Yatras are Hindu pilgrimages made to places that are usually associated with the Hindu epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata or any other sites of pilgrimage. Every year, thousands of devotees embark on a strenuous yatra to different places in India, since they believe that going on one such journey will cleanse them off all the sins.
India's rich traditions are easily reflected through the number of religiously significant places that are visited by pilgrims throughout the country. Certain sites are so revered that they are visited in millions by Hindu pilgrims from all over the world. Here are 7 such places where yatras are conducted every year.
Amarnath Yatra undertaken by Hindu pilgrims is a 43 km long trek to the cave shrine of Amarnath that is perched at a fearsome altitude of 12,756 ft in the Himalayas. Every year, about 600,000 devotees go through with this holy trek to witness the divine cave shrine.
The trek usually begins from Chandanwari and Nunwan base camps at Pahalgam and stops at Sheshnag Lake and Panchtarni camp during the nights. The peak time to do this yatra is between July and August, when the Shravani Mela festival falls.
PC: Vamsi Krishna
Puri Rath Yatra
Rath Yatra is a chariot festival and the one that takes place in Puri is one of the oldest Rath Yatras in existence. The elaborately and beautifully decorated chariots are taken from the Jagannath Temple to Gundicha Temple, that houses idols of Lord Krishna, Godess Subhadra and Lord Balarama each.
The Puri Rath Yatra is celebrated since it is believed that Lord Krishna returns home during Janmashtami, that falls in months of June or July every year. Devotees from all over the country crowd Puri during this time and wish to pull the chariot since they believe it to be extremely auspicious.
Char Dham is a circuit of four pilgrimage sites spread across India, that is, Badrinath, Dwarka, Rameswaram and Puri. These places are believed to have been defined by the Pandavas of Mahabharata, as the sites where one can wash off all their sins.
Jagganath Temple of Puri, Dwarkadhish Temple of Dwaraka, Badrinath Temple of Badrinath and Rameswaram temples are the main shrines of this pilgrimage. Tourism department is now improving better connectivity to these four sites.
Vaishno Devi Yatra
The yatra to Vaishno Devi Temple is a 13 km trek that is undertaken by thousands of devotees every year. This cave shrine is nestled at a height of 5,200 ft at the Himalayan foothills.
A popular belief about Vaishno Devi is that many devotees can actually hear a call from Devi herself and such devotees are believed to take up this yatra at any cost.
Since the pilgrim can be strenuous on elderly or very young people, palanquins and horses are available that take pilgrims up the hill.
PC: Kapil Pal
Varanasi, also known as Kashi, is one of the oldest Hindu pilgrimage sites of India. Spread with temples and ghats of the holy river Ganga, Varanasi has been visited by millions of pilgrims every year. Kashi Yatras can be of various kinds.
Some of these yatras are Gauri Yatra, Jal Tirth Yatra, Durga Devi Yatra, to name a few. These yatras will take you through the many temples of Varanasi, such as Kashi Vishwanath Temple, Parshwanath Jain Temple, etc., and ghats like Dhashahshwamedh Ghat, Manikarnika Ghat, etc.
Packaged tours to these yatras are available in plenty, with differing number of days according to your convenience.
Kailash Mansarovar Yatra
Perched at a startling height of 22,000 ft, Mount Kailash is a peak in the Kailash mountain ranges that is believed to be home to Lord Shiva. It is one of the most important sites of Hindu pilgrimage that can be a herculean task to reach. The yatra can be done by people of 18 to 70 years of age.
The goal of this yatra is to circumambulate the Mount Kailash peak and then take a dip in the holy Mansarovar Lake. It is believed that by doing so, a man will be cleared of all his sins. There are two routes to reach the peak, one goes through Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand, while the other is through Nathu La pass in Sikkim.
PC: Vijay Kiran
Chota Char Dham Yatra
Apart from the bigger circuit, a smaller circuit known as Chota Char Dham is situated in Uttarakhand. Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath (from west to east) are the four places of Uttarakhand, all situated in the Garhwal region, that make the Chota Char Dham.
Pilgrimage to the four holy shrines of these places are more common, that takes about 10-14 days to be completed. April to July during Akha-Teej or October and November during Diwali is the peak season to plan a pilgrimage to the Chota Char Dham.