If you're one for the union of the soul and the mind, and spiritual peace is something you're searching for, embark on the "tirthyatra" to the Char Dham.

Popularly known as the Chhota Char Dham, a trip to these holy shrines will take you to the scintillating picture that the Indian state of Uttarakhand is. There are four holy abodes situated in the Garwahl region of the Himalayan state.

The sparkling Himalayan peaks are a canvas of beauty and background to the four sacred sites. Hinduism marks this pilgrimage as one of the five duties for practicing Hindus, along with Dharma, Worship, Sanskaras and religious festivals. A pilgrim finds this experience to be an intimate connection with God. The rough terrain, whimsical weather, limited supply of food pose an exercise in willpower, and achieving the ultimate becomes an event of exhilarating joy.

The four temples, Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath make up the four Dhams.

Yamunotri, about 3293 metres above sea level, 40 km from Barkot, is dedicated to Goddess Yamuna. The glacial origin of River Yamuna, this temple opens on the auspicious occasion of Akshay Tritiya.

The beginning of Ganges at Gangotri, dedicated to Goddess Ganga, opens on Akshay Tritiya and closes on Bhai Duj.

On the Mandakini River, stands the Kedarnath, dedicated to Lord Shiva, the opening day of which is decided on Shiv Ratri.

The Badrinath, home to Lord Vishnu, on the Alakananda opens its gates on a day decided by the Raj Purohit on Basamt Panchami.

The conventional route for the Char Dham Yatra maps from the Yamunotri in the west to the Badrinath in the east. The holy water from Yamunotri and Gangotri shrines are collected and offered as "abhishekams" to Kedareshwara.

This pilgrimage route is one of the most popular ones, having a footfall close to 2.5 lakhs, aspiring for salvation or Moksha. The temples are nestled in the lofty peaks of Garwahl Himalayas which is a work of beauty. The steep valleys, the lush green mountains, the fresh air is an opportunity for vacationers to witness the heavenly natural beauty of the stretch amidst the majestic locations.

The route can be covered in anywhere between 10-12 days. Thanks to the altitude, some services now offer helicopter rides over the place which will cover your journey in 2 days.

The Yatra is shut down in winter due to heavy snowfall for six months.

Tips:

1. Make sure you pack heavy woollens, including thermal body warmers, raincoats, sleeping bags, blankets, water-proof shoes with sufficient grips. Women might want to avoid sarees.

2. Carry torches, insect repellants, suncreens, moisturizers.

3. Pack am emergency kit replete with all required medicines, antiseptics, band-aids.

4. Drink bottled water. Consume well cooked food. Carry dry eatables.

5. The Yatra involves a high altitude trek of 1400 metres. Ensure full physical and mental fitness. An exercise regime 3 months prior to the pilgrimage.

6. Make sure you hire certified porters and pony riders to avoid any mishap.

Picture Credits: Flickr Images

All the Best!

AdiĆ³s until next time on InkMyTravel!

SREEJA GHOSH