Char Dham - History

Not too much is known about the history of chardham destinations. At first, the word 'chardham' was used to refer to the India's most popular pilgrimage circuit - Puri, Rameshwaram, Dwarka and Badrinath. These important pilgrimage destinations were grouped together into a religious circuit by the 8th centruy reformer and philospher Shankaracharya (Adi Sankara). Since Badrinath was the last visited in the circuit and the most significant, it began to be called 'chota chardham'. Initially, the chota chardham was regularly visited and wandered by ascetics and religious professionals. After the 1962 Indo-China war, the chota chardham became more accessible with drastic improvement in the infrastructure for Himalayan expansionism.

Soon, as infrastructural facilities developed and more and more devotees started to arrive here, the prefix 'chota' was lost somewhere under the ever increasing popularity of the Hindu religious culture. Compelled by sites that reflect the tradions and culture of the Hindu faith so powerfully, devotees and pilgrims from all over the country and the world keep flocking to the chardham destinations regularly, even during the monsoon months. Truly, religion is like oxygen to Indians.

Char Dham Parikrama

A parikrama refers to clockwise circumambulation of a pilgrimage destination. As per the Hindu traditions, the chardham destinations (Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath) are to be circumambulated clockwise, known as chardham parikrama. Devotees and pilgrims are required to complete their pilgrimage to chardham starting from left and ending towards the right. So, if one is performing a parikrama, they have to begin their chardham yatra from Yamunotri, which is the westernmost shrine in the circuit. The pilgrimage shrine of Yamunotri is located at an altitude of 3,165 m above sea level and is dedicated to Hindu goddess Yamuna.

The next destination as per the chardham parikrama is the shrine of Gangotri, at a height of 3,042 m above sea level and dedicated to goddess Ganga. The shrine occupies a place on the right banks of river Bhagirathi. The chardham parikrama takes you further to Kedarnath, located at an elevation of 3,581 m above sea level.

The final destination of the chardham parikrama is the sacred shrine of Badrinath. Located at a height of 3,133 m above sea level on the right banks of the river Alaknanda, Badrinath is the most significant among the all four chardham destinations in Uttarakhand. The Badrinath temple in Garhwal stands in dedication to Lord Vishnu. The temple at Badrinath has been divided into Garbha Griha (the inner sanctum), Darshan Mandap (the site to perform rituals) and Sabha Mandap (where devotees and pilgrims congregate).