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ChardhamThe Four Holy Shrines
In the folds of the snow-coated mountains and lands of the lofty Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand are located the holy Hindu shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. They together form the Char Dham or the Four Holy Shrines. The region is referred as the land of the gods in the ancient Puranas. Scores of pilgrims visit the shrines by trekking actively along the mountain paths, all for a unification with the divine. Over the centuries, these sights have been described in holy scriptures as the places where devotees could earn the merits of all the pilgrimages put together. Subsequently, temples were built at these sanctified sights.

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Situated at a height of 3,133 m, Badrinath is said to be matchless in its sanctity when compared to other pilgrimages. It is located in the Narnarayan range against the imposing Neelkanth peak. The Badrinath temple stands in a beautiful valley on the bank of the Alaknanda River and is dedicated to Shri Badrinathji, that is Shiva the Preserver. It traces its origins to Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century, though legend has it that the temple stands on the site of an earlier shrine.

Kedarnath is at a height of 3,581 m, is the sight of one of the 12 Jyotir-lingas in the country. The temple built of solid gray stones stands against the backdrop of Kedarnath range. According to legend, the Pandavas came here to pray to Lord Shiva after their victory in the great battle of Kurukeshtra to atone for killing their own kin in the course of the war. However, Lord Shiva kept eluding them and sought refuge at Kedarnath in the form of a bull. On being trailed, he plunged into the ground, leaving only the hump exposed on the earth, which is worshipped at the shrine. His arms are believed to have surfaced at Tungnath, his face at Rudranath, belly at Madmaheshwar, his locks and head at Kalpeshwar. These spots where he reappeared (together with Kedarnath) form the Panch Kedar. All these places are located in the Garhwal Himalayas and can be visited from Kedarnath by road and subsequent trekking. Char Dham

The present temple at Kedarnath traces its origins to the 8th century, having been resurrected by Adi Guru Shankaracharya. It stands adjacent to the site of an ancient temple built by the Pandavas. The samadhi or final resting place of Shankaracharya is behind the temple.

18 kilometers downstream from Gaumukh is Gangotri. It is an important pilgrim site located at 3,048 m above sea level. The Gangotri glacier is the original source of the river. There is a temple dedicated to Goddess Ganga and the sacred stone where Raja Bhagirath is believed to have worshipped Lord Shiva. Submerged in the river here is the natural rock Shivling where Lord Shiva is believed to have received the Ganges (called Bhagirathi here) in his locks. It is visible in the winter months when the water level recedes.

The shrine of Yamunotri, at a height of 3,235 m, is dedicated to the river Goddess Yamuna. The temple of Goddess Yamuna is the main pilgrim site and there are many thermal springs in the vicinity. Also present is a divya shila, a rock pillar that is worshipped before entering the Yamunotri temple.

Travellers Factoid
Location - located at a height of 3,000 m above sea level, amidst Himalayas.
Climate - Pleasant
Coming to Char-Dham
By Air : The nearest airport from Rishikesh is at Jolly Grant, 18 km away.
By Rail : Rishikesh is also connected by train services with Haridwar, the nearest broad-gauge railway station.
By Road : Regular bus services also operate to the city from all the important centers in the northern region.

Related Traveller's Storie(s)
Allahabad - The City Of Sangam- By Ankit Surekha
Badrinath - A Confluence Of Spiritual Fervor - By Ramashish Chaturvedi
Chakrata – A gift Of Nature To Dehradun - By Dheeraj Deewedi
Nainital- Paradise Of North- By Niranjan Kumar
Haridwar- Sacred Place Of Uttarakhand- By Ginny Bansal
Dhanaulti – A Paradise In Uttarakhand-By Abhishek Kumar

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