Char Dham - History
Very little is known about the origins of Char Dham. Originally, the name Char
Dham used to be reserved for the India's most famous pilgrimage circuit, four
important temples of Puri,
Rameshwaram, Dwarka, and Badrinath. These sites were
grouped together by the great reformer and philosopher of 8th century -
Shankaracharya (Adi Sankara), into the four cardinal pilgrimage sites of the
At some point of time, Badrinath, the last visited and the most prominent of the
four sites in the original Char Dham, also became the most visited site of the
Himalayan pilgrimage circuit and was named Chota (little) Char Dham. Unlike the
original Char Dham, the holy sites of the Chota Char Dham do not share a single
affiliation to sects. Rather, the three major sectarian movements in modern
worshipping Hinduism all have representation, with the Vaisnava site -
Badrinath, joined by a Saiva site - (Kedarnath), and two Devi sites (Yamunotri
During the mid-twentieth century, the "Chota" denomination was still used
invariably to characterize the Himalayan version of the Char Dham. This usage
believably reflects the relative significance of the circuit for most of its
history. Reachable, until recent times only after a two-month trek, which
lengthily exceeds an altitude of 4000 meters, the Chota Char Dham was long
captivated by tour enthusiasts and religious professionals, along with a small
number of devoted retirees and wealthy patrons. Although the various sites and
the circuit as a whole were important to Hindus on the plains below, they were
not a specifically visible aspect of yearly religious culture.
After the 1962 India-China war, however, the accessibility to the Chota Char
Dham improved significantly, as India's short-lived measures at Himalayan
expansionism required huge infrastructural investments. As the buses of pilgrims
start to arrive, the Chota appendix apparently have dropped away, however the
prefix "Himalayan" (Hindi: Himalaya ki Char Dham) is still sometimes used to
With ease of accessibility and infrastructural improvements, the significance of
the Char Dham, as both an actual destination and an object of the Hindu faith
and devotion has improved considerably. Backed by the growth of new forms of
bourgeois "religious tourism" and by the rise of a conservative Hindu
population, which speaks to the existence of an all-India Hindu
Char Dhamhas become an important pilgrimage site for people from all across the
Today, the Char Dham sees more than 250,000 unique visitors in an average
pilgrimage season that lasts from the month of April/May to October/November.
The Char Dham is the name given to the four most sacred and holy pilgrimages of
India. Situated amidst the beautiful natural surroundings of the majestic
Himalayas in Uttranchal, Char Dham comprises, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Badrinath and
Kedarnath - the most sacred pilgrimage sites of Hinduism.
The Four Dham have been described in scriptures as the sacred places where the
visitors could earn the virtues of all the pilgrimages put together. These four
shrines receive holy water from the four most scared rivers of India - Yamuna
(in Yamunotri ), Bhagirathi (in Gangotri ), Mandakini (in Kedarnath ) and
Alaknanda (in Badrinath ).
According to the Mythology, a journey to the four shrines of Char Dham not just
washes one's sins but also ensures the salvation from the cycle of life and
death. For centuries, saints and devotees have been visiting these sacred
shrines in their search for a spiritual union with the divine.
All the four holy shrines of Char Dham are located at an altitude of more than
3,000 m above sea the level and remain covered with snow during winters.
With the mystifying Himalayas as the backdrop, these four holy pilgrimages of
India amaze the travel enthusiasts and the devotees alike.
Altitude : More than 3000 m above the sea level.
Location : Uttaranchal
Famous : As Pilgrimage & Adventure Sports
Attractions : Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri, Gangotri, and nearby
places like Nanital & Mussoorie.
Char Dham Parikrama
According to the Hindu tradition of parikrama or clockwise circumambulation,
pilgrims visit the Char Dham from left to right. A pilgrimage to Char Dham
begins with Yamunotri, the westernmost shrine in the Garhwal. Dedicated to the
Goddess Yamuna, Yamunotri is situated atop the Bandar Poonch Peak at a height of
3,165 m above the sea level, opposite to Gangotri.
The next halt of Char Dham Tour is the Gangotri shrine, which is dedicated to
Goddess Ganga. This holy shrine is situated at a height of 3,043 m above the sea
level, on the right bank of
Bhagirathi River. According to Hindu mythology, it
is believed that Goddess Ganga - the daughter of heaven, came down to earth in
the form of a river as a reward for the many centuries penance of King Bhagirath.
The third stopover of Chardham Yatra is sacred shrine of Kedarnath, which is
situated at a height of 3581 m above the sea level, amidst the unforgettably
beautiful Kedarnath range. Located on the head of river Mandakini, Kedarnath is
among the most sacred pilgrimage centers for the Hindus, wherein stands one of
the 12 'Jyotirlingas' of Kedar or Lord Shiva.
The Char Dham Yatra completes on arrival at the holy shrine of Badrinath,
located on the right bank of Alaknanda river at a height of 3,133 m. Dedicated
to Lord Vishnu, the 15 m high temple shrine is built in a cone structure with a
small cupola of a bull and spire. Badrinath temple is divided into three parts,
The 'Garbha Griha' or sanctum sanctorum
The' Darshan Mandap' where the rituals are
The 'Sabha Mandap' where devotees assemble