Uttarakhand Char Dham Yatra – First Time Traveler’s Guide
On 28 April, the highly auspicious and revered temples of Gangotri and Yamunotri that form part of the much sought after Char Dham Yatra in Uttarakhand were opened to public after a long winter break.
With chanting of hymns and prayers that also marked the ‘Akshay Tritiya’, devotees thronged to both temples to be among the early ones to offer prayers at respective temples. Kedarnath is expected to be opened to public on 3 May and Badrinath will open its doors on 6 May.
Uttarakhand is home to four of the holiest temples of Hindu religion that form part of the Chota (Mini) Char Dham; Gangotri (10,300 ft), Yamunotri (10,750 ft), Badrinath (10,500) and Kedarnath (11,750).
As per Hindu religious leader and guru Adi Shankaracharya, Char Dham is the pilgrimage to four holiest places in India; Badrinath in the North (Uttarakhand), Puri in the East (Odisha), Rameshwaram in the South (Tamil Nadu) and Dwarka in the West (Gujarat).
For the true believer, life is incomplete unless one visits the Char Dhams, a pilgrimage aimed at setting free the soul after it leaves the human body. However, the mini Char Dham in Uttarakhand also holds deep religious significance.
For the first time traveler to Uttarakhand, it’s important to understand the preparation required for the pilgrimage, as it can be physically challenging for some. Here are some tips and information that will prepare you for the trip.
- By air: the nearest airport is Jolly Grant in Dehradun. One can take a taxi or public transport from there to reach Rishikesh and then launch your pilgrimage based on your convenience.
- By Rail: One can reach Rishikesh, Haridwar or Dehradun by train and then travel onwards by road.
- By Road: Rishikesh is the place to reach and rest before setting off for the pilgrimage.
Besides private taxis and buses, Uttarakhand Tourism also operates taxis, vans and buses. Further information can be got from their local offices.
Keeping Rishikesh as a starting base, here are some distances that will give you an idea of the journey ahead.
- Haridwar: 25 km
- Dehradun: 42 km
- Devprayag: 72 km
- Rudraprayag: 140 km
- Uttarkashi: 171 km
- Yamunotri: 220 km
- Kedarnath: 234 km
- Joshimath: 254 km
- Gangotri: 270 km
- Badrinath: 298 km
Clothing for the journey
It’s important to plan your clothing and other critical items carefully, as you want minimum weight but remain fully prepared for any eventuality.
Warm wear: Carry 2 sets of thermal wear – top and bottom; under garments, thin woolen full sleeve t-shirts, cotton full sleeve T-shirts; spare jeans, woolen and cotton socks, woolen cap or woolen balaclava, woolen gloves, one outer thermal jacket.
Note: Weather in higher reaches can change rapidly and if it rains, temperatures can drop very quickly. Night temperature can touch near or sub-zero, depending on height and location.
Other items to carry
Minor landslides are common and can hold off traffic for hours and sometime even days. You need to remain prepared with emergency rations like dry fruits, high energy chocolate bars, biscuits, water bottle/flask.
Medicines to carry
Tablets for headache, vomit, stomach upset, body pain, paracetamol for fever, electoral and glucose sachets for dehydration, anti-septic cream or lotion, bandages and Band-Aid strips, hand sanitizers, toilet paper roll and regular toiletries.
Remember, an emergency can occur at any time and you will need to survive the period till help or rescue arrives.
Eating outside food
Try and eat freshly prepared warm food only, avoid any cold or raw food. Avoid overeating as the long road journey can cause nausea for some. Get adequate rest and sleep early. Find out local numbers of Police stations, DM office, Uttarakhand Tourism offices and contact details at every location prior to heading further.
Uttarakhand’s warm hospitality welcomes one and all, pilgrims and tourists alike.