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Char Dham Yatra Guide
7.5° C / 45.4° F
April to October
4 to 10 Days
Dehradun Airport (196 kms)
Haridwar railway station (232 kms)
Char Dham refers to the four holiest Hindu pilgrimage centres in the state of Uttarakhand. Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath collectively form the epicentre of religious activity in North India. Considered extremely sacred, thousands of devotees and pilgrims undertake a yatra or a trip to these four sites every year in aspiration of washing away all their sins. This is popularly known as the Char Dham Yatra. Here is a tidy Char Dham Yatra Guide to help you plan your trip.
Char Dham Location
Char Dham or the four religious sites are located in different parts of the state of Uttarakhand.
Badrinath Dham is located at an altitude of 3133m on the left bank of River Alokananda between two mountains Nara and Narayan.
Kedarnath the most remote of the four Dhams is located in the Himalayas at an altitude of 3584m near Chorabari Glacier flanked by snow-capped peaks.
Yamunotri Dham is also located at an altitude of 3293m in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand.
The most important of the Char Dhams, Badrinath is also one of the five Badris. The other four are Yagodhyan Badri, Bhavishya Badri, Bridha Badri and Adi Badri. The Badrinath temple also known as Badrinarayan is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, particularly his duel forms of Nar and Narayan. Badrinath was re-established as a major pilgrimage site by Adi Shankara in the 9th century. In the 17th century the temple was expanded by the Garhwal kings. The temple complex houses 15 idols all made of black stone. Lord Vishnu is found here in a meditative posture flanked by Nar and Narayan. Badrinath is a significant pilgrimage centre for the Vaishnavites.
Every year temple doors are closed down sometime in October and opens again around mid-April. The dates vary from year to year. From April to October temple door remains open to public from 4am to 12pm and again from 3pm to 9pm.
Located at the highest altitude among the Char Dhams, Kedarnath is the seat of Lord Shiva, the protector and the destroyer. It is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. Extremely ancient, the temple has been continually reconstructed over the years. According to the prevalent myths, after defeating the Kauravas, the Pandavas repeatedly sought the blessings of Lord Shiva for redemption but he eluded them. Eventually Lord Shiva took refuge in Kedarnath in the form of a bull and dived into the ground leaving his hump there. His remaining portions fell in four other places which too are worshipped but the most important among them is Kedarnath. Set amidst snow-capped mountain peaks, the Kedarnath temple presents a magical spectacle.
Like Badrinath, Kedarnath too remains closed for certain months of the year. The dates vary every year. In 2013, Kedarnath Temple opened on May 14, 2013 and typically closes a couple of days after Diwali. The darshan timings are from 6am to 2pm and from 5pm to 8pm in the evening. The evening prayer or aarti is performed at 6.45pm.
Located opposite Gangotri is the sacred shrine of Yamunotri which is also the source of River Yamuna. Surrounded by mountains, the actual source of the river, a frozen lake and a glacier (Champasar) located at an altitude of 4421m is inaccessible. For this reason the shrine is placed at the foot of the hill. The shrine is dedicated to Goddess Yamuna and the deity is made of black marble. The sanctity of the place combined with an ambience of absolute purity and bliss creates a deep feeling of reverence.
Every year the temple opens on the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya which is either in the last week of April or first week of May. The temple closes for the year on Diwali which is either in October or November. The darshan timings are from 6am to 8pm while the evening prayer is held between 6.30pm and 7.30pm.
The birthplace of the holy River Ganges is in the picturesque mountains of the Himalayas. Dedicated to Goddess Ganga, it is believed that she manifested herself in the form of a river to absolve the sins of the predecessors of King Bhagirath which accounts for her other name, Bhagirathi. Lord Shiva received Ganga in his matted locks to reduce the impact of her descent. The captivating and magical surrounding landscape is breathtakingly beautiful.
During summer the temple remains open from 6.15am to 2.00pm and again from 3.00pm to 9.30pm. During the winter months the temple opens for Darshan at 6.45am and closes at 2.00pm. It opens again from 3.00pm to 7.00pm.
Char Dham Weather And Best Time To Visit
The best time for the Char Dham Yatra is from May to October. As these shrines are located at high altitudes they experience extremely heavy and harsh snowfall during winter which blocks the roads. During the monsoon months a trip should be avoided. The threat of landslides looms large during these months. The gates of the temples too remain closed for this period.
How To Get To Char Dham
Badrinath and Gangotri are well connected by roads with the major cities of Uttarakhand. Gangotri is situated at the end of National Highway 108. For Kedarnath, road journey ends at Gaurikund. From here a trek of 14km will take you to the temple. Similarly for Yamunotri the road trip ends at Hanuman Chatti and trek commences.
Char Dham Yatra Travel Tips
- If you are travelling in the month of October and November you need to carry heavy woollens with you. During summer moderate woollen clothes will do.
- Do remember to carry an umbrella, torchlight and canvas shoes.
- Carry your routine medicines with you. Up in these remote places medicine shops will be limited.
- While visiting these temples do remember to remove your shoes and cover your heads.
- The temples remain closed for six months from October to April. Plan your trip accordingly.
- Avoid planning a trip during the monsoon. Landslides are common dangers during this period.
- Alcohol and non-vegetarian food is not allowed during Char Dham Yatra tour.
- Self-managed tours to the Char Dhams are possible. However a guided tour package organised by travel agents is recommended.
- In case of any medical emergency you can call 108 for assistance. This is a mobile emergency service provided by the Government of Uttarakhand. Fake calls are a punishable offence.