Char Dham

The Char Dham ('four abodes') constitutes the most notable pilgrimage circuit in the Indian Himalayas. Situated in the Garhwal area of the state of Uttaranchal (previously the north-western part of Uttar Pradesh), the circuit comprises of four sites:

  • Yamunotri
  • Gangotri
  • Kedarnath
  • Badrinath
Although each site in the circuit has its individual history and significance that antedates and is to be clearly demarcated from their status as a circuit, inclusion in the Char Dham has generally led to their association in popular imagination and practical pilgrimage practice.

The source of the name Char Dham is shrouded in mystery. Originally, Char Dham was the umbrella term for India's most popular pilgrimage circuit, the four important temples-Puri, Rameshwaram, Dwarka and Badrinath-clubbed together by the 8th century saint Shankaracharya into the representative all-India pilgrimage circuit to the four cardinal points of the country.

Recently, Badrinath, one of the four sites in the original Char Dham, also became the central site of a Himalayan pilgrimage circuit called the Chota ('little') Char Dham. However, the sites comprising the Chota Char Dham do not have any one sectarian affiliation. Rather, the three major sectarian movements in modern day Hinduism are all represented, with the Vaisnava site Badrinath added to one Saiva site (Kedarnath) and two Devi sites (Yamunotri and Gangotri).

With better infrastructure, the importance of the Char Dham of Uttarakhand as both an actual destination and an object of the national Hindu religious imagination has increased considerably. The Char Dham is visited by 250,000 visitors in an average pilgrimage season, extending from April 15 to late November, particularly the two-months before the monsoon.

Although temperatures in October and November are inclement, the exquisite mountain scenery here is at its best after the rains wash away the dust of the plains below.

The Char Dham in Uttarakhand comprises an important pilgrimage circuit in northern India.

Char Dham Pilgrimages

Char Dham Map
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*The Map showing the Char Dham Location.

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Last Updated on : 11 May 2011