Known as Devbhoomi (Land of the gods), Uttarakhand is known for its revered spiritual sites and pilgrimage centres. Cocooned by the tranquil heights of the Garhwal Himalayas, the holy shrines of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath (collectively known as the Char Dham) welcome lakhs of pilgrims in the summer months. But come winter, these sites become inaccessible owing to heavy snowfall. The gates to these revered temples are shut. During this time, the presiding deities of these shrines decide to reside in lower altitudes, which are popularly known as ‘Winter Char Dham’.
Located in the district of Rudraprayag, the Omkareshwar temple in Ukhimath is the winter seat of Lord Kedarnath (Lord Shiva). A tranquil destination, Ukhimath is ideal for those seeking peace and spirituality. Annually, the symbol of Lord Shiva is brought in an elaborate procession at the onset of winter and worshipped for six months till the Kedarnath shrine opens its doors for devotees. The head priests of Kedarnath (pundits), also known as Rawals, also come down to Ukhimath. Surrounding snow-capped peaks of the Himalayan ranges render Ukhimath stunning. Some of the peaks visible from Ukhimath include Kedarnath and Neelkantha. Not just as the winter abode of Lord Kedarnath, Ukhimath is also famous for such revered shrines dedicated to several deities of the Hindu pantheon, namely Devi Usha, Lord Shiva, Lord Aniruddha and Devi Parvati, among others.
According to local legend, Pandukeshwar is the Pandava brothers (characters from the Hindu epic Mahabharata) prayed to Vasudeva and where the Udhava idol, the emissary of Lord Badri, is worshipped during winters. This place is also known as Yogadhayan Badri. It is readily accessible since it is situated in the center of Joshimath and Badrinath. Many visitors to Badrinath make a point of stopping at the magical location to pay their respects to the two temples there.
Locally popular as Khushimath, the quaint hamlet of Kharsali serves as the winter abode of Goddess Yamuna. During the cold months, due to heavy snowfall, the Yamunotri shrine becomes inaccessible. Apart from the divine presence of the goddess during the winter months, Kharsali is a charming place boasting recreational spots, thermal springs, rolling meadows and forests of oak and conifer.The temple where the goddess resided during winter is unique in terms of its construction materials – stone, wood and a mortar made from a lentil. For those looking for adventure and thrill, spend a night under the stars here. Kharsali is a popular camping spot!
While the Goddess Yamuna resides at Kharsali in the winters, Goddess Gangotri is brought to Mukhba, a small village on the banks of River Bhagirathi near Harsil. Due to excessive snowfall in the higher area during the winters, the idol of Goddess Ganga is transported down from the Gangotri temple to the Mukhba hamlet.As per local legend, Mukhba is where Chaman Rishi rested with Bhima (one of the Pandava brothers from the Hindu epic Mahabharata) when he was coming to light the holy fire at an Ashwamedha Yagna. The hamlet has two Ganga temples, one of which is modern and constructed of concrete and marbles, and the other is fashioned entire of deodar and brass. Apart from the abundance of natural beauty surrounding the Mukhba hamlet, there are few sites and attractions in and around Mukhba. Snow-capped valleys, deep pine woods, and spectacular vistas of the snow-capped peaks of Shrikanth, Hindyani, Jaonli and Sumeru, to mention a few, can all be found in the picturesque Mukhba valley. We hope that your journey to Winter Char Dham becomes comfortable and you enjoy every moment of the trip.