the holy centres of Gangotri, Yamunotri,Badrinath and Kedarnath - collectively called the Chardham (meaning four sacred spots) - are the mostsacred of all pilgrimages .. The Chardham must be visited from left to right -beginning with Yamunotri, going on to Gangotri,
Kedarnath and culminating the journey at Badrinath.This route follows the Hindu tradition of parikrama orclockwise circumambulation.
The revered shrine of Yamunotri, source of the shadow of the 6,315 mts. high Bandarpunchh mountain.
It constitutes one of the four most important pilgrimages, collectively called 'Char Dham' of the Garhwal Himalayas.
Legend has it that a sage, Asit Muni, used to reside at this secluded spot in ancient times. The chief attraction at Yamunotri is the temple devoted to goddess Yamuna and the holy thermal springs at Jankichatti (7 km. Away).
The source of the Yamuna lies a further km. Ahead at an altitude of approximately 4421 mts. Since the approach is extremely difficult, pilgrims usually offer obeisance at the temple itself.
The present temple was constructed by Maharani Gularia of Jaipur in the nineteenth century.
The revered shrine of Gangotri, situated at an altitude of 3,200 mts. about sea-level amidst sylvan surroundings, constitutes one of the most important pilgrimages for the devout Hindu.
Visited by hundreds of thousands pilgrims every year, this 18th century temple constructed by Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa, is near the spot where the goddess Ganga is said to have first descended on earth from heaven, in answer to the prayers of King Bhagriath.
Lord Shiva received her into his matted locks to break the great force of her fall. From there it emerged into many streams and the one which started from Gangotri was called Bhagirathi.
The Pandavas, it is said, came here to perform the great 'Deva Yajna' to atone for the death of their kinsmen in the epic battle of Mahabharat. The temple itself is situated on the right bank of the Bhagirathi .
There are a number of Ashrams locked on the other side of the Bhagirathi.
The Sri Kedarnathji shrine, one of the 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva, is a scenic spot situated, against the backdrop of the majestic Sri Kedarnathji range. At an altitude of 3,581 mts. It is a 14 kms. trek from Gaurikund.
Kedar is another name of Lord Shiva the protector and the destroyer. Shiva, is considered the embodiment of all passions-love, hatred, fear, death and mysticism which are expressed through his various forms.
There are more than 200 shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva in Chamoli district itself, the most important one is Sri Kedarnathji. According to legend, the Pandavas after having won over the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra war, felt guilty of having killed their own brothers and sought the blessings of Lord Shiva for redemption. He eluded them repeatedly and while fleeing took refuge at Sri Kedarnathji in the form of a bull. On being followed he dived into the ground, leaving his hump on the surface. The remaining portions of Lord Shiva appeared at four other places and are worshipped there as his manifestations. The arms appeared at Tungnath, the face at Rudranath, the belly at Madmaheshwar and his locks (hair) with head at Kalpeshwar.
Sri Kedarnathji and the four above mentioned shrines are treated as Panch Kedar. Sri Kedarnathji is approachable on foot from Gaurikund, which is connected by road with Rishikesh, Kotdwara, Dehradun, Haridwar and other important hill stations of Garhwal and Kumaon Hills.
Situated in the lap of Nar-Narayan Parvat, with the towering Neelkanth peak (6,597mts.) in the background, Badrinath is one of the most revered Hindu shrines of India.
It has been said that "there were many sacred spots of pilgrimage in the heaven, earth and the other world but neither is there any equal to Badrinath nor shall there be one."
It is believed that to revive the lost prestige of Hinduism and to unite the country in one bond, Adi Guru Sri Shankaracharya built four pilgrimage centres in four corners of India.
Among them were Badrikashram in the north, Rameshwaram in the south, Dwarkapuri in the west and Jagannath Puri in the east. Badrinath situated at an elevation of 3,133 mts. is considered to be amongst the most pious.