According to the Hindu scriptures, the holy centres of Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and Kedarnath – collectively called the Char Dham (meaning the four sacred spots) – are the most sacred of all the pilgrimages. Undertaking a journey to these places will not just wash away one’s sins but ensure release from the cycle of birth and death. The honour conferred on these places is not surprising.
Yamunotri is situated at an altitude of 3,235 m above the sea level. The source of the river Yamuna lies about 1 km further ahead at an altitude of about 4,421 m. It is the seat of the goddess Yamuna, The actual temple is accessible by a 13 kilometer walk from the town of Hanuman Chatti and a four kilometer walk from Janki Chatti . The hike from Hanuman Chetty to Yamunotri is very picturesque with beautiful views of a number of water falls. The original temple was built by Maharani Gularia of Jaipur in the 19th century. The current temple is of recent origin, as past iterations have been destroyed by the weather and elements.
Gangotri, the source of the river Ganges and seat of the goddess Ganga, and form the second stop of Char Dhams. The river is called Bhagirathi at the source and acquires the name Ganga from Devprayag onwards where it meets the Alaknanda.
Kedarnath, where a form of the Hindu god Shiva is venerated as one of the twelve jyotirling . Besides its affiliation with Siva, Kedarnath is also believed to be the site of Shankaracharya’s samadhi (place of enternment). The actual temple, an impressive stone edifice of unknown date, is accessible only after a steep 13 km walk .
Badrinath, is the most important of the four sites in India’s Char Dham pilgrimage. Badrinath is in the Garhwal hills, on the banks of the Alaknanda River, at an elevation of 3133 m. The town lies between the Nar and Narayana mountain ranges and in the shadow of Nilkantha peak (6,560m). Badrinath is located 301km north of Rishikesh.