Thursday, 21 June 2012

Char Dham Yatra: Rejuvenating Tours – Mind, Body & Soul

Char Dhaam Yatra
The concept of religious tourism is ancient in India – the land of origin for World’s 4 Major religions. How can a country that gave birth to Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, not have places of deep faith in its heart. The places that touch your soul and give you a sense of well-being. Only the term “Religious Tourism” is new compared to these religions. Let’s imagine places in NESW (North – East – South – West) Corridor in India for their religious connotations.
Golden TempleStarting from Kashmir’s Shankaracharya Temple, Vaishno Devi Temple, Hazratbal Mosque, Chrar-e-Sherief, to Himachal Pradesh with its Naina Devi and Jwala ji pilgrimage to Devbhoomi  Uttarakhand’s Char Dham, Haridwar, Hemkund Sahib, Rishikesh to Bodh Gaya and Vaishali  in Bihar to Sikkim’s Monasteries like Melli, to Parshuram Kund in Arunachal Pradesh. Moving South to Tamil Nadu’s Shri Meenakshi Temple, Perur Temple, to Tirupati Balaji in Andhra Pradesh.  Moving West, we have Shirdi in Maharashtra, Somnath and Dwarka in Gujarat, Pushkar, Jain Temple and Dargah Sharif (Ajmer) in Rajasthan and closing the tour at Punjab’s Harminder Sahib, Goindwal Sahib Gurudwaras. India is land of places that reaffirm our faith that divinity in many forms.
Char DhamI have wondered that why do we have most of our greatest places of worship at difficult terrains?
Why did God/Goddess make his/her adobe in mountains?
Think about one of the most important pilgrimages in Hinduism – The Chaar Dham Yatra – BadrinathDwarkaJagannath Puri, and Rameshwaram.
Himalyan Char DhamAlso there is a Chota Chaar Dham or ‘Little Char Dham’ called so to differentiate it from the bigger circuit of Chaar Dham sites. After the mid-20th century the term “Chaar Dham” usually refers to the Himalayan Chaar Dham. This includes BadrinathKedarnath,Yamunotri and Gangotri.
This post is about Himalayan Chaar Dham Yatra but with a little remix to it. ‘Rejuvenating Tours -Mind Body and Soul’ is about combining the Chaar Dham Yatra which touches your mind and soul with trekking tours that rejuvenate your body. It’s when the chanting mantras, aarti, fragrance of agarbattis with an atmosphere of faith, humanity and supreme presence comes in touch with meandering narrow paths, difficult terrain, camping, drinking from springs and walking in untouched natural beauty of Himalayas and together make you feel the sense of living that starts from your mind, reaching the tips of your toes and touching your soul.
UttrakhandGiving the fact file on these places in Devbhoomi  Uttarakhand – Kedarnath Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva situated at 3,584 meters in Rudraprayag District opened its doors for Darshan after 6 months on 8th May. While Badrinath dedicated to Lord Vishnu is at the height of 3,133 meters in Chamoli district opened its doors on 9th May after 6 months. These Shrines remain closed for 6 months due to heavy snow fall and open when snow melts and it welcomes the pilgrims to its adobe. Gangotri – the glacier where the most revered river in India Ganges starts is at the height of 3,200 meters while Yamunotri – the start point of River Yamuna  the biggest river that joins Ganges in its course(at Prayag) is at the height of 3,615 meters in Uttarkash district.
The Chaar Dham yatra starts from Haridwar or Rishikesh – the pilgrimage follows the traditional route of four as follows – Yamunotri – Gangotri – Kedarnath – Badrinath.
YamunotriYamunotri – the seat of the Goddess Yamuna, is a full day’s journey from Rishikesh or Haridwar. The actual temple is only accessible by a six km walk from the town of Hanuman Chatti. The Trekking tour combined with it – Start from Dodi Lake (tal), The lake is known for some rare fish species like the Himalayan Golden Trout. The forest surrounding the lake is also full of variety of wildlife. An ideal setting for rest and recreational activities like angling, boating and bird-watching. The trek from Dodital to Hanumanchatti via Darwa Top takes two days, moves on to the upper reaches of the Garhwal Himalayas in Yamunotri, the place where the sacred river Yamuna originates from. Hence, the trip with religious importance along with a shade of adventure.
GangotriGangotri – the seat of the Goddess Ganga ( River Ganges), more popular and important than its sister site to the east. Gangotri is also accessible directly by car and bus, therefore many more pilgrims come here. The aarti ceremony at the Gangotri is especially impressive, as is the great temple, on the banks of the rushing Ganges. Gangotri has always been a  trekker’s delight offering a number of avenues from easy to difficult – Gaumukh – one of the holiest places for Hindu pilgrims , Kedar Taal, Kalindi Khal etc to name a few. This makes it favourite not only amongst Indians but also foreigners.  These treks combine divine feelings of faith with snow-capped peaks and beauty of Himalayas. Most famous being The Gaumukh trek (also due to religious flavour of the same) which is of about 19 kms.  Gaumukh is situated at 3896mts above sea level. Gaumukh trek may include Tapovan or Nadanvan. The trek gives a complete package, right from self-supported journey to camping in deep Himalayas surrounded by nature. One can also have a nice view of Bhagirathi peaks from Tapovan Meadow.
KedarnathKedarnath – where a form of the God Shiva is venerated as one of the twelve Jyotirling (linga of light), is a two-day’s journey from Gangotri. Kedarnath is also believed to be the site ofShankaracharya‘s Samadhi. The actual temple, an impressive stone edifice whose origins are unknown and hence more revered for the same, is accessible only after a steep 13 km walk.
The most remote of the Himalayan Chaar Dham sites, Kedarnath is surrounded by breathtaking snow-capped peaks.
There are two famous adventurous trekking tours from Kedarnath:
1. Vasuki tal which is quite well known because of its panoramic beauty.
2. Chorabari tal which is touched with Chorabari glacier in the foots of Kedarnath Parbat.
BadrinathBadrinath – the seat of the God Vishnu asBadrinarayan, is a two-day’s journey from Kedarnath.  Also called as the most important of the four sites, and a part of the larger Chaar Dham Yatra, Badrinath receives more pilgrims than the other three shrines. The temple is also accessible by road.
The actual temple is a striking building whose bright colors invoke the feelings of celebration of life, of faith and of divinity.
This part of pilgrimage can be joined with many trek tours:
1. Mana Village Trek:  3 km walk beyond Badrinath temple which leads to the river and reach Mana village which is packed with traditional houses of varying designs. Outside the village, there is a small cave and in the cave there is a tiny Vyas Temple which is 5,000 years old. Another attraction during the trek is Vasundhara Waterfall.
2. Hemkund – Valley of Flowers Trek: The high altitude Hemkund (4,329 meters) lies in heavenly part of Himalayas where you can actually feel the sense of wonder and fulfilment. It is an important pilgrimage for both Hindus and Sikhs. There is a Sikh Gurudwara and a Lakshman temple built on the bank of the lake. Encircled by seven snow clad peaks and their associated glaciers, it reflects its surroundings enchantingly on its crystal clear serene waters. The glaciers from Hathi Parvat and Saptrishi peaks feed the lake and a small stream called Himganga flows out of this lake. On the route you find the world known valley of flowers – The whole valley dotted with varieties of exotic flowers and other flora.
There are many more trekking trips that help you add adventure streak to the religious fervor that goes down well with the youth. Being in touch with your inner self, your faith and keeping yourself fit on the way – maybe that’s why these pilgrimages were never on easy terrain. With this them The Other Home brings “Rejuvenating Tours – Mind Body and Soul”.
For more details contact, The Indian Himalayan Adventures (IHA), a core adventure group, is dedicated to the enjoyment and exploration of the mountains, valleys and alpine regions of the Indian Himalayas through activities such as trekking, climbing, hiking, skiing and rafting.


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