Nestled among the serene heights of the great Himalayas are four pilgrim-destinations namely Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath, collectively known as Char Dham. These pilgrimage centers draw the maximum numbers of pilgrims each year, thus becoming the most important hubs of religious travel in the whole of Northern India. Traditionally, the pilgrimage begins from the West and ends in the East. Thus, the CharDham Yatra commences from Yamunotri, then proceeding to Gangotri and finally to Kedarnath and Badrinath.
Each of these four sites is devoted to a specific deity. Yamunotri is dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna who goes along the pilgrims to the high altitudes of the picturesque Rawai Valley. It is believed that a bath in the waters of the Yamuna protects the devotee from untimely death. Gangotri is dedicated to the Goddess Ganga. The shrine overlooks the River Bhagirathi, another name of River Ganga – the name having been derived from the myth of the ancient King Bhagirath’s penance that succeeded in bringing her upon the earth from the heaven. Kedarnath is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is also a part of the Panch Kedar. It is the northernmost Jyotirlinga and is close to the source of the holy River Mandakini. Badrinath is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is situated on the bank of the River Alaknanda. According to legend, Lord Vishnu meditated here while his consort Lakshmi took the form of a berry (Badri) tree to offer him shade.
Before embarking on this journey, one has to be prepared to experience physical as well as mental hardships on the Himalayan roads. The Char Dham Yatra is one of the quite accessible yet most arduous journeys. The Yatra route in the state is usually bustling with activity, especially during the summer. The scenic beauty of the mountains solemnly provides strength to the pilgrims as they move towards their destination.