Char Dham Yatra from Muni Ki Reti
Muni Ki Reti has traditionally been the starting point for Char Dham Yatra comprising of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. Earlier pilgrims had to complete this entire circuit on foot. However, with construction of roads and improvement of vehicular traffic most of the route can now be covered by buses, cars and taxis. Only small stretches of the trail has to be covered on foot.
Although most of the travelers undertake this yatra for pilgrimage purposes the magnificent scenic beauty as well as unique cultural heritage of the area also draws a large number secular visitors.
From Muni Ki Reti to Yamunotri
Yamunotri, located at the coordinate of 31.01° N, 78.45° E, is our first destination. The place is the source of River Yamuna on whose bank many of India’s greatest cities have been built. It is situated at an altitude of 3,293 meters (10,804 ft) and is located at a distance of 234.4 km from Muni Ki Reti. National Highway 94, which starts from Muni Ki Reti, takes you straight to Janak Chatti from where Yamunotri is only 6 km away.
The Road Map to Yamunotri
Starting at Muni Ki Reti, we first take up NH 94. We travel via Narendra Nagar, Jagal, Chamba, New Tehri, Dharasu, Rarighat, Barkot, Hanuman Chatti and finally to Janak Chatti / Janki Chatti. The 6 km trek starts from there. You can either walk this distance or travel on horseback. Dolis are also available on hire. You may also start your trek from Hanuman Chatti. However, if you do so you will have to walk 7 km more; but the route is truly picturesque and goes via Markendaya Tirtha, where sage Markendaya is said to have written Markendaya Purana.
Barkot on the way to Yamunotri
Barkot is an important stopover on the way to Yamunotri. The town is actually located on NH 123 at 30.82°N 78.20°E. Many pilgrims spend the night here and then start early in the morning for Yamunotri. The distance between the two places is 45.9 km and can be covered within one and half hours. The town has many hotels, dharamshalas and guest houses where you can put up. Camps on the bank of river Yamuna offer unique experience.
It is to be remembered that the actual source of the River Yamunotri (Champasar Glacier) lies in the Kalind Mountain, one km away from here. Since the terrain is very difficult few people go there. Most pilgrims pay their homage at the temple in Yamunotri
At Yamunotri, we will first pay our homage at Divya Shila or the Sacred Rock. It is actually a part of the mountain, but is embedded in the wall of the Yamunotri Temple. It is customary to pay homage here and then enter the Yamunotri temple, dedicated to Goddess Yamunotri. The idol in this temple is made out of black marble. It was built by Maharaja Pratap Singh of Tehri Garhwal. Some are also of the opinion that it has been built by Maharni Gularia of Jaipur. Every Year the temple opens on Akshaya Trtiya and closes on Yama Dwitiya.
Apart from Yamunotri Temple, there are two hot water springs at Yamunotri. Among them, the water in the Surya Kund is so hot that one can cook rice and potatoes in it. Pilgrims tie rice in a piece of cloth and dip them in the kund; it takes just a few minutes to cook this rice. It is then taken as Prasad (offering). The other kund is known as Guari Kund; however, the water here is rather tepid.
After, the ‘darshan’ at Yamunotri, we will go back to Barkot to spend the night there.
From Barkot to Uttarkashi
From Barkot we travel towards Uttarkashi, located on National Highway 108 at 30.73°N 78.45°E. We first travel towards Dharasu Bend on NH 94 and then turn left to catch NH 108. The distance between the two towns is 78.7 km and can be reached within around two hours. We will spend the night there.
There are many places to visit in Uttarkashi. Kashi Vishwanath Temple is the most important among them. Many ashrams are located in Ujeli locality; you might as well visit that. Also spend time to visit the River Bhagirathi, which flows by this river.
From Uttarkashi to Gangotri
Gangotri, the second of the four dhams, is our destination today. It is located on NH 108 at an altitude of 3,415 m (11,204 ft). The geographical coordinate of the town is 30.98°N 78.93°E and the distance between Uttarkashi and Gangotri is around 95 km.
Although Gomukh, located at a distance of 18 km from Gangotri, is the actual source of River Ganga few people go there. Instead, Gangotri is considered as the origin of this river. The Gangotri temple, built in the 18th century AD by Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa is the prime attraction.
Besides, there is the submerged Shiv Linga, where Lord Shiva is said to have held Ganga in his matted hair. However, it becomes visible only in winter and so there is a chance that you will not be able to see it. Instead, go to Kedar Ganga Sangam, located 100 yards away from the main temple. It is where River Kedar Ganga meets River Bhagirthi. One may note that River Ganga is known as River Bhagirathi in the upper reaches. It becomes Ganga only when it meets River Alakananda at Devprayag.
After the darshan, we go back to Uttarkashi and spend the night there.
From Gangotri to Guptakshi
Guptkashi, located at a distance of 196 km from Gangotri at 30.52° N, 79.08° E, is our next destination. The best way to reach the town is via Ghansali – Tilwara Road. That way, the road distance is merely 106 km. The ancient Vishwanath Temple is the main attraction here. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. We will spend the night here.
Guptakashi to KedarnathFrom Guptakshi, we start for our next destination Kedarnath, the third of the four dhams. In this stage, we will go up to Gauri Kund by vehicle and then travel for 14 km on foot to reach Kedarnath.
From Guptakashi, we first take up National Highway 109 and reach Sonprayag. From there we move onto Gaurikund. The distance between Guptakashi and Gaurikund is around 29.6 km and that of Sonprayag and Gaurikund 5 km. This is the place Gauri is said to have undertaken her penance. A hot water spring and a temple dedicated to Mata Gauri were the prime attraction of this place. Earlier devotees first had a bath in the kund and then visited the temple. However, the flash flood of 2013 has more or less destroyed the kund; now there is only a small stream of hot water flowing by.
Kedarnath is located at an altitude of about 3,583 m (11,755 ft) at the coordinate of 30.73° N, 79.07° E. As we have already said, this temple town has to be reached on foot and Gourikund is the base for this trek. You may also cover this distance on horseback or hire dolis.
We will spend the night at Kedarnath and if you wish to offer puja, it is best to do so the next morning. However, we can always go to the Kedarnath Temple to have a darshan of the deity. We can also visit the Samadhi Mandir of Adi Sankaracharya, located behind the main temple. In the eastern part of the town, there is a Bhairav Mandir, which you must also visit. The place also offers a magnificent view of snow clad mountains. River Mandakini, flowing by this town, is another attraction. We may spend the day admiring them.
The Shiva temple in Kedrnath was established in 8th Century AD by Adi Sankaracharya. It is said to be one of the twelve Jyotir Lingas worshiped all over India. Due to extreme climatic conditions, the temple remains closed from end of November to early April. As per tradition, the temple opens on Akshaya Tritriya and closes on Kartik Purnima. After that the deities are brought down to Ukhimath and worshipped there.
Although Adi Sankaracharya built the present temple in the 8th century AD the place is much older than that. It is believed that the Pandava brothers of Mahabharata fame had done penance here. The present temple structure is said to have been built adjacent to a temple built by Pandava brothers. Lord Shiva is worshiped here in the form of a conical stone.
From Kedarnath to Rudraprayag
After we have offered our puja at Kedarnath temple we will start the downward trek to Gaurikund. From there, we will move on to Rudraprayag via National Highway 109. The distance between Gourikund and Rudrapayag is around 75 km. We will spend the night there and move on to Badrinath the next day.
Rudraprayag to Badrinath
From Rudraprayag, we will take up National Highway 58 and drive straight to Badrinath. The town is located at an altitude of 3,300 m (10,800 ft) on the bank of River Alakananda; its geographical coordinate being 30.74° N, 79.49° E. The distance between the two towns is 158 km.
Badrinath is also referred as Badari and Badarikashram. While Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva Badrinath is especially sacred for the followers of Lord Vishnu. The Lord is said to dwell here in the form of Nara Narayan. In the main temple, the deity is worshiped in the form of one meter tall statue made out of black stone. According to hearsay, Adi Sankaracharya discovered this idol in the River Alakananda. He had it enshrined in a cave near Tapt Kund. Later in the sixteenth century, the king of Garhwal constructed the present temple and the idol was installed in it.
Other places to visit in Badrinath
Other than the main Badrinath temple, the town has few other places to visit. Following are some of them:
- Tapt Kund: it is a natural hot water spring, located on the bank of River Alakananda. It is customary to have a bath in this kund before entering the Badrinath Temple.
- Narad Kund: It is a recess in the River Alakananda from where the idol of Badrinath is said to have been recovered. It is located close to Tapt Kund
- Brahama Kapal: It is sort of a flat platform on the bank of river Alaknanda, on which many people perform pujas to propitiate their ancestors.
Places near Badrinath
Sheshnetra, Charanpaduka, Vashudhara, Bhim Pul located in the close vicinity of the town are some of the must see places from Badrinath. Also take time to visit Mana village, located at a distance of 3 km from the town. It is the last village on the Indian side of the border and is inhabited by an Indo-Mongolian tribe. If legends are to be believed the Pandava brothers crossed this village on their last journey to the heaven. In addition, Vyas Gufa, a rock cave near this village is said to be place where Ved Vyas had composed Mahabharata. Bhim Pul too is located near it. It is actually a very big rock lying across River Saraswati and offers a magnificent view. It is believed that the second Pandava Bhima had placed it across this river.
The Return Journey from Badrinath to Muni Ki RetiWith the visit to Badrinath we have completed the Char Dham Yatra. It is now time to go back to Muni Ki Reti. We take up NH 58 once again and reach Muni Ki Reti in around seven or eight hours. The distance to be covered is 292.6 km. Depending upon our schedule, we may or may not make a night halt at Rudraprayag.
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