in the lofty peaks of Himalayas are the four most holy pilgrimages of
India -Yamunotri, Gangotri, Sri Kedarnathji and Sri Badrinathji,
collectively referred to as the Char Dham ( or four pilgrimage centres)
of Hinduism. For centuries, saints and pilgrims, in their search for the
divine, have walked these mystical vales known in ancient Hindu
scriptures as 'Kedarkhand'
High up in a deep cleft on the western face of the Banderpunch peak is
the Yamunotri shrine, worshipped as the source of the holy Yamuna River.
223 kms from Rishikesh, this mountain shrine is one of the most
difficult to access at 3,235 meters. Technically the source of the river
is on the Champasar glacier at Saptarishi Kund (12 kms further up), but
it is at Yamunotri that pilgrims come to worship the goddess Yamuna and
bathe in its chilled waters.
According to Hindu mythology, Yamuna, the twin sister of Yama,
descended from the mountains at this point. The temple at Yamunotri sits
next to the river, around the hot sulphur springs of the Surya Kund.
Nestling amidst deodar forests is the shrine of Gangotri, worshipped by
Hindus as the source of their most sacred river Ganga. At a distance of
105 kms. from the town of Uttarkashi, Gangotri is the spiritual source
of the river, while its actual source is the ice cave of Gomukh, 18 kms
up the Gangotri glacier.
Here, Ganga is known as Bhagirathi, named after the ancient king
Bhagirath who prayed to bring her down from the heavens. The other major
tributary, the Alaknanda emerges from glacial waters near Badrinath and
joins the Bhagirathi further down at Devprayag to become the magnificent
Ganga. Considered the most sacred of all rivers, this great life-giver
of India continues to be worshipped as a goddess. Bathing in her waters
brings deliverance from sins committed in the present and all past
The shrine of Gangotri is set amidst rugged mountains and overlooks the
thundering river at 3,048 metres. Made of white stone, the temple is
decorated with a gilded roof crowned with a central spire. Near the
temple is the Bhagirath shila, a stone slab where king Bhagirath sat to
meditate. On reaching the shrine pilgrims offer prayers at the temple
and go down to the main bathing ghat next to the river. Dev ghat, down
below and set amidst tall trees, is the confluence of Bhagirathi with
the Kedar Ganga. At Gaurikund magnificent waterfalls create a pool,
which is reached through forest paths along the Gangotri gorge and over
a rope bridge across the mighty river.
Perched at an altitude of 3,133 mt. above sea-level, in the middle of a
beautiful valley, it is located on the right bank of holy river
Alaknanda. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple of Shri Badrinathji is
15 mt. in height, built in the form of a cone with a small cupola of a
gilt bull and spire.
The Sri Kedarnathji shrine, one of the 12 Jyotir lingas of Lord Shiva,
is a scenic spot situated, against the backdrop of the majestic Sri
Kedarnathji range. Situated at an altitude of 3,581 mts. Kedar is
another name of Lord Shiva the protector and the destroyer. Shiva, is
considered the embodiment of all passions-love, hatred, fear, death and
mysticism which are expressed through his various forms.