From the chronicle of December 2017 – I was trying hard to squeeze my eyes to get a better vision of Himalayan ranges through the telescope mounted on top of Lal Tibba, Mussoorie. “Madamji…you must visit the char dhams, they are not only places of spiritual but also adventures” said the tourist guide, who by now had got used to my craving for the Himalayas. Controlling the flash of desire to say can we go now! I flushed the thought deep into my heart and promised myself a trip to Char Dhams soon.
The traditional belief of Char Dham Yatra comprises of a trip to set of four pious places, which includes Badrinath, Dwaraka, Puri and Rameshwaram. The ancient pilgrimage sites that nestle in the Himalayan ranges comprising of Yamnotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath, is called Chota char dham and popularly known as CHAR DHAM.
Since the ‘Dham Yatras’ aka travels in the Himalayan ranges provides a traveller not only an essence of spirituality but also a sense of adventure. The Dham yatras in the state of Uttarakhand gives a series of unforgettable moments to the traveller.
The preparation – Season, Travel Route, Self-care..
Before taking up the journey – the ‘Dham’ travel seeks preparation from the traveller both mentally and physically. Firstly, important thing is to decide the journey dates. Generally, the dates for travel open from the day of Akha-Trij or Akha-Teej (in the month of May) and closes 2 days after Diwali, on the day of Bhai-Bij (or Bhai Dooj). A traveller should also remember that in the month of July and August, roadblocks and landslides are more frequent than usual. Considering the weather condition, the best months to travel through Himalayan ranges is the May and June and the other set of months to consider can be September and October, after this period the doors of the temple closes till May next.
Second important aspect is towards physical fitness. Travelling on the mountains calls for mountain sickness, acclimatizing to weather conditions and food pattern is a major challenge. The third important point to consider is the mode of travel. There are innumerable travel agents who assist you in travel plan. A traveller like me who prefers to be on their own can hire a taxi and plan the schedule according to our own convenience and comfort. The 10 to 15-day travel plan can increase or decrease depending on the pocket size of the traveller. It is important to remember the travel to Char Dham begins from Hardwar or Dehradun, which then means the ‘Yatri’ should reach one of the destinations to proceed further. From Delhi, there are innumerable bus services to reach Hardwar and most of them start from Shivaji Terminal Metro station.
Then comes the need for accommodation. If you are on a package tour then the travel agent will take care of lodging and boarding during the tour. However, it is you who should book your accommodation at Hardwar. In Hardwar, there are innumerable hotels and ashrams for the traveler to choose. It is good to be near Railway or Bus-station, for the sake of convenience, as devotees gather in Hardwar for more than one reason. Generally, Hardwar is one such religious place which is always is overbooked so advance booking is always a smart decision.
What goes in the bag pack?
Now with travel date, package and other logistics fixed, let’s focus on the what goes in your bag pack. Whatever the temperature in your hometown is, carry good warm clothes. Your baggage should include a pair of two thermals, cap, gloves, and a jacket. Mountains tend to go cold by night. Most of the hotels provide geyser facility, but to get hot water in a very cold temperature at times is a challenge. Do not overstuff your bag with fancy clothes, but definitely carry enough comfortable clothes required for the entire span of the journey. Since there could be a sudden change in the weather and frequent landslides which could turn the situation adverse, your program may change at any point of time and you may be stalled on roads for hours, keeping such situations in mind it is good to carry dry fruits and peppermints. Eat a lot of fruits and drink enough water to avoid dehydration. The bag pack should also carry emergency medicines for nausea, headache, mountain sickness, and few paracetamols. Toiletries should include wet wipes; instead of an umbrella, it is better to carry a raincoat, comfortable walking shoes and an extra pair of socks.
Sanitary amenities around;
It is appreciative of State Government and private stakeholders for having set up enough toilets on the roads you travel and in case of emergencies, no hotel irrespective of size will refuse to permit the traveller to use the washrooms. With a series of small dhaba like hotels, fresh food or tea is never a problem.
Well…Well, we are now ready to explore ‘Char Dham’. Let’s get on to wheels and start zooming. We will discover the beauty of the places we are destined gradually.
– Dr Nandini Lakshmikantha