Posts

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.