Helicopter Service Yamunotri, Gangotri Do Dham

Traditionally the Yatra Chardham as per Hindu system starts the parikama clockwise i.e. starts from Yamunotri to Gangotri and then to Sri Kedarnath last is the Sri Badrinath the Yatra for the year 2016 starts from 10th May the Akshya Tritya of Vikram Samvat . 

The road journey which covers Yamunotri and Gangotri from Rishikesh takes Five days of not only difficult driving in the Himalayas but also danger of falling rocks and road blocks due to heavy traffic on the roads during the Yatra period from May till mid June . Helicopters carry 4-5 person at a time depending upon the maximum carry load of 300 kg.

Yamunotri Temple and Yamuna coming down from Kalind Glacier

Yamunotri Temple and Yamuna coming down from Kalind Glacier

 

Opening of helicopter service  has reduced the journey time to  few hours and Do Dham Yatra is completed in two days . Helicopters carry 4-5 person at a time depending upon the maximum carry load of 300 kg. with a night stop at beautiful place , Kharsali a village which is having the oldest Lord Shani temple next to the helipad  or Harsil  which happens to be the Maha Prayag of Eight  rivers in to Bhagirathi ( Jalandhari, Vishnu GangaLakshmi Ganga, Pawan Ganga, Telangna, Bhim Ganga, Kheer Ganga , Kakora and Hatya Harini) ,  an age old  temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu and a temple dedicated to Ma Durga at a place where Maharishi Markandey wrote the Durga Saptshati are worth a visit.

The flight operations are from Dehradun a 45 minute flight for  Kharsali ( the starting point for 6 km trek for Yamunotri ) , the Yatris can do the trek , perform pooja at Yamunotri and return in 4-5 hrs at the helipad one can visit the oldest temple of lord Shani Dev at Kharsali village, one can stay a night at Kharsali or fly same day for Harsil a 40 minutes flight . Jeep/ Car will take you to a 26 km drive to the Gangotri temple , on way are Bhairo temple and the deepest gorge in Asia , after performing the pooja return to Harsil for a night stay and Dinner

Mayank peak Harsil

Mayank peak Harsil

 

Next morning after breakfast transfer to the helipad for return flight for Dehradun  a 45 minutes flight . All above arrangements are also available ex Delhi .

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Lakshman Temple, Lokpal Lake at Hemkund

It was many generations before the Sikh community was introduced to Hemkund Sahib, was worshiped by the local Bhotia and Gharwali community who lives in the border area of India and Tibet and nearby villages of Joshimath use to come and pay their respect to the Lokpal or Lakshman the younger brother of Lord Ram , it is believed that in his previous birth as Shesnag meditated in the lake here

 

Lokpal Temple or Laxman Temple at Hemkund

Lokpal Temple or Laxman Temple at Hemkund

Situated  at an altitude of 4329 mts, (14,200 ft) in the Garhwal Himalayas , on the banks of a glacier lake, surrounded by several towering pinnacles of snow, reflected in its clear water. Surrounded  by the ‘Saptashringa’ Peaks (seven snow-clad peaks, including the Hathi Parvat), also called Hemkund Parvat, the lake mirrors its surroundings on the crystal-clear waters. It is the source of the Hem Ganga stream that merges with the Pushpawati stream flowing from the Valley of Flowers at village Ghangharia (Gobind Dham). From here onwards the river is called Laxman Ganga. This valley had been earlier known to the local residents as the Bhyundar Valley . This places is accessible from Gobind Ghat ( 20 km from Joshimath on Sri Badrinath Highway) a trek of 13 km up hill steep climb or helicopter a 7 minute flight to Ghangharia and the 6 km trek by Palki , mules, or in basket carried by porter on his back.

One can reach this place from the month of May till October

Lokpal Lake , Hemkund Lake

Lokpal Lake , Hemkund Lake

 

The stories about this place have mentions in Puranas (ancient books of Indian mythology) and the Hindu epics (the Mahabharata and the Ramayana). The sanctity of Lokpal is attributable to tales of Lakshman, (brother of Lord Rama) Goddess Durga, the Pandavas and some Rishis as well. Lakshman is said to have meditated or done penance here . In a popular story, Lakshman was brought to the shore of Lokpal after being mortally wounded in battle with Meghnad .

Another story related to Lakshman is , during a previous incarnation as a seven -headed serpent meditated under the water at Lokpal and lord Vishnu slept on his back. In a variation of the same theme, the snake was called Shesh Nag,  its tail was wrapped around the base of the mountain.

In a third legend, it is said that during Sat Yug, (the first of four ages according to Hindu mythology), fierce demons called ‘Dhents’  were terrorizing humans and gods. The goddess Durga was engaged in battle with the demons Bel and Subel , she had to flee and take refuge in the mountains. There, she approached a great Rishi who was meditating, seated on a lion skin. When Durga asked for his help, he told her to hide near him. The demons came the Rishi said that ” the mother of all, had come to him and it his duty to protect her”. The demons were infuriated , they were about to attack him , the Rishi said he and his disciples do not kill any one but he will  create a Khattri ( Warior) to kill them all ,  he got up and shook the lion skin , from the dust of lion skin there emerged a shakti (power) in the form of a strong Khattri (warrior) youth clad in lion skins and carrying a sword. The Rishi commanded the youth to kill the demons . When the youth had destroyed all the demons, the goddess appeared before him and gave him a sword with the blessing that he would henceforth be known as Dusht Daman, the ‘destroyer of evil’ since he came from the skin (khal) of a lion, he would also earn renown as Khalsa. The goddess departed after telling the youth that he would be given a mission to fight like a lion (Singh) in a later incarnation as a human being and for that he would create the Khalsa ( ‘The Pure).  The Rishi mentioned above is also known with references in various holy scriptures as Samundh Rishi, Rishi Medhasa, Rishi Bishala,  and Asan Rishi , the story of Dusht Daman’s battle is recorded in the Brahma Purana and some of the characters and events also resemble those in the Markandeya Purana, referred to in the Dasam Granth ( the Sikh Holy Book) References to Lokpal and Sapatsring also appear in the Skandha Purana.

Camps at Ghangharia

Camps at Ghangharia


Lokpal also reputed to be an ancient place of pilgrimage for the Tibetan people.  The local Garhwali people have followed a tradition of visiting the temple on the shore of the lake on three annual festivals held during the summer season: Rakshabandhan, Janam Ashtami, and Durga Ashtami ( Nanda Ashtami) The sacred journey was made primarily by women, both Garhwali villagers from the valley below Lokpal and villagers of Bhotia (Indo-Tibetan) ancestry from neighboring valleys. Out of respect for the purity of the water and the surrounding landscape, they made the steep climb barefoot, clad only in white cotton dhoti. The women left their clothes and shoes behind at a halting place set in a glade of fir trees. This place became the site of what is today Gobind Dham or Ghangaria, named after the ghagara (petticoats or skirts ) which the pilgrims would leave there. The women would spend the night singing songs of the goddess, and at dawn they would set out to climb the slope to the lake, at the Lokpal lake . They would bathe in the cold water, and pray to Lakshman for the blessing of a son, a better future, the health of their menfolk, or a cure for sickness.

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Nand Prayag on way to Sri Badrinath

Nand Prayag is one of the holy Panch Prayag (confluence) on river Alaknanda  is 22 km from Karna Prayag and 205 km from Rishikesh situated at a height of 914 meters from sea. The Nandakini river meets the Alaknanda, here , Nandakini river originates from Homkund in the laps of Trishul peak

Nand Prayag view from the Highway

It is named after the Yadu King Nanda who worshiped and performed a yagna and sought blessings of lord Vishnu to be his son on earth but same boon was also given to Devki wife of Vasudev and sister of Demon King Kansa of Mathura, later on mistake was realized and  when lord Vishnu born as Krishna to Devki he was taken to Gokul at  Raja Nanda’s house and his  wife Yashoda nursed him like their own son. Here  is a temple dedicated to Gopal the lord Krishna . Rishi (sage) Kanva did his tapasya here . Legend is that here the  King Dushyant and Shakuntla had a Gandharva Vivah (wedding) .

Nand Prayag is also a starting point for the Roop kund , Kunwari Pass and Tapovan treks.

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Pandukeshwar on way to Sri Badrinath

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Pandukeshwar is a small village 283 km from Rishikesh, 20 km from Joshimath , from Govindghat  it is 4 km,  Sri Badrinath Dham is about 25 kms from here. This place is also known as Yogadhayana Badri It is a winter seat of Sri Badrinath the Udhwa , there are two temples, the other one is the Vasudeva temple from here all the rituals are performed and when the summer comes the main idol of Udhwa is carried in a procession to the Sri Badrinath dham .

Pandukeshwar Temple

This village holds very important place in the legends of Mahabharata . It was established by King Pandu who had two wife , Kunti and Madri , while hunting King Pandu killed a male deer in mating , these deers were actually a Rishi Kindama  ( sage ) and his wife, the Rishi Kindama  before breathed last cursed Pandu that when ever he will approach a women with a desire to make love he will also die , King Pandu after reaching home narrated the story to his two wife and then denounced his kingdom, handed it over to his blind brother Dhrishtrastra , Pandu never wanted to die childless and expressed his desire to Kunti , she informed him about a boon which she had from Rishi Durwasa and used it to be mother of  Yudhistar by lord Dharma , Bhim by lord Vayu and Arjun by lord Vishnu, then she the taught Madri who had twins Nakul and Sehdev by lord Ashwin Kumars , thus the Pandvas were born here.

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Guptkashi on way to Sri Kedarnath

Guptkashi is a village situated at the height of 1319 meters above sea level famous for its Vishwanath temple. The Guptkashi means the Hidden Kashi , it is on the way to Sri Kedarnath, legend is after the Mahabharat war was over the Pandava brothers wanted to wash their sin of killing their own relatives in the war , they were searching the Lord Shiva , Lord Shiva hide himself at this place . It is also said that Lord Shiva proposed to  Parvati here at the confluence of river Son Ganga and Mandakini at Triyuginarayan ( 48 kms) . It is also said that during the Mughal King Aurangzeb period when he ordered to construct the mosque at Vishwanath temple at Varanasi ( Kashi) or Kashi Vishwanath, the original Shiva Lingam was removed from there and brought here to be in safe hiding .

According to the old texts the Purans of Hindus the Kashi and Kanchi are the two eyes of Lord Shiva and there are six more Kashi  sacred and of equal importance as main Kashi the Varanasi or Kashi Vishvanath , those who can’t travel to main Kashi can reach the nearest one , these are Uttarkashi and Guptkashi in Uttrakhand , The Dakshin Kashi in South India, the Bhubneshwar in East of India , Nashik in Western India ( also called Paithan) and Mandi in Himachal Pradesh.

Vishvanath Temple Guptkashi

Vishwanath Temple

It is built of stone with high tower and a wooden frame with sloping roof , at the entrance there are two guards and walls are painted with flowers , main entrance is also guarded by the Bhairov, on the one side is a temple of Ardhnarishvar the half man and half woman form of lord Shiva , outside this temple is the Nandi bull statue made of metal.

Ukhimath

It is the temple across the river Mandakini at Guptkashi , it is the winter seat of the Sri Kedarnath  , there is a small water pond the Manikarnik Kund two water sources the water is coming out of a mouth of cow  is called Ganga  the water is coming out of a elephant trunk  is called Yamuna , the water falls on the Lingam. There is a Stupa which according to the local legends is a grave of Nala one of the characters in Ramayana , The legend also says that the Anirudha the grandson of Lord Krishna  and Usha the daughter of demon King Banasur had affair at Ramgarh ( Ronitpur) this affair led to the war between Banasur and lord Krishna  which resulted in as  end of the Banasur dynasty.

Guptkashi is becoming more important for a night stay on trip to Sri Kedarnath as there are good hotels, guest houses and camps , it is also because of the Phata , Sita Puri and Sirsi helipad ,  people prefer to stay here.

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