Kedarnath, one part of the Chota Char Dham

Kedarnath, one part of the Chota Char Dham

Hinduism has a strong emphasis on pilgrimages. India has no shortage of temples and holy sites, all of them revered and worshiped by several sects and communities. And some of these sites are supposed to be holier than others, and a pilgrimage to these sites can bring you closer to the gods, fulfill your innermost wishes and/or absolve you of your sins. But the Uttarakhand tourism department has a plan that will also bring you closer to the mythology of the Mahabharata. It plans to revived an ancient trekking trail that is said to have been used 3,000 years ago by the Pandavas, the five protagonist brothers of the epic tale. ALSO READ: History of Char Dham Temples: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath temples in Uttarakhand are worth a visit Also Read - Coronavirus in Uttarakhand: CM Rawat, Cabinet Members Under Home Quarantine After Minister Tests Positive

The trekking route will take pilgrims to the Char Dham in Uttarakhand. The state is home to the town of Badrinath, one quarter of the Char Dham Yatra that takes pilgrims to four corners of the country in search of enlightenment. It is also part of the Chota Char Dham, a circuit of four abodes or seats of a higher power right within Uttarakhand. Gangotri, Kedarnath and Yamunotri make up the other three quarters of the Chota Char Dham Yatra, which has picked up in popularity since then 1950s. The Char Dham was the creation of 8th-century godman Adi Sankara. Also Read - 'No Massive Forest Fires in Uttarakhand': Forest Department Clarifies Fake News, Cautions Against 'Wrong' Pictures Shared Despite Rain

The tourism department is offering INR 100,000 and INR 51,000 cash prizes for those who will offer inputs that can help map out the fabled trekking route. Maps, photographs, stop-over points and other helpful details are welcome. Blind and physically challenged applicants are eligible for third and fourth place prizes of INR 21,000 and INR 10,000 as well. Satpal Maharaj, state tourism minister, hopes that the trek, which will likely take pilgrims through remote villages, will boost the region’s economy. He said that around 2,000 trekkers make the 230km route through Annapurna Peak in Nepal. Also Read - '2020 Is So Cruel': Heartbreaking Visuals of Uttarakhand Forest Fires Emerge on Twitter, Netizens Appeal For Help

The ancient Char Dham route is being envisioned along the same lines as the famed Inca circuit of Peru that was established in 1450. The route, which thousands of tourists frequent every year, takes them through important sites of the ancient Incan civilization. Under the plan, tourist packages will be offered that cover all four points of the Chota Char Dham or different combinations of fewer destinations. The rest stops will be updated with basic amenities, which will be beneficial to locals as well in the long run, according to Maharaj.

Speaking about the ancient trekking route, historian Girija Pandey said that travelers of the past took several routes to reach the four abodes of the Chota Char Dham. Some would take the Rishikesh- Bamori- Kathgodam-Bheemtal trail, while others would divert from Naini and head to Bageshwar-Adi Badri-Simli-Karnaprayag and Chamoli-Badrinath. Some have also talked about a route to Kedarnath from Triyuginarayan. NOW READ: Gangotri photos: These Gangotri temple pictures portray the significance of Uttarakhand Char Dham Yatra 2017

‘Been There, Doon That’, a local walkers’ and trekkers’ group, has already managed to locate the rest stops along the route, many of which are reportedly in a bad state. River crossings, cave shelters and other natural features have also been identified and recorded, and the routes have been digitally mapped.