India’s obsession with religion finds its perfect expression in the hilly State of Uttarakhand which is aptly called ‘Devbhumi’ ( Land of Gods). People from far off lands including NRIs visit the sacred places of the State to attain salvation and wash off their sins. One of the prestigious pilgrimage circuits of the country christened ‘Char Dham’ includes visit to Badrinath ( seat of Lord Vishnu), Kedarnath ( seat of Lord Shiva), Gangotri and Yamonitri ( source of the origin of sacred rivers Ganga and Yamuna). The State has also got the honour of having the city of Haridwar ( gateway to the land of Gods) located across the sacred and purified flowing waters of river Ganga. Here festival of Kumbh is organised after every 12 years which is the biggest conglomeration of devotees on the Earth. In addition to this, Uttarakhand is also famous in the world for having many centres teaching the intricacies of Yoga and Ayurveda to overcome the travails of modern life and leading a healthy life.
People undertake divine excursion in this majestic land of Gods of Char Dham by going through the holiest places of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. There is comprehensive presence of temples and shrines, many dedicated to local deities or manifestations of Shiva and Durga In the State of Uttarakhand.
Badrinath is located in the beautiful surroundings of Himalayas between the mountain ranges of Nar and Narayan in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. The main deity is meditating Lord Vishnu. The term Badrinath is derived from Badri, which means a place where berries grow abundantly. There is also a hot water spring christened ‘ Tapt Kund’ located along the river Alaknanada in front of the temple which is very reinvigorating for the devotees. The door of the temple opens during April and is closed in the third week of November as winter sets in and snow falls.
Another destination in the Char Dham includes Kedarnath. Here is the famous temple dedicated to Lord Shiva which is nested in the serene and beautiful surroundings of Himalayas. Legend says that in order to evade from the Pandavas, Lord Shiva made himself hidden in the form of a bull at Kedarnath and when noticed by the Pandavas, the Lord drudge himself into the earth leaving the hump on surface. This place is a picturesque location where one can feel extremely close to Nature.
Gangotri forms part of the Char Dham Yatra. It is the place from where the river Ganga originates and then flows through the different States of the country. It is believed that Goddess Ganga took shape of a river to wash away the sins of the forefathers of King Bhagirath who undertook great penance. To reduce impact of the fall, Lord Shiva collected Ganga into his matted locks. This region is characterised by majestic glaciers and snow capped mountains amidst the lap of Nature.
Yamunotri is another destination of Char Dham Yatra. Here, the majestic river Yamuna originates and this place is famous for glaciers and hot springs. It is believed that the river is the sister of Yam, Lord of Death and whosoever takes a holy dip in the river secures a painless death.
Uttarakhand is not only famous for temples but there are also religious abode of Muslims and Sikhs. Piran Kaliyar Sharif located near Roorkee is a pilgrimage site of Muslims. It is the tomb of saint Alladin Ali Ahmad Sabir. It is believed that saint Sabir undertook great penance and never ate food for several years.
There is also Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib which is pilgrimage centre for Sikhs. It is a beautiful lake nestled among the majestic mountains. Sikhs consider it as a sacred place as a beautiful gurudwara has been built at this place.
The State is also synonymous with Yoga and Ayurveda which are the evolved sciences of India for leading a healthy, balanced and spiritual life. Both Yoga and Ayurveda offer a holistic approach to achieving mental and physical wellbeing through diet, exercise, breathing practices, herbal remedies, meditation and physical therapy. Many centres have come up in different parts of Uttarakhand which imparts training in intricacies of Yoga and Ayurveda.