The Char Dham yatra is considered to be the most auspicious pilgrimage in Hinduism. It is a religious journey to the four abodes of the gods that are most venerated by Hindus. Some believe that this yatra must be undertaken once every year as it helps to achieve “Moksha” (which means being freed from worldly concerns). It’s a great yatra for travellers too as all places are located in different parts of India.
The shrines are at Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. These are closed for visiting during the winters due to heavy snowfall and reopen only with the onset of summers.
It is believed that the Char Dham opens the doors of salvation by washing away the sins of the people who complete it. The four shrines associated with it are of great significance for Hindus and according to mythology, Shri Adi Shankaracharya attained freedom from the process of rebirth in the Badrinath Dham.
The yatra is done in a particular sequence and begins with a visit to Yamunotri. Next in the sequence comes the Gangotri shrine and then the Kedarnath shrine. The final destination is the Badrinath Dham and here, the journey is said to be complete.
Yamunotri Dham : Located at an altitude of 3164 meters from sea level, this is a shrine dedicated to Goddess Yamuna. It is believed that Yamuna was the sister of Yamraj who promised her that whoever takes a dip the Yamuna River will obtain salvation and will never be taken to Yamlok.
Gangotri Dham : The dham is located at an altitude of 3200 meters above sea level along the banks of river Bhagirathi. It is believed that the river Ganga sprang to life only after King Bhagirath meditated for a long time. This is why before visiting the beautiful temple, people take a dip in the river.
Kedarnath Dham : Kedarnath is one of the twelve jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva and the shrine is named after the Satyuga ruler ‘Kedar’. Kedarnath along with four other shrines are known as the Panch Kedar.
Badrinath Dham : It is the most sacred among the four shrines and is dedicated to Lord Vishnu who is the guardian of the divine Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva). Located on the bank of river Alaknanda, it offers stunning views. What adds to the surrounding scenery is the fact that is 3,133 meters above sea level.
Lakhs of devotees and pilgrims flock to Char Dham every year as it is the holiest circuit for them. The best time to visit is during the months of May to October. One must not visit during the monsoon as the area is prone to landslides. Heavy snowfall happens in the Garhwal Himalayas during the winters and the gates of the shrines are closed for the entire duration. The idols in the temples are shifted to nearby pilgrim sites, and though devotees can visit them, the shift in location stops its from being a part of the Char Dham circuit.
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