Char Dham Yatra – The four religious centres of Uttarakhand, because of the difficult reachability, are considered particularly powerful. Until the sixties, they were the exclusive destination of ascetics, renunciates and wealthy who could afford porters, mules and food supplies for the long days of walking through passes to over 4000 m. Then, paradoxically, the war for the 1962 borders with China pushed the government to build high altitude roads and the flow of pilgrims made the four (char) centres (dham) of the small (Chota) pilgrimage (yatra) of the very popular valley. (To travel the great Char Dham you have to cross all of India from north to south and from east to west - from Badrinath to Kanyakumari, from Puri to Dwarka).The Chota Char Dham circuit runs from May to October and includes:
Yamunotri (3293 m): -the temple is dedicated to the goddess Yamuna, the second most sacred river in India, and was built on the right side of the river by Queen Gularia of Jaipur in the 19th following the destruction of the oldest sanctuary on the right bank. To arrive you have to walk for 6 kilometres through a dense forest. The Yamuna rises higher, at an altitude of 4421m, from the glacier at the foot of Mount Banderpoonch, which serves as a scenic backdrop to the pilgrimage centre. Pilgrims offer to the goddess in the temple cooked rice in the thermal waters that flow nearby.
Gangotri (3048 m): - the temple, built in the eighteenth century, is dedicated to the Ganga goddess and stands near the rock where, according to the myth, King Bhagirath venerated Shiva to obtain the descent on the earth of the celestial Ganges. Shiva not only answered his prayers but arrested the goddess's fury by trapping her between his uncultivated foliage. Today the spring is located at the base of the Goumukh glacier (face of a cow), 19 kilometres away and 3892 m altitude. It is said that he is rapidly backing away because of the sins of men and the consequent overheating of the planet. The devotees walk up to Goumukh to make ablutions in the icy water and bring home some of the divine liquid to offer, as well as relatives and friends, to the god Shiva as a balm for the portentous sore throat provoked by the interference of a deadly poison that would otherwise have destroyed the universe.
Kedarnath (3584 m):- the temple dedicated to the god Shiva is the most difficult to reach, 18 kilometres from the carted road and surrounded by beautiful mountains. It is also the oldest temple, it is said built-in VIII by the wise-philosopher Adishankara that here would have obtained the lighting. According to one of the myths, the Pandava brothers here would seek the blessing and expiration of the bad karma accumulated in the bloody war against the cousins Kaurava (the war recounted in the Mahabharata).
Badrinath (3133 m):-you can drive to the temple, dedicated to the god Vishnu, perhaps because it is the main centre and is also one of the four stages of the Pan-Indian pilgrimage. Legend has it that the holy-philosopher Keralese AdiShankara found the statue of the god in the water of the Alaknanda river and installed it in a cave near the Tapt Kund hot springs. Then, in the 16th century AD, a king built the present temple in which the Brahman of Kerala officiates (about 3000 kilometres further south!) The temple looks like a Buddhist shrine-and at the time of Ashoka (III BC) it seems it was really.