Akshay Tritiya falling sometime in the end of April or early May signals the start of the Char Dham yatra season in Uttarakhand. Kedarnath Yatra by Helicopter Pilgrims gathers in lakhs to undertake the yatra covering Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath, and Kedarnath. Kedarnath is the abode of Shiva, home to one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India. It is perhaps the toughest part of the Char Dham yatra in Uttarakhand.
Located at a height of 3583 meters on the banks of the Mandakini River in the Garhwal range of Himalayas, Kedarnath is associated with Pandavas who, in their quest to seek forgiveness from Lord Shiva, pursued him in the Himalayas. He did not wish to grant pardon for the sin of killing kinsmen and hid, turning himself into a bull and then splitting himself into parts with the hump remaining at Kedarnath. The hump is represented by a triangular rock in the Garbhagriha of this ancient temple. However, the lingam is the main item of worship, supposedly a self-appeared one. The temple halls have carvings of the Pandavas, Lord Krishna, and Nandi. The temple opens on Akshay Tritiya and closes on Kartik Purnima and the idol is brought down to the winter residence at Ukhimath.
Kedarnath is located at a great height and can be reached only by traversing winding and steeply inclines path. The last motorable stage is Gauri Kund and that was washed away by the 2013 floods and subsequently restored. An alternative approach is from Sonprayag or Sitapur. In any case, it is an arduous journey of 13 to 18 km that one can undertake on foot. It takes all day. There are options for a pony ride and palanquin ride. If you do not wish to spend a lot of time and undergo physical hardship then you have the option of Kedarnath yatra by helicopter offered by a number of aviation companies.
Helicopter Kedarnath Yatra
A number of aviation companies offer helicopter yatra to Chardham destinations. shiva bhaktas may prefer to undertake a pilgrimage only to Kedarnath in which case only Kedarnath helicopter yatra can be undertaken. These helicopter services operate on a daily basis during the pilgrimage season and majority of them operate between Phata near Augustmuni and Kedarnath. There are other locations on the flight such as Sersi and Sitapur. It is also possible to charter helicopters directly from Delhi to Kedarnath. However, in the former case, pilgrims have to make their own arrangements to reach Phata by road. It is also possible to find helicopter services starting from Dehradun to Phata and onwards to Kedarnath but most of them include Badrinath as well. The flights usually take off between 6 AM to 10 AM. Those who wish for a night halt can get on board helicopters departing between 10 AM to 12 Noon. Travel time to Kedarnath is down to only 45 minutes or an hour compared to an entire day when one travels by surface.
The Advantages of Kedarnath Helicopter Yatra
- When you choose to fly the time to reach Kedarnath is cut down to an hour or so and it is safe, comfortable and convenient when you are in a helicopter that lands close to the temple site.
- The aerial view is simply stunning, something you just cannot get when you travel by road.
- You are protected from the elements to some degree as you are safely ensconced inside the helicopter.
- It may be expensive but consider the overall expenses involved in surface travel and you will find that the difference is not much.
- For those who do not have much time at their disposal or for those who are infirm or aged, helicopter Kedarnath yatra is the best solution.
- Helicopter Kedarnath Yatras enjoy the privilege of priority darshan on payment of extra charges.
Points to Keep in Mind
- Pilgrims need to be in good health and those with respiratory issues should have medication and a bottle of oxygen their pack.
- Carry only a small handbag with essentials and leave your main luggage behind. Pack some medicines and a bottle of water.
- You have to arrive at the helipad at Phata at least an hour before the helicopter lifts off.
- A biometric medical check is required and this can be done at the helipad but it is better to undergo this beforehand and have a certificate ready at the time of boarding.
- The flight may be delayed or even canceled due to inclement weather so be prepared for this eventuality.
While traditionalists and those who wish to enjoy the scenic beauties of Uttarakhand may prefer the surface mode of travel, modern pilgrims will find that Kedarnath yatra by helicopter is of an entirely different and enjoyable kind.