Uttarakhand chardham Yatra can be easily called as one of the most popular pilgrimage circuits of India. Every year, around the same time, the routes to the Chardham or the four most sacred places of the Indian Himalayas are opened for the pilgrims to trek to. Four of these places, namely Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, are all situated in the state of Uttarakhand. Apart from the religious aspect associated to it, this pilgrimage also acts as a great attraction for travellers since it takes through some of the most beautiful regions of Uttarakhand’s mountains.
Chardham Yatra has a lot of religious significance in Hindu religion. It has always been believed that every Hindu must go on this pilgrimage at least once in his lifetime. This is because it is believed that Chardham Yatra opens the gates of salvation by washing away the sins of a lifetime. It is said that when a pilgrim finishes the Chardham Yatra, he attains absolute peace of mind.
The starting point of Chardham Yatra is Haridwar, from where pilgrims begin their journey to the four holy shrines. First, they visit Yamunotri, then to the famous Gangotri, followed by the Kedarnath Dham, and finally fishing the pilgrimage at the Badrinath Dham.
There are reasons why such a sequence is followed in the Chardham Yatra, and also each of these four shrines has its own significance attached to it. Starting with the Yamunotri Dham, it is situated at a place which is the source of River Yamuna. In Hindu mythology, since Yamuna is the sister of Yamraj, he had promised her on Bhai Dooj that whoever takes a dip in the river will not be taken to Yamlok and will thus attain salvation. The shrine here seats Goddess Yamuna, and it is the westernmost pilgrimage of the Garhwal region in Uttarakhand.
Located at an altitude of 3,200 m above sea level, the Gangotri Dham is located at Gomukh, which is believed to be the source of the River Ganga. Since River Ganga is considered as the source of sanctity and purity, pilgrims take a dip here in order to wash away their sins and embrace the goodness instead. According to legends, when King Bhagirath meditated for a long time, it was then that River Ganga came into being. The stone on which he is believed to have meditated still lies as a sacred place near the Ganga Temple in Gangotri
The Kedarnath Dham has so much of significance among the pilgrims because it is not only one of the most important shrines of the Chardham Yatra, but this ancient shrine is also considered to be one of the 12 jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. Besides, Kedarnath, along with Kalpeshwar, Tungnath, Madmaheshwar and Rudranath shrines together make the Panch Kedar
When it comes to the Badrinath Dham, the final destination of the Chardham Yatra, it is considered as the most sacred of the four shrines in this pilgrimage circuit. As mentioned earlier, it is one of the four Chardham of the country as well. Situated on the left bank of the Alakananda River, the Badrinath Dham is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, who is considered as the protector and preserver of the the divine Hindu Trinity (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva). Apart from these important factors, the Badrinath Dham is considered so important in the Chardham Yatra because it is the place where Adi Shankaracharya is believed to have attained salvation, thus, getting his freedom from the process of reincarnation.