Char Dham Yatra, Holiest Pilgrimage in Himalayas

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Char Dham Yatra is the holiest of journey for Hindus  in Uttarakhand  Himalayas, this pilgrimage starts with the opening of the doors (Kapat) of four temples,  are closed during the winters due to heavy snow , normally opening of doors is announced on Shivaratri.  This year 2016  journey starts from 8th May with opening of Kapats (Doors) 09 May Sri Yamunotri, Sri Gangotri 09 May, Sri Kedarnath and Sri Badrinath on 11May.

The Starting point Yamunotri
The journey starts from Rishikesh full day road journey passing through Dharsu, Sayanachatti and Barkot, entire route is full of beautiful view of snow capped Banderpunch Range, Pine forests and water falls, pilgrims stay at  Hanuman Chatti or Barkot, where most of the hotels, guest houses and dharamshalas are situated, it is also confluence of river Hanuman Ganga and river Yamuna . Next day one is to cover 6 Kms by Jeeps/SUVs up to Janki Chatti , there are guest houses with basic facilities at Janki Chatti the trek 6 Kms . to the Yamunotri Temple starts from here it is on the left bank of the river, a  hot water spring is near the temple the Surya Kund” ,  pilgrims tie potatoes and rice in cloth  dip in boiling hot water of Surya Kund , so cooked rice is taken as prasad back home, pilgrims take bath at  “Gauri Kund  which has hot water suitable for bathing. Prayers are offered first at the Divya Shila a Black stone slab   then in the Temple. The actual source of river  is further ahead 1 Km at  Champasar Glacier on Kalind Mountain, it is very difficult to reach there, people offer the prayers at the temple situated at the foot hill . Pilgrims return  same day and take rest for the next day onward journey to the Gangotri.

The next stop Gangotri

To reach Gangotri we have to returned to Dharsu and then drive to Uttarkashi to reach Harsil a 250 Kms drive, it is a small town famous for its natural beauty, apple orchards, trekking routes to lakes and undiscovered stretches of grassy meadows. One can reach Gangotri by road from here distance 23 Kms passing through pine forests ,  transport is available till the Temple dedicated to Goddess Ganga, on the banks of River Bhagirathi, the glacier mouth is further ahead 18 kms trek, towards Gaumukh, The Ganges is known as Bhagirathi here, it unites with Alaknanda at Devprayag to form Ganges. Temple is at a very picturesque location amidst high mountains , towards east is the Gaumukh Glacier. It is here  the  Bhagirath shila where King Bhagirath performed the tapasya to bring Ganga from the heavens to earth, water is ice cold here , it is difficult to stay in water for even half a minute. This place is at a height of 3142 meters . Those who want to trek to Gaumukh can spend two more days, which needs clearance from the local authorities, the trek passes through Chirwasa and Bhojwasa, Gaumukh is one of the Largest Glacier in the World, on the way one can find the Ibexes(Snow Goat) grazing on high mountains, the opening of glacier to from where it releases water to form Bhagirathi is a shape of Cows mouth that is why it is called Gaumukh. From here one can have a panoramic view of mountains, Shivaling (6540 meters), Meru (6660 meters) and Bhagirathi (6500 meters).

Ma Gangotri Temple

Sri Kedarnath – Lord Shiva’s Abode

Next place in Chardham Yatra is Sri Kedarnath,  Harsil to Uttarkashi is 69 Kms, then to Guptkashi is 230 kms, Total journey time is about 10 hrs. Passing through Srinagar, Uttarakhand, This route is followed by River Mandakini. Hotels, camps and guest houses at Guptkashi are available at a very reasonable price. Morning starts by a travel upto Gauri Kund , a motor able road or to Phata from where Helicopter Service is available to Kedarnath. Gauri Kund the starting point of Kedarnath trek is a hot water spring, here the Goddess Parvathi lived and performed sadhna to please Lord Shiva to finally got married to him. It is also the place where Lord Ganesha acquired the elephant head. 15 kms trek from here is very tough and takes about 4-5 hours.  Rambara . From Rambara the Yatris cross the River Mandakini to reach Limchuli and then to Kedarnath temple . It is at the height of 3585 meters situated near the head of river Mandakini, surrounded by snow capped mountains, it’s name is derived from the King Kedar in the Satya Yuga, his daughter Vrinda who is also an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, this temple existed in the Mahabharata period, when Pandavas performed tapasya (prayers) to please Lord Shiva. It was here the Adi Shankaracharya took samadhi at the age of 32 years,  soon after establishing the four sacred dhams, it is considered a must visit place, there is a small hot water spring which gives relief to the pilgrims from the tiredness of hard journey, there are dharamsalas, camps and small guest houses, the temple opens at 6 o’clock in the morning and closes in the evening, Kedarnath is the highest among the 12 Jyotirlings, it is built of massive stone slabs over a rectangular platform, here Lord Shiva who was evading the Pandavas hide himself as a bull, on being followed, he dived in the ground leaving behind the hump, the conical rock inside the temple is worshiped as Lord Shiva in his Sadashiva form, outside the temple there is a large statue of Nandi Bull as a guard. After the floods of year 2013 a big boulder named as Divya Shila is also worshiped as it saved the temple by obstructing the flow of flood water to cause any damage to the temple.

One has to be careful while staying at night here because of low oxygen concentration at this altitude. Pilgrims are advised not to exert themselves too much and breathe normal. 
Staying overnight and performing poojas in the morning one returns to Gauri Kund and drive to Joshimath, there are two routes, one is which normally pilgrims take is driving through Rudrapryag, second is through Chopta which is the most beautiful, passing through dense forests of Mandal and Gopeshwar, from Chopta one can take a trek to Tungnath, it is Lord Shiva’s temple situated at about 4 kms trek from Chopta. Drive to Joshimath is about 7 hrs. It is better to stay night in Joshimath and take a morning drive to Sri Badrinath  a 44 kms distance is very rough  and takes about 4 hrs drive , on the way is Gobind Ghat from where trek for The Hemkund Sahib, Laxman Temple and Valley of Flowers starts.

Sri Kedarnath Temple Aug 2015

Sri Badrinath The Lord Vishnu Dham

Shri Badrinath Dham is the temple dedicated to lord Vishnu’s dual form Nara-Naryana, the temple is 15 meters tall with top covered with gold gilt roof, it is built of stone with arched windows, the main entrance is a arched gate, inside is mandapa a large pillared hall leading to the Garbha Griha. It is surrounded by Nara-Narayan peaks and in the backdrop is the Neelkanth peak. Legends says that to reduce the impact of Ganga on earth it was split into twelve rivers and one of them is river Alaknanda, the other legend is that the Pandavas passed through Badridham and to Mana village to ended their life by climbing the heights of peak Swargarohini, there is a cave near the village Mana where the Vyas Rishi complied  the Mahabharata. Before entering the temple, pilgrims must take bath in hot water spring at the Tapta Kund and Surya Kund fed by thermal sulphar springs, the boiling hot water falls into ice cold water of Alaknanda creates the steam over the water surface. North of the temple is a Bharama Kapal where Lord Bharama is said to reside, here the last rites of departed souls are performed. There are lots of other places around like foot prints of Lord Narayana on rock is about 3 kms called Charan Paduka, over a kilometer  on the other side of river is Shesh Netra, the eye of Shesh Nag on which the Lord Vishnu rests is seen on a rock, about 8 km. is the source of Alaknanda the Bhagirath Kharak and Satopantha Glaciers this place is called Alka Puri. One can return same day to Joshimath or stay one night to visit all these places. Sri Badri Dham is also referred as Badri Vishal thus giving the supreme status among the all Dhams.

Sri Badrinath Ji Temple

Returning Home

One may stay a full day at Joshimath , take an excursion to Auli which is at the height of 3050 meters, there are Taxis available to reach a famous winter sports destination for Skiing, there is a rare medicinal plants nursery and little above one can trek to Gorson, Tali, Kauri Pass, Khulara and Tapovan. One can have a panoramic view of Himalayan mountain range of Nanda Devi (7818 meters), Mana (7272 meters), Kamet (7728 meters), Mount Neelkanth, Mount Chaukhamba (6874 meters), Mount Hathi Ghora Palki. One can also visit Vishnu Pryag, the confluence of River Alaknanda and Dhauli Ganga from Joshimath .

Return journey starts from Joshimath passing through Rudraprayag and Srinagar, Dev Prayag  and reaching Rishikesh/Hardwar  a 250/275 km. journey for a night stay, participating at Aarti at Ganga Ghats and to leave for home next day.

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Hemkund Sahib Trek opens

Hemkund Sahib Gurudwara

The famous pilgrimage in Himalayas Chardham opened from  May  , the Hemkund Sahib and Lokpal Temple 10 km trek is open from Gobind Ghat to Ghangharia and then 5 km steep climb to the main shrine . Each year Advance party  a team of Indian Army soldiers first climb up this trek and declare its condition to open the route , 

Group of priests and pilgrims then follows to reach the valley with a Lake called Hemkund ( Pool of Ice ) a high-altitude lake (4329 m) surrounded by seven snow caped mountains collectively called Hemkund Parvat. According to the Dasham Granth , Bichitra Natak ( Authored by 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji) he meditated at this place in his previous birth . This place has a high regards among the Sikh Community  . There is a Star shaped Gurudwara where pilgrims pay their respect .

According to the Hindu mythology Rishi Medhasa of the Markandeya Purana and Lakshman, the brother of Lord Ram also meditated here .

Pilgrims are not allowed to stay overnight here , they have to return for a night stay at Ghangharia where  there are many guest house and camps, also there is a Gurudwara one can stay in dormitories with common private facilities.

From Govind Ghat palkis , Mules and helicopter service is also available till Ghangharia .

For more information please contact + 91 9810506646

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Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek

Hemkund Sahib

Hem Kund or Hemkunt is one of the holiest Sikh pilgrim place in Uttrakhand, it has a mention in the Bachitter Natak authored by the Tenth Guru, Gobind Singh Ji that he meditated in his previous birth at a lake of ice  surrounded by Sapt Spring mountains and where the King Pandu ancestor of Pandavas of Mahabharata ,  practiced yoga.

Until nineteenth century the geographical location of this place was not known, it was the efforts of Pandit Tara Singh Narottam, Sikh scholar Bhai Vir Singh, Sohan Singh, a retired Granthi and soldier Havildar Modan Singh from Indian Army, located this place and laid foundation of this pilgrimage site, at a height of 15,200 feet , it  opens during the summers from May till September, rest of the year it is covered under the snow and becomes inaccessible.

Lokpal Lake

Lokpal Lake

 

Starting point to this pilgrimage is Hardiwar/Rishikesh about 275 km drive to Gobind Ghat, it is advised to stay at Joshimath where there are good hotels, camps and rest houses which are easily available, next morning travel by bus or car 22 km up to Gobind Ghat situated at the confluence of River Alaknanda and Laxman Ganga, a gurudwara is situated at the right bank of Laxman Ganga,  a small market with restaurants, guest houses, shops for trekking equipment, one can get porters and mules,  vehicles can be parked here  till their return from the trek, there is a helipad and  Helicopter service is also available up to Ghangharia.

First stop on this trek is Ghangaria also known as Gobind Dham it is 13 km rocky path and unclear road, a base camp for two treks at a height of 3050 meters, one trek leads to Hemkunt Sahib and the other leads to Valley of Flowers. There are no arrangements for overnight stay at Hemkunt Sahib therefore pilgrims have to leave early to return the same day, there are open ground tents with mattresses, gurdwara, guest houses and dhabas(small restaurants) to take care of basic needs, it is here the river Pushpavati coming from Valley of Flowers and Laxman Ganga from Hemkund Lake meets. Pilgrims leave early morning on a 6 kms rocky trek which takes about 5-6 hours crossing the glacier to reach the Hemkund Lake, it is also known as Lokpal lake, there is a, Lord Ram‘s younger brother’s, Laxman temple on the banks of lake, it is believed that after the battle with Meghnad when Laxman got wounded, came here to take rest and regain his health.

Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib and Lokpal Temple

A star shaped Gurudwara which is designed and  constructed under the supervision of Major General Harkirat Singh and Architect Siali from 1960AD onwards. Situated at the height of 4240 meters on the banks of lake surrounded by seven snow capped mountains. One has to return to Ghangaria as there are no arrangements for night stay at Hemkund Sahib .

The Valley of Flowers

Next day one can take a trek to Valley of Flowers which is 3 km from Ghangaria after crossing the bridge over River Pushpawati, which takes about 2-3 hrs, no mules are allowed, at check post one is to make entry in register and a nominal fee is charged, one can feel the exotic scent in the atmosphere from here as trek to Hemkund is full of smell of Mules dung, this valley is 5 km. long, it was known as Bhyunder Valley, In 1931 mountaineer Mr. Frank S. Smithe, lost his way after successful expedition of Kamet, by chance reached here, he was so impressed he authored a book “The Valley of Flowers” and wrote about the beauty and flora, thus giving its present name,  until then this valley was not on a tourist map, legend has it, that Lord Hanuman came in search of Sanjivani Buti (herb) after Laxman got injured in battle with Meghnaad. This valley has mostly the orchids, poppy, marigold, daisies and anemone looking like a carpet on the ground and many medicinal plants, besides flowers there is a variety of wild life and commonly found animals are Snow Leopard, Musk Deer, Red Fox, Langur, Himalayan Black Bear and Brown Bear over 100 types of Butterflies are found here, among the birds are Snow Partridge, Himalayan Monal, Himalayan Golden Eagle, Snow PigeonGriffin Vulture, Sparrow Hawk etc. there are no tall plants, everywhere there is some grass, berries, shrubs, flowers, what to see and what to leave one gets so exited about the beauty. Rain is quite unpredictable and one is not allowed to stay in the valley at night and just one day is not sufficient if one is really interested in plants will like to come again and again.

Valley of Flowers

Valley of Flowers

 

Flowers in Wild

Flowers in Wild

 The return journey starts from Ghangaria/Gobind Dham to Gobind Ghat and then to Joshimath, one can stay for one day to explore the Ski slopes of Auli and views of Himalayan mountains or trek to lakes and meadows above Auli .

For more information and trek arrangements contact +91 9810506646

Office Contact 011 45725562, 45725563, 45725564

Callers from Outside India contact +44 7700093414

Website : http://promarktravels.com

Email: promark@promarktravels.com

Blog: promarktravels.com/blog

 

About the Author

[author]
[author_image timthumb=’on’]wp-content/uploads/authors/anil-rajput.jpg[/author_image] Anil Kumar Rajput is well known in the travel trade since 1980. Worked in India and abroad. A boxer, Rifle Shooter and Para Jumper. As a Boy Scout and NCC Cadet, attended Adventure camps, trek in Himalayas which developed  interest in traveling and to explore new places, loves driving to adventurous places and photography. (promarktravels.com)  Connect with him on Facebook (htttp://www.facebook.com/anil.k.rajput) and Twitter (@PromarkTravels)
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Yatra Chardham – Hurdles this year 2014

Sri Badrinath Ji Temple

 

The Yatra Chardham for the year 2014 will start from Akshaya Tritiya which falls on the third Tithi (Lunar day) of Bright Half (Shukla Paksha) of Hindu month of Vaishakha , when the Sun and Moon are in exaltation; they are simultaneously at their peak of brightness, which happens only once every year .   Lord Vishnu and his incarnations are worshiped on the day. People also conduct Lakshmi puja on Akshaya Tritiya.

This year it falls on 2nd May 2014 and pilgrims from all over India will assemble at Haridwar / Rishikesh and start the holy journey on 30th April or 1st  May to reach the dhams at the time of opening of gates at the main temples of Sri Kedarnath and Sri Badrinath .

The devastating  floods, last year on 16th and 17th June 2013, washed away many roads and bridges in the Uttrakhand along with many thousand deaths of pilgrims and the local residents, it also washed away many guest houses, hotels and flat land suitable for the camps .

Upon talking with the local residents the information shared about the road conditions is bad at many places , Govt. agencies are working to repair the damaged roads and bridges but with the onset of winter the and snowfall in the area the works are stopped and it will resume only after the melting of snow around mid or end March 2014 .

The roads towards Barkot and Janki Chatti were not affected much and are in good condition , the onward  7 km trek to Yamunotri temple is safe ,  the road for Gangotri , Uttarkashi on wards washed away at 7-8 places  near Bhatwari , it is a soft road and at present suitable for light vehicles .

The road form Rudraprayag to Guptkashi / Phata is good for small / light vehicles but onward road to Gaurikund is in bad condition , the 14 km old trek route along the river Mandakini  from Gaurikund  to Rambara and then to Sri Kedarnath is washed away at many places and a new trek is under construction , this new route is aprox. 24 km long climbing up to  13000 ft. and then coming down to Sri Kedarnath at 11760 ft. , it is not possible to travel this distance in one day, one night stop will be required in both the directions and  it is not certain if Govt. will allow the pilgrims to have a night stay at Sri Kedarnath , where the yatris will spend the night , even if it is decided it will be in the tents or may be this year the Yatra for Sri Kedarnath will be by Helicopters with same day return .

The road from Guptkashi to Chopta and then to Pipalkoti is good for small vehicles , the road from Rudraprayag to Pipalkoti and then to Joshimath is better . Road from Joshimath to Gobindgaht and then to Pandukeshwer is ok but onward to Lambagarh, Hanuman chatti till Sri Badrinath is not good only light vehicles can go . There are chances of preparing a helipad at Gobindghat for Helicopter Shuttle service for Sri Badrinath . The trek for Ghangharia , Velley of Flowers and Sri Hemkund Sahib are travel worthy .

Changed flow of river Alakhnanda at Lambagarh after June 2013 floods , it use to flow on the other side of temple built by JP Hydel Project .

In all the preparations this year,it seems that most of the pilgrims will avoid Sri Kedarnath and the road journey will be done in small vehicles for Yamunotri , Gangotri and Sri Badrinath .

This year the yatris may have to get registered and will be allowed only to travel by registered Tourist and State Roadways vehicles .

 

For more information contact Mobile + 91-9810506646

Callers from Outside India  + 447700093414

Email : promark@promarktravels.com

website : www.promarktravels.com 

website : www.yatrachardham.com