If you think that trekking and pilgrimage can’t go hand in hand, then you are probably wrong. In Uttarakhand, trekking and pilgrimage sometimes can be the same thing. The best example is the Char Dham yatra. Whenever people think of Uttarakhand the first thought that strike in most people’s minds is the holy Char Dham yatra. Earlier it was done only as a pilgrimage but now as the culture of trekking has gained a lot of momentum, many youngsters choose it as a trekking option. Cosily nestled in the laps of the Himalayas are the four pilgrim sites of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath, forming a circuit known as ‘Chota Char Dham’.
Yamunotri is dedicated to the goddess Yamuna and it is the first spot to be visited among the four dhams. Yamunotri is situated at the height of 3293 meters. The trek starts from Janki Chatti to Yamunotri and on the way, you will get enthralled by Hanuman Chatti and Phool Chatti. The Bandarpoonch peaks are beautifully visible in its north. Hanuman Chatti, Surya Kund, Yamunotri Temple, and Divya Shila are the main attractions here. The portal of the shrine opens in April and closes in November.
The next site is Gangotri which is dedicated to the goddess Ganga. To reach here you need to head towards Uttarkashi. On the way to you will also find the ancient Prakateshwar caves (built by limestones), dedicated to Lord Shiva. Gangotri is located at a height of 3,100 meters. The place is pious because it marks the origin of the life-supporting River Ganges. The river originates from Gaumukh, situated here. Another attraction here is the Kalp Kedar temple which is also known as the winter place of goddess Ganga.
The third site of this quad-circuit is Kedarnath. From Uttarkashi, the drive continues till Guptkashi, which is a small town in the hills. From here one can get a mesmerising view of Chaukhamba peak. The other sites for tourists over here are the Vishwanath temple and the Ardh Narishwar temple. The next day, the trek to Kedarnath begins. From Gaurikund the trek distance to Kedarnath is 16 Km. The trek is moderate but requires good health to traverse. On the way, you will enjoy the epic view offered by mother Nature. Snow-capped peaks, verdant grasses, alpine meadows, small rivulets, rich forests of pine, and many more. Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the twelve jyotirlingas of Shiva.
The fourth and last site which completes the holy pilgrimage is Badrinath. Badrinath is located in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. It is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Badrinath is also a part of the larger Char Dham circuit. It is settled on the banks of River Alaknanda. Other attractions encountered on the way are Vyas cave, Ganesh cave, Sanakracharya’s meditation place, and Panch Paryagas.
It is said that a person in his lifetime must do Char Dham yatra. Every year lakhs of visitors pay obeisance to these four dhams (in hope of washing away the sins that they have committed). Besides, this yatra fills in peace and tranquility inside you. Also, if you are a seeker then you must visit the Char Dhams.