A pilgrimage is not mere a vacation; it is a transformational journey during which significant change takes place. In fact a pilgrimage is the ultimate test of faith and such faith comes to life, when a devotee embarks on a Char Dham yatra (journey) to have a tryst with the omnipresent, omnipotent and the omniscient.
Known to be one of the toughest and most strenuous routes, the Chhota Char Dham Yatra is one of the most sacred pilgrimages for Hindus. The distance from Delhi to Haridwar is manageable, so you may want to pick Haridwar to begin your pilgrimage.
Char Dham, or translated as the ‘four most hallowed spots’ these are the most important religious centers in Northern India. Also called the Char Dhams of Himalayas, this sacred route encompasses Kedarnath, in Rudraprayag, Badrinath of Chamoli and, Yamunotri and Gangotri in Uttarkashi districts of Uttarakhand in the Garhwal Himalaya region. Each of this pilgrimage sites are dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu and Shakti and occupy a significant place in the Vedas and Puranas. Initially founded by Adi Shankaracharya, belief is, that anyone who successfully completes the Char Dham Yatra can attain Moksha.
Best time to travel
Though the doors to the almighty is always open for the devotees, weather works on its own routine. Those who dare to brave the weather against all odds, can attempt a travel anytime. But if you want a more conducive environment, the best time to travel is between the months of May to September.
No matter which part of the country you are in, you would start your journey to Char Dham from Delhi. From there, you can plan your travel to Dehradun, acclimatize yourself for a higher climb, and then head to your first stop. If you are traveling from Delhi to Haridwar by car, it should take about 6 hours. You can also start the travel from Dehradun to Kedarnath by car, the time of which varies depending on the weather and road conditions.
Before you go
Few things you would want to keep in mind, before you head on a pilgrimage of a lifetime-
● Carry ample warm clothes, since the weather can be uncertain.
● Prepare yourself for sudden rains. Hence an umbrella and/or a raincoat must be on your packing list.
● If you are traveling with elderlies, make sure to carry their medical prescriptions and necessary medication.
● Prepare yourself for altitude sickness and height related physical conditions.
● Don’t forget to visit your doctor prior to traveling, if you already have health issues.
● And, last but not the least, travel light, when traveling through the mountains.
A quick guide to the four holy centers
Sitting on the backdrop of the breathtaking Neelkanth Peak, the Badrinath temple venerates Lord Vishnu and his period of penance. It is one of the most holy places for the Hindus and also forms a major part of the Char Dham as well as the Chhota Char Dham. You can offer prayers and explore the temple from 4 AM to noon and from 3 PM to 9 PM.
One of the remotes pilgrimage sites in this region, Kedarnath is the house of Lord Shiva. The imposing structure of the temple is a marvel in itself, with ancient stone architecture surviving through centuries. The temple is open for darshan from 4 AM to 9 PM with a two hour afternoon break.
Dedicated to Goddess Ganga, the Gangotri Dham or the Gangotri Temple commemorates the starting point of Ganga into the Indian landmass. Legend is that the Ganges, started at the Gangotri glacier, which is about 18 KM away from the temple.
The temple marks the origin of Yamuna, the second most holy river of India. The water of the river is believed to wash off sins, as well as treat physical ailments. You can explore and take a dip in Surya Kund, a major hot water spring in the vicinity, or any of the other natural springs, rich in Himalayan minerals.