Chardham, the most hallowed shrines in the Himalayas is nestled in the majestic hill of Himalayas. The four holy shrines of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, collectively referred to as the Char Dham ( or four pilgrimages centers ) and attracts saints and pilgrims for ages. These divine places not only serves as the place to achieve peace and harmony but also a way to get rid of worldly pain and sorrows and known in ancient Hindu sriptures as 'Kedarkhand'.
With the majestic and mystifying Himalayas as the backdrop, the four most holy pilgrimages of India never cease to amaze travelers and visitors. Char Dham, or the four pilgrimage centers, comprising of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri are frequented by the religious minded as well as those intrigued by the remnants of bygone years. The holy river, Ganges, and her tributaries flow buoyantly past the four Dhams. According to the legend, Goddess Ganga descended upon Earth in the form of a river to help the suffering humanity. As the Earth would be unable to endure the force of her descent, the holy Ganges was split into channels, each of which also came to be considered as sacred. Four of these channels flow past the four Dhams, namely Alaknanda (in Badrinath), Mandakini (in Kedarnath), Bhagirathi (in Gangotri) and Yamuna (in Yamunotri). The four Dhams are blessed not only with extraordinary scenic beauty but also with a long history. This has contributed ancient temples to the panorama of these holy lands.
Locations of Char Dhams
Each of the four holy shrines of the Char Dham is located at a height above 3,000 m above sea level. The four temples in a geographical context form two distinct groups, that of Badrinath-Kedarnath and Gangotri-Yamunotri, with the common starting point at Rishikesh.
Badrinath-Kedarnath lie towards the northeast of Rishikesh. Gangotri and Yamunotri are up north from Rishikesh. Of these sites, Badrinath and Gangotri are directly accessible by road while Kedarnath is reached by road followed by a short trek of 15 km from the Gaurikund road head. Yamunotri is a 13-km trek from Hanuman Chatti.
The abode of Lord Vishnu, Badrinath, is situated in the Himalayas (Uttarakhand) at the height of approximately 3,124 meters above sea level. It is on the left bank of the river, Alaknanda. Meandering rivers and the mountain range add to the beauty of this Holy Land. At one time the spot was covered with wild berries ("badris") and was famous as the "Badri Van" (the garden of wild berries).
The holy city of Kedarnath is situated 3,581meters above sea level, on the banks of the river Mandakini, amidst the spectacular mountain ranges of the Garhwal Himalayas. The Kedarnath shrine is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the destroyer. According to legend, this temple was built by the Pandavas to redeem themselves of the sin of killing their brothers during the famous Mahabharata war.
Gangotri is situated in Uttarakhand at the height of 3,048 meters in the magnificent Garhwal Himalayas. The 6 meters high Gangotri shrine is dressed in white granite stone and is situated on the right bank of the river, Bhagirathi. As the legend goes, this shrine was built by the Gorkha General, Amar Singh Thapa and rebuilt by the Maharaja of Jaipur. This 18th century temple is dedicated to the Goddess Ganga who is believed to have descended from heaven as the "stream of life" in response to King Bhagirath's penance.
3,322 meters above sea level, Yamunotri is the source of the river Yamuna, which is the main tributary of the holy river, Ganges. As the legend goes, Yamunotri was the home of Asit Muni, a famous sage of ancient times. Built in the 19th century, the Yamunotri temple has a black marble idol of Goddess Yamuna. Recently, the temple was destroyed twice by snow and floods but has been reconstructed each time.