Beyond Chardham, lesser known shrines in Uttarakhand await pilgrims
Beyond the pilgrimage to Chardham in Uttarakhand, there are lesser known pilgrim destinations in the state that can be promoted. The annual yatra to Gangotri and Yamunotri has begun, and the pilgrimage to Badrinath and Kedarnath will start this month- enddehradun Updated: Apr 21, 2018 21:59 IST
Beyond the pilgrimage to Chardham in Uttarakhand, there are lesser known pilgrim destinations in the state that can be promoted. The annual yatra to Gangotri and Yamunotri has begun, and the pilgrimage to Badrinath and Kedarnath will start this month- end.
With less traffic congestion and enveloped in an aura of serenity and piety, many temples are located in picturesque surroundings with invaluable legacy and cultural heritage. Though they could be a big source of revenue to the government, very little has been done to publicise these places and attract pilgrims who come for the popular Char Dham yatra every year.
“We are encouraging people to visit other religious places as well. With the help of the central government under the Swadesh Darshan project, we are in the process of starting circuits, which will attract tourists to lesser known religious spots,” said tourism secretary Dilip Jawalkar.
Home town of Indian army chief Bipin Rawat and national security adviser Ajit Doval, Pauri has some striking beauty that makes it different from other districts. With a healthy ecosystem, the district is home to significant religious destinations.
Dhari Devi temple, located on the banks of the Alaknanda river about 15 kms from Srinagar, comes on the way to Badrinath and Kedarnath. Regarded as a sacred place of worship, the shrine evokes curiosity among devotees.
The temple is home to the upper half of the idol of the goddess Dhari; the lower half of the idol is located at Kalimath in Rudraprayag district, where she is worshipped as a manifestation of the goddess Kali. The deity is considered the guardian of Uttarakhand and revered as the protector of Char Dhams.
Kandoliya temple and Nagraja temple could also be of interest to the pilgrims.
Though pilgrims in large numbers visit Kedarnath every year, very few make it to the rest of Panch Kedar temples in the yatra season.
Rudranath temple, situated at a height of 2286 metres in Chamoli district, is one of the Panch Kedars, and the face of Lord Shiva is worshipped here. The back side of Lord Shiva is worshipped at Kedarnath, while His tresses are worshipped at Kalpeshwar (2200 metres) in Urgam valley of Chamoli district.
The navel and arms of the Lord are worshipped at Madmaheshwar (3265 metres) and Tungnath (3657 metres) in Rudraprayag district.
Though the 21-km-long trek from Sagar village near Gopeshwar to Rudranath is considered one of the toughest, the route is rich in scenic beauty, as it meanders through thick alpine forests and green pastures against the backdrop of snow-clad mountains. Trek to the rest of the Panch Kedars is also breathtaking.
A cluster of temples in Narayan Koti, which is associated with the Pandavas, and the temple of Damyanti, the queen of King Nal at Nala village near Guptkashi, on route to Kedarnath could be a popular tourist attraction, but they lack maintenance and publicity.
Nearly equidistant from the national capital and state capital (about 350km), Almora is one of the picturesque places in Uttarakhand. And its temples are mystical.
Katarmal, Chitai Golu, Jageshwar, Binsar, Baijnath, Garhnath and over a dozen more temples have significance for the Hindus.
It is believed the Pandavas hid in Pandu Kholi, an ancient temple, to dodge Duryodhona. Katarmal is a sun temple, Rudreshwar Mahadev Temple is an abode of Lord Shiva, and Dunagiri is the Shakti Peeth of goddess Durga.
Natural water bodies attract people from India and abroad round the year to Nainital, the most popular tourist destination in Uttarakhand. Apart from its lakes and scenic beauty, temples in the district are a must visit if one is on a religious tour to the state.
About 300 km from Delhi and 283 km from Dehradun, Nainital gives spiritual offerings to pilgrims.
Kainchi Dham was established by Neem Karoli Baba. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, visited the temple and also suggested to Mark Zuckerberg, who launched Facebook, to visit the temple. Since then, the spot has been famous among foreigners.
Besides, Naina Devi, Pashan Devi, Garjiya Devi, Golu Devta, Mukteshwar temple and Hanuman Garhi are a must visit.