Passes connecting the Char Dhams of Uttarakhand
Are you aware of Bikat's version of Char Dham Yatra?
If you combine every single culture from every corner of the world the result would still not be able to meet the countless distinct and unique cultures of all the communities present in India. Just like its geography, Indian cultures are extensively varied. Known for its renowned traditions across the world, India is a melting pot of diversification of customs and religion.
With different communities devoted to different Gods, India has one of the most sacred pilgrimages in the world, the Char Dham Yatra. The Char Dhams namely Ganga, Yamuna, Vishnu and Shiva breathe in their purest incarnations up in four temples nestled in the Himalayas in seclusion.
Char Dham literally meaning “The Four Abodes” refer to the journey one takes to four holy temples located in the mountains of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Better known as the Chota Char Dham Yatra to differentiate it from the larger circuit of Char Dham sites, the four temples that comprise this yatra are Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath.
For a Hindu, this is the closest one can get to attaining heavenly bliss. Religious or not, thousands of tourists make it their mission to visit these religious sites at least once in their life and lately there has been a heavy influx of the tourists and travelers to these four temples in order to experience something so pure and divine.
The Char Dhams:
YAMUNOTRI: At a height of 3293 M on the Western Garhwal Himalayas of Uttarakhand, the holy place of Yamunotri stands proudly surrounded by snowcapped peaks, glaciers and the roaring Yamuna River, India’s second most sacred river. Being the seat of goddess Yamuna, Yamunotri is one of the pilgrimages of the Chota Char Dham Yatra. The Yamuna, “Lady of Life” originates from the Yamunotri glacier.
GANGOTRI: The Gangotri Dham at 3100 M is located in the Gangotri range of Himalayas. With its intimate relation to river Ganga, Gangotri is the holiest of all for Hindus. Being a sacred source of virtue for mankind, the river Ganga (Mother) originates from the Gangotri glacier at Gaumukh.
KEDARNATH: The Kedarnath Dham is one of the most predominant locations for the worshippers of Lord Shiva situated in the Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand. Situated at a height of 3854 M, Kedarnath has a heavenly backdrop of snowcapped mountains near the source of Mandakini River. The temple is one of the 12 Jyotirlingams. However, the road access is till Gauri Kund after which one has to trek for 14 km to reach the Kedarnath temple. With a splendid and tranquil spiritual atmosphere hovering around the temple the Kedarnath Temple has the best possible settings one can ever imagine. With the mighty Kedarnath Peak (6940 M) standing tall behind the temple, Kedarnath is spectacularly glorious.
BADRINATH: Located in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand at a height of 3133 M, Badrinath is the abode of Lord Vishnu. Considered as the holiest of all the shrines of Char Dham Yatra, Badrinath is extremely scenic with the colossal Neelkanth Peak shining bright on all the pilgrims that visit this sacred town. With convenient road access and a relatively easy walk to the temple, Badrinath is 3 km from Mana, the last village before the Indo-Tibet border. The dreamlike settings and vistas surrounding Badrinath make it a place where sanctity and tranquility meet.
The country has worked over the years to improve the connectivity to these far-off divine pilgrimage sites for pilgrims and tourists. With good road connectivity followed by a hike over a much more convenient and less hectic path to the temples, hundreds and thousands of people visit these holy temples to fulfill their dreams and desires. From ample choices of transport, mules and ponies, porters to carry the less abled, to helicopter tours, devotees have a choice between reaching the temples on foot or to reach by one of those means.
Devotees and tourists can choose mule rides to reach the temple comfortably
But long before the construction of roads and highways, priests and pujaris would regularly perform prayers in these religious sites.
How would they commute from one temple to the other if there were no roads, literally no connectivity?
Here comes an interesting fact, each of these four temples is connected to one another by high altitude mountain passes which pierce their way through the mighty Himalayan ranges and glaciers. Linking these sacred sites, the journey along these arduous trails is truly a test of the human spirit. Priests and people would brave these crosses through some of the harshest terrains and weather conditions with bare minimum necessities in order to fulfill their duly duties at the abode of Gods.
There are four mountain passes which couple these four religious shrines.
The majestic Dhumdhar Kandi Pass connects Gangotri and Yamunotri. The herculean Panpatia Col connects Kedarnath and Badrinath. The formidable Kalindi Khal connects Gangotri and Badrinath. Whereas, the legendary Auden’s Col connects Gangotri and Kedarnath.
But back then these trails and passes did not have these names, probably they were not named at all. But the legends and myths associated with these trails and the mountain peaks towering over these passes attracted explorers from all nooks and corners of the world to follow the same path as the priests did and in the process ended up discovering these passes and named the same.
Since these discoveries, people have been keen on undertaking treks to these lofty passes looking for a challenge and achieve something extraordinary. Now operators organize treks along these routes but they are only known to the most avid and experienced trekkers as these treks are no walk in a park. These treks demand utmost dedication and extreme fitness along with technical skills and knowledge.
While most do the pilgrimage this way...
Some choose to do it this way...
However, both do it with the same devotion.
We are fascinated with these giant treks as much as you are. So, here we emphasize on these godly passes and treks that connect the holy pilgrimage sites and you get to experience the Char Dham Yatra with a twist.
1) DHUMDHAR KANDI PASS - GANGOTRI & YAMUNOTRI
The Dhumdhar Kandi Pass lies at 5490 M (18,012 FT) with these two sacred sites at either end. With two giant glaciers on either side of the pass, only the most experienced trekkers must undertake this monster. Passing right by the base of Black Peak (Kalanag), the trail takes you through vast alpine meadows, the sacred Ruinsara Lake, treacherous moraines and crevassed glaciers.
Complicated terrain and unforeseeable weather conditions make the Dhumdhar Kandi Pass Trek an excellent adventure through some of the most rigorous trails. The trek gives you unbelievable views of Swargarohini, Bandarpoonch, Black Peak and Yellow Tooth. A breathtaking chance to walk amongst the most prominent giants of the Garhwal Himalayas.
This trek can commence from Taluka near the Yamunotri region and end at Jhala in the Gangotri region or vice versa, covering a total distance of about 75 km in 12 days.
2) AUDEN'S COL - GANGOTRI & KEDARNATH
The legendary Auden’s Col links Gangotri with Kedarnath at a massive altitude of 5490 M (18,012 FT).
Auden’s Col is a high pass binds a glacier of Jogin I on the north side of Rudugaira Valley and the treacherous Khatling glacier on the south side of Bhilangna Valley. The summit connects the ridge of Gangotri III Peak (6580 M) on the north-west and the ride coming from Jogin I (6465 M) on the east. Often considered as the tri-pass trek of the Garhwal Himalayas, the Auden’s Col trek takes explorers across Patangani Dhar (4900 M), Auden’s Col (5490 M) followed by Mayali Pass (5050 M).
Meant only for the most experienced trekkers with extreme fitness level, the trail hosts spellbinding campsites, rough moraines, crevassed snowfields, difficult ridges, narrow cliffs, and endless glaciers. Offering magnificent views of peaks like Rudragaira, Gangotri Group, Jogin Group, Bhagirathi Group and Kedar Dome, this awe-inspiring trek is a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness the raw and brutal beauty of nature. The exacting Khatling Glacier infested with crevasses will push you to the limits and put you through a whirlwind of thrill. Apart from the surreal landscapes and terrain, the trek also presents to you two of the most fantastic lakes namely Masar Tal and Vasuki Tal.
The best way to undertake this trek is to start from the town of Gangotri itself and end at Kedarnath completing 75 km in 14 days.
3) PANPATIA COL - KEDARNATH & BADRINATH
The monumental Panpatia Col unites Kedarnath and Badrinath at a staggering altitude of 5260 M (17,258 FT).
Panpatia Col is one of the least traversed passes in the Indian Himalayas. Often considered as the herculean of the trekking world, Panpatia Col is one of the most exotic trails that can be conquered only by the best of the best. The legend associated with this pass says that once upon a time there was a priest who would perform morning prayers in Kedarnath and then cross mountains and glaciers to reach Badrinath to perform the evening prayers in a single day. This myth attracted explorers in search of a route connecting these two temples and in the process, the Panpatia Col was discovered and mapped.
Lying between two unnamed 5000M + peaks, the Panpatia Col trek takes trekkers across a demanding terrain with rocky moraines, narrow cliffs, crevassed glaciers and the sensational 7 km long Panpatia snowfield. One has to be technically sound to undertake this trek successfully. With the gargantuan peaks of Neelkanth, Balakun, Hathi Parvat, and Dhauliganga within arms reach, this trekking behemoth is one of the most pristine and sublime treks in the Indian Himalayas giving you an unparalleled experience.
The Panpatia Col Trek is 60 km long best done starting from the Alaknanda Camp near Badrinath and end it at Ransi near Kedarnath in 11 days.
4) KALINDI KHAL - GANGOTRI & BADRINATH
Behold the godfather of all treks!
Kalindi Khal connects Gangotri with Badrinath at an insane height of 6000 M (19,685 FT) in the spectacular Garhwal Himalayas. With a trek of about 100 km, the Kalindi Khal is an adventure-packed trek where the use of technical mountaineering equipment is a necessity. Meant only for the toughest and the most experienced trekkers with exceptional fitness level, the Kalindi Khal trek is inarguably the toughest and the most badass trek there is in the Indian Himalayas.
With sensational campsites of Gangotri such as Kedarkharak and Tapovan, the trek is loaded with rough glaciers, rocky scree, crevassed snowfields, mind-numbing altitude, several lakes, tapering cliffs, and the toughest pass climb of your life, this trek takes you on a rollercoaster ride of thrill. With unmatched views of some of the highest peaks like Shivling, Meru, Kedar Dome, Bhagirathi, Nilkantha, Kamet, Mana, Avalanche Peak and Abi Gamin, the Kalindi Khal Trek is going to be the best and the most out-of-the-world experience one can ever have in their life.
Mystical settings and astounding landscapes around the trail will make you realize that there is nothing greater than this trek. A perfect pilgrimage between Gangotri and Badrinath.
The recommended start point of this trek is from the town of Gangotri itself and end it at Badrinath over a mind-blowing distance of 100 km in 14 days.
These astonishing trails connecting the Char Dhams of Uttarakhand cannot be traversed by everyone. Only the most experienced trekkers can successfully complete these mega treks and enjoy the fruits of success. The presence of gods in these trails is not only just perceived but strongly felt.
The reason we have put forth this article is to crank up the Char Dham Yatra to the holiest pilgrimage sites and put a spin on it.
Why not combine adventure with spirituality and serenity with divinity?
If you want to do something in life then do it differently and move away from the usual. Instead of going around the dominant and ferocious Himalayan passes and glaciers, why not go straight through it?
Yes, there are obstacles. Yes, it is unimaginably difficult. Yes, it is going to be cold. Yes, there will be risks. Yes, you will be exhausted. Yes, the terrain will be unforgiving. Yes, the weather is going to be tormenting.
But, the end reward is going to be the ultimate achievement of your life.
After all, this is how the Gods did it.