Chardhams, an important pilgrimage yatra for all pious Hindus is cradled amid the snow-capped peaks of the high Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand region. The Chota Chardhams are a replica of the greater all-India Chardham circuit.
Pilgrims who are unable to travel to the four corners of the country embark on the Chota char dham yatra. According to common religious consensus, Chota chardham yatra equals the greater Chardham circuit yatra in terms of advantages.
The ‘Four’ Dhams
The Chardhams of Uttarakhand consist in Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnth and Badrinath dham. Yamunotri dham marks the first stopover for the Chardham Pilgrimage Tour. Yamunotri is lodged at an elevation of about 3293 meters above the sea level and is the westernmost Chardham shrine.
The temple at Yamunotri belongs to Goddess Yamuna who according to myths is Yama’s sister. Yamunotri dham is looked upon as the originating point of River Yamuna and common religious belief is that a holy dip into Yamuna River frees one of the fear of mortality & painful death. Yamunotri dham falls in Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district and is located close to Indo-China border. A trek of about 6kms from the Hanuman Chatti base camp, 4kms from Janki chatty base camp and 21kms from Sanya chatty base camp has to be undertaken to reach Yamunotri dham
From Yamunotri dham pilgrims move onward to Gangotri dham, the abode of Goddess Ganga. The Gangotri dham is situated on the river banks of Bhagirathi at an elevation of about 3048 meters above the sea level. Gangotri dham falls within Uttarakhand’s Uttarkashi district and is much revered by pilgrims as it marks the originating point of River Ganga, the mighty stream of life. Myths hold that at this site King Bhagirath did rigorous penance to please Ganga and bring her down to earth. Goddess Ganga finally agreed and descended onto the earth to absolve the sins of the King’s ancestors. Thus pilgrims too hope to wash away their sins by taking a holy dip in the Ganges at Gangotri.
Next pilgrims move onto Kedarnath dham, the abode of Lord Shiva. Kedarnath dham is one of the 12 major Shiv Jyortirlingas that our country is dotted with. Kedarnath dham is perched at an elevation of 3581 meters above the sea level and falls within Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag district. According to common beliefs the Kedarnath shrine was built by the great spiritual guru Adi Shankaracharya. Myths hold that at this point the Pandavas performed rigorous penance to seek the blessings of Lord Shiva. After the battle of Mahabharata, Pandavas were struck by the guilt of killing their own brothers. To get redemption from their feel of sin, they wished to get blessed by the Lord who however was continuously eluding them.
In Kedarnath Lord Shiva hid himself by taking the shape of a bull. When he fled from there, his hump was left behind on the ground. The other remaining parts fell at Rudranath, Tunganath, Kalpeshwar, Madhmaheshwar. All these Shiva temples along with Kedarnath shrine is collectively called Panch kedar. A 16km trek from Gaurikund has to be undertaken to reach Kedarnath dham
Then, follows the last of the dhams in the Chota Chardham circuit the Badrinath dham. It is a shrine belonging to Lord Vishnu or Badri Vishal and stands at an altitude of 3133 meters above the sea level. The Badrinath dham falls within Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district and is situated in the town Badrinath. The shrine stands on River Alkananda left bank and in the midst of the mountain ranges known by the names of Nar and Narayana. With the visit to Badrinath dham, one’s Chardham yatra is successfully completed
Best Time for Yatra
The best time to embark on this yatra is between March-May. It marks the summer season in Uttarakhand when weather is cool and pleasant. Rainy season and winter months should be avoided because rains make the region prone to landslides and winters are too chilly and snowy.
Importance of Chardham Yatra
Chardham Yatra is considered very important by all pious Hindus because it is believed that by embarking on this yatra they will be able to absolve all their mortal sins, that of present life as well as past life and thus easily attain ‘Moksha’ or salvation.
Adi Guru Shankaracharya attained moksha at the Badrinath dham. So pilgrims also believe that a yatra of the Chardhams could reward them with ‘moksha’. Also, the region where the Char dhams are lodged gives you plenty of pollution-free fresh air to breathe in, gives you access to some very rare and rather strange medicinal herbs and gifts you with mesmerizing natural beauty. The environ echoes with the chanting of shlokas sending positive energizing vibes. So you return from the yatra healthier and more energetic than before.