Garhwal and the Pilgrimage (Yatra)

The shrines of Kedarnath, Yamunotri, Gangotri and Badrinath are visited by hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims each summer. They come from all corners of the subcontinent to engage in what Dalrymple calls “a modern-day Indian Canterbury Tales”. Garhwal's fragmented political history gives no clue as to the region's religious significance. The sources of the Yamuna and the Ganga, and some of Hinduism's holiest mountains, lie in the heart of the region. Since the seventh-century Tamil saint Sankaracharya travelled north on his mission to reinvigorate Hinduism's northern heartland, some have been watched over permanently by South Indian priests. The most famous is the Rawal - head priest - at the Badrinath temple, who to this day comes from Kerala. Badrinath is one of the four dhams, 'holiest abodes' of the gods. Along with Dwarka, Puri and Ramesvaram, they mark the cardinal points of Hinduism's cultural geography. After a ritual purificatory bathe in the Ganga at Haridwar and, preferably, Rishikesh, the pilgrim begins the 301-km journey from Haridwar to Badrinath. The purpose is to worship, purify and acquire merit. Roads go all the way to Gangotri and Badrinath, and to within 14 km of Yamunotri and Kedarnath. The correct order for pilgrims is to visit the holy places from west to east: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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