It has been a dream of mine and my mum’s to visit India for a while. I am so lucky to say that we were able to fulfill that dream upon returning last month from a once in a lifetime trip that we will never forget!
The purpose of our trip was the Char (four) Dham (abode) Yatra (journey). In essence, the Char Dhar Yatra is a highly revered pilgrimage for Hindus and one is considered very fortunate if they are able to complete it. There are four sites that have temples dedicated to different Hindu gods and are located high in the Himalayan Mountains at the glacial sources that eventually form the sacred Yamuna and Ganges Rivers.
Here is a basic map I created (not to scale of course) to show our journey:
Our trip started out by flying from Vancouver to New Delhi and staying a couple of nights to do some sightseeing. The weather was scorching in Delhi, around 40° Celsius, but after all of the rain in Vancouver it was much welcomed by us! Plus, the Char Dham Yatra can only be embarked upon during 6 months of the year (May to October) when the snow has melted and the temples are open.
After exploring all the beautiful wonders of Delhi (old, new and super new as our tour guide told us) we made our way to Rishikesh. At the foot of the Himalayas, we were amongst endless peaks and you cannot help but feel a deep sense of peace from within. Whilst in Rishikesh, we visited a few ashrams, walked across the Ram Jhula and Lakshman Jhula and then in the evening we did the awe-inspiring Ganga Aarti at the Triveni Ghat (confluence of the Ganges, Yamuna and Saraswati Rivers).
Barkot was our next stop and the start of the first dham, Yamunotri. Here we stayed in fancy tents, met some amazing people and despite bouts of rain and roaring thunder, just sitting outside our tent with our cups of chai, admiring the breathtaking view, it felt like heaven.
The next day we drove to Janki Chatti and from here we trekked to Yamunotri. It was a beautiful 6km trek and it took us about 3 hours to reach the temple. The temple is located at the source of the Yamuna River to worship Goddess Yamuna, the daughter of the Sun God, Surya and sister of Yama, the God of Death. Once we reached the top, we dipped our feet into one of the hot springs and then did darshan and puja inside the temple.
The next drive was from Barkot to Uttarkashi, where we settled for a night and then began the drive to Gangotri temple early the next morning. The Gangotri temple is dedicated to the Ganges River and the glacier here is one the largest in the Himalayas!
During our travels we enjoyed leaving very early in the morning, around 5am, as the drive each day was quite long and the temples can get very busy. Our driver, named Gopal, was fantastic! Driving through Himalayas there are many twists and turns, you’re on the edge of the cliffs and with one-way traffic I’m almost surprised we made it!
After Gangotri we made our way to Guptkashi and bumped into friends that we had met at the Barkot camps! They were also staying at the same campsite again and it was nice to stay up late, under the starlight sky and share our experiences so far with each other.
The next day we flew by helicopter to the third dham, Kedarnath, to visit the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. To make it even more special, this is also the place where Adi Shankacharya took samadhi.
Following the icy peaks at Kedarnath, we drove to the final dham, Badrinath. The Badrinath temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, it was so vibrant with its array of colours. We also took our time in Badrinath to admire the mountain views and sit and reflect on our wonderful journey. As well, we went to Mana village, the last Indian village before the China border, to visit the Vyas gufa which is the cave where Vyas composed the Mahabharata!
Once we had visited all four dhams, we headed back to Rishikesh to relax and rejuvenate after the long journey. After a few nights at Rishikesh, we went to Hardiwar to visit some temples and do the famous Ganga Aarti before going back to Delhi to fly back home.
So that concludes our Char Dham Yatra experience and what an amazing experience it was! We made lots of friends, learned so much about India, and made a lifetime of memories. Of course it came with challenges like over 3 hour line ups at the temples, sensory overload with honking of cars and having literally no personal space at times, but it wouldn’t be a journey without a few bumps in the road… literally!