Indians are no strangers to pilgrimages, in fact, there are more sacred places in India than in any other country! Hinduism is a versatile religion that dates back thousands of years, which means there are some really special ancient place you can visit to get the feel of what it used to be like back in the day. There are four places named Chota Char Dham (the four abodes), which together form a small circuit of pilgrimage site located high in the Himalayas in the state of Uttarakhand. These places used to be very hard to reach as you had to walk through mountains and hilly trails for days, but things changed after 1962 when roads were built for better connection, making it possible for all kinds of people to visit Chota Char Dham.
Yamunotri Dham is the first pilgrimage stop and the abode of Yamuna Devi – both a goddess and Yamuna River itself. This is the second holiest river of India. Bathing in the sacred waters of Yamuna River is believed to cleanse you from all the sins and protect from various grievances of life and death. Set deep inside the Garhwal Himalayas, Yamunotri offers striking views, icy cold of glaciers, and welcome heat of hot springs.
Yamuna is believed to be the sister of Yama (god of death) and daughter of Surya (Sun god). According to the legend, there was a sage named Asit Muni who used to live in these lands, bathing in both Yamuna and Ganga. When he go old and couldn’t go to Gangotri anymore, a stream of Ganga started flowing through the waters of Yamuna.
Next stop is Gangotri Dham – the very place where the sacred waters of Ganga River first touched the ground. According to legend, King Bhagirath did severe penance for centuries to get a blessing from Goddess Ganga in order to wash away the sins of his ancestors. Finally, the Goddess was pleased with him and descended from heaven right onto Earth. Yet her power was so great, that soon it was only water everyone. That is when Lord Shiva took mighty Ganga and put the water flow into his hair, reducing it to 12 streams of water, thus, reducing her spectacular power. She’s been flowing ever since, cleansing all the sins of mankind.
The temple located at Gangotri is around 300 centuries old and was built by the Ghorkas. If you’re up for a pilgrimage, please mind that winters are cold and everything will be under a heavy cover of snow, so it’s best to plan your trip in early autumn or late spring.
It is believed that Kedarnath Temple was at least 3,000 years ago – it was even mentioned in the ancient Hindu epic Mahabharata! Kedarnath Dham is home to one of the 12 Jyotirlingams of India and a place of great importance not only for Shiva devotees, but for anyone who wants to experience ancient history in a truly breathtaking place.
Severe floods of 2013 destroyed everything around the holy temple of Kedarnath, but the place itself remained intact and virtually unharmed! A huge rock got stuck right behind the temple, protecting it from the destructive power of the flood. It was truly a miracle!
The final stop on the Chota Char Dham is the Badrinath Temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is among the holiest places in the country and is believed to have existed since the Vedic age. Nevertheless, the modern version of the temple was created by Adi Shankaracharya in the 7th century. According to the legend, Narad accused Lord Vishnu of being too immersed in the worldly pleasure, that’s when he decided to leave everything and go meditate in the mountains. This is the very place!
Badrinath is located in one of the most picturesque places of Uttarakhand with an abundance of beautiful ponds, lakes, and landscapes like you’ve never seen before. Badrinath is also mentioned in the ancient Mahabharata as the place from which the mighty Pandavas ascended to heavens.