Vinayaraj Rameswaram Temple
India's northernmost state, bordering the Himalayas of Nepal and Tibet, is known for its mountainous natural beauty and also for its plethora of Hindu temples and shrines. In fact, four of those cites, collectively known as Char Dham ("four abodes"), are considered the Hindu equivalent of Mecca for Islam, a pilgrimage that all Hindus should make once in their lifetime to cleanse themselves of sins and achieve Moksha (salvation). As such, every year they are visited by tens of thousands of pilgrims during a six-month period from spring through fall, with the peak months with the most pleasant weather being April/May and October/November (this year two of the yatra temples opened on April 26, but of course pilgrims have not been allowed to come due to the coronavirus lockdown - meaning the pilgrimage has this year been postponed until travel opens up again).
The four dhams are:
This town's temple (right), dating back as far as the 8th or 9th century, became the first dham because Badrinath according to mythology was the site of mediation and self cleansing by Nar-Narayan, an avatar of Vishnu.
Apart from all four Dhams, PanchPrayag (Devprayag. Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag, Nandaprayag, and Vishnuprayag) is also done. If you have 02 more spare days then you can do Auli and Chopta also.
Generally, the Chardham remains open for six months from April/May through October/Nov, every year the opening & closing dates are announced. Best time to visit the Chardham is from May – June, and Oct – Nov. Heavy rainfall during monsoon causes frequent landslides & road blockages so better to avoid at that time. All four Shrines remain inaccessible during winters due to heavy snowfall thus during that period the idols of Chardham deities are brought down to nearby accessible town i.e. Kedarnath at Ukhimath, Badrinath at Joshimath, Mukhba for Gangotri and Yamunotri at Kharsali. Daily rituals for deities are performed at these respective places. These revered places are famous by the name Winter Chardham among devotees.
Chardham yatra customarily starts from Haridwar or from Delhi. The nearest airport to Haridwar is Jolly grand airport (Dehradun) which has good connectivity of flight from Delhi, Kolkata, Ahmadabad, Bangalore, Chennai, and Cochin. The train is also a good option to reach Haridwar. The private car can be hired from Haridwar or Delhi for Chardham yatra. Helicopter services are also available for all the Dhams and which also gives the advantage to do yatra at shortest time phase of two days. Helicopter packages for Chardham are also readily available. After reaching Haridwar railway station or Dehradun airport, you can hire the private car for Chardham yatra or Helicopter services for Chardham yatra is also available which starts from Dehradun.
Route Plan for ChardhamYatra:
Yamunotri Route Map: Rishikesh – Narendra Nagar – Chamba – Brahmkhal – Barkot – Hanuman Chatti – Phool Chatti – JankiChatti – Yamunotri
Gangotri Route Map: Barkot – Uttarkashi –Netala – Maneri – Gangnani – Harsil -Gangotri
Kedarnath Route Map: Uttarkashi – Guptkashi – Phata – Rampur – Sitapur – Sonprayag – Gaurikund - Kedarnath
Badrinath Route Map: Kedarnath – Chamoli – Birahi - Pipalkoti – Joshimath - Badrinath.
Popular Halt Places/Alternate Halt Places on Chardham Yatra Route:
The popular Halt places of Chardham yatra are Barkot, Uttarkashi, Guptkashi, Kedarnath, Birahi/Pipalkoti, Badrinath and Rudraprayag. But there are alternate halt places also but are very less known by people. Some of them are:
If hotels at Barkot are sold out then there are three halt places near Barkot i.e.Syanachatti, Ranachatti & Jankichatti. All these places have decent choices for the hotel option.
Uttarkashi is a stopover point for Gangotri temple. Apart from Uttarkashi, there are a couple of other good stopover points.e. Netala, Maneri, Gangnani & Harsil. These destinations have good lodging facility. These places vicinity to Gangotri temple make them a perfect choice for devotes of Gangotri Dham.
Guptkashi has good hotel option but there are alternative half places on the way to Kedarnath temple i.e. Phata, Rampur and Sitapur. These places are the operating point for Helicopter services to Kedarnath.
Birahi/Pipalkoti- The distance from Haridwar to Birahi is 235 Kms&Birahi to Badrinath is 86 Kms. After Darshan of Kedarnath temple, the pilgrims start the drive from Gaurikund towards Badrinath, can take a stopover at Birahi which is approx.130 Kms. However Birahi has very limited hotels option then, in that case, there are other stopover places nearby i.e.Gopeshwar, Chamoli, Pipalkoti & Joshimath.
Badrinath- Badrinath is a small town with a good number of accommodation arrangement i.e. Dharamshalas, Vishramgraha, hotels, and lodges. However, during Yatra season, Badrinath experiences scarcity of lodging facilities. In that case, tourists can opt to stay in nearby places like Joshimath, Pandukeshwar & Govindghat. Pandukeshwar is 23km, Govindghat is 25km & Joshimath is 45kms before Badrinath.
There is a well laid national highway till Badrinath which ends at Mana village, other three dhams (Yamunotri, Gangotri, and Kedarnath) are well connected by state highways. It is a lifetime experience of cruising on the highest motor-able road of Mana pass or driving on serpent-like highways with magnificent backdrop framed of snow covered mountains.
Helicopter booking for Kedarnath
There are many operators for helicopter services to Kedarnathji. Few of them are Pawan Hans, UT Air, Pinnacle Air, Sar Aviation, Himalayan Heli Services, Aryan Aviation, and Heritage Aviation Pvt Ltd. These helicopter operators start their services from Guptkashi, continues till Sitapur, in between there are few helipads from where the devotees can avail the services of a Helicopter flight to Kedarnath.
Tips for a Hassle-free Char Dham Yatra
Apart from all four Dhams, PanchPrayag (Devprayag. Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag, Nandaprayag, and Vishnuprayag) is also done. If you have two more spare days then you can do Auli and Chopta also.
Planning and confirming all the arrangements beforehand is the key for hassle-free Chardham yatra. At least, confirm all the services like hotels, transport, helicopter ticket for Kedarnath, 30-45 days prior to travel dates. Since later the availability of the services becomes a big concern for devotees.
Plan your Yatra during these months- May, June, Oct, Nov; it is the best time to travel on this route.
At Chardham yatra route, almost all the hotels are basic & only a few are of a deluxe category. However, all the hotels have maintained the proper hygiene and the basic amenities are readily available. But it is advisable, do not compare these hotels with any star category.
Physical Fitness: Before embarking onto this sacred Chardham yatra, it is advisable to do proper health check-up and ensure the complete physical fitness. Since these are high altitude places where one can get prone to AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) means breathing problem due to less oxygen level. So, in order to avoid this condition, take a proper time to get yourself acclimate at such places.
Some must-to-know things*
Chardham yatra is one of must-to-do tour not only for its high religious importance but also for its unparalleled natural beauty. But there are certain myths associated with yatra i.e. bad road condition, landslide-prone area, hotels, accessibility, etc.
There is well-maintained state highway for three dams i.e. Yamunotri, Gangotri and Kedarnath, and Badrinath is connected by a national highway. Complete renovation work is done every year before the Yatra season.
Only 01 stretch of Lambagad is a landslide-prone area which is 18 Km before Badrinath which is regularly monitored by concern authorities during Chardham yatra season. Yes during monsoon, yatra becomes tricky else it is manageable.
Hotels are basic but well maintained and equipped with all basic amenities. Services are good and the hotel serves lip smashing cuisines – regional, Indian, South Indian.
All the Dhams are easily accessible by drive except Yamunotri where 06 Km trek (one way) is required and for Kedarnath, 18 Km trek is undertaken. But there are various options available like a pony, palanquins for both the temples and for Kedarnath, helicopter services are also available.