Uttrakhand Chardham : The Chardham Yatra in India is considered to be one of the most sacred. Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath collectively known as Chardham are the four holy places which are regarded as the most divine pilgrimages of the country. It is known as ‘Kedareshwar’ in the ancient Hindu scriptures. It is believed that the Chardham journey will cleanse a person of his sins and release him from the cycle of birth and death. All the four pilgrim centres are located in the Himalayan ranges of the Garhwal division. The yatra begins from left to right by visiting Yamunotri followed by Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath which completes the parikrama as per Hindu tradition.
In between the spectacular mountain ranges lies one of the twelve Jyotirlinga of Kedar or Lord Shiva known as Kedarnath. It is at a height of 3584 meter on the head of the river Mandakini. Situated in the Rudraprayag district, Kedarnath is the main temple among the more than 200 temples found in this district. It is believed that the Pandavas after defeating the Kauravas, sought the blessing of Lord Shiva for penance. In an attempt to avoid them, Lord Shiva took refuge at Kedarnath in the form of a bull. When he was being followed, he dived into the ground, leaving behind the hump on the surface. The arms fell at Tungnath, face at Rudranath, belly at Madhmaheshwar and his hair with head appeared at Kalpeshwar. Hence these five shrines are known as Panch Kedar. The other places of visit in this district include Gaurikhund, Guptkashi, Shankaracharya Samadhi, Son Prayag and Koteshwar.
The Badrinath temple is protected by two mountains Nar and Narayan. The visitor can have a beautiful milieu of Badrinath from the Neelkanth Peak. Badrinath is situated in the Chamoli district of Garhwal division. It is believed that after being admonished by Narad for being engrossed in the worldly pleasures, Lord Vishnu had came to this place called Badri Van or the berry garden to meditate. Hence the main God here is the meditating Lord Vishnu. At the bank of the Alaknanda River, there is a hot water spring called ‘Tapt Kund’ that faces the temple. Visitors can enjoy a refreshing bath here. The temple is built in the form of a cone with a small cupola of gilt bull and spire. The temple is opened for visit in AprilMay every year and remains closed during winters in the third week of November. The temple has three parts Garbha Grih (The Sanctum Sanctorum), Darshan Mandap (for pujas) and Sabha Mandap (for devotees to assemble).Other places of visit in this district include Hemkund Saheb, Gopeshwar and Prayags.
Gangotri, also located in the Uttarkashi district, lies at a height of 3048 meter. It is about 99 km from Uttarkashi. The shrine was built in the 18 th century by Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa. The temple which is placed on the left bank of Bhagirathi is visited by lakhs of pilgrims every year. One can find many ashrams on the opposite side that offer accommodation to visitors.
Yamunotri, located in the Uttarkashi district, is a place of supreme importance in the Chardham Yatra. It lies at an altitude of about 3235 meter. It is located opposite to Gangotri. The road is divided at a place called Dharasu which comes between RishikeshUttarkashi and leads to Yamunotri. The temple is accessible through Mussourie and Barkot as well.