In the lofty peaks of the Himalayas lie the four most holy pilgrimage sites in the state. Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, collectively known as Char Dham or four pilgrimage places, are the main centres for religious activity in North India. Devotees traditionally make their way to Yamunotri as the first destination and then move towards Gangotri and Kedarnath, followed by Badrinath which is the end of the journey. Aspiring to wash away their sins and attain salvation and blessings from above, thousands of devotees undertake this holy journey to experience eternal bliss Devotees deep in prayer at Gangotri.
Each site of the Char Dham is dedicated to certain Gods and Goddesses. Yamunotri is dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna and she accompanies the devotee to the high altitude, picturesque region of Rawaii Ghaati. Yamunotri stands high up in the deep cleft on the western face of the Banderpunch Peak. The most holy area of the Yamuna is the Divya Shila, a dark rock from where the hot springs emerge. This is the origin of the Yamuna and pilgrims offer their first puja here. It is believed that a bath in the waters of the Yamuna protects the devotee from akaalmrityu or untimely death that prevents one from attaining moksha.
Gangotri, known as the source of River Ganges, is dedicated to the Goddess Ganga. The shrine overlooks the River Bhagirathi and here the Ganga is also known as Bhagirathi, named after the ancient King Bhagirath whose penance brought her down from the heavens. Goddess Ganga is the main deity here and the stone slab or the Bhagirath Shila where King Bhagirath meditated is near the temple.
Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is also a part of the Panch Kedar Yatra. It is the northernmost Jyotirlinga and is close to the source of the holy River Mandakini. Adi Shankaracharya is said to have attained samadhi in the shrine behind the famous Kedarnath Temple at the age of 32
Badrinath is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is set against the backdrop of the Neelkanth Peak between the Nar and Narayan mountains. It is situated on the banks of the River Alaknanda at an altitude of 10,276 metres. According to legend, Lord Vishnu meditated here while his consort Lakshmi took the form of a berry (badri) tree to offer him shade.
Before embarking on this journey, one has to be prepared for both physical and mental hardships as the road to be taken not easy. Char Dham Yatra is one of the most accessible yet arduous yatras in the state and is bustling with activities especially during the summer. The scenic beauty of the place and the mystical mountains solemnly prepare the pilgrims as they move towards their destination.