In the folds holy Himalayas of the majestic Garhwal Himalayas that adorn the magnificent state of Uttaranchal, awaits a rejuvenating spiritual experience for the devout.Nestling in the snow-covered lofty peaks are located the sacred Hindu shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri,collectively referred to as the Char Dham or the Four Holy Shrines.The four dhams receive holy water in the form of four streams - Yamuna (Yamunotri), Bhagirathi (in Gangotri), Mandakini (in Kedarnath) and Alaknanda (in Badrinath).
Badrinath dhaam is considered as one of the most sacred centres of pilgrimage situated in the lofty Himalayan heights in the Tehri-Garhwal hill tracks (Uttarakhand) at the height of 10,248 feet above sea level.It is an arduous mountain route to Badrinath from Rishikesh or Haridwar in the Garwahl Himalayan region, where roads get blocked with landslides during the monsoon season. Throughout the route to Badrinath there are numerous pilgrimage sites at Deva Prayag, Rudraprayag, Karana Prayag, Nanda Prayag, Vishnuprayag as well as Pandukeswar.
Lord MahaVishnu is believed to have done his penance in this place. Seeing the Lord doing his penance in the open, Goddess Mahalaxmi is believed to have assumed the form of Badri tree to provide him shelter to face the onslaught of the weather conditions, therefore got name "Badri Narayan".
The temple of Shri Badrinathji on the banks of the Alaknanda river, dates back to the vedic times. Situated at an altitude of 3133 mts., the present temple is believed to have been built by Adi Guru Shankracharya - an 8th century's philosopher-saint, who also established a 'math' here. Also known as 'Vishal Badri', Badrinath is one of the 'Panch Badris.'
At Badrinath one can witness one of the greatest wonders of Nature in the Hot water springs of Taptakund on the banks of river Alaknanda. The temperature of the water in this Kund is 55 degree centigrade whereas the normal temperature in this region for most part of the year at 9-10 degree centigrade to sub-zero levels. Before visiting the temple the pilgrims take a holy bath in the Taptakund.
Kedarnath is situated amidst the stunning mountainscape of the Garhwal Himalayas at the head of the Mandakini River. Kedar is another name of lord Shiva, the protector & the destroyer. Kedarnath is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas.The shrine(temple) of Kedarnath is amongst the holiest pilgrimages for the Hindus.The temple is situated at an altitude of 3580 m amidst the background of snow covered mountain peaks and greenery.Immediately behind the temple, is the high Keadardome peak, which can be sighted from great distances. The temple is built of large, heavy and evenly cut grey slabs of stones and is considered more than 1000 years old.
Gangotri, the source of the Ganga (Ganges) River and seat of the goddess Ganga, is one of the four sites in the Char Dham pilgrimage circuit. According to mythology, Goddess Ganga - the daughter of heaven, manifested herself in the form of a river to absolve the sins of king Bhagirath's predecessors, following his severe penance of several centuries, Lord Shiva received into his matted locks to minimize the immense impact of her fall. She came to be called Bhagirathi at her legendary source.Along the right bank of Bhagirathi stands the shrine of Gangotri dedicated to the Goddesss. It was constructed in the early 18th century by a Gorkha Commander, Amar Singh Thapa.The river itself begins at Gangotri which literally means Ganga Uttari or Ganga descending She came to be called Bhagirathi at her legendary source. The Shrine of Gangotri is situated at an elevation of 3200 m above sea level. Set amidst captivating surroundings along the right bank of Bhagirathi Gangotri is 100 km from Uttarkashi.
The sacred shrine of Yamunotri, source of the river Yamuna, is the westernmost shrine in the Garhwal Himalayas, perched atop a flank of Bandar Poonch Peak (3615 m) and situated opposite to Gangotri. Yamunotri is the origin of the sacred river Yamuna. Famous for its thermal springs and glaciers, it is one of the most important stopovers on the itinerary of the Hindu pilgrim. Among the major attractions of Yamunotri are hot water springs nearby. Devotees prepare rice and potatoes to offer at the shrine, by dipping them in these hot water springs, tied in muslin cloth. The trek to Yamunotri is spectacular, dominated by a panorama of rugged peaks and dense forests. Divya Shilla is a rock pillar that is worshipped by the pilgrims before they enter the Yamunotri temple.