Written by Aditya Gupta.
The view from the peak of a mountain, perfectly combining the rising sun with the flowing river below, as if the world was leaning into the mysticism of nature; this is the beauty of spiritual worship, and perfectly sums up my experience of the Chota Char Dham Yatra. This all sounds like a dream, but I have lived this dream with all my heart at the age of 19!
I am a student of BBA 2nd year (Tourism and Travel Management). I gained this opportunity to travel to Chota Char Dham with a group of 36 people as their tour guide, helping and assisting them all the way. This journey became possible when I went to Noida (UP) for an internship in Sales & Marketing with a tours & travel company after my 1st-year exams ended.
One day, when both destiny and luck were in my favour, I got a call from my boss and he asked me to reach the airport to help the tourists who had come from different flights and were supposed to be directed to their respective buses. A local agent from Maharashtra was expected to join them on the journey but due to some illness, he could not make it. Hence, at the last moment, I was asked to fill in.
So, here I am to tell you about the unexpected Char Dham Yatra which started that day.
Our first spot was the holy city of Haridwar, located on the banks of river Ganga. The main attraction there is the ‘Evening Arti’ held at HarKiPaudi with thousands of pilgrims gathered around and taking a dip in the holy river to wash away their sins and pray to the goddess river Ganga. An eye-catching view of the earthen lamps (diyas) flowing in the river and sounds of the chiming bells and prayers in the background, made for a soulful scene, one that I found myself and my fellow travellers completely immersed in. After seeking the blessings of the pious Ganga we moved forward to our next destination – Yamunotri Dham.
Yamunotri is located in the Uttarkashi district and is the main source of River Yamuna. Once you reach Janki Chatti you have to walk 6 km to the main temple. This journey is filled with spectacular sights of the Himalayas with the sparkling river flowing on the side. All the tiredness vanishes away you dip your legs in the natural hot spring. After seeking the blessing of Maa Yamuna from the main temple, we continued our yatra to the next dham – Gangotri Dham.
Gangotri is the source of the longest and the most sacred river of India – Ganges and is located in the Uttarkashi district. The journey to Gangotri temple has been one of the most delightful experiences of my life. While offering prayers there, amidst the heavenly silence while breathing the unbelievably pure air, one is bound to experience a different feeling altogether- one that is hard to put in words. Then, we headed to, which in my opinion, is the most beautiful and blissful dham– Kedarnath Dham.
On our way to the Kedarnath dham, we halted at Rudraprayag. It is named after the Rudra avatar of Lord Shiva- It is where you can have a spell-binding view of the “Sangam”- meeting of two holy rivers Alaknanda and Mandakini. It leads to two separate routes for Kedarnath and Badrinath which makes it an important place.
Kedarnath is no less than how one would imagine heaven to be. It is one of the most sacred pilgrimages of Lord Shiva and the most important dham among Panch Kedar. In the lap of the majestic mountain peaks and nestled near river Mandakini, Kedarnath is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva. Here, one can stay in Guptkashi which is 35kms away from Gaurikund – from where the actual 16 km Kedarnath Yatra beings. The 16 km yatra will take you through a divine world, winding through the Himalayas, with a river running on one side and the elevating chants of Lord Shiva entering your veins as a source of mystic energy. The journey will surely test your physical and mental strength and also determination as you start moving up. The last, 2-3kms before you reach the base camp is quite tiring as the climb becomes steeper and rougher. The Kedarnath temple is about 2kms from the base camp and all your efforts will be worthy as soon as you catch the first glimpse of the temple. The 4 am visit to that temple is the best travel memory for me up till now- The glittering beauty of the Himalayas forming a flawless background left me awe-struck and amazed. With the blessings of Lord Shiva and beautiful memories of this Yatra, we moved to the last dham – Badrinath Dham.
The Badrinath temple is dedicated to the preserver, Lord Vishnu and is located in the Chamoli district. I was smitten by the char of this shrine as it showcases the traditional Garhwali wooden architecture and the main shrine of the temple is gold plated, which gives it a royal look. Mana, the last Indian village, 4km north of Badrinath, is a must-visit place. There is the cave in Mana where Vyasa, according to mythology, wrote the epic – ‘Mahabharata’.
While returning from Badrinath you can also visit the world’s highest Gurudwara – ‘The Hemkund Sahib’ and ‘the holy confluence’ of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi (and mythological river Sarasvati – flowing underground) river which combine to form river Ganga at ‘Devprayag’.
Someone has rightly called travelling a ‘religion’, because now I feel like the whole world is my ‘pilgrimage’. I feel really happy to share this experience of my unexpected and blessed journey to the mountains in the laps of purity and holiness of God. The environment and aura made me realize that God has created everything and everyone with the means to serve the world. Never let it go to waste and enjoy every moment on this beautiful planet of ours.
I have set out on a never-ending journey. I know I am headed for another marvellous destination soon. What will it be? I do not know yet. But it will be full of wonders and new memories, that I know for sure. And I will then again come back to share with you all about it! Until then, stay safe and let us never forget to pay our utmost respect to Mother Nature.
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Aditya Gupta, a contributor at The Strong Traveller, is a bachelor’s student in Travel and Tourism. He is passionate about spiritual tourism, trekking, and adventurous trails. To explore new destinations, be in the mountains, road trips, and experience different cultures are the key factors that keep him motivated to travel. When he travels he feels like being on cloud nine and wants to share his travelling tips and experiences.