: To Seema (16 km) with packed lunch. Overnight in tents.
Seema-Hanumanchatti: Trek to Hanumanchatti (18 kms. / 2400 m.) with packed lunch. Over night at Hanumanchatti.
Hanumanchatti-Yamunotri: Trek to Yamunotri (14 kms. / 3165 m.) with packed lunch. Overnight at Yamunotri.
Gangotri is the source of the river Ganges. Its an ideal location for the tourists looking for peace and adventure. It is important pilgrim site located at 3,048 m. above sea level. Gangotri is very close to the Indo-Tibetan border. Gangotri glacier, the original source of the sacred river Ganges is the 2nd longest glacier of Indian Himalaya after Siachin. It attracts tourists in large numbers every season. Along with the thrill of exploring nature, what one experiences here is the cpiritual aura that is completely Indian.
How to Reach
Air: Nearest airport is Jolly Grant, 18 kms from Rishikesh.
Rail: Nearest railhead is Rishikesh, 250 kms.
Road: The road to Yamunotri diverts at Dharasu, on way to Uttarkashi. Important road distances are: Hanumanchatti 14 kms., Dharasu 170 kms. Tehri 149 kms.
Bus: Hanumanchatti, the roadhead for Yamunotri is connected by bus services of Sanyukt Rotation Yatayat Vyavastha Samiti to Rishikesh, Haridwar and other major centres in the region.
Important Road Distances: Rishikesh to Yamunotri 222 kms. via Narendranagar 16 kms., Chamba 46 kms., Tehri 21 kms., Dharasu 42 kms., Bhramkhal 15 kms., Barkot 40 kms., Phoolchatti 5 kms., Jankichatti 3 kms., Yamunotri 6 kms. (14 kms. on foot from Hanumanchatti).
Where to stay
Dharamshalas and other alternative accommodations are available at Yamunotri. There is a Tourist Rest House (GMVN) at Janki Chatti.
Where to Eat
Only local small restaurants (Dhabas) are available. Non-vegetarian
food and alcoholic drinks are prohibited in Yamunotri.
Stay on the Way:-
Tourist Rest Houses:-
Barkot: Type of room: Deluxe, Dormitor
Sayanachatti: Type of room: Ordinary
Hanumanchatti: Type of room: Executive, Dormitory
Janakischatti: Type of room: Executive, Ordinary, Dormitory
Yamunotri: Type of room: Dormitory
At Gangotri there is a temple dedifcated to Goddess Ganga and the sacred stone where Raja Bhagirath is believed to have worshipped Lord Shiva. The origin of the river is at Gaumukh, which is further 18 km trek along the Gangotri glacier. The holy river is called Bhagirathi at the source and acquires the name Ganga from Devprayag onwards where it meets Alaknanda. Gangotri can be reached in just one day’s travel from Rishikesh, Haridwar or Dehradun, or in two days from Yamunotri, the first site in the Char Dham circuit. Gangotri is easily accessible by car and bus, as a result that it sees more number of pilgrims than Yamunotri. This small town of Gangotri is centered around the temple of the goddess Ganga. Every year, lakhs of pilgrims throng the sacred temple between May and October. Ritual duties in the temple are supervised by the Semwal family of priests.
Adventurous pilgrims can make an overnight stay here. Before 17 kms. trek to Gaumukh, the actual source of the river Ganga. The verdant valleys, dense forests and towering peaks offer excellent trekking and mountaineering opportunities for adventure enthusiasts. For a large number of travelers, Gangotri town serves as the starting point of the Gangotri-Gaumukh-Tapovan and Gangotri-Kedartal trekking routes. Diwali day every year and is reopened in April or May. During this time, the idol of the goddess is kept at Mukhba village, near Harsil her winter abode (12 kms. downstream, home to the main Pandas of Gangotri). The other places of pilgrimage are Surya Kund, Vishnu Kund and Brahma Kund located in the vicinity of Gangotri.
Gaumukh is where the waters of Ganga trickle down from the glaciers. The sages called it ‘Gaumukh’, because in the distant past, it probably appeared like a cow’s mouth, though today it no longer appears so. The Gaumukh glacier is the source of Bhagirathi (Ganga) and is held in high esteem by the devouts who do not miss the opportunity to have the holy dip even in the bone chilling icy water. It is 18 kms. from Gangotri. There is a Tourist Bungalow at Bhojbasa, 14 kms. from Gangotri where lodging and other facilities are available. From Gangotri pilgrims move along the beaten track towards Chirbasa. From here, one can get a clear view of the Bhagirathi Peak.
At 2743 mt. further downstream, 10 kms. from Gangotri, is the picturesque forested halting place of Bhaironghati. There exists a small temple of Bhairon, appointed by Shiva to safeguard this region which gives the place its name. The bridge over the Jhanvi river at Bhaironghati is said to be the highest in Asia.
An arduous trek along the Gangotri Glacier leads to scenic Nandanvan – the base camp for the Bhagirathi peaks, that offers a panoramic view of the surrounding Shivling peak. A trek across the snout of the Gangotri Glacier leads to Tapovan known for its beautiful meadows that encircle the base of the Shivling Peak.
16 km downstream of Gangotri lies the township of Dharali, where also, it is believed that King Bhagirath had undergone penance. There one may see the submerged remains of a temple, termed Kedar Kund.
Hot springs are encountered at Gangnani, 56 km from Gangotri on the road to Uttarkashi, near the tank called Rishi-Kund is a temple dedicated to the Parasher, believed to be the father of Ved Vyas, author of the Mahabharat.
An enhancing lake, 4425 mts. above sea leval against the splendid backdrop of mighty Thalaiyasagar peak at a distance of 18 kms.. Accessible through a rough mountain trail, it is the base camp for trekking to surrounding peaks. The trek to Kedartal needs a local guide.
At a distance of 99 kms., its a important pilgrimage centre, situated at an elevation of 1,150 mts. above sea level on the bank of river Bhagirathi. Some of the important temples worth visiting are – Vishwanath temple, Ekadash Rudra temple, Gyaneshwar temple and Kuteti Devi temple. Nearby is the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. Every year, during the ‘Magh Mela’ people visit Uttarkashi to take a holy dip in Bhagirathi along with the image of their village deity.
A breathtakingly beautiful meadow, situated at a height of 3,048 mts. above sea level at 93 kms. A motorable road connects Bhatwari (27 kms. from Uttarkashi) with Raithal village, from where follows a 6 kms. long trek to Dayara. The famous Sheshnag Temple enroute is an attraction of the trek. From Dayara, one can also trek down to Dodi Tal (30 kms.). During winters, Dayara provides excellent ski slopes over an area of 28 sq.kms.
A pleasant trek of 131 kms. through lush green forests leads to this peaceful retreat. A small temple along the lake and lovely surroundings are a major attraction.
GANGOTRI\BHOJBASA TREK: 5-6 HRS. Trek to Bhojbasa. The entire trek is along the roaring Bhagirathi River. Arrive at Bhojbasa and camp. Afternoon free to explore the area and to enjoy excellent sunset on Bhagirathi group of peaks. BHOJBASA/GAUMUKH Morning, enjoy the panoramic view of Bhagirathi group of peaks. Trek to Gaumukh, the source of the Ganges. Explore the area and trek to Bojbasa.
BHOJBASA/GANGOTRI TREK: 4-5 HRS. Morning trek, down to Gangotri.
How to Reach
Airport: Nearest airport is Jolly Grant, 17 kms. from Rishikesh and. 24 kms. from Dehradun, 275 kms. from Gangotri.
Railhead: Nearest railheads are Rishikesh (248 kms.), Haridwar and Dehradun.
Imp. Road Distances from Gangotri: Rishikesh (248 Kms.), Tehri (172 Km.), Dharasu (129 Km.), Yamunotri (224 Km.), Mussoorie (247 Km.)
Ashrams and Dharamshalas:
At Uttarkashi: Gangotri Mandir Dharamshala, Birla Dharamshala, Kali Kamli Dharamshala, Kailash Dharamshala, Shivanand Dharamshala, Dandi Kshetra Ashram, Bajoria Ashram, Mata Satyavati Ashram, Shanka Math Ashram,
At Gangotri: Sri Ganga Purohit Ashram, Gangotri Mandir Dharamshala, Kali Kamli Dharmashala, Punjab & Sind Dharamshala, Dandi Ashram, Eeshavasyam Ashram, Mauni Ashram, Birla Mangal Niketan, Ganga Niketan, Shanti Niketan, Bhagirathi Sadan, Acharya Sadan, Himalaya Sadan, Dalmia Sadan, Krishna Ashram, Bajoria Sadan, Jahnavi Ashram, Tarpadia Sadan, Ram Govind Bhawan, Bagad Dharmshala.
Where to Stay
Tourist Rest Houses
chinyalisaur:- Type of room: Executive
Uttarkashi:- Type of room: Deluxe, Executive, Ordinary, Family suite, Dormitory
Harsil:- Type of room: Deluxe, Executive, Dormitory
Lanka:- Type of room: Executive, Dormitory
Bhaironghati:- Type of room: Executive, ordinary
Gangotri:- Type of room: Deluxe, Ordinary, Dormitory
P.W.D Inspection Bungalows at Gangotri, Bhaironghati, Bhatwari, Harsil, Chinyalisaur. P.W.D. Rest Houses at Gangotri, Bhaironghati, Harsil, Dharasu and Uttarkashi (Kotbungla)
Amidst the dramatic mountainscapes of the majestic range stands one of the twelve “Jyotirlingas” of Kedar or Lord Shiva. At an altitude of 3584 mts. and on the head of river Mandakani, the shrine of Kedarnath is amongst the holiest pilgrimages for the Hindus. There are more than 200 shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva in this district itself, the most important one being Kedarnath. Situated in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarankhand, Kedarnath is very close to the Indo-Chinese border. It is the source of the Mandakini River. Couched in the scenic locales of the Garhwal, the area is extremely cold in the winters with the ground being covered with snow. In the summers, the mercury barely crosses the 20 C mark. The best time to visit is between May and October. As per the tradition decided by Lord Brahma the temple would be open for six months i.e from Hindu calendar month Vaishaka to Kartik for darshan to the common people. For the remaining six months i.e from Margashirsh to Chaitra the temple would be closed for darshan to common people as it is now the Devas turn for Lord’s darshan. During the winters, the shrine is submerged in snow and hence is closed.
According to a popular legend, the Mahabharata heroes, the Pandavas after having won over the Kauravas in the great Mahabharata war, felt guilty of having killed their own brothers and sought the blessings of Lord Shiva for redemption. He eluded them repeatedly and while fleeing took refuge at Kedarnath in the form of a bull. Bhima, one of the Pandava brothers, found Shiva amongst a herd of cattle. Having identified the grabbed him by the hindquarters. What remains at the shrine in Kedarnath is the rear end of the bull, with the rest of its body scattered throughout the Garhwal. Shiva dived into the ground leaving behind him a hump on the surface. This conical protrusion is worshipped as the idol. It is the main site of the Panch Kedar temples. The remaining portions of Lord Shiva appeared at four other places and are worshipped there as his manifestations. The arms appeared at Tungnath, the face at Rudranath, the belly at Madmaheshwar and his locks (hair) with head at Kalpeshwar. kedarnath and the four above mentioned shrines are treated as panch Kedar.
What to See
Kedarnath is a majestic singht, standing in the middle of a wide plateau surrounded by lofty snow covered peaks. The Kedarnath Temple is situated at an altitude of 3580 m. amidst the background of snow covered mountain peaks and greenery. The temple is built of large, heavy and evenly cut grey slabs of stones and is considered more than 1000 years old. The temple has a garbha griha where a conical rock formation is situated and a Mandapam for seating of pilgrims and visitors. A large statue of the Nandi Bull is situated outside the temple door. The nearest motorable road is Gaurkund. The pilgrims have to trek 14 kms. to reach the temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the exquisitely architecture Kedarnath temple is built of extremely large, heavy and evenly cut gray slabs of stones, it evokes wonder as to how these heavy slabs were handled in those ancient days! The present temple, built in the 8th century by Adi Shankaracharya, stands adjacent to the site of an earlier temple built by the Pandavas. The inner walls of the assembly hall are decorated with figures of various deities and scenes from mythology. Outside the temple door a large statue of the Nandi Bull stands as guard. The temple has a “Garbha Griha” for worship and a Mandap apt for assemblies of pilgrims and visitors. A conical rock formation inside the temple is worshipped as Lord Shiva in his Sadashiva form. Shankaracharya Samadhi: Behind the Kedarnath Temple lies the samadhi or the final resting place of Adi Guru Shankaracharya. It is believed, after establishing the four dhams in India, he took his Samadhi at an early age of 32 years. It is surprising to believe, how at a tender age of 32, this enlighted man form the southernmost part of India, Kerala, travelled all across India, discussing religion, writing religious treatises, and at last resting eternally at the nothem most part of India, in the icy ground of Kedarnath!
Chorabari (Gandhi Sarovar) a small lake from where Yudhishthir, the eldest of the Pandavas, is believed to have departed to heaven. The floating ice on the sparkling waters of the lake is a fascinating singht. Only 2 kms. trek away from Kedarnath. Floating-ice on the crystal clear waters of the lake fascinates the visitors.
At a distance of 6 kms. from Kedarnath, a picturesque lake, 4,135 mts. above sea level is encircled by lofty mountains and offers a breathtaking view of the Chaukhamba peaks.
At an elevation of 1829 mts. and on the main Kedarnath route at a distance of 20 kms., Son Prayag lies at the confluence of river Vasuki and Mandakani. The holy site of Son Prayag is of immense religious singnificance. It is said that a mere touch of the holy water of Son Prayag helps one to attain the “Baikunth Dham”,
25 kms. from Kedarnath, a 5 kms, trek from Sonprayag, it is the mythological venue. According to legend, this was the place where the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati was solemnised. In front of the Shiva Temple is an eternal flame, which is said to be a witness to the marriage. It can also be reached by a 12 km. drive from Sonprayag.
60 kms. From Kedarnath, its a major religious centre. Winter home of the deity of the Kedarnath Temple and the seat of the Rawal of Kedarnath. Connected by bus services to Rudraprayag and other major centres.
At a distance of 73kms. Famous for the temple dedicated to sage Agastya. From here Helicopter service is available for Kedarnath.
49 kms. Off Kedarnath. The temples of Ardhnarishwar and Vishwanath are major attractions here. Guptkashi is the shrine at a height of 1319 mtrs. where Shiva went incognito.
93 kms. from the temple town. The Chandrashila peak provides a rare view of snow-clad peaks. The rhododendron Forests and alpine meadows dominate the trek from Tungnath to Chandrashila.
68 kms. from Kedarnath. Sari village is the last the bus terminus on Chopta-Ukhimath road from where a 2 kms. trek leads to Deoria Tal. This beautiful lake at an altitude of 2,438 mts. gives the spectacular reflection of snow capped peaks in the lake water. Ideal spot for angling bird watching.
Four Other Kedars
Three of these (barring Kalpeshwar) are in mountain meadows at higher altitudes than Kedarnath. The climb to Rudranath is the most strenuous but lookwise this meadow is one of the finest in Garhwal.
The sanctity of the region of Tungnath is considered unsurpassed. The peak of Tungnath is the source of three springs that form the river Akashkamini. At this temple at 3, 680 mts., Shiva’s arm is worshipped. The highest Hindu shrine in the Himalayas, 3 kms. uphill from Chopta, Tungnath is reached throught a path that wends through alpine meadows and rhododendron thickets. An hour’s climb from here leads to Chandrashila with its panoramic views. The entire journey and the shrine are located in some of the finest, most picturesque realm of the Himalayas.
Situated amidst thick woods, here the ‘mukh’ or the Lord’s face appeared and Shiva is worshipped as Neelkanth Mahadev. Situated at a height of 2,286 m. all around are fragrant flower laden meadows where herbs, grow in profusion. In the background, in all their glory, are the glittering snow- covered peaks of Trishul, Nanda Devi, Devasthan etc. Near the temple is a stream of sparkling water known as Vaitarini – the ‘Water of Salvation’. Passing through the glorious mountain scenery, the 17kms. trek passes on its way through Anusuyadevi. At a height of 2,439 m., Nandikund is a place where the people worship some rusty old history,c swords thrust into the rocks. The local populace earnestly believe that the swords belonged originally to the Pandvas. The temple is surrounded by a number of pools – Surya Kund, Chandra Kund, Tara Kund, Manas Kund – while the great peaks of Nanda Devi, Trishul and Nanda Ghunti rear overhead.
30 kms. From Guptkashi (24 kms. trek and 6 kms. motorable) at a height of 3490 m. is a magnificent Shiva Temple, approachable through a trekking route that passes through the famous Siddha Peeth of Kalimath. With a backdrop of the imposing peaks of Chaukhamba, Kedarnath and Nelkanth soaring up to Heavens, the unparralleled beauty of the route starts from Guptkashi.
This small rock temple to be entered a cave, 2kms. From Urgam / 11 kms. from Helang, bear the manifestation is of the Shiva’s hair or Jata. The 14 kms. distance from Joshimath to Helang is motorable and the rest 11 kms. bridle path via Urgam begins with the crossing of the Alaknada at Helang. Most of the trek is a gradual climb. Just 2 kms. before Kalpheshwar is the friendly village of Urgam (2134 m.) set amidst mesmerising natural surrfoundings.
Where to Eat
Local eateries / dhabas offer vegetarian food. Non-vegetarian food and alcoholic drinks are prohibited.
How to Reach
Air: Airport Jolly Grant, Dehradun (251 kms.)
Rail: Raihead Rishikesh (234 kms.) Kotdwar (260 kms.)
Road: Road Approachable on foot from Ganrikund, which is connected by road to Rishikesh, Kotwar, Dehradun, Haidwar and other important hill stations of Garhwal and Kumaon region. Kedarnath is near to Rishikesh (234 kms) and Dehradun (250 kms.).
Some major road distances are:
Rambara 6 kms. on foot, Gaurikund 14 kms. on foot, Sonprayag 20 kms., Guptkashi 49 kms., Kund 54 kms., Augustmuni 73 kms., Tilwara 83 kms., Rudraprayag 92 kms., Ukhimath 59 kms., Dogalbhita 83 kms., Chopta 89 kms., Mandal 117 kms., Gopeshwar 128 kms., Chamoli 138 kms.
Where to stay
- Temple Committee Guest House.
- GMVN Tourist Bungalow, Modi Bhavan, behind the temple.
- Punjab Sindh, next to the Post office.
- Tourist Rest House, GMVN.
- Saraf Cottage, Modi Bhavan, Kali Kamli Dharamshala, Bhajan Ashram, Bharat Seva Ashram etc.
“There are many sacred sport of pilgrimage in the heavens, earth and the nither world, but there has been none equal to Badri, nor shall there be”! Encircled by a beautiful valley, on the banks of holy river Alaknanda. with the Neelkanth mountains as the backdrop, Badrinath Dham is the holiest of the four shrines on the scared itinerary of evey devour Hindu. Perched on the twin mountain ranges of Nar and Narayan, Badrinath is the abode of Lord Vishnu. The name Badrinath is derived from wild berries. Locally called Badri.Once the spot was carpeted with ‘badris’ or wild berries and hence was known as ‘Badri Van’ or wild berries forest. The revered shrine still alive with myriad legends from mythology. The facilities on the road to Badrinath has improved manifold in the recent times. An estimated 600,000 pilgrims visit the shrine every season now. In 1961, it was just 90,676.
The Legend of Badrinath
According to the legend, when the goddess Ganga was asked to descend to earth to help the suffering humanity, the earth was unable to withstand the force of her descent. Therefore the mighty Ganga was split into twelve holy channels, with Alaknanda one of them. It later become the abode of Lord Vishnu or Badrinath. The mountains around Badrinath are mentioned in the Mahabharata. It is believed that the Pandavas ended their lives by ascending the slopes of a peak in western Garhwal called Swargarohini – literally, the ‘Ascent to Heaven’. Local legend has it that the Pandavas passed through Badrinath and the town of Mana, 4 kms. north of Badrinath, on their way to Swargarohini. There is also a cave in Mana where Rishi Vyas, according to legend, wrote the great Indian epic Mahabharata. Its sanctity is emphasised in many ancient scriptures. The area around Badrinath was celebrated in Padma Purana as abounding in spiritual treasures. Badrinath has also been eulogised as Bhu Vaikunta or earthly abode of Lord Vishnu. Many religious scholars like Ramanuja, Madhawacharya and Vedanta Desika visited Badrinath and wrote sacred texts, such as commentaries on Brahmasutras and other Upanishads.
How to Get There
Just a few kilometers from the Indo-China (Tibet) broder, Badrinath is a two-day’s journey from either Kedarnath, the site that precedes it in the Char Dham circuit, or one of the main disembarkation points on the plains. Hemkund Sahib, an important Sikh pilgrimage site, is on the way to Badrinath, so the road is especially crowded during the summer pilgrimage season. The temple and its substantial surrounding village are accessible by road. The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant Airport near Dehradun, around 317 kms. from Badrinath. The nearest railway stations to Badrinath are at Rishikesh and Kotdwar, which are at a distance of 297 kms. and 327 kms. respectively. There are regular buses operating to Badrinath from Delhi, Haridwar and Rishikesh.
What to See
The temple of Shri Badrinath dates back to vedic times. The 15 mts. high temple is dedicated to Lord Vichnu, it is built in the form of a cone with a small cupola of a gilt bull and spire The present temple is believed to have been built by Adi Shankracharya the great 8th century philosopher-saint, who also established a ‘math’ here’. The temple has been renovated several times thereafter, due to damages by avalanches. It looks very attractive and colourful due to the multi hued “Singh Dwara” or the main entrance gate. It has three parts. Garbha Griha (the sanctum sanctorum), Darshan Mandap (for pujas) and Shobha Mandap (for devotees to assemble).
The temple is divided into three parts –the ‘garbha griha’ or sanctum sanctorum, the ‘dershan mandap’ where the rituals are conducted and the ‘sabha mandap’ where devotees assemble. The complex has 15 idols. The most important is a one meter tall black stone image of Vishnu, as Lord Badri Narayan. Finely sculpted in black stone, it represents Lord Vishnu seated in a meditative pose rather than His far more typical reclining pose. The temple and its substantial surrounding village are accessible by road. There is a hot spring near the temple, and many saints live in the surrounding mountains all year round despite the harsh winter at such high elevations.
Devotees take a holy dip in the natural thermal springs on the banks of the river Alaknanda, before entering the Badrinath Temple. The water of the kund is believed to have medicinal properties.
A flat platform on the bank of river Alaknanda where Hindus perform propitiating rites for their deceased ancestors.
A boulder having an impression of the legendary serpant – known as Sheshnag’s eye.
The footprints of Lord Vishnu can be seen on a boulder in this beautiful meadow.
A Pyramidical -Shaped snowy peak towering above Badrinath, Popularly known as the ‘Garhwal Queen’.
Panch Badris (Five Badris)
Besides the main temple of Badrinath there are four other smaller Badri temples. These are collectively called the Panch Badris of Five Badris. Very few pilgrims however, visit the other four Badri temples. Yogadhyan Badri (1920 m./ 24 kms.): Closest to the main temple of Badrinath lies this tiny, sleepy hamlet which remains unnoticed by most pilgrims and is the winter home for the idol at Badrinath. Pandukeshwar is also an important archaeological site. Some years ago, four ancient metal foils engraved with a description of several kings in the region were discovered here. Believed to be over 1500 years old, these foils are kept at Joshimath, 30 kms. downstream.
Bhavishya Badri (2,744 m./69 kms.): The Bhavishya or future Badri is situated at Subain near Tapovan, about 17 kms. east of Joshimath. According to Hindu belief, when evil will be on the rise in this world, the two mountains Nara and Narayan at Badrinath will close up on each other and destroy the route to the present Badrinath. This would also mark the end of the present world and the beginning of a new one. Lord Badrinath will then appear at the Bhavishya Badri temple and be worshipped here instead of at the present one.
Vriddha Badri : Also Known as ‘Old Badri’ (52 kms) is the third temple about 7 kms short of Joshimath, on the main Rishikesh-Badrinath motor road at Animath. It is believed that Badrinath was worshipped here before its enshrinement by Shankaracharya at the main Badrinath seat. The temple of Vriddha Badri is open throughout the year. Adi Badri (146 kms) is the farthest from the other four badris. It is approachable from Kamaprayag by a motorable road enroute Ranikhet. The temple complex has 16 small temple with intricate carvings. Seven of these temples belong to the late Gupta period. Local tradition assigns these buildings to Shankaracharya. The main temple is distinguished by a pyramid shaped raised platform, with a black stone idol of Vishnu.
Mata Murti Temple (3 kms.): This is a scenic spot stop the hills, on the right bank of Alaknanda. Here stands the holy temple dedicated to the mother of Sri Badrinat.
Mana Village (4 kms.): Primarily inhabitated by Indo-Mangolian tribe, it is considered to be the last Indian village before Tibet on this route. Nearby are Vyas Gufa-the rock cave of saint Ved Vyas, the writer of Mahabharata; Bhimpul – a natural bridge over the Saraswati river and Vasundhara Falls – a 122 mts. high waterfall – all forming an important part of the pilgrimage to Badrinath. Chamoli ( 10 kms.): From Gopeshwar on Badrinath highway is the tiny mountain retreat that attracts visitors for its verdant landscapes and fresh mountain air.
Alka Puri (15 kms.): The celestial source of Alaknanda river from the glacier snouts of Bhagirath – kharak and Satopanth glaciers.
Valley of Flowers (42 kms.): An unparalleled experience, an exotic valley in a conical shape lies to the east of Badrinath with river Pushpawati flowing through it. The valley that is presently a national park, is 19kms. trek from Govindghat. A must – see for all nature lovers.
Hemkund Sahib (43 kms.): Near the Valley of Flowers is the Sikhs as well as the Hindus. Along its shores is the sacred Sikh Shrine where Guru Govind Singh, the tenth Guru unified with God after prolonged meditation in his previous birth. Nearby is the Lakshman Temple where Lakshman – the brother of Lord Rama performed his penance. The mesmerizing surrounding snow-clad peaks in its placid waters offers a scenic sight.
Satopanth (25 kms.): A three cornered lake with a circumference of about 1 km., situated at an elevation of 4,402 mts. above sea level. It is named after the Hindu triad – Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, who are believed to occupy one corner each of the lake. The trek is hazardous with dramatic landscapes. An experienced guide is advisible.
Govindghat (25 kms.): The confluence of Alaknanda and Lakshman Ganga rivers. It’s the site of the imposing Gurudwara named after Guru Govind Singh.
Joshimath ( 44 kms.): The winter home of Shri Badrinathji is situated on the slopes above the confluence of Alaknanda and Dhauliganga. It is one of the four ‘maths’ established by Adi Guru Shankaracharya.
Auli (57 kms.): An ideal Ski resort in the Garhwal Himalayas with its slopes comparable to the best in the world. Parched at an elevation of 2,500-3,050 mtr., Auli not only offers a magnificent view of the Himalayan ranges but is a delight for winter sports enthusiasts.
Panch Prayag: The five important confluences – Deoprayag, Nandprayag, Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag and Vishnuprayag, form the Panch Prayag.
Deoprayag: The confluence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers. Ancient stone scriptures are found around. Important pilgrim spots are Shiv Temple and Raghunath Temple.
Rudraprayag: The confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers. The temples of Rudranath and Chamunda Devi are noteworthy.
Nandprayag: The confluence of Alakbnanda and Mandakini rivers. The Gopalji Temple is worth a visit.
Vishnuprayag: The confluence of Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers. An ancient temple of Lord Vishnu stands here by a pool called Vishnu Kund.
Srinagar (192 kms.): This fascinating town is the old capital of garhwal. It is an important cultural and educational centre. Places to visit include Kamleshwar and KilKileshwar temples and the holy Shankar Math.
What to See
Dharamshala and Tourist Rest House are available for a comfortable and economical accommodation.
Where to Eat
Vijaya Laxmi Restaurant
Several other restaurants
Liquor and non-vegetarian food are prohibited.