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Rishikesh Char Dham Pilgrimage Package
This comprehensive religious journey of Uttarakhand combines history and sprirituality, God-made wonders and natural phenomena, as well as a calm and soothing culture. Begin your trip, blessed by the temples and holy angels before journeying into the cold, snowy mountainous areas, to take a break from the heat of the plains, and rejuvenate and spend some leisure time, after a spiritual retreat, on the Rishikesh – Chota Char Dham Pilgrimage Package!
Uttarkashi descends into the breathtaking vista of a valley, the mountains with their forests of oak, rhododendron and pine, green squares of cultivation and then the pounding of Bhagirathi. The story goes that it was conceived of as an alternate, northern (uttar) Kashi for the turmoil of Kaliyug! The town’s old-style market, Bada Haat, is quite lively. Shops sell rohododendron syrup in season and cowbells make lovely mementos. The Vishwanath Temple is an important shrine and facing it is the Shakti Temple with its splendid iron and copper trident! The Kailash Ashram is closer to town, along the river in Ujeli. The bathing steps here may be the best place to take a safe dip in the bracingly cold Bhagirathi. You can try an excursion to Nachiketa Lake. Drive to Chaurangi Khal Village through breathtaking woods to the beautiful lake, filled with fish. Uttarkashi is a major trekking hub, and is the base town for treks to Har-ki-Dun, Dodital, Yamunotri and Gaumukh. Angling is allowed here.
Something called by as intriguing and poetic a name as the Valley of Flowers, it not impossible to hike up from a point called Govindghat whence it is a breathtakingly beautiful trek, with immense mountains, snowy backdrops, a gushing river, and incredible greenery as you cross the Alaknanda, meet its tributary, the Lakshman Ganga, and walk along it. You may continue your trek through tall pine, evergreen oaks, fir, maple and splendid birch trees, and just trip over a small glacier; reach the Bamini Dhar where the treeline ends where the valley becomes bugyal, a high-altitude grassland meadow in Garhwal. The Valley of Flowers bursts upon you as an absolutely radiant canvas. Flowers plummet down from rocks, proliferate over every inch of space, devouring every morsel of soil and drinking in every trace of sunlight. The pale yellow of fritillaria, the light green lily, the blush hue of cyananthus, snow-shite anemones, the bright potentiillas, and violet of delphiniums. The valley is home to a bewildering variety of plants, wading through a meadow full of flowers, perhaps clutching your book full of Latin names, and red fox and musk deer are sometimes sighted in this area, once the rains are over.
For millions of Hindus who revere the Ganga and flock to it to be rejuvenated by its waters, going to Haridwar is like fulfilling a life’s ambition. It was here at Har-ki-Pauri, it is believed , that Lord Vishnu left his footprint on a rock, and where Bhagirath performed his penance, in response to which Lord Shiva sent forth the Ganga cascading from his knotted locks. Har ki Pauri, the main and most crowded bathing ghat in town, and the Ganga Mandir and Haricharan Mandir is located here, and the busy ghat is preferred for ritual dips and pujas. Non-Hindus are not allowed on the Har ki Pauri Ghat but can bathe in the river and view the aarti from the platform-like island here. Which is held on the promenade above the Brahmakund? It is the site where divine nectar fell from the celestial kumbh according to legend. You can reach the Chandi Devi Temple through the Udan Khatola, ropeway, which is a popular option and yields good views, as the shrine is atop the Neel Parvat, a hill with a stunning spread! The approach to the Mansa Devi Temple located on top of the Bhilkeshwar Hill is lined with landscaped gardens. Noisy shops and long queues make the atmosphere picnic-like, on the Rishikesh – Chota Char Dham Pilgrimage Package!
In the foothills of the Shivalik Range covered by sal forests, this park is famous for its wild elephant population, especially the adrenaline-inducing male tuskers. There is birdlife hereto,their numbers huge in the monsoons when the rivers are full, and in winter, when the migrants arrive. At the Chilla Gate, there are elephants to take you on a safari!
The name Rishikesh is applied to an association of five distinct sections encompassing not only the town but also hamlets and settlements on both sides of the river Ganges. These include Rishikesh itself, the commercial and communication hub, the sprawling suburb Muni Ki Reti or the "sands of the sages", and Sivananda Nagar, the home of Sivananda Ashram and the Divine Life Society founded by Swami Sivananda. To the north of Rishikesh there are temple sections of Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula located a little further north, and the assorted Ashrams around Swargashram on the eastern bank. The Ganga Aarti performed at dusk at the Triveni Ghat is popular with visitors. The Neelkanth Mahadev Temple, situated near Rishikesh, amidst the forest is also a popular local pilgrimage, along with 'Vashishtha Guha', (Cave of Sage Vashishtha), a short distance up from the town by the Ganges.
Rishikesh is where you commence your religious trip for Chota Char Dham!
Char Dham, is essentially located at the end of four separate routes that reach far into the heights of the majestic Garhwal Himalayas at a very high altitude! One of the most accessible yatras in India is also one of the most arduous, inspite of the long line of vehicles cuddling their way up the roads hewn into the hilly area. Rivers are holy in India and the word for pilgrimage in Sanskrit, `teerth’, refers to`crossing a river’.The Char Dham Yatra season extends from May through November. Tour packages for a round trip of the four dhams may be undertaken in a taxi or a bus. The nearest airport for this pilgrimage is Dehra Dun.
On the way to Yamunotri, traditionally the first Char Dham destination, the sacred Yamuna accompanies yatris up to her source, through the spectacularly scenic Rawaai Ghati leaving the tourists somewhat breathless not just because of the alititude, but also that they become increasingly accustomed to the rarefield atmosphere. Yamunotri is high up in a deep cleft on the western face of Banderpoonch Peak. The picturesque journey to Yamunotri is along the river Yamuna itself and the main temple here is dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna, represented in a black marble idol. Just outside the main temple is the Divya Shila, a dark rock from which springs a stream of hot water, and the most holy area, the origin of the Yamuna. Check into a ashram or guest house or dharamshala for the night!
Technically the cold stream source of the river is on the Champasar glacier, near Saptarishi Kund, which is a tough trek above the Yamuna shrine. Pilgrims carry water from the Yamunotri to offer to Lord Krishna during Janamashtami. The temple when it closes in winter has its deity taken to the winter seat of Kharsali, a short distance from Janaki Chatti. The Yamuna Valley, called Rawaai Ghaati is spectacular and en route Barkot and Phul Chattiare is scenic halts. Aarti is held regularly on the premises.
The tourists may then move towards Gangotri, the next dham which overlooks the tumultuous river Bhagirathi. Dancing down the glacial heights of the Uttarakhand Himalaya, this civilization defining river, reversed as a mother goddess, flows through the plains of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal, before spreading out in a delta near the Bay of Bengal. Along its route lie great Indian cities: Rishikesh, Haridwar, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna and Kolkata. It is a source of water for irrigation, cooking and drinking, transportation, ritual purity and drunk as holy water or Ganga Jal. Hindus come to the Ganga from all over the country, to take a dip or submit their loved ones’ ashes to her.
A number of rivers in the Garhwal Himalaya combine to form the Ganga and each spot where two such rivers meet is called the Prayag or Prayags and is beautiful places to spend the night. The temples by the confluence have a special sanctity, such as Devprayag, Kamaprayag, Nandprayag and Rudraprayag. Spend a night at one of the Prayags!
Guarded by the Bhagirathi, Trishul and Shivaling peaks, Harsil, a few kilometers north-west of Gangotri, is spectacular, where the great Himalayan Range can be experienced in all its glory, rivers, waterfalls, hot springs, forests, peaks, green meadows and icy glaciers. The Bhagirathi Valley is amazingly green, and at Harsil the rier opens out into a picture-perfect valley, with white sandy beaches, surrounded by orchards, pine forests and snowy mountains. There are plenty of good walks along the river and in the forests.
About a short distance away is Dharali Village, from where a trek brings you to Sattal, seven lakes set in beautiful surroundings.
The Gangotri shrine overlooks the thundering river Bhagirathi and is set in the midst of a rugged mountain. The actual source of the river is the ice cave of Gaumukh, and near the temple is Bhagirath Shila, a stone slab and the Goddess Ganga is the main deity in the temple. A special shringar puja is performed on Ganga Saptami in Vaishakh (April), Jyeshtha (May), Janmashtami (Aug-Sep), Vijayadashmi (Oct) and Diwali (Nov), considered special days! Regular aarti is performed every day in the morning and afternoon.
Pilgrims generally take a bath at the hot springs at Gaurikund before proceeding for Kedarnath. Towards south-east of Kedarnath, towards Badrinath, is Okhimnath which has some very old temples. The deities of the Kedarnath are installed at this math when Kedarnath closes during winter.
Towards the south, there are temples of Ardhnarishwar and Vishwanathji. Pilgrims can spend a day in this area, and stay back for aarti in the afternoon
Kedarnath, is towards the northernmost Jyotirlinga the third stop in the Char Dham Yatra, after Yamunotri and Gangotri, located above sea level, close to the source of the Holy Mandakini! From Gaurikund, the roadhead , it is a trek northwards along the Mandakini, whence it is steep until Garur Chatti, after which the path levels out until you reach Kedarnath! Pilgrims offer silver plated bilva patras, available just outside the Kedarnath Temple and in Gaurikund, to the Lord. Holy water from Gangotri is also offered and Bhog is offered by the priests early evening. Aarti is performed every day in the temple! On the day the temple closes for winter, a special Samadhi Puja is held.
Before proceeding to Badrinath, pilgrims would be visiting Joshimath where the great sage Adi Shankaracharya gained enlightenment. They could visit the Garuda and Narsingh Temples, the Shankaracharya Math and the amar kalp tree which is believed to be over 2,500 years old. Drive down to the hot springs at Tapovan for a bath.
Against the backdrop of the Neelkanth Peak, nestled between the Nar and the Narayan mountains, by the banks of the river Alaknanda, lies Badrinath, The presiding deity is a meditating Lord Vishnu in black stone. Traditionally the yatra to Kedarnath is undertaken before coming to Badrinath. For the devotee who has been unable to do this, the temple of Adi Kedareshwar nearby is to be visited first.
The original Badrinath Temple built in the time of Adi Shankaracharya, has been rebuilt several times due to avalanches and snowfall. The five-day winter closing ceremony is an annual ritual. The temple doors are reopened at the onset of summer, when devotees come for the sacred Jyoti Darshan. Special pujas are performed by the rawal, before the temple is opened to the public. Regular aarti is performed at the temple!
Closeby, the tourists may take a leisure visit to Auli for a halt, which commands excellent views of the surrounding peaks as the air is cold, fresh and scented with pine and the skies are azure blue. A cable car ropeway traverses from Joshimath, transporting them over the tops of oak and fir trees to Auli. When they ski down the slopes, the baby slopes have a ski lift, and the advanced slopes have a chair lift to haul them to the top.
Move around a bit in the morning as unlike other winter resorts, which offer tobogganing and sledding, there is only ski, ski and ski here, though travellers would be scintillated to watch those magical moments, like the dawn breaking behind Nanda Devi, watching the sky open up its bounty at night, and the snowflakes floating gently, soundlessly to earth, Auli can be balm to a city-wearied heart! After spending some time at leisure and for pleasure, get ready to return back to your place of residence!
For shopping, in pilgrimage centres, tourists would find small souvenirs, idols of deities, religious articles and music CD’s from the shops or stalls lining up the area! Ofcourse, plastic bottles are sold for carrying Gangajal on all the four dhams!
Popular purchases around the Chota Char Dham, tourists would find small souvenirs, idols of deities, religious articles and music CD’sfrom the shops or stalls lining up the area! Of course, plastic bottles are sold for carrying Gangajal on all the four dhams!
In the Valley of Flowers, you would find traditional and vegetarian food available like paranthas, dosas, chowmein and sandwiches, besides dhabas serving dal, roti, rice and mixed vegetables.
In Rishikesh, all eateries and restaurants serve vegetarian food, mostly without onion or garlic. Alcohol and meat are not allowed into town. Despite the prohibition, an array of Continental dishes in cafes overlooking the river make a pleasant tourist experience, besides serving traditional cuisine. You may also try a thali, Royal, Special and Economical, or try the vegetarian kebabs. They serve Indian, Continental and American breakfasts, as well. There are restaurants that serve baked beans with cheese tastes superb, and also South Indian staples aand some Continental options there are pizzas prepared with homemade buffalo cheese. There are eateries serving interesting dishes such as the yak cheese sandwich and fruit pancakes for non-Indian breakfast and snacks.
In Chota Char Dham, for food, the accommodation package has a variety to offer for daily meals, containing traditional vegetarian fare, thalis and a-la-carte.
The Valley of the Flowers, is pleasant during the summer months, and in the rainy months of July-August, flowers are aplenty, though there is heavy snow during winters! Rishikesh can be slightly hot and humid from May to August, but the rest of the year is pleasant. September to June is the rafting season. Otherwise, recommended for a visit throughout the year!
Chota Dham is closed at certain times of the year, especially in the winter season due to heavy snow, and it would be advisable to track the weather record before commencing on the trip.