The Char Dham Yatra is a sacred pilgrimage that Hindus believe to be a journey to salvation. Nestled in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, Char Dhams have four holy shrines.
The four sites of the Hindu pilgrimage are Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath. The sacred shrines are associated with many ancient legends, beliefs, and faith. It is one of the most popular pilgrimages in India.
Read also: 10 Best Places to visit in India
For planning a Char Dham Yatra, here is our comprehensive guide.
When to book Char Dham Yatra?
Pilgrims embark on the journey in the mountains for divine blessings. Due to the high-altitude location of the holy Dhams, the holy pilgrimage is possible only for a few months when the weather is permissible.
The sacred Yatra to the Char Dham opens on the auspicious day of Akha Teej (in April- May) and closes for winter on Bhai-Dooj (2 days after the festival of Diwali).
The pilgrimage is possible from the months of April to May to October to November.
How to complete the Char Dham Yatra?
The Char Dham Yatra can be completed on foot and/or by helicopter. Devotees travel to various cities of Uttarakhand and further trek, ride a pony, or palki to pay obeisance to the revered Gods. Char Dham Yatra by helicopter package offers a short and hassle-free pilgrimage to the sacred shrines.
1. Yamunotri Dham
Yamunotri, the seat of Goddess Yamuna and believed to be the source of the Yamuna River, is the first stop of the Char Dham Yatra.
According to Hinduism, Goddess Yamuna is the sister of the God of Death, Lord Yama, and praying to the goddess will grant protection from untimely death. Devotees pray at the holy temple and bathe in the waters to cleanse all sins of a lifetime and attain salvation.
The holy places to visit in Yamunotri
- Yamunotri Temple is set at an altitude of 3291 m in the Garhwal Hills. The temple was built in the 19th century by Maharani Gularia of Jaipur. The deity is in the form of a silver idol.
- Saptarishi Kund is the actual glacial source of the Yamuna River and is located at an altitude of 4421 meters above sea level.
- Surya Kund is the thermal spring where the Prasad at the Yamunotri Dham is cooked in the hot water.
- Divya Shila is a rock pillar that is worshipped before entering the temple.
2. Gangotri Dham
Gangotri Dham is the seat of Goddess Ganga. It is the place where the Ganga River originates from Gaumukh Glacier, flowing down to the plains before merging in the sea.
According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Ganga took the form of the river to descend upon the earthly plane to cleanse the sins and liberate the souls of King Bhagirath’s predecessors, after strong penance.
Places to visit in Gangotri Dham:
- The Gangotri Temple was built in the 18th century by the Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa.
- Bhagirath Shila is the holy rock where King Bhagirath penanced.
- A submerged Shivling in the waters of River Bhagirathi at Gangotri makes its appearance rarely. It is believed here that Lord Shiva sat to receive Goddess Ganga in his locks.
- Pandava Gufa is believed to be the resting place of Pandavas en route to Kailash.
3. Kedarnath Dham
The third holy shrine of the Char Dham Yatra is Kedarnath. Surrounded by breathtaking snow-clad mountains, the temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva.
According to a popular legend, after the Mahabharata war, the Pandavas went in search of Lord Shiva to penance. The Lord took the form of a bull and hid in the Himalayas. On getting spotted the bull form scattered and the hump was left behind which became the holy lingam in the temple.
Places to visit in Kedarnath Dham:
- Kedarnath Temple is built on the remains of the ancient temple built by the Pandavas. It was built in the 8th century by the Hindu philosopher Adi Shankaracharya.
- Shankaracharya Samadhi is the place where Adi Shankaracharya gave up his life and earthly living.
- The Bhairon Temple is believed to be a shrine to the guardian of the Kedarnath Temple and valley.
4. Badrinath Dham
Badrinath Dham is a holy shrine that is part of both the original Char Dham and the Char Dham circuit in Uttarakhand.
According to the legend, Lord Vishnu went into deep meditation in the Himalayas and his consort Goddess Laxmi sheltered the lord in the form of a Badri (berry) tree. The lord became known as Badrinarayan.
Places to visit in Badrinath Dham
- Badrinath Temple was built in the 16th century by the King of Garwah when the revered black Saligram stone image of Lord Vishnu was discovered by Shankaracharya.
- Neelkanth is a snow-covered mountain peak that is the first place to receive the sun’s light in Dham and looks like a guard to the temple.
- Tapt Kund, the abode of Lord Agni, is a hot spring that is famous for its medicinal properties.
- The 400 feet Vasundhara Falls is a beautiful sight and believed to bless pure-hearted souls.
A soul bred in the mountains, Akansha Negi doles out travel inspiration from solo wandering, exploring heritage and culture, tasting local cuisine, adventures, and experiences of her travels. As a travel enthusiast, she loves to travel in India as this country is a sumptuous amalgam of traditions, spiritual beliefs, and magnificent landscapes. She keeps penning down and capturing her travel experiences and loves to share them with all. She wishes to travel across the globe in the years to come. Check out another post she has written here: International Destinations Perfect for a Joy-Filled Family Vacation.
All photos were provided and used with permission for this guest post only. Any unauthorized use of these photos is prohibited.
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15 thoughts on “Uttarakhand Char Dham Yatra: A Comprehensive Guide ”
It’s nice to read up travel guides during this crazy times. I’ll just pretend I’ve visited the place after reading them lol
This is awesome! One thing I lobe about traveling is being able to experience the different cultures and learning the reasons behind them.
This is such a comprehensive travel plan! I would love to have a Char Dham Yatra soon…
India has a lot of fascinating and interesting places to visit for tourists. This is a great reference if ever I went to India. I would love to go there soon. Thank you for sharing.
So beautiful. I definitely can’t wait to travel. You always talk about places I have never heard of but now want to go to.
Great share, love learning about new places. Also this is so beautiful.
So is it generally this crowded when you pursue the pilgrimage of Char Dham Yatra? There seems to be tons of people at each of the Dhams except maybe the Gangotri Dham in your pics. Not that it matters since I have done a Catholic Pilgrimage in Spain for 30+ days and some days were packed while walking.
My next question, and I ask sincerely, is that is the helicopter option a popular way? I guess I was really thrown off when you said either by walking or by Helicopter. It seems like such a major extreme. For the one in Spain, I walked. But there were people on Horeseback, Bicycle, or in some areas the elderly rode cars or motorcycles. But a helicopter…that just kind of shocked me I guess. Not in a bad way, mind you but was just unexpected.
4 dham yatra is kind of a blessing that Indians consider as. And Uttarakhand is the place I love, and always loved. I’m glad you wrote this beautiful post!
I miss traveling nowadays. I wish everything will go back to normal. For now I will just read travel posts and plan for my next travel journey.
Thank you for sharing this, it is amazing to learn of this place and the pilgrimage that targets it. Really beautiful images I hope to get to see in person one day.
I have heard about Uttarakhand char sham yatra but never been there. This comprehensive guide would really be useful for devotees.
What an incredible journey! The scenery and architecture are breathtaking. Definitely a once in a lifetime experience!
I was unfamiliar with this pilgrimage before reading your article. It looks like a fantastic experience and the shrines and temple look beautiful. Definitely sounds difficult due to the high altitude!
Such a beautiful land. Must truly help to clear the mind
What a beautiful place. It’s quite busy, though, huh? I don’t like vacation spots that get frequented by crowds, it can be very stressful.