Must Visit Places, Dhams & Temples in Uttarakhand
Complete list of must visit Places, Dhams & Temples in Uttarakhand
While you are planning your once in a lifetime journey, make note of places that you need to visit on this tour. As the place is very crowded and also because some tour managers are always in a hurry to ply you off to the next destination, you must be well-informed in advance of the holy spots in the tour.
The Chota Char Dham Yatra will take you through chiefly four different junctions:
- Yamunotri, the seat of Goddess Yamuna
- Gangotri, the seat of Goddess Ganga
- Kedarnath, the seat of God Shiv
- Badrinath, the seat of the God Vishnu
Each of these dhams is replete with places that are both historically and religiously significant. Hence, it is important that you keep a handbook of “must visit” places ready with you.
The Four Dhams
The word dham literally means “abode”. As each of these four dhams is connected with a major Hindu deity, a basic knowledge of their past history and mythology is essential. This will help you connect immediately with these places when you go there. So come over and delve deep into the mysterious and exciting enigma of Hindu religion.
What is Yamunotri Dham?Yamunotri is the name of the glacier which is the source of River Yamuna which is the main tributary of River Ganga. It is considered to be the seat of Goddess Yamuna. Yamuna is one of the most sacred rivers in India, second only to River Ganga.
Yamunotri Dham is the first place of darshan during Chota Char Dham. Anybody bathing in the holy waters of this river is sure to rid himself of his sins and be purified of all his faults.
Who was Yamuna?
Yamuna is the daughter of Surya (Sun God) and Sanjna (Goddess of Clouds). As the mythology goes, Sanjna would lower her eyes in the presence of her husband as she was unable to bear his bright countenance. Angered by the restraint, Surya said that her son and daughter would be named Yama (restraint) and Yami respectively as she had shown restraint with her own husband. Thus, Yamuna was born and came to be known as Kalindi as she had a dark complexion and had a twin brother Yama, the God of Death. Her other names are Suryatanaya, Suryaja and Ravinandini.
Stories Related to Yamunotri
n one of the puranas, it is found that Shiva roamed the universe in sorrow and grief after the death of his wife Sati. The God of Love, Kamadev, shot an arrow in Shiva’s heart that aggravated his lust and drove him mad. In this frenzy, he jumped into Yamuna and hence, her waters turned black with his unsatisfied lust.
In another version, it is said that Lord Krishna defeated the multi-headed serent Kaliya and banished him to spend the rest of his life in the depths of the River Yamuna. As soon as Kaliya entered the river, the waters were polluted by his poison and they turned black.
The origin of the river at Banderpooch has a myth of its own. As per the Ramayana, when Hanuman had his tail set on fire by the evil Ravana, he extinguished the fire in the chilly waters of Yamuna. Hence, the place is known as Bander (monkey) Pooch (tail).
Another story states how Muni Asit wanted to bathe in the Ganges in his old age but was unable to do so because he was too weak. Hence, a tributary of River Ganga started flowing beside his abode in reverence of his lifelong devotion.
Yamunotri lies in Uttarakhand, almost 3,300 meters higher than sea level in the western side of Garhwal Himalayas. The original glacier is more than 6,300 meters above sea level. It lies right below the peak of Kalindi mountain. The Banderpooch is located to the west of the Kalindi Parbal and it is the dividing range which separated Yamuna from Ganga.
How to reach Yamunotri temple?
There are three routes to Yamunotri:
- Delhi to Yamunotri - approximately 430 kms.
- Rishikesh to Yamunotri - approximately 200 kms.
- Dehradun to Yamunotri - approximately 180 kms.
The mid-stops enroute to Yamunotri are:
Rishikesh - Narendra Nagar - Chamba - Tehri - Dharasu - Bhramkhal Barkot - Hanuman Chatti - Janki Chatti - Yamnotri
Direct air flights are available from Delhi and Dehradun. Regular trains are available from Haridwar and Dehradun all times of the year.
Places to Visit in Yamunotri
Who would come to Yamunotri and not go for a darshan of Goddess Yamuna? Built at a height of more than 3000 meters, it is a journey towards heaven. The Yamunotri Temple was constructed by Raja Naresh Sudarshan Shah the 1st King of Tehri in Garhwal. Since 1839, this temple has been witness to lakhs of peace-seekers and never failed to fill their hearts with wonder. The Yamunotri Temple is inaccessible through cars or railways.
On one side of the temple flows the pure water of Yamuna which flows over the statues of Goddess Yamuna and Goddess Ganga. The black and white idols are revered by devotes and on the second day of Diwali, they are carried in a palanquin to the Kharsali village. This day is celebrated as Yama Dwitiya or Bhaidooj. Devi stays here for her winter worship until Akshaya Tritiya in the months of April or May wherein Devi is brought back to the temple with much celebration and pomp.
Due to the high altitude of the temple, pilgrims have to either trek by feet or palanquins are arranged for the elderly and ailing devotees. The sight of the snow-capped mountains has left many a visitor breathless and spell-bound.
Surya Kund or the Lake of the Sun is a miracle bestowed by Nature to the Land of India. This lake is situated close to the Yamunotri temple and in spite of the high chill in the region hot water spurts out of the grounds. Many hot water springs are located here of which Surya Kund is considered to be the holiest. The water is boiling here, hot enough to cook rice and potatoes. Devotees cook in the spring water and take the stuff home as Prasad or offering.
Literally meaning the Divine Rock, this is a huge stone which is reddish-brown in colour. It is worshipped before the pooja of the Goddess Yamunotri. People touch this rock for spiritual liberation. On the more scientific side, the sindur obtained from this rock is used for several diseases of the bronchial tubes, uterus and abdomen.
Sapt Rishi Kund
Another natural lake near the temple is the gray-blue Kund called the Sapt Rishi Kund or the Seven Priests Lake. This lake lies on a very rough bank full of pebbles and it is not easy for everyone to climb over. However, the plave is worth visiting as it contains the rare species of Brahma Kamal or the Lotus of Brahma which shines like white pearl in the night light. Any adventure-maniac will love this place.
Hanuman Chatti is the starting point of the trek to Yamunotri almost 13 kms from the temple of Yamunotri. There is a temple dedicated to Lord Hanuman here as the legend goes that Lord Hanuman had crushed the arrogance of the Pandava brother Bhim at this very place. Hanuman Chatti is located at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna and is very beautiful. There are fragrant flowers all over and the aroma can be sensed for several kilometers.
This place falls enroute in the trek almost 7 kms away from Yamunotri. It is a twin version of Hanuman Chatti full of aromatic flowers and mesmerizing meadows. The winning card of Janki Chatti is the bed of natural thermal springs which provide relief to tired feet on the trek. It is dedicated to Janki, another name for Sita who rested here a while. Janki Chatti is enclosed between towering mountains and one gets a feeling of being hugged by the Himalayas.
Kharsali is the major hamlet near Yamunotri. An ancient temple of Lord Shiva is located here which is full of splendid wood and stone carvings. The most astonishing part is the architecture made up of udal dal or black gram. Kharsali is the winter abode of Maa Yamuna and the idols are brought to the Shani Dev Temple. The place is merely 1 km from the Dham and is the final resting place for pilgrims.
Also known as Dhundital (meaning Lake of Ganesha), this is a freshwater lake which is considered to be bottomless. This lake is enveloped in dense oak, deodar and rhododendron trees. It is a winter trekking option for mountaineers and is quite safe with rest places like Agora in between. Camping and mule riding are enjoyed by tourists here.
Bugyal means a high elevation pasture. It is often voted as the most beautiful meadow in the country. There is a lush green carpet of 30 kms running continuously in this place. Shepherds often take their flocks to graze at this place and the beauty of this place is only next to Paradise itself. There are several crystal clear water bodies which reflect the peaks of the mountains making them appear even more beautiful. Flowers of infinite varieties bloom across the brooks in these meadows.
Barkot is another trekking destination for mountain climbers. It is the perfect place to get a view of the Banderpooch peak. This town is located on the banks of River Yamuna. It is said that the town is so tranquil that even silence is audible here. The town people are very welcoming and convivial.
Living Miracles of Yamunotri
It is difficult to believe, but in this era of modernization, there are people who have memorized the ancient shastras like the rishis of Satyug. Yamunotri is home to pujaris or priests who are well-versed in the shastras and have deep knowledge of the Sanatan Dharma. They come from the nearby village of Kharsali near Janki Chatti. Besides performing religious rites, they are guardians of the ancient and almost extinct knowledge of the Vedas. Any pilgrim will be enthralled to sit in the company of these learned men and gain from their knowledge.
What is Gangotri Dham?
The second sacred destination in the Char Dham Yatra is Gangotri. Located on the banks of Bhagirathi River, Gangotri is one of the starting points of Ganga River. The river is called Bhagirathi before it mingles with Alaknanda and then attains the name Ganga. Ganga is the holiest of all Indian rivers and gangajal is the final drop that is administered to each Hindu before his or her death.
Ganga has many other names including Jahnavi, Nikita, Jaahnukanya, Sapteshwari, Sureshwari, Bhagvati, Urvijaya, Chitraani, Tridhara, Bhaagirathi, Shubhra, Vaishnavi, Vishnupadi, Bhagvatpadi, Tripathaga, Payoshnika, Mahabhadra, Mandaakini, Meghna, Meghal, Gangika, Gange, Gangeshwari, and Alaknanda.
The Ganga is considered to be a tirtha which means it is the midpoint between this world and the hereafter. She is the consort of all three Gods, Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. There are many stories attributed to her and the different mortal forms she has taken on the earth. The original name of Ganga is Mandakini which is a river in the heaven.
Stories associated with Ganga
According to the most repeated story in the Puranas, King Bhagiratha of the Sagara dynasty performed a penance of one thousand years in order to repent for the sins of his 60,000 ancestors who were incinerated by Kapila the great guru. The only way to attain moksha for them was to do tapasya by praying to Lord Brahama. Bhaghiratha asked Brahma to grant him a boon to rescue them all and pleased by his penance, Lord Brahma commanded his daughter Ganga to flow from the heavens to the earth. However, her force was such that all human beings and gods were afraid that she would cause immense destruction on the earth. Hence, Lord Shiva captured her in his locks and broke her force.
Bhagiratha then led Ganga through the ashes of his 60,000 ancestors and here forth originated the ritual of immersing the ashes of the dead in the river for salvation also known as Nirvapanjali.
Another famous story is the one associated with Sage Agastya who had great powers of ingestion. The gods had requested the sage to swallow the ocean where the demons were hiding. Sage Agastya complied and when the war ended, he was requested to bring the ocean back. But he replied that he had already digested the ocean. This caused vast famines as people on the earth had no water to drink. This was the time when Bhagiratha performed his penance and called for the Ganga which later resulted into the formation of the Indian Ocean. It is named Sagara after the Sagara dynasty of King Bhagiratha.
Gangotri is located on the borders of Tibet in the Uttarkashi district in the state of Uttarakhand. As it is the source of a river, its altitude is more than 3000 meters. The best time to visit Gangotri is between May and September.
How to reach Gangotri temple?
There are no direct flights to Gangotri as it is located at such a height. But you can get flights to Dehradun airport regularly which is 114 kms away from the place. From the airport, there are buses and private vehicles that will drop you to nearby villages. Another close airport is the Bhuntur airport in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. However, the frequency of flights here is low.
The nearest stations station are Harrawala (113 kms) and Dehradun (114 kms). You will have to get aboard a bus or book a private vehicle from these stations.
Gangotri is well-connected to close by cities, towns and villages with buses that run regularly. There are AC and non-AC buses available.
Places to Visit in Gangotri
Made of white granite, the Gangotri Temple is a sight to behold. It looks like a snow-covered edifice due to its white structure. It was built by the Nepalese Gurukha King Amar Singh Thapa in the 18th century. It has a very simple architecture and is 20 feet high. Very much like the Yamunotri, the temple opens on the day of Akshay Tritiya in the month of May and closes on Yama Dwitiya or Bhai Dooj the day after Diwali in October/November. The idol of the Goddess is then shifted to its winter residence in Harsil.
Every day there are two poojas, the Mangal Aarti, morning prayer and the Sandhya Aarti, evening prayer. During the daytime the Ganga Devi Puja is performed. Devotees recite the Ganga stotram and mantras during the pooja and take a holy dip at River Bhagirathi. The chief priest is called Rawal.
The Ganges Glacier is 30 kilometres in length and 2 to 4 km wide. It is cuddled between several mountain peaks which are quite dangerous. It is one of the prime sources of the Ganga River.
The terminal point of the Ganges Glacier resembles the mouth of a cow and hence, is called the Gaumukh. Beneath the Gaumukh lies the beautiful meadow known as Tapovan. Many devotees travel to Gaumukh and dare to bathe in its icy waters as a step to achieve moksha.
The entire Bhagirathi valley is a striking place surrounded by birch trees which are popularly known as Bhojpatra trees. These trees were used to write when paper was not invented. The fauna includes Ibex or the Himalayan goats, the snow leopard and the snow fox. The almost extinct species of musk deer is also rarely seen here.
This is a naturally half-immersed rock which is only visible during winter when the water level goes down. It is also called the Jalmagna Shivling. It is believed that this is the very spot where Shiva captured Ganga in his locks.
One of the highest glacial lakes, Kedar Tal lies at a height of more than 4000 meters. It reflects the green trees on the peaks of Thalay Sagar and Brigupanth in its crystal clear water. These reflections are so enchanting that the lake has earned the name of “Emerald Lake”.
Harsil or Har-Shila (The Rock of Hari) is the winter destination of Goddess Ganga. It is a well-established village and has mysterious stories surrounding Raja Wilson of the British era. If you ever visit the place, do not forget to ask a local about the ghost Wilson and his famous cottage. The place is famous for its Rajma and apples. There is a waterfall named after the actress Mandakini.
TapovanTapovan literally means the Jungle of Penance. This is the place where the great rishis used to come for meditation and penance in order to achieve moksha. It is named after the great saint Tapovan Maharaj. There is another meadow named Nandavan close to it. It is an austere experience to rest with the sounds of the swishing trees and grasses in the background.
This is a rock where King Bhagirath performed his penance and offerings to Lord Shiva. It is a big boulder very close to the Gangotri Temple. It is exactly the spot where Goddess Ganga first stepped on the earth.
This is a cave where the Pandavas of the Mahabharata camped for a while to meditate and rest. They prayed to Lord Shiva to grant them strength when they were banished and exiled out of their kingdom. In map you will find this place by the name Aravelum Caves.
The Kashi Vishwanath Temple is coated in almost 800 kgs of gold. It is considered to be one of the 12 Jyotirilingas. It is very difficult to get darshan in this temple and there are times when devotees have waited in queue for 48 hours to enter the temple. The temple was built by Ahlaya Bai of Indore in 1776 and the gold plating was done 50 years later by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. It is dedicated to Vishveshwara or Lord of the Universe.
On the northern side of the temple is a well by the name Gyan Kupur. The water is very sacred and people run in a mad rush to drink from it. But nowadays due to tensions and crowd, the well has been closed for common people. On the eastern side of the temple, a 7-feet high stone statue of Nandi bull can be seen. It was gifted by the Raja of Nepal. Devotees can join in for the five aartis that take place every day - Mangal Aarti (earliest dawn), Bhoga Aarti (pre-noon), Sandhya Aarti (twilight), Shringara Aarti (night) and Shayana Aarti (midnight).
Kuteti Devi Temple
The Kuteti Devi Temple is situated very close to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi. It was built by the King and Queen of Kota when Kuteti Devi visited them in their dreams. The place is full of lush greenery and is very peaceful.
Festivals Celebrated Near the Ganga
Also known as Ganga Jayanti and Ganga Pujan, Ganga Saptami is an auspicious occasion when Hindus perform Ganga Aarti and flow garlands and diyas or lamps in the River Ganga. This ceremony is called deepdaan or donating the deep. Ganga Saptami is celebrated on the 7th day of the waxing phase of moon during the month of ‘Vaishakha’. The next Ganga Saptami is on 22nd April, 2018.
The Kumbha Mela
The Kumbha Mela dates back to the 7th century. It is held every three years. Besides the ritual bathing in the river, more than 100 million people gather to attend the fair held at Varanasi. Gangajal is collected and taken by devotees to their homes. The Kumbha Mela has its origin in the legend of Samudra Manthan wherein nectar was produced by the churning of the seas. It has been entered into UNESCO's Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Located at an altitude of more than 3500 meters, Kedarnath Dham is the most inaccessible dhams amongst all the four. This is the third stop for the Chota Char Dham Yatra. The history of this place goes beyond several millennia. It was known as Kedar Khand in earlier books meaning the area of Kedar.
Kedar was a king who lived in Satyug or the Age of Truth. His daughter, Princess Vrinda, was an ardent devotee of Goddess Lakshmi. The place where she used to play as a child is named in her memory - Vrindavan.
“Kedarnath” literally means the Lord of Kedar. Lord Shiva who had given his darshan here is considered to be the Lord of the area of Kedar.
Stories Related to Kedarnath
The Pandavas realized that they were guilty of killing their brothers after the Mahabharata War was over. In order to atone for their sins, Krishna advised them to please Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva was angry at the five brothers because they had used treachery during the war. Hence, he did not appear before them for darshan, instead disguised himself as the Nandi Bull and went to Guptakshi. But, the Pandavas got a hint and went to Guptakshi where Bhima tried to capture him. Nandi Bull disappeared from Guptakshi and reappeared in five parts at five different places:
- Hump at Kedarnath
- Countenance at Rudranath
- Arms at Tungnath
- Navel and stomach at Madhyamaheshwar
- Hair at Kalpeshwar
One of the most interesting traditions carried till date is the “Pandava Nritya”. This is performed by tribals in memory of the Pandava brothers. In fact the entire temple has symbolic descriptions of the many incidents in the lives of the Pandavas.
Cuddled by snow-capped mountain peaks, Kedarnath is located between the Kedarnath dome and Mandakini River. It is 3,583 meters above sea level.
How to reach Kedarnath temple?
The best and easiest way to reach the Kedarnath Temple is by helicopter. However, most devotees cannot afford the luxury and hence, use other routes.
The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant Airport. Daily flights are available from here to Delhi. Taxis can be taken from outside the airport which will drop you at Gauri Kund.
The nearest railway station is the Rishikesh station at a distance of 216 kms. Taxis, buses and private hire cars are available from here to Gauri Kund.
Daily buses are available from cities like Haridwar to Gauri Kund. It takes up to a day’s journey sometimes due to landslides. It is always advisable to check the traffic and weather conditions before embarking on a road journey.
From Gauri Kund, horses, ponies and palkis are available to climb the mountain.
Route to Kedarnath from Rishikesh
Rishikesh - Devaprayag - Srinagar - Rudraprayag - Tilwara - Agastamuni - Kund - Guptkashi– Phata - Rampur - SonPrayag - Gaurikund
Places to Visit in Kedarnath
This temple is also considered to be one of the twelve Jyotirlingas and is revered amongst the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva. It takes 18 kms of trek to reach the Kedarnath Temple. Ponies and manchans are available for the devotees for trekking.
The Kedarnath Temple is built at the exact spot where the Pandavas did penance in order to repent for their sins during the Mahabharata. Lord Shiva accepted their penance and absolved them of all their sins. This temple was rebuilt in the 8th century by Sage Adishankaracharya.
The temple is open for six months from Akshaya Trititya in April to Karthik Purnima in November. All the vigrahas or idols are brought down to Ukhimath during the winter season. A triangular shaped rock is worshiped in Garbhagriha of the temple. It is massaged with ghee in memory of Bhima massaging Lord Shiva with ghee.
This temple is located on the eastern side of the Kedarnath village. Lord Bhairav is worshipped here who is believed to protect the villagers during the winter months. Bhairav is one avatar of Shiva in which he is carrying the trishul and riding a dog. The fierce black idol of Lord Bhairava can be seen in the temple which is hardly 500 meters from the main Kedarnath Temple.
This is a lake located almost 2000 meters above sea level. It is the starting point of the 16kms trek to Kedarnath. Gauri is another name for Parvati, Shiva’s beloved wife. It was here that Parvati meditated and won the love of Shiva through her yogic practices. It’s the same place where Lord Ganesha obtained his persona of elephant head. Other names for Gauri Kund are Parvati Sarovar and Lake of Compassion. The place is a natural miracle because two springs - one with hot water and the other with cold water flow nearby.
Uma Shankar Shila
It is believed that there were 12 rishis of Lanka who were exiled from Lanka. They followed Mahadev to Kedarnath and their spirits were enclosed in this rock. This rock is known as Uma Shankar Shila.
This lake is memorable because Dharamraj Yudhishthir, the eldest of the Pandavas attained moksha here and his soul ascended towards the heavens. It is also called the Chorbari Tal. The best time to visit is early in the morning when the crystal clear water reflects the peaks of the surrounding mountains. On the path to the sarovar is an enchanting waterfall.
Another breathtaking glacial lake named after Lord Vishnu, it is believed that Vishnu bathed in its waters during rakshabandhan. The lake is filled with Brahma Kamal, the divine white lotus lending an other-wordly aura to the place. The waters are icy even during summer so it is not advisable to swim here.
This is a small village at the confluence of two rivers Basuki and Mandakini. Sonprayag is home to the Triyuginarayan Temple where Shiva and Parvati were married. A flame has been burning continuously here in memory of the marriage. Bathing in the confluence at Sonprayag is said to grant people Bainkuth Dham.
This place has another temple dedicated to Lord Shiva similar to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple of Varanasi. The temple contains thrilling images and sculptures of Lord Bhairava and Ardhanareshwara or the androgynous form of Shiva and Paravati, symbolizing their union.
Chopta is a small hamlet encircled by pine and deodar trees. It is the winter residence for the deities of Kedarnath temple. It is a scenic place full of untouched nature.
The five Shaivite temples are known as Panch Kedar. It is considered an obligation to visit all five of them during the Char Dham Yatra. These five temples are - Kedarnath, Madhyamaheshwar, Tungnath, Rudranath, and Kalpeshwar.
The final destination of the Chota Char Dham Yatra is the Badrinath Dham. The Char Dham Yatra ends here after pind daan is made to one’s deceased ancestors and the final dip is taken. The Badrinath dham is the most important of all as it is the culmination of all the poojas. Therefore, pilgrims are very careful at this place.
Badri is the Indian name for berry and Nath means king. Badrinath means the King of Badri. Because jojoba trees are found in plenty in this village, it is known as Badrinath village. There are many stories related to the village. Badrinath is the holy counterpart of Kedarnath which is dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Stories Related to Badrinath
The usual meditation place of Lord Vishnu, Thuling, in the Himalayas had become corrupted by monks who consumed flesh and evil people. Hence, Vishnu decided to shift to Badrinath which is very cold. To protect him, his wife Goddess Lakshmi took the form of berry tree which is known as Badri in the local language and covered him with the leaves. Hence, the name Badrinarayan became famous.
Another story states that Nar and Narayan were the two sons of Dharam. They wished to preach their religion and hence went on a search for the best place to establish their hermitage. Eventually, they found the Panch Badri comprising ofnamely Bridha Badri, Yog Bhadri, Dhyan Badri, Bhavish Badri and Badri Vishal. Badri Vishal is the biggest of all the four and it is located in the present Badrinath.
Badrinath is located on the banks of the Alaknanda River in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. The Nar Parbat is on the opposite facing and the Narayan Parbat is at its back. It is more than 3000 meters above the sea level. Behind the hamlet lies the famous Neelkantha peak.
How to reach Badrinath temple?
The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant Airport. The Bhuntur and Dehradun airports also have active flights. Regular flights are available from Delhi, Lucknow and Mumbai. Taxis and buses are easily accessible to take you to the temple.
The nearest railway station is the Haridwar station at a distance of 318 kms. Taxis, buses and private hire cars are available from here to Badrinath.
Daily buses are available from cities like Haridwar, Rishikesh and other major cities in the country. The prices are quite affordable and there are many options available from routine buses to AC and sleeper AC ones.
Route to Badrinath from Haridwar
Haridwar - Rishikesh - Devprayag - Srinagar - Rudraprayag - Karnaprayag - Nandprayag - Chamoli - Joshimath - Badrinath
Places to Visit in Badrinath
Badrinath Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is considered to be one of his 108 Divya Desams. Divya Desams are those premium places where Lord Vishnu himself has given his darshan.This temple is specially revered by Vaishnavites or worshippers of Lord Vishnu. There is a one - meter tall black idol of Lord Vishnu in the form of Badrinarayan made of Shaligram stone. It is believed that this is a manifestation of Lord Vishnu, meaning that he had himself appeared here and coverted himself to stone. The other statues include the God of Wealth, Kubera, Sage Narada, Uddhava, Nar, Narayana and around fifteen other images. All the idols in this temple are made of black stone.
The temple administration and worship is carried out under the supervision of Rawal, a traditional Nambudiri Brahmin. Of late, a token system has been introduced according to which a single devotee is allotted 10 to 15 seconds of darshan and then place is made for others.
The temple opens on Akshya Tritiya in April and remains open for the next six months. On the auspiscious day of Bhatridiwitya in October-November a great ceremony is performed and an endless eternal flame is lit with ghee to last for the next six months. Then the idols are carried with great pomp to the nearby Narasimha Temple at Jyotirmath for the winter session. The first day of the opening ceremony sees a large crowd which gathers to witness the Akhanda Jyoti or the Eternal Flame.
The Tapt Kund is a cluster of hot springs of sulphur. It is located just below the Badrinath Temple. It contains medicinal properties and is said to cure many diseases. It has a perennial temperature of 55°C although the local temperature falls below 0°C almost half the year. Besides, there are two water ponds in the temple called Narad Kund and Surya Kund.
The Bridge of Bheem was built by the Pandava brother Bhim to help Draupadi cross the River Saraswati in order to reach heaven. The bridge is so beautiful that one feels that it is actually a pathway to Paradise. This bridge lies in the romantic village of Mana.
This is a ritualistic place where one performs pooja for the redemption of one’s ancestors. It is believed that once the rituals are performed, the souls of the ancestors are redeemed from the cycle of rebirths and reach the Lord’s Lotus located at his feet. This ritual is normally known as Pinddaan or Pithrudarpan.
The miracle here is of the pundits performing the rites. Besides being highly knowledgeable in Vedic scriptures, they are multi-linguists of high stature. It is astonishing to hear them speak fluently in almost all the major languages of the country.
If you are ever going on Char Dham do not miss out on these rituals. The entire pooja takes two hours involving bathing in the Tapt Kund and Kubera Pooja. The Pinda Pradana and Tarpan are performed very close to the Alaknanda River.
This is the last point beyong the Mana Village. Considered to be a sacred river, the Saraswati falls in the path of heaven and has a big rock in between known as Bhim Shila. The whole river seems to be emerging out of a tunnel and looks like a curving creature. It flows into the Alaknanda River. There is the Manas spring nearby which is enchanting to behold. The water from the Saraswati River is also stored like Gangajal.
A 3 kms trek from the Mana village, the water from the Vasundhra Falls is so pure that you can drink it right away with cupped hands. The best time to visit is during the monsoons wherein the right size and splendor of the falls can be viewed. Many tourists sit below the falls to get a splash.
In the last village on Indo-China border lies the Vyas Gufa. It has been mentioned in many instances in the epic of Mahabharata. It is a cave where the Maharishi Ved Vyas sat in company of Lord Ganesha and composed the Mahabharata. His statue is in the cave which is revered by pilgrims. The roof of the cave is fashioned in such a way that it looks like the holy scripts. It is said that Lord Ganesha had been dictating so fast that Sage Vyas broke his red pen. The rest of the composition was made with the tusk of Lord Ganesha which he bestowed to the Maharishi.
Unlike the Vyas Gufa, this cave has a temple in its front dedicated to Lord Ganesha. The cave is dark and has a mysterious aura to it. This was the cave wherein Ganesh acted as a scribe and Ved Vyas dictated him the text. The path to the cave is a yaksha path and seems to be from another era.
Literally meaning the Gate of Hari, this city is one of the holiest in the country. It is one of the four sites where Amrita or nectar was spilled by Garuda while carrying it to the gods. The place where the nectar dropped is called the Har ki Pauri or Lord Shiva’s steps. There is a large foot print of Lord Shiva on a stone wall.
Every 12 years a Kumbha Mela and every 6 years an Ardha Kumbha Mela are celebrated in Haridwar. Millions of people gather here to offer their devotion and participate in the celebrations. There are many ancient Gurukulas here where the Hindu scriptures are taught using their original, ancient methods.
Festivals in the Badrinath Temple
Mata Ki Murti Mela
This Mela is held in the month of September every year. It is on this day that the Ganga descended on the earth and divided itself into twelve tributaries. A big fair is held and Lord Vishnu is worshipped here. The idol of Ganga Mata, mother of Badrinath is kept at a distance of 3kms from the temple and worshipped.
This is an eight-day festival celebrated in the month of June. It is celebrated at both Badrinath and Kedarnath temples. Artists and performers from all over the country come here to showcase their performances. Several poojas, aartis and abhisheks are offered during the course of the day and night. Vedic texts are recited and other rituals are performed. A special sandalwood paste is applied to the idol of Badrinath which is then removed and given to the devotees as Prasad. Other forms of Prasad are sugar and dry leaves.
Here we come to an end of the Chota Char Dham Yatra. We hope you find peace and salvation through this great journey. If you have further queries, please feel free to contact us for guidance.