Four Holy Shrines
In the folds of the snow-coated mountains and lands of the lofty Garhwal
in Uttarakhand are located the holy
Hindu shrines of Badrinath
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.
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.
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
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
located at a height of 3,000 m above sea level, amidst
Coming to Char-Dham
By Air :
The nearest airport from
is at Jolly Grant, 18 km
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.
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