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Rishikesh – Yoga Capital of the World

Rishikesh – Uttarakhand

The holy city of Rishikesh is situated on the banks of River Ganga in the Dehradun district of Uttarakhand, India. The city is also called “Abode of Sages” as it attracts a large number of Rishis, Sages and Sanyasis who arrive here to lead a spiritual and peaceful life away from the materialism of other cities. The city is also known as the “Yoga Capital of the World”.

The city of Rishikesh has been neamed after the Sanskrit word “Hrishikesha”. The word is a combination of the words “Hrishik” meaning five senses and “Esh” meaning God. Put together, the word means “God of Senses”.  This place is believed to be the place where Lord Vishnu appeared to Raibhya Rishi as an award to his severe penance as “Hrishikesha”.

The city is one of the most popular destinations for international tourists and students who come here for experiencing and learning authentic Yoga and meditation techniques. The city is also famous for the wide range of Ayurveda medicine produced here.

Rishikesh

Rishikesh History

  • Rishikesh is believed to be the place where Lord Vishnu took the form of a Hayagriva and slayed the demons Madhu and Kaitabha. According to the legend, the demons Madhu and Kaitabha originated from the ears of Lord Vishnu during his Yoganidra (a state of consciousness between waking up and sleeping). The two demons obtained a boon from Goddess Shakti as per which they cannot be killed by any Deva or Asura unless they want to die willingly. At that time, Lord Brahma was contemplating the creation of the universe and for which he required the Vedas. The demons stole the Vedas from Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma requested Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu woke up from his deep sleep and took the form of a Hayagriva (a horse faced creature). The battle between the Hayagriva and the two demons lasted five thousand years. Lord Vishnu realized that these demons were invincible until they were relieved of the boon granted by Goddess Shakti. Lord Vishnu requested the Goddess for help who informed him that the only way these demons could be killed was by deceit.
  • Lord Vishnu praised the brave nature of the demons and played on their ego by asking them to ask for a boon from him. The demons fell into the trap and replied that the Lord was inferior to them and that he should ask for a boon from them. Immediately, Lord Vishnu asked them to die by his hands. The demons requested that they should not be killed on water. The Lord took Vishwaroopam and killed the demons on his thigh. The body of these demons disintegrated into 12 pieces (2 Heads, 2 Torsos, 4 Legs and 4 Arms). These parts are believed to have formed the 12 tectonic plates on Earth.
  • The city of Rishikesh is ancient in nature and is mentioned in the Skanda Purana as Kubjamrak Teerth. The reason behind the unusual naming is explained in the Purana. According to the legend, in the Satya Yuga (first of the four Yugas), Lord Varaha (Avatar of Lord Vishnu) put an end to two demons named Madhu and Kaitabh. After killing them, the Lord went into the forests to do penance when he spotted Raibhya Rishi meditating. Lord Vishnu observed the meditation and his penance from behind a Mango Tree. Eventually, unable to bear the weight of Lord Vishnu’s arm, the tree bent and became curved. Soon, Lord Vishnu revealed himself to Raibhya Rishi and named the place as Kubjamrak, based on the unique bent tree.

Significance of Rishikesh

  • The city is known as the “Yoga Capital of the World”. The city attracts lakhs of domestic as well as international tourists who come here to attain spiritual relief, salvation, and peace and to learn Yoga. Some of the popular institutions where one can learn Yoga and meditation are Akshi Yogashala, Osho Gangadham, Yoga Study Centre, and Jeevmoksha Yoga school,
  • The city is the starting point for the Uttarakhand Char Dham Yatra that includes a spiritual visit to Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamunotri and Gangotri.
  • The Ganga Puja or Aarti is conducted every evening at the Triveni Ghat. The event attracts thousands of devotees who gain an immense spiritual freedom and enlightenment from witnessing such a grand celebration of the River Ganga.

Places of pilgrimage in Rishikesh

  • Bharat Mandir

    The Temple is the oldest temple in the area. It is believed that the city of Rishikesh came up around the existence of this temple. The Temple dates back to 789 AD. The Temple has been mentioned in the Vishnu Purana, Shrimad Bhagavad Purana, and epic Mahabharata and in the Vamana Purana. The presiding deity of the Temple is Lord Vishnu called here as Bharatji Maharaj.  The idol of the deity is made of a single Shaligram stone.  The idol has four arms, each holding a Conch, Gada, Chakra and a Lotus. One can also visit the Museum nearby which houses 2nd to 12th century idols of different Gods and Goddesses.

Significance of the Bharat Mandir

  1. It is believed that on the auspicious day of Basant Panchami, Sri Adi Shankaracharya installed the idol in the 8th
  2. One can see an interesting Tree that grows just poutside the shrine. The tree looks like a single stem tree but if observed closely, one can see that the intertwined stems are from three different trees – the Banyan tree, Peepal tree, and Bael Tree. The locals believe that these three trees represent the holy trinity – Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.
  3. During the reign of Ashoka, the temple was converted into a Buddhist shrine. The idol of Lord Buddha is still worshiped under the Banyan Tree.
  4. It is believed that making 108 Parikrimas or circumambulations on the day of Akshaya Tritiya, of the deity in the Temple and touching the feet of the Lord will fulfill the wish of the deity.

Bharat Mandir  Timings

Bharat Mandir Temple opens at 5 AM and closes at 9 PM. The temple is closed from 11 AM to 1 PM.

How to reach the Bharat Mandir

The Temple is located near the Triveni Ghat. One can hire a taxi or walk up to the shrine easily from the Ghat. Buses are not recommended to reach the spot.

  • Neelkanth Mahadev Temple

The sacred temple dedicated to Lord Shiva as Neelkanth is situated 32 km from Rishikesh. The temple is located near the Nara-Narayan mountain range. The Rivers Pankaja and Madhumati converge near the Temple.

The presiding deity Lord Shiva is in the form of a Linga. The walls of the temple depict scenes from the Samudra Manthan mythology.

Neelkanth Mahadev Temple Legend

  1. In the Bhagavata Purana, the famous legend of Samudra Manthan has been written in detail. Once, Sage Durvasa cursed Indra and all Devas (Gods) that they will all lose their energy, strength and fortune. As a result of the curse, the Devas lost battles against Demons and eventually King Bali reined the Universe. An alarmed Lord Indra approached Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu diplomatically convinced the demons to jointly churn the ocean for Amrit (nectar that grants immortality). Mount Mandara was used as the churning rod and Vasuki (King of Serpents coiled around Lord Shiva) was used as the rope. The churning of the rod released 9-14 treasures from the ocean (depending on the Purana). But in the process, a deadly poison named Halahala was released, potent enough to end all humanity. The frightened Gods approached Lord Shiva for help who swallowed the poison. Goddess Parvati grabbed Shiva’s throat so tightly that the poison could not move beyond the throat. As a result of the poison, the throat of Lord Shiva turned blue and since then, he came to be known as Neelkanth.
  2. The ancient temple signifies the place where Lord Shiva drank the poison that emanated during the Samudra Manthan or “Churning of the ocean” occurrence in Hindu tradition.

Neelkanth Mahadev  Temple Timings

The Temple opens at 6 AM every morning and closes at 9 PM.

  • Tera Manzil or the Kailash Niketan Temple

The grand structure of the Tera Manzil Temple is located adjacent to the Laxman Jhoola. The Temple is 13-storied consisting of different Gods and Goddeses in each level. The Temple is an ode of Hindu culture and traditions. One can get a fascinating view atop the Temple and breathe in the spiritual environment around the surroundings.

  • Lakshman Jhula

The iconic bridge is a suspension bridge that is located in the area of the Tapovan. The current bridge was constructed from 1927 – 1929. The older bridge was destroyed during floods in 1924. The bridge has great mythological significance. It is believed that Lord Rama nd Lakshman visited the spot after killing Ravana to meditate. Lakshman crossed a bridge made of Jute rope at this very spot. The older bridge was believed to be the actual Jute rope that Lakshman used. Presently, this bridge is the hub of all tourist activities. Several markets, temples, hotels and restaurants have come up with Lakshman Jhula being the center of attraction.

  • Triveni Ghat

The extremely popular sacred spot is the Triveni Ghat where the Rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati confluence. The other such site is the equally sacred Prayag in Allahabad. The Ghat is the site of the daily Ganga Maha Aarti that takes place at sunset. Since, Rivers are worshiped in India as Goddesses, the Ghat is considered extremely sacred and divine.

Besides these main shrines, one must visit the Kunjapuri Devi Temple (controversially believed to be one of the Shakti Peethas), Gita Bhawan, Bhootnath Temple, Tryambakeshwar Temple, Lakshman Temple and Raghunath Temple. The Vashisht cave located at a distance of 28 km from Rishikesh is believed to be the site where the famous Sage Vashisht meditated. This calm and serene place is one of the most popular sites for meditation and Yoga.

Festivals celebrated at Rishikesh

  • International Yoga Festival – The world famous International Yoga festival takes place in the month of March, usually from March 1 to March 7. The festival is organized by the Parmarth Niketan Institution in association with Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board. Yoga teachers, students, Sadhus and spiritual tourists arrive in Rishikesh from as many as 20-30 countries every year. The visitors are enlightened about the benefits of Yoga and the rules of Yoga. Various forms of Yoga and their significance are taught in day long classes. Some of the diverse forms taught are Ashtanga Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga and Shintoh Yoga.
  • Basant Panchami – The onset of spring is celebrated in February with great joy throughout the city of Rishikesh. On this day, devotees wear yellow clothes and decorate their houses with yellow flowers. The deities are dressed in yellow. People even eat yellow food like rice cooked with saffron, sweets such as kheer, besan ki maithai and yellow fruits. They smear chandan or sandalwood paste on their forehead. The festival also marks the beginning of the Holi celebrations.
  • Mahashivaratri – The festival is celebrated on the 13th night and the 14th day of the month of Maagha (February / March). The Linga of Lord Shiva is bathed with Ganga water, applied with Chandan paste, and offered Bilva leaves, bhang, datura, flowers, coconut, fruits and cow milk. People keep fast for the whole day and do Shiva Pooja at their homes. Taking a bath in River Ganga on Mahashivaratri is considered extremely sacred.

Several myths and legends are associated with the festival of Mahashivaratri. As per one legend, the Devas and Asuras both churned an ocean of milk to obtain Amrit (water that gives immortality). They came upon a deadly poison which exploded into poisonous fumes when touched. The fumes enveloped the entire world and all Gods rushed to Lord Shiva to protect the world. Lord Shiva absorbed the fumes with his trident and swallowed the poison, thus saving the world. This is the reason for the blueness of the skin especially the throat of Lord Shiva.The day is also known as the day Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati.

How to reach Rishikesh

  • By Air – The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant Airport situated at Dehradun which is 15 km from Rishikesh. The airport operates flights to and fro from major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Trivandrum, Chennai and Lucknow. Apart from that, one can also reach the Indira Gandhi International Airport at Delhi which is well connected to all major cities in India.
  • By Train – The small station of Rishikesh connects the city of Haridwar with some trains, but the tourists prefer hiring a taxi or bus as they are slow. However, it is recommended to take trains during the peak season. Haridwar is the major station that connects Rishikesh to almost all parts of the country. Several trains from around the country connect the station Hardwar Junction. The city is well connected to places like Delhi, Dehradun, Bikaner, Patna, Howrah, Lucknow, Jaipur, Allahabad, and Mumbai.
  • By Road – The state transport operates regular buses from Delhi, Haridwar and Dehradun. Numerous private taxi operators provide connectivity to Rishikesh from all towns and cities nearby. One can hire taxis from nearby towns to reach Rishikesh.

Where to stay

One can easily book a budget hotel in Rishikesh as they are plenty available at nominal rates. Lakshman Jhula is the main area where tourists prefer to hire rooms as the view of River Ganga is enthralling from there. Some of the popular hotels and lodges are Hotel Ganga Ambience, Crest Guesthouse, Radhakrishna Guesthouse, Hotel Narayana Kunj and the Shiv Shakti Guesthouse.

Where to eat

Rishikesh is strictly vegetarian city. The cuisine is mainly North Indian with several South Indian restaurants available too. Apart from these options, certain hotels serve unique Ayurvedic and health food recipes that are a delight to any visitor to the place.  Some of the popular

Haridwar

Haridwar, Uttarakhand

In the Land of Gods, Haridwar situated on the banks of River Ganga is one of the pinnacles of pilgrimage that every Hindu devotee must make to pay obeisance to the holy trinity as well as the ultimate Mother Goddess Adi Parashakti or Sati. Haridwar is a place with high spiritual value for it’s not only a place sacred to the Shaivites and the Vaishnavites but also an important site of worship for the devotees of the Shaktism sect. The distinction can be observed by the interpretation of the meaning of the name Haridwar or Hardwar itself. Shaivites prefer the name Hardwar – “Har” being another name of Lord Shiva and “Dwar” meaning the Gate. Hardwar to them represents “Gateway to Lord Shiva’s abode”.  The journey to reach Mount Kailash for devotees begins here. For the Vaishnavites, the name Haridwar means “Hari”, another name of Lord Vishnu and “Dwar” meaning the Gate. The city is the gateway to reach Badrinath, one of the most important temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Haridwar is also believed to be the abode of Goddess Sati. It is a belief that Daksha, her father resided at Haridwar in a celestial palace.

The city of Haridwar is mentioned in several Puranas and holy texts. In the Devi Bhagavatam, Haridwar is mentioned as a famous pilgrimage center. The city is also mentioned in the epic Ramayana and several times in the Mahabharata. The Vayu Purana and the Nilamata Purana also mention the holy importance of the region of Gangadwara.

Haridwar

Haridwar History

  • The city of Haridwar is believed to one of the oldest inhabited city in the world. Several archeological findings have proved that human civilization existed and flourished in the region as early as 1200 BC.
  • Haridwar was ruled by the Mauryas (322-185 BC) and then by the Kushanas (1st – 3rd century AD).
  • Writings of the Chinese traveler Huan Tsang who visited India in 629 AD under the reign of King Harshavardhan state the existence of fort and several temples at the region.
  • The first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak visited Haridwar and bathed in the Kushawarta Ghat (Kankhal),
  • The famous Mughal Emperor Akbar visited Haridwar and took a dip in River Ganga and drank her water as a mark of respect. Raja Man Singh of Amber laid down the foundation for construction and renovation of several Ghats at Haridwar.

Significance of Haridwar

  • According to the Garuda Purana, Haridwar is one of the seven holiest places or Moksha Sthalas as per Hinduism. The other six are Ayodhya, Varanasi, Mathura, Kanchipuram, Ujjain, and Dwarka. These places are of great religious and spiritual importance where either God has taken an avatar (Mathura and Ayodhya) or has great mythological value like Ujjain, Haridwar, Dwarka, and Varanasi.
  • The city of Haridwar was also called Gangadwar in ancient times. The River Ganga enters the Indo-Gangetic plains of North India at Haridwar after its origin at Gaumukh at Gangotri.
  • According to the Samudra Manthan event in Hinduism, Haridwar is one of the four places where drops of Amrit accidently fell to earth when carried by Garuda. The other three places are Allahabad, Nashik, and Ujjain. These four places celebrate the grand Kumbh Mela to commemorate the significance of the event.
  • The city is also the gateway of the famed Chhota Char Dham pilgrimage of holy places in the state of Uttarakhand. These Char Dhams are Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.
  • Taking a dip in Brahma Kund, at Har Ki Pauri Ghat is considered the most sacred bath any Hindu could perform. This is the spot where the Amrit fell on the Earth. It is believed that taking a dip here will wash away all the sins committed in a lifetime.
  • The holy surroundings of Haridwar are also believed to be the place where the holy Saint Kapila had an Ashram and did penance here. This place is also referred to as Kapilasthana in ancient scripts.
  • At the Ghat of Har ki Pauri, one can witness Lord Vishnu’s footprints that are worshiped with great reverence here.

Places of pilgrimage in Haridwar

The pilgrims take the famed “Pancha Tirtha” pilgrimage within Haridwar to receive the blessings from all the Gods and the Goddesses residing here. These five places are:

  • Mansa Devi Temple or the Bilwa Tirtha

The Temple is located atop the Bilwa Parvat at approximately 2.5 km distance from the city center. The Temple is dedicated to Goddess Mansa or Manasa. The Temple is one of the three Siddha Peethas located in Haridwar. The Goddess is widely worshiped in Bengal, North-East and certain regions in Southern India.

The Sanctum or the Garbhagriha houses two idols of the deity that are worshiped – one with eight arms and the other with three heads and five arms.

Mansa Devi Temple Legend

  1. The parentage of Goddess Manasa is till date contested by several versions in the Puranas. Some believe that Goddess Manasa was the creation of Lord Shiva (hence his daughter) when his seed touched the idol erected by Kadru, the wife of Sage Kashyap. Kadru was the Mother of the Snake people. Goddess Parvati was extremely jealous of her. Suspecting Manasa of being a co-wife, she burned one of her eyes. Goddess Manasa became the chief of snakes and is believed to be the one who saved Lord Shiva from being poisoned during the Samudra Manthan episode. Tired of the constant fighting between Chandi and Manasa, Lord Shiva left her under a tree with a companion called Neto.
  2. The other theory related to her birth is that she was the daughter of Sage Kashyapa and Kadru and the sister of the King of Serpents, Vasuki. Goddess Manasa married Jagatkaru on Kashyapa’s advise on the condition that she will never disobey him. One day, she woke him up late and as a result left her. On the request of Gods, he returned later and they had a son together named Astika.
  3. Disgruntled by the disputed parentage, angered by Chandi’s (Goddess Parvati) ignorance and disappointed by her husband’s behavior, the Goddess demanded that the mortals worship her. She was calm and caring to the devotees who worshiped her and rained calamity on the devotees who did not worship her.

Significance of the shrine

  1. It is believed that a sincere wish of a devotee made to the Goddess never goes unfulfilled. The locals believe that as a mark of respect, one ties a thread around the branches of a sacred tree denoting the wish. After the wish is fulfilled, the devotee should return and remove the thread.
  2. It is believed that the Goddess controls snakes. Hence, devotees visit her to cure snake bites, curses and other snake-related issues in their horoscopes. She is also believed to bestow fertility and family harmony.

Temple Timings

The Temple opens daily at 8 AM and closes at 5 PM. The Temple is closed for darshan between 12 PM to 2 PM.

How to reach the shrine

There are two routes to reach the shrine. One way is the traditional 1.5 km trek route to reach the peak.  The other way is the cable-car service called as the “Udan Khatola” service in the local language.

  • Gangadwar or Har Ki Pauri

The world famous Ghat along the banks of River Ganga is an epitome of sanctity. The devotees religiously believe that this is the place where Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva visited the Brahma Kund. One can also view the footsteps believed to belong to Lord Vishnu at the Ghat premises. This is the site where River Ganga actually enters the mainlands of India from the Himalayan mountain range. This is also the site where millions of devotees take a holy dip in River Ganga during the grand occasion of the Kumbh Mela. Every evening, the highly spiritual Ganga Aarti is held at 6:30 PM where hundreds of devotees light small lamps and let them afloat in the holy River with a small prayer in heart.

Any devotee or a tourist irrespective of caste, creed or religion must come and visit this place to experience the ultimate spirituality and the peacefulness that descends on the people witnessing the grand spectacle.

  • Kushawart (Kankhal)

The small town of Kankhal is located within Haridwar at a distance of 4 km from the city center. The site of Kankhal is mentioned in numerous ancient scripts and has a huge spiritual value. This is the place where it is believed that Goddess Sati immolated herself in protest of an insult to her consort Lord Shiva by her father Daksha.

Kushawart Temple Legend

The Daksheshwara Mahadev Temple is associated with the famous legend of Goddess Sati and Lord Shiva. This story is the basis of the Sthala Puranam and creation of Goddess Parvati herself. As per the legend, Daksha Prajapati, son of Lord Brahma did not want his daughter Sati to marry Lord Shiva. However, Goddess Sati married Shiva as she had always desired to do so. As a result, Daksha did not invite Goddess Sati and Lord Shiva to the Yagna he was conducting at the site. Sati wanted to participate in the Yagna and wanted Lord Shiva to accompany him. However, he refused. But against his wishes, Sati went to the Yagna. Upon arrival, she was humiliated and insulted by her father for marrying Lord Shiva. Daksha insulted Lord Shiva by calling him names. Unable to bear the humiliation of her husband, Sati fell into the Yagna Kund and immolated herself. When the news reached Lord Shiva, he was infuriated and sent his army to destroy everything in the Yagna. A huge fight ensued as Lord Shiva danced his Tandav. Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu had to intervene and calm him down. Lord Vishnu released his Sudarshana Chakra cutting through the corpse of Sati. Her body parts fell all over the land and are now known as the Shakti Peethas in Hinduism.

Temple Timings

The Temple opens at 6 AM and closes at 8 PM.

  • Neel Parvat or the Chandi Devi Temple

The famous temple dedicated to Goddess Chandi Devi, a form of Goddess Parvati is situated atop the Neel Parvat. The Temple was built in 1929 by Suchat Singh, the King of Kashmir. The Temple is believed to be a Siddha Kshetra.

Goddess Chandi is worshiped primarily by the followers of the Shaktism sect of Hinduism. Even though there are no references to this particular form of Goddess Parvati in any Vedic texts, Puranas or Epics, the Devi Mahatmayam mentions the Goddess several times.

Neel Parvat Temple Legend

According to the temple legend, Lord Indra and other Gods of Heaven were overthrown by the demon kings Shumbha and Nishumbha. Lord Indra approached Goddess Parvati to return their kingdom and get rid of the demons to balance the power on Earth. As a result, Goddess Parvati took the form of Chandi, a beautiful woman who attracted the attention of Shumbha. He sent his chiefs Chanda and Munda to bring her to him. However, they were killed by Chandi. Enraged, he along with Nishumbha tried to kill Chandi but were slain by the Goddess. It is believed that the Goddess rested atop the hill and eventually a temple commemorating the event was built for her.

Temple Timings

The Temple opens at 8 AM and closes at 6 PM. The shrine remains closed between 12 PM to 3 PM.

How to reach the Chandi Devi Temple

There are two ways to reach the shrine. The older route involves trekking a distance of about 3 km to the shrine. The newer route involves boarding the cable-car at the mountain base.

  • Maya Devi Temple

The eleventh-century ancient temple dedicated to Goddess Maya, a form of Goddess Shakti is worshiped here with great reverence here.  The importance of the shrine can be gauged by the fact that the city of Haridwar itself was called Mayapuri in ancient times. The deity worshiped here is in the form of a three-headed Goddess with four arms.

Significance of the shrine

It is contested but believed by locals that the shrine is one of the Shakti Peethas of Goddess Sati. It is a belief that her navel and heart fell at the site.

The site is also revered as a Siddha Kshetra along with the Mansa Devi Temple and the Chandi Devi Temple.

Temple Timings

The Temple opens at 6:30 AM and closes at 9 PM. The Temple remains closed between 12 PM to 3 PM.

How to reach the Temple

The Temple is located just 1.5 km from the Bus Stand and the Railway Station. One can hire a taxi from there till the temple.

Festivals celebrated at Haridwar

  • Kumbh Mela – As per the legend, Lord Vishnu’s vehicle, the Garuda spilled four drops of holy Amrit which he obtained by the churning of the milk on Earth. He was carrying the Amrit in a Kumbh (Pot). The drops fell in Haridwar, Allahabad, Nasik and Ujjain. In Haridwar, the Mela is held on the banks of River Ganga at Har Ki Pauri. The Mela is celebrated once every 12 years. The Mela has been officially and internationally accepted as the largest religious gathering in the world. Millions of pilgrims from all over the world attend the festivities and take a dip in the holy River Ganga.
  • Ardh Kumbh Mela – The Ardh Kumbh Mela is held once every six years. This Mela is held between two full Kumbh Melas at Prayag (Allahabad) and Haridwar.
  • Kanwar Mela – The Kanwar Yatra is also called as the Kavad Yatra. This is an annual pilgrimage or Yatra undertaken by thousands of devotees especially in the month of Shravan (July-August). The devotees of Lord Shiva who participate in the Yatra are called Kanwariyas. They travel barefooted to cities like Haridwar, Gaumukh, and Gangotri to collect the water of River Ganga. This water is then poured over Lord Shiva at their respective homes and other temples. This yatra is extremely popular among the devotees especially from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh.

How to reach Haridwar

  • By Air – The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant Airport situated at Dehradun which is 37 km from Haridwar. The airport operates flights to and fro from major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Trivandrum, Chennai and Lucknow. Apart from that, one can also reach the Indira Gandhi International Airport at Delhi which is well connected to all major cities in India.
  • By Train – Several trains from around the country connect the station Hardwar Junction. The city is well connected to places like Delhi, Dehradun, Bikaner, Patna, Howrah, Lucknow, Jaipur, Allahabad, and Mumbai.
  • By Road – The Haridwar bus station is located near the railway station. The state transport operates regular buses from Delhi, Rishikesh and Dehradun. Numerous private taxi operators provide connectivity to Haridwar from all towns and cities nearby.

Where to stay

The city is well developed and appropriate infrastructure for pilgrims as well as tourists has been constructed. Some of the budget options for a clean stay are Hotel Haridwar Residency, Hotel Gayathri Classic, and Hotel Bhagwati Nivas. Five-star options for stay are Country Inn Suites and Hotel Hari Heritage. It is advised to book accommodation in advance as the rush is always high.

Where to eat

The pilgrims and tourists can opt for a wide range of cuisine in hotels dispersed throughout the city. The food is mainly vegetarian.  The cuisine ranges from South Indian (Hotel Dosa Plates, Madras Restaurant, and Kwality Mysore Restaurant), North Indian (Hotel Hoshiyarpuriwala), Continental, Punjabi, Chinese (Chotiwalas Asli), and Bengali (Dada Boudir Hotel).

Kedarnath Temple

Kedarnath Temple

The Kedarnath Temple is one of the most prestigious and sacred temples as per the Hindu mythology. The main deity, Sri Kedareshwar who is considered as Lord Shiva himself is revered and worshiped here. Kedarnath Temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva and it is also the Jyotirlinga located at the highest elevation of 3581 meters among all the other Jyotirlingas. The Temple is one of the 275 Temples in a list known as Paadal Petra Sthalams. Kedarnath Temple is situated among the Garhwal Hills in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. The holy River Mandakini (one of the tributaries of River Ganga) flows near the town of Kedarnath.  It is also a part of Chhota Char Dham Yatra of Uttarakhand. The beauty, historical significance and the spiritual value of the place are unparalleled in the word.

The Kedarnath Temple remains open only for six months a year, beginning from the day of Akshaya Tritiya in March-April and closing on the eve of Karthik Purnima in November. The temple remains closed for the next six months due to extremely harsh winters. At the beginning of the winters, the deity is taken to Ukhimath and is worshiped there for the next six months till the onset of spring.

The Temple is built of large sized rocks on a rectangular platform. Inscriptions in the Pali Language can be seen on the steps that lead to the Sanctum. The Temple has a Garbhagriha (sanctum) and a Mandapam. A big Nandi statue of stone is present just opposite to the main shrine.  The Mandapam consists of statues of the Pandavas, Lord Krishna, Draupadi, Nandi, and Virbhadra. The Head Priest belongs to the Veerashaiva community from Karnataka.

kedarnath temple

Kedarnath Temple History

  • The original year or period of construction of the Kedarnath Temple is unknown but it is believed that the Temple has origins towards the end of Mahabharata epic. The Temple and the surroundings have been mentioned in the epic as well as in several Puranas.
  • It is believed that the Pandavas who performed penance here to be forgiven for their sins built the initial structure of the Temple. The present structure of the Kedarnath Temple is believed to have been built by the great Sri Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century.
  • The Kedarnath town’s control passed over to several dynasties over like the Katyuri dynasty, the Panwar dynasty and then to the Mughals.
  • In the 1640’s, the Mughals attacked the area. They retreated when Karnavati, queen of Garhwal defeated them and actually chopped the noses of the enemies. She is given the name of Naak-Katni Rani. Eventually, the Mughals took control of it with help from Raja Jaisingh in 1659.
  • In the period of 1814 to 1816, the control was handed over to the British monarchy. In 2000, Kedarnath was included in the state of Uttarakhand.
  • Several legends are associated with the Kedarnath Temple origins which are indeed fascinating. According to the popular beliefs, the Pandavas were very distraught after defeating their brothers Kauravas and wanted to atone their sins. In search of moksha and divine forgiveness, they traveled through the Himalayan range searching for Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva refused to appear before them and kept on dodging their requests. He fled Kashi and appeared as a bull in a town near Kedarnath where he was detected by the Pandavas. The town is since called as Guptkashi (Hidden or Secret Kashi).
  • The Pandavas in search of Lord Shiva then reached Gaurikund where they spotted an unusual bull. They started chasing it. The Bull hid its face inside the Earth as Bheema pulled its tail. A tug-of-war ensued and at the end, the face of the bull landed in Nepal (Doleshwar Mahadev Temple) and other parts landed in the Panch Badri areas.
  • On the hind part of the Bull, Lord Shiva appeared and gave the Pandavas his darshan and forgave them of their sins. He turned himself into a Jyotirlinga and established himself at Kedarnath.

Significance of Kedarnath Temple

  • The Kedarnath Temple is the highest situated Jyotirlinga at an elevation of 3581 meters, among the twelve Jyotirlingas. The Jyotirlinga means that the Linga of Lord Shiva is self-manifested and that Lord Shiva himself turned into the Linga instead of the Linga being installed by someone else.
  • The Temple is also one of the Temples forming the 275 temples of the Paadal Petra Sthalams. These Temples were revered by the Saiva Nayanars (Saivites) from the 6th to 9th century. They are considered to be the greatest and powerful Shiva Temples in the world.
  • The Kedarnath Temple is also a part of the Panch Kedar Yatra in Uttarakhand. It is believed that when Lord Shiva in the form of a cow split into six separate parts following the tussle with Bheema. The front portion appeared in Doleshwar Mahadev Temple in Nepal, other five parts appeared near Kedarnath. They are – Tungnath for arms, Rudranath for the face, Madhyamaheshwar for the stomach, Kedarnath for the hump and Kalpeshwar for the hair.
  • The Pilgrim is also the part of Chhota Char Dham pilgrimage of Uttarakhand, the other three being Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri.
  • A pilgrim has to pass through the town of Gaurikund (18 km away from Kedarnath) to reach the Kedarnath Temple. It is believed that this is the place where Lord Shiva cut the head of Lord Ganesha and then eventually replaced it with an Elephant’s head.
  • According to the Skanda Puran, the pilgrimage is incomplete without visiting both Badrinath and Kedarnath at the same time. Visiting both God Vishnu and God Shiva will give the pilgrim salvation and relief from all their sins.
  • Unlike almost all the Linga of Shiva worshiped worldwide, the Linga at Kedarnath is not smooth and curved but is actually rough and conical in shape.
  • It is believed that the historical figure of Raja Pandu (father of the Pandavas) died at Pandukeshwar, a small distance from Kedarnath.
  • The pilgrims can touch the idol and perform Abhishekam by themselves to the holy Jyotirlinga.

Kedarnath Temple Timings

  • The Kedarnath Temple opens at 4am and closes at 9pm. The afternoon break timings are from 3pm to 5pm.
  • The pilgrims are allowed to touch the Linga and perform Abhishekam only till 3 PM.
  • The general darshan is free of cost for all pilgrims.

Dress Code

The Kedarnath Temple is situated in the lush and cold valleys of the Himalayas. It is never summer here. The weather is cold for almost throughout the year. It is highly recommended to wear winter clothes like sweaters, jackets, socks, mufflers and gloves. People may experience altitude sickness here.  An umbrella is a must to have in your luggage.

Poojas and Rituals

The devotees who want to do specific Poojas or Sevas must deposit a fee and take a receipt at the Treasury counter. The different Poojas and Sevas provided are as below:

Morning Sevas: The below Poojas are performed in the morning hours between 4 AM to 7 AM.

  • Mahabhishek – This Seva can be performed between 4:30 AM – 6:30 AM.
  • Rudrabhishek – The Pooja is dedicated to Lord Shiva who is worshiped as fire or Rudra. The puja wipes out all sins and purifies the atmosphere. It also removes all sorts of planetary related ill-occurrences.
  • Laghurudrabhishek – This Abhishek is done to resolve issues related to health and wealth. It is also done to remove the bad effects of planets in the horoscope.
  • Shodasopachar Pooja – These are the sixteen traditional steps that are performed in  a Pooja ideally to any Lord.

Besides these Poojas, the Baal Bhog, Ashtopchar Pooja, Sampoorna Aarti, Pandav Pooja, Bhairav Pooja, Parvati Pooja and Ganesh Pooja are also performed at nominal rates.

Evening Sevas:  The below Poojas are performed in the evening hours between 6 PM to 7:30 PM.

  • Shiva Sahasranamam Path – The 1008 names of Lord Shiva are recited in front of the Linga and proper Pooja and Abhishekam are done.
  • Shiva Mahimastotra Path – The Stotram is a Sanskrit composition originally composed by Pushpadanta in praise of Lord Shiva.
  • Shiva Thandavastotra Path – There are stotrams containing 16 syllables per stotra. They describe Lord Shiva’s power and beauty to the common man.

Daily Bhog Sevas – Several Bhogs (Food spread) can be offered to the Lord. They are Uttam Bhog, Vishesha Bhog, Nitya Bhog and Sonvarav Sankranti.

Festivals celebrated at the Kedarnath Temple

  • Badri – Kedar Utsav – The festival is usually organized in the month of June. Artists from all over Uttaranchal come together to showcase their musical talent dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The festival is celebrated for 8 days.
  • Shravani Annakoot Mela – The Mela is celebrated on a day before the Raksha Bandhan festival. The entire Jyotirlinga is covered with cooked rice. Several Poojas are performed for the day. The rice is then distributed as Prasad to the devotees. This Prasad is believed to be special as it is considered as a blessing from Lord Shiva himself.
  • Samadhi Pooja – A grand Pooja is held every year on the Samadhi of the great Sri Adi Shankaracharya. The event is held on the day the Kedarnath Temple closes. The day is observed with much reverence and respect.

How to reach: Road, Rail and Air

  • By Air – Helicopter services are best option to reach the temple by air. The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun. It is 238 km away from the Temple town. Regular flights are available to the Jolly Grant Airport from New Delhi. One can reach Gaurikund by availing the Buses or Taxis near the Airport.From Gaurikund, a trek route of 16 km will lead to Kedarnath.
  • By Train – The nearest railway station is Rishikesh, situated at a distance of 216 km from Kedarnath. Regular State Government operated buses are available to Gaurikund from Rishikesh.
  • By Road – All the motorable roads end at Gaurikund after which the pilgrims have to trek 16 km to reach Kedarnath. Gaurikund is well connected to all major cities in Uttarakhand as well as from surrounding areas like New Delhi. One can board buses from Dehradun, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Pauri, Tehri, Srinagar and Chamoli.
  • Ponies and Palkis are available for hire to pilgrims who are unable to trek the 16 km route on foot.
  • Besides these routes, several private agencies operate Helicopter services from areas like Phata, Agasthyamuni, and Guptkashi.

Where to stay

The Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), a Government of Uttaranchal Enterprise operates the GMVN Tourist Rest House at Kedarnath that provides basic facilities. The rooms available are standard or dormitory. Besides Kedarnath, GMVN also operates Tourist Rest Houses at Gaurikund and Guptkashi.

Several budget and deluxe hotels are available for stay in Kedarnath. However, after the floods in 2013, a lot of them are under renovation and reconstruction. It is advised to check with the Tour operators before deciding to stay in Kedarnath.

A lot of staying options are available in Gaurikund and Guptkashi from where the Kedarnath Temple can be a one-day trip.

Where to eat

There are a few small dhabas and eateries available in the town that offers simplistic vegetarian cuisine. Alcohol is prohibited a non-vegetarian is not served. It is advised to carry food items and snacks before making a trip to Kedarnath, especially with elders and children.

Nearby Temples

  • The Omkareshwar Temple, Ukhimath – The town of Ukhimath is the winter abode of Lord Kedareshwar as well as the year-round abode of Lord Omkareshwar. During the winter months, when the Kedarnath Temple is closed, the idol of Lord Shiva is taken from there to Ukhimath Omkareshwar Temple where regular Poojas are carried out for the next six months.
  • The Panch Kedar Temples – Besides the Kedarnath Temple, the other four temples of the Panch Kedar journey are the Temples of Madmaheshwar, Rudranath, Tungnath, and Kalpeshwar. They are all accessible only by trekking routes from areas such as Ukhimath, Uniana, and Rudraprayag.
  • Agasthya Muni Temple – The town of Agasthyamuni is 40 km before Kedarnath. The Temple is dedicated to the Sage Agasthya. It is believed that the Sage lived here for some part of his life and destroyed the monsters by the names of Aatapi and Vatapi who used to invite innocents to their home and eat them.
  • Gaurikund – The town is the starting point of a trek of 14 km to Kedarnath. The town is home to the Temple of Goddess Parvati, also known as Gauri. According to the legend, Lord Shiva asked Goddess Parvati’s hand in marriage at this place.
  • Adi Shankaracharya Samadhi – The resting place of the great Sage Sri Adi Shankaracharya is located at Kedarnath. He established the four mutts (Badrinath, Sringeri, Jagannath, and Dwarka) dedicated to promoting the Vedic teachings and the Advaita philosophy. He was the one who constructed and 9renovated several features of the Kedarnath Temple in the 8th century.
  • Triyuginarayan – The Temple is located at a distance of 25 km away from Kedarnath near Gaurikund and Sonprayag. It is believed that this is the place where Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati in the presence of Lord Vishnu. The Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu.
  • Kalimath Temple – The Temple is located en route to Kedarnath. It is 20 km from Ukhimath. According to the legends, Goddess Kali went underground at the spot after killing the demon Raktbeej. A silver plate covers the spot where Kali supposedly entered the ground.

Gangotri Temple

Gangotri Temple

The pristine Himalayas, also known as “Abode of Gods” or “Valley of Gods” in the Uttarkashi district of the state of Uttarakhand are home to one of the holiest rivers in the world, the River Ganga. The temple dedicated to River Ganga, The Gangotri Temple is located at the origin of the river, at an elevation of 3048 meters above the sea level. The temple is one of the destinations in the Chhota Char Dham yatra of Uttarakhand, the other three being Yamunotri, Badrinath, and Kedarnath.

The Gangotri Temple is located on the left bank of River Bhagirathi (one of Ganga’s seven streams when she descended on the Earth). The river is called Ganga when she reaches Devprayag and joins with Alaknanda (another Ganga tributary).  The actual origin of the holy river Ganga is the Gangotri glacier, also called Gaumukh. The 19 km trek to Gaumukh starts from the temple.

The Gangotri Temple opens for public to visit on the day of Akshaya Tritiya in April – May. The temple closes on the day of Diwali which signals the start of the winter season. The shrine remains closed from November to April due to harsh weather conditions.

In terms of architecture, the gangotri temple is very simple and does not have any exquisite carvings or sculptures found elsewhere. The Temple is constructed with white marble stone. The steps lead to the Sabha mandap that eventually meets the main sanctum. There are three main cupolas located on the upper floors each having a golden spire. A small temple dedicated to Lord Shiva is present inside the Temple complex.

gangotri temple

Gangotri Temple History

  • The Gangotri temple was built by Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa in the 18th century.
  • As per Hindu Mythology, Ganga is the daughter of Brahma. She was born from his kamandala (a spout shaped vessel) when he was washing the feet of Vamana (Incarnation of Lord Vishnu).
  • In Valmiki Ramayana, Ganga is depicted as the daughter of King Himavat and Queen Menaka. She is also the sister of Parvati, Lord Shiva’s wife.
  • According to the Vishnu Purana, Ganga was created from the sweat of Lord Vishnu’s feet.
  • The main legend associated with the Ganga’s origin which is a fascinating read is mentioned in the Brahma Rishi Vishwamitra’s Ramayana Bal Kand. As per the legend, King Sagara of the Ikshvaku dynasty who ruled Ayodhya had two queens, Keshani, and Sumati. They were unable to bear him a child. Sagara performed several rituals to please the God. Soon, he was blessed with one son named Asmajas from Keshani and 60000 sons from Sumati. After some years, the King conducted the “Ashwamedha Yagya” to establish the superiority of his kingdom. According to the custom, the horse that was supposed to be sacrificed for the Yagya was let loose into the nearby kingdoms.  If the horse was caught by anyone, a battle would happen between that kingdom and king Sagara’s kingdom.
  • The 60000 sons of the king followed the horse and saw him entering a cave where sage Kapila was meditating. The sons following the footsteps of the horse entered the cave and could not find the horse in it. They assumed that the horse was caught by the sage and thought it as an act of war. They started disturbing the meditation of the sage and insulting him. Sage Kapila became annoyed and cursed the 60000 sons to a fiery death.
  • King Sagara became worried about the fate of his sons and sent his grandson Anshuman to enquire about their fate. Anshuman came upon the ashes with Sage Kapila standing nearby. He asked for forgiveness and salvation on the princes’ behalf. Kapila was impressed but informed him that only the water of heavenly Ganga can wash away the sins of the princes’ and provide them salvation.
  • Despite several efforts of Anshuman and his son Dileep, they could not please Brahma and bring Ganga down to Earth.
  • King Bhagiratha, son of King Dileep prayed with utmost devotion and as a result, Brahma gave a darshan to him. Brahma asked him to pray to Lord Vishnu to release Ganga from his toe. Lord Vishnu agreed but Ganga felt insulted that she had to flow through Earth instead of Heaven. Lord Shiva agreed to bear the force of the Ganga’s descent onto Earth by absorbing it into his locks of hair. The flow through the locks slowed the flow and split it into seven streams – Bhagirathi, Alaknanda, Janhvi, Saraswati, Bhilangana, Rishiganga, and Mandakini.
  • Ganga on touching the Earth started flowing violently and destroyed several towns and cities on its way. Sage Jahnu was very angry when Ganga destroyed his Ashram. By using his power, he drank the whole of Ganga. However, after listening to Bhagiratha’s requests, the sage released Ganga from his ears. That is the reason that one of the streams is called Janhvi.

Significance of the Temple

  • The Gangotri Temple is built close to a pillar called “Bhagirath Shila”. The pillar is believed to be the place where King Bhagirath worshiped Lord Shiva and requested him to bear the brunt of Ganga’s descent.
  • A natural rock shaped like a Shiva Linga can be seen in Gangotri during the beginning of the winters as the water recedes. According to the legends, this is the place where Shiva allowed Ganga to flow through his locks and stabilized her flow.
  • The water of River Ganga collected here is believed to be an Amrit (nectar) and is considered a holy drink. People collect water here and carry it home to be used for holy purposes.
  • It is generally believed that the Pandavas performed the great “Deva Yagna” here to atone the death of their kinsmen in the epic battle of Mahabharata.
  • On the day of Ganga Dussehra, it is believed that taking a holy dip in Ganga and hymning of the Ganga Stotra on this day would cleanse the human soul. Scriptures in the Agni Purana and the Padma Purana mention that bathing in Ganga on this day eliminates 10 types of sins from the human soul.
  • Immersion of ashes of the departed souls in the River Ganga is believed to release the soul from the cycles of death and rebirth.
  • One of the most significant facts about the purity of the water of River Ganga is that, the water can be collected and kept in a bottle for forever without it ever becoming slimy, green or spoilt. This is the main reason that the people believe that the water is holy and they keep it in their Pooja grahas as a representation of the deity herself.
  • The Pandav Gufa (cave) located at Gangotri is the place where the Pandavas meditated for Moksha during their final journey in the epic Mahabharata.
  • The Lanka Pul, highest river bridge in India is located at Gangotri and can be visited near Bhairon Ghat.

Gangotri Temple Timings

  • The Gangotri Temple opens daily at 6:15 AM and closes at 9:30 PM.
  • The afternoon break is from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM.

Dress Code

The Gangotri Temple remains open in the summer seasons of the year. However, a summer in the Himalayas is actually very cold.  Hence, it is recommended to wear sweaters, jackets, socks and gloves. Carry extra blankets if traveling with children and elders. An Umbrella should be carried as an emergency.  The place can get quite dark and Gangotri is not a bustling city. It is advised to carry torches with extra batteries.

Poojas and Rituals

  • The Aartis and Poojas at the Gangotri temple are performed by a priest known as Pand under the head priest known locally as Rawal. All the priests belong to a village named Mukhwa, located near Gangotri.
  • Gangotri Mangal Aarti – The morning Mangal Aarti is performed at 6 AM behind closed doors. The public is not allowed to view the Aarti.
  • Sandhya Aarti – The evening Aarti is performed at 7:45 PM in summers and at 7 PM in winters.
  • Ganga Devi Pooja – This pooja can be performed both at the Ghat of Ganga near the Temple as well as in the main shrine of the Temple. The Pooja has a special significance if performed on the Ganga Saptami day. The Pooja is done by reciting several Ganga Mantras and Stotrams.
  • The rituals that have to be performed by a devotee during his or her visit are – Take a dip in the River Bhagirathi, perform Ganga Pooja and then have a Darshan of the Goddess herself at the main shrine.

Festivals

  • Ganga Dussehra – The festival is celebrated over a period of ten days starting from the first day of the Jyeshta month (May – June) in the Hindu calendar. The word Dussehra can be split into two words, the “Dus” meaning Ten and “Sehra” meaning victory. So the festival means victory over 10 sins.The festival signifies the day that Goddess Ganga descended on Earth to cleanse the souls of cursed ancestors of King Bhagiratha. The pilgrims are convinced that if they pray to Ganga on this particular day, they will be absolved of the ten major sins of a Hindu.  Thousands of pilgrims across the country take a holy dip in the river chanting the Ganga Stotrams. The beautiful Ganga Aarti is performed in the evening where a large number of leaf boats laden with flames, flowers, and sweets are offered to the River Ganga.
  • Diwali – The holy and much celebrated day of Diwali marks the closing of the Gangotri Temple for public viewing due to the harsh onset of winter. After special poojas throughout the day, the idol of Ganga is taken to the Mukhyamath Temple in the small village of Mukhwa. The temple is the winter home of Goddess Ganga. On this day, people in Mukhwa clean the village in preparation for the Goddess’s arrival. The idol is kept in the Mukhyamath temple among an artistic decoration of deepams and sweets to celebrate Diwali.
  • Akshaya Tritiya – The auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya occurs in April – May every year. On this day, the idol of Goddess Ganga is brought back from her winter home of Mukhwa. The Temple is decorated with flowers. The Ganga Goddess is brought back and installed in the main sanctum among the songs and dances of the pilgrims. The homes are decorated with Diyas and people wear new clothes on this day. Special Poojas are arranged in the temple premises as well as in their homes.

How to reach: Road, Rail and Air

  • By Air – The Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport to the town of Gangotri. Regular taxis and buses are available from the airport to reach Gangotri.
  • By Train – The nearest railway stations are Rishikesh and Haridwar. The frequency of trains to Haridwar is more from major cities in India as compared to Rishikesh. From Haridwar or Rishikesh, one must take buses or taxis to Gangotri.
  • By Road – The town of Gangotri is accessible from all major cities in Uttarakhand and from Delhi NCR. Gangotri is well connected by road to places like Haridwar, Rishikesh, Dehradun, Roorkee, Chamba, Tehri, Barkot, Hanuman Chatti and Janki Chatti.

Where to stay

The options to stay in Gangotri are limited. Most of the pilgrims stay in Uttarkashi or Harsil and make a day trip to Gangotri. However, the Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), a Government of Uttarakhand undertaking has a few guesthouses that can be booked for a night’s stay. These Guest houses are located at Bhairon Ghati, Bhojvasa, Shivalik, and Himalaya. GMVN Yatri Nivas can also be booked by the pilgrims. Some of them provide basic facilities only.

A few private hotels like Hotel Mandakini, Hotel Bhagirathi Sadan, and Ganga Niketan Hotel are situated in Gangotri that provide a comfortable stay for pilgrims.

Several 2-star and 3-star hotels operate out of Harsil like Harsil Retreat and Harsil Char Dham Camp.They can be booked at nominal rates.

Where to eat

A large number of small hotels are situated in the small town complex of Gangotri. The cuisine is mainly North Indian. Only vegetarian food is served in the town. Non-vegetarian food and alcohol are banned.

Nearby Temples

  • The Kashi Vishwanath Temple – The historic temple has been mentioned in Puranas like Skanda Puranam and Kedar Khand. The temple is located near the Uttarkashi bus stand. The temple is believed to date back to several centuries ago. The Temple is believed to have been built by the Vishnu avatar Parashurama.
  • Shakti Temple – The temple is located in Uttarkashi, just opposite to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple. A massive Trishul is placed in the center of the temple. The Trishul is 6 mt high and 90 cms wide at the base. It is believed that the lower half of the Trishul is made of copper and the upper part is of iron. According to the legends, Goddess Durga aimed this Trishul to slaughter the devils.
  • Bhairon Ghati – The Bhairon Ghat is located at the convergence of the River Bhagirathi and Jatganga.
  • Gaumukh Glacier – The glacier which is 30 km long and 3-4 km wide is the actual source of the Ganga River. The face of the cave from where the water gushes out resembles like a cow and hence the name Gaumukh – Gau meaning Cow and Mukh meaning Face. The 19 km trek will take you through the beautiful Himalayan landscape. The Government of Uttarakhand has passes a law stating that only 100 persons per day can trek to the Gaumukh glacier in order to conserve the ecology of the area.
  • Gangnani – This place is located on the way to Gangotri. The hot spring is called the Rishikund here. The Temple is dedicated to Sage Parashar who is the father of Sage Ved Vyas.

Yamunotri Temple

Yamunotri Temple

Yamunotri is the origin of the sacred river Yamuna and is located in the Uttarkashi district of the state of Uttaranchal. The Yamunotri Temple dedicated to Goddess Yamuna is situated at an altitude of 3291 meters among the dense forests of the Himalayan ranges. The temple is located near the Indo-China border. The holy significance of the temple located amidst the beautiful and intimidating Himalayan Mountains provide a complete spiritual fulfilment to the soul of a true devotee.

The Yamunotri Temple is a first stop of the Chhota Char Dham Yatra of the State of Uttaranchal. The other three stops being Gangotri, Badrinath, and Kedarnath. The temple is opened for public viewing on the Akshaya Tritiya (usually occurs in May) and is closed on the event of Yama Dwitiya which falls on the second day after Diwali.

The Yamunotri Temple was built in the nineteenth century by Maharaja Guleria of Jaipur. The actual origin of the River Yamuna is a glacier located at the base of the Kalind mountain,  a small distance from the temple at an elevation of 4421 meters. There are two streams that run beside the temple- The Surya Kund which is a hot water spring and the Gauri Kund, where devotees take a bath in lukewarm water.

In architectural terms, the temple is constructed in the Nagar style. The temple is built with Granite stones that have been obtained from the surrounding mountains.  The temple has a main conical shaped minaret under which the main deity of Goddess Yamuna presides. The idol itself is made of polished ebony marble with detailed carvings. She is sitting atop a turtle, the representation of Goddess Yamuna in ancient scriptures.  A white stone idol of Goddess Ganga stands beside her.

All the offerings are made to a silver form of Goddess Yamuna. The silver idol is a representation of the original stone idol. The idol is about 1 feet tall and has four arms.

yamunotri temple

Yamunotri History

  • The legend says that the Yamunotri Dham is the place where the sage Asti Muni. The Sage took bath daily in both the River Ganga and the Yamuna during his early life. However, as he started growing old, he was unable to reach Gangotri to take a dip in Ganga. Impressed by his belief, Goddess Ganga emerged as a stream next to River Yamuna to assist the Sage in continuing his daily rituals.
  • It is believed that the original Yamunotri Temple at the site was constructed in 1839 by Tehri Naresh Sudarshan Shah. An earthquake in the region destroyed the temple.
  • Maharaja Gularia of Jaipur rebuilt the Yamunotri Temple in the latter half of 19th century.
  • As per a legend, Yamuna was very frivolous in nature. This trait is attributed to an incident that happened between the Sun God and his wife Sangya. It is believed that Sangya was unable to look at Sun God for long because of his excessive radiance. She blinked and closed her eyes often. This angered the Sun God and he cursed Sangya that their daughter will be carefree like her.
  • The “Yamunotri Mahatmya” of the Skanda Purana is a major source of history and mythological importance for the priests here based on which the daily poojas and rituals are conducted on.

Significance of the Temple

  • As per legends, Yamuna is the daughter of Surya, the Sun God, and Sangya, the God of consciousness. She is the sister of Yama, the God of Death. The devotees believe that a dip in the river here assures a devotee of painless death and the blessings of God Surya and Goddess Sangya.
  • The actual source of the river located at a height of 4421 meters is a frozen glacier, the size of a lake known as the Champasar glacier. From there, a Kund or a Lake appears, known as the Sapt Rishi Kund. The trek to this place from Yamunotri is extremely difficult but worth visiting because the lake is home to the divine Brahma Kamal. The flower has divine significance and meaning in the Hindu mythology. The flowers bloom from July – August. It is believed that Lord Shiva replaced the head of Ganesh with an elephant’s head with the help of Brahma Kamal. The white stamen of the flower is believed to be a representation of Lord Krishna and the reddish stalks are thought to be the 100 Kauravas.
  • Devotees can visit the Markandeya Teerth en route to the Yamunotri temple from trekking base Hanuman Chatti. This place is significant because it is believed that Sage Markandeya completed the ancient Markandeya Purana at the site.
  • Various Puranas like the Padma Purana mention that taking a bath in the River Yamuna washes away the sins of the human beings and grants them a place in heaven.
  • The River Yamuna is mentioned in Vedas as Yami, the sister of Yama. She later became a consort of Lord Krishna. It is believed that the color of the river is black because it absorbed the pain and sorrow of Lord Shiva after the death of his wife Sati.
  • It is considered a must for all the pilgrims to cook a handful of rice and potatoes in a muslin cloth at the hot water sulphur spring of Surya Kund. This is considered as a “Prasadam” which is meant as a spiritual cleanser.
  • The Divya Shila at the Surya Kund is revered by the pilgrims. According to the Skanda Purana, one can achieve spiritual liberation by touching the stone. From a fissure in the rock, boiling water emerges making a gurgling sound. The Pundits believe that the gurgling sound is the sound of sage Jayamuni chanting Kalindi Namah in praise of Goddess Yamuna.

Yamunotri Temple Timings

  • The Yamunotri Temple open at 6 AM and closes at 8 PM.
  • The mid-afternoon closing time is between 12:00 PM to 2 PM.
  • The morning Aarti takes place at 6:30 AM and the evening Aarti takes place at 7:30 PM.

Dress Code

Even though the Yamunotri Temple opens in the summer months, the region experiences cold weather. The pilgrims are advised to wear and carry sweaters, jackets, woolen socks, scarves,  and gloves (especially for children). It is advised to keep an Umbrella in hand.

Poojas and Rituals

  • The Yamunotri Temple opens with the performing of the Mangal Aarti at 6:30 AM.
  • The evening Aarti or the Shayan Aarti is held at 7:30 PM in the evening.
  • The Yamunotri Temple is closed to public after the festival of Diwali. The priests transport the silver idol of Goddess Yamuna from Yamunotri to the village of Kharsali. The main deity of the village is Shani Devta (God of Saturn). It is believed that Shani hosts his sister Yamuna for 6 months during the harsh winter. The Yamuna arrives in Kharsali and is welcomed with great celebrations and rituals. On Akshaya Tritiya, when she leaves for Yamunotri, elaborate rituals are performed by the priests. Shani in a brass mask goes to every house to announce that he is taking his sister to her home. Villagers gather together and take out a procession with drums, shells, and horns. Shani accompanies Yamuna in a decorated palanquin. On returning to Yamunotri, Shani is bathed in the Yamuna.
  • Pilgrims can offer elaborate Poojas by themselves. They are required to purchase the Pooja kit sold in front of the temple. This kit usually consists of a red sari, bindis, sindoor, comb, necklace, bracelet, nail polish, mirror, incense, coconut, and sugar. They are offered to the priests who performs the Pooja on behalf of the devotee.

Festivals

  • Basant Panchami – The festival usually occurs in the months of either January or February. The day of Basant Panchami indicates the arrival of Spring and end of the Winter months. The festival is celebrated with the arrangement of various colorful cultural programs and offerings of Poojas by the common people to the deity. The people especially wear customary yellow colored dresses and accessories on this day.
  • Phool Dei – This festival is celebrated on the first day of March. Young girls and children of the community visit and gift the neighboring houses with a bag or a plate of flowers, rice, jaggery, and coconut. This is considered as a goodwill gesture. In return, they are also given gifts and blessings such as money, rice, jaggery, and sweets. People make a savory named Sei as an offering to the Goddess Yamuna.
  • Olgia – The unique festival is celebrated in August to commemorate the harvesting season and abundant agricultural produce. It is also called as the Ghee Sankranti. People adorn their forehead with Ghee and consume Dal Chappatis with Ghee. As per the older traditions, nephews and son-in-laws gave gifts to maternal uncles and fathers-in-law respectively on the Olgia day. However as per the new customs, gifts, and good wishes are exchanged between artisans and their customers.  The farmers and their landlords also exchange gifts on this special day.

How to reach: Road, Rail and Air

  • By Air – The nearest airport to the Yamunotri temple is the Jolly Grant Airport at Dehradun. The airport is situated 210 km from the temple. Regular flights are operated by Air India, Spicejet and Jet airways from New Delhi and Lucknow.
  • By Train – The nearest railway station is Dehradun (175 km) followed by Rishikesh (200km). Regular trains are available from cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Chandigarh. From the stations, Hanuman Chatti is accessible by road.
  • By Road – Buses are available from major cities in Uttarakhand like Rishikesh, Dehradun, Tehri, Barkot and Uttarkashi to Hanuman Chatti.
  • The starting point for visiting Yamunotri is either Hanuman Chatti or the Janki Chatti. Devotees travel the first 5 km of a 13 km trek from Hanuman Chatti by a jeep and reach Phool Chatti. From Phool Chatti, trek a distance of 5 km to Janki Chatti. Further trek of 5 km from Janki Chatti has to be undertaken to reach Yamunotri.

Where to stay

The Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), a Government of Uttaranchal enterprise maintains several guest houses and tourist bungalows in and around Yamunotri. The GMVN Tourist Houses can be booked at Janki Chatti Annexe, Hanuman Chatti, Phool Chatti, Yamunotri and Syana Chatti.

Besides these Governments operated tourist rest houses, one can find a number of private run hotels like Hotel Atithi Nivas, Aditya Palace at Barkot and many more.

Where to eat

A few small restaurants are available in the town of Yamunotri near the temple complex. They serve local as well as North Indian cuisine. Non-vegetarian food is not served anywhere in the town. Alcohol consumption is banned.

The availability of food during the trek is limited and average in taste. It is advised to take light snacks and bottled water especially if travelling with kids and elders.

Nearby Temples

  • Shri Siddha Hanuman Mandir or the Hanuman Chatti – The Hanuman Temple is located 13 km away from the Yamunotri Temple. The other deities worshiped here are God Ram and Goddess Sita. This temple is the site of the confluence of Hanuman Ganga and the Yamuna. This is also the starting point for trekking to Dodi Tal.
  • Janki Chatti – The place is just 3 km away from Yamunotri. The place is famous for its hot water springs and immense natural beauty.
  • Divya Shila – This is a rock pillar placed on the east side of the mountain near the Surya Kund. It is believed that the pillar was a gift from the Sun God to his daughter the Yamuna. This stone is also called the “Divine stone”. The face of the pillar is reddish brown.
  • Shani temple – The temple is located at the picturesque town of Kharsali. The temple is dedicated to the God of Saturn or Shani Devta as known in Hindu mythology. The temple is an old three-storey structure. Shani resides in the uppermost floor of the shrine. He is the brother of Goddess Yamuna. This is the temple where the Goddess stays during the winter months.
  • Laxminarayan Temple – The temple is located at Barkot. As the name says, the temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is believed to have been built by the Pandavas themselves.
  • Lakhamandal – The historic place is located 71 km away from Yamunotri. This place holds significance in the great Mahabharata epic. This is believed to be the place where Duryodhana built a lac palace for Pandavas and planned to kill them by burning it to the ground.

Badrinath Temple

Badrinath Temple

Badrinath is a small temple town located in Garhwal, Uttarakhand. The majestic River Alaknanda flows beside the temple. It is one of the most sacred vaishnavite pilgrimage sites in Hindu culture. Badrinath Temple is one of the temples which form the Char Dham Pilgrimage in India. It is also a part of the 108 Divyadesams dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

The Badrinath Temple is surrounded by two peaks named Nar and Narayan (twin forms of lord vishnu as the fifth avatar) against the backdrop of the Neelkanth Mountain. The temple can be visited only between April and November. The Temple remains closed and unapproachable due to extreme weather conditions prevailing in the Himalayas during the winter season.

The Badrinath Temple is composed of three structures: The Garbhagraha, The Darshan Mandap, and The Sabha Mandap. The height of the temple is approximately 50 mts with a gold roof. The walls of the temple are built of stone with broad arched windows placed among them. The walls and the pillars of the mandapam are covered with sculptures and scriptures from the glorious past. The figure of Garuda can be seen just in front of the main deity Lord Vishnu. The temple pandit or the Rawal Ji must be from the clan of Nambudiri Brahmins from Kerala.

Badrinath Temple Image

Badrinath Temple History

  • The origin or the date of construction of the Badrinath Temple is unknown. It is, however, believed to be at least a thousand years old.
  • According to a Skandapuranam, in the 9th century, Sri Adi Shankara found a large black statue of Lord Vishnu lying on the banks of the Narad Kund. He established the statue in a cave near the Tapt Kund which later came to be worshiped as the Badrinath Temple.
  • According to legend, this place was initially chosen by Lord Shiva for his Tapasya, but Lord Vishnu wanted the place to himself. He took the form of a little boy and cried lying down on the rock. He could not be consoled by both Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Eventually on Parvati’s insistence, Lord Shiva left to Kedarnath to do his Tapasya. The place where this incident happened is still worshiped near Badrinath.
  • Another legend says that when Lord Vishnu started his penance, Goddess Laxmi stood beside him and sheltered him from the heat and cold by turning herself into a Badri Tree. Hence, Vishnu was given the name of Badrinath (Lord of Badri).
  • According to the ancient scriptures, Badrinath is home to several occurrences and legends from the great Mahabharata. The Pandavas were supposed to have passed Badrinath by crossing over a peak called “Swargarohini” on the way to their last pilgrimage.
  • A popular legend associated with Badrinath is that of River Ganga. When Ganga was asked to descend on Earth to relieve human suffering, the Earth was unable to tolerate the intensity of her flow. To distribute the flow, Ganga passed through the locks of Lord Shiva and turned into twelve channels of water. River Alaknanda became one of the channels.

Significance of Badrinath Temple

  • Badrinath Temple is one of the most revered vishnu temples in hindu culture. The Temple is one of the temples of Char Dham Yatra and is also a part of 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is believed that the statue of the Deity Lord Vishnu is Swayambhu in nature meaning that it is self-born.
  • The idol of Lord Vishnu is said to be self-manifested. It is supposed to be one of the eight swayam vyakta kshetras of Lord Vishnu.
  • The Badrinath Temple is a part of the Panch Badri Temples, the others being the Yog Dhyan Badri, Bhavishya Badri, Adi Badri and the Vriddha Badri.
  • The legendary River Saraswati originates from a glacier near Badrinath. The river joins The Alaknanda and then vanishes. The Saraswati along with Ganga and Yamuna meet at Allahabad to form the Holy Sangam.
  • It is mentioned in the Vamana Purana that the sages Nara and Narayana (the dual form of Lord Vishnu’s fifth avatar) did penance here. The great sages of folklores like Kapila Muni, Gautam and Kashyap also did penance here.
  • According to Hindu mythology, the head of Brahma fell from Shiva’s trident at the Brahma Kapal ghat located 300 mts from the Badrinath temple. Homages are offered to departed souls on this ghat.
  • It is believed that Narada attained salvation atop the Narad Shila located at Badrinath.
  • It is believed that the Vyas Cave situated near Badrinath is the place where Ved Vyas dictated the entire Mahabharata to Lord Ganesha.
  • The Bheem Pul near Badrinath Temple was constructed by Bheem to make a path between two mountains so that Draupadi could cross it easily.
  • The water of the hot spring Tapt Kund has medicinal values and therefore, a dip is a must to cure all ailments.

Badrinath Temple Timings

  • The Badrinath Temple opens at 4:30am and closes at 9:00pm. The afternoon break is from 1:00pm to 4:00pm.
  • The Abhishekam is performed from 7:30 AM to 12:00 PM and at 3:00 PM.
  • The Geet Govind and the Aarti are performed between 6 PM and 9 PM.
  • After the last Aarti of the day, the deity is covered with sandalwood paste which is offered as Prasad to the devotees during the Nirmalya darshan.

Dress Code

Even though, the temple is open only during the summer months, it is highly advised to wear woolen clothes with socks and scarfs. Carry umbrellas as the region is prone to seasonal rains.

Poojas and Rituals

  • Shrimad Bhagwat Saptah Path – It is a special pooja performed at the temple on request. This pooja continues for seven days. This ritual is dedicated to Lord Krishna. There are 18000 mantras in the Shrimad Bhagwat Katha. A Yagna is performed on the last day of the Pooja. It is believed that by doing this Pooja, one gets rid of fear and misfortune in life.
  • Vishnu Sahasranamam – It is a prayer consisting of the 1000 names of Lord Vishnu, each signifying the different attributes of Lord Vishnu.
  • Ved Path – A recitation of verses from the four Vedas – Rig, Sam, Yajur, and Atharva.
  • Geeta Path – The complete recital of the Shrimad Bhagawat Geeta is done in front of the deity.
  • Akhand Jyoti – This temple is closed for pilgrims on VijayaDasami. On the last day, a special ghee mixture brought from the Mana village is bought here and lit. This lamp remains lit for six months.

Festivals

  • Badri-Kedar festival – The festival is usually organized in the month of June. Artists from all over Uttaranchal come together to showcase their musical talent dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. The festival is celebrated for 8 days.
  • Mata Murti ka Mela – A large fair is held at the Badrinath temple every September to commemorate the day the river Ganga landed on the Earth. The day is dedicated to Mata Murti, mother of Nar and Narayan (fifth avatar of Vishnu). It is believed that she divided the River Ganga into twelve channels.
  • Janmashtami – This festival is celebrated on the day Lord Krishna (eighth avatar of Vishnu) was born. It is celebrated in the months of either August or September. Several processions and Poojas are organized for Lord Krishna on this day.

How to reach: Road, Rail, and Air

  • By Air – The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun. It is 314 km away from Badrinath. Regular flights are operated out of New Delhi to Jolly Grant Airport. Taxis and Buses are available from the Airport to Badrinath.
  • By Rail – The nearest railway station is Rishikesh which is 295 km away. Trains to Rishikesh are available from all major cities like Delhi and Mumbai.
  • By Road – Badrinath is well connected to other parts of the Uttarakhand state. One has to take a bus from New Delhi to Haridwar or Rishikesh, from where the state transport buses are available to Badrinath. Buses and Taxis are available from major places in Uttarakhand like Dehradun, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Pauri, Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag, Chamoli and Ukhimath.

Where to stay

Few government-run guest houses are available for pilgrims to stay. Some of them are GMVN Yatri Nivas Badrinath, GMVN Tourist Bungalow Devlok at Badrinath and GMVN Badrinath Rest House.

Private accommodation is also available with price ranges suitable for all. Some of the recommended hotels are Hotel Narayan Palace, New Snow Crest Hotel and The Sarovar Portico, Badrinath.

Where to eat

There are a lot of small hotels and dhabas in the town of Uttaranchal providing the local cuisine of Uttaranchal as well as the traditional North Indian Cuisine. The type of food is pure vegetarian. Some of the popular restaurants are the Brahma Kamal restaurant and the Saket restaurant.

Nearby Temples

  • Mata Murti Temple – It is situated 3 km away from the Badrinath Temple. The Temple is dedicated to the mother of Lord Narayan. According to a legend, it was Mata Murti’s wish that Lord Vishnu should come out of her womb when he takes the next avatar. Lord Vishnu agreed and took birth as twins Nar and Narayan to kill a devil. A fair is held every August at the Temple to celebrate the legend.
  • Neelkanth – This majestic peak overshadows the Badrinath Temple. The cliff of the peak is where the sun rays first fall on in Badrinath. The peak is named after Lord Shiva and it is a common faith that if you observe the peak for some time, you can see the outline of Lord Shiva sitting on the top facing the sky.
  • Satopanth – This is a lake 25 km away from Badrinath which is considered a sacred site. The lake is triangular in shape signifying the deities Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. It is believed that all three come down to earth to take a bath in this holy lake on every Ekadasi of the Hindu Calendar. However, permission is required to visit the lake.
  • Urvashi Temple – This temple is dedicated to the Apsara Urvashi. The story behind the temple is intriguing. It is believed that Lord Indra sent several Apsaras to distract Nar and Narayana during their meditation. In response, Narayan tore his left thigh and created several Apsaras, Urvashi being the most beautiful among them all. Urvashi led all the Apsaras and shattered Lord Indra’s pride near a pond 2 km away. There is a temple built at the pond dedicated to her.