‘The Char Dham Yatra’ – Seniors Say It’s The Path to Salvation
The Char Dham, or the four shrines of the Hindus situated in the four directions in India, are highly revered and sought after by them. It was Adi Shankaracharya who referred to them initially as the four Dhams. The four Dhams form a square as the Badrinath Dham in the North and Rameshwaram in the South lie on the same longitude while Jagannath Dham in the East and Dwarka in the West lies on the same latitude. These shrines are of great religious and spiritual significance to the devotees. During his ‘deshatan’ (travelling across the country), Adi Shankaracharya established four Mathas (monasteries).
These were the seats of the Hindu religion. He placed four of his senior-most disciples in the Mathas, giving them the responsibility of maintaining and preserving one of the Vedas and a mahavakya for posterity. He also organised all the sanyasis of the country and allocated them to different mathas. It is the responsibility of disciples to maintain the mathas were later addressed as Shankaracharyas. Besides the Singer matha located on Singer hills in the South, the Sharda matha at the Dwarka coast, Jyotirmath at Badrinath, and Govardhan Matha at Jagannath Puri, he also established the Kanchikamkoti matha at Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu.
Below is a table to give a clear picture of the arrangement:
|Four Peethas- established by Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya||Dwaraka Matha, Sringeri Sharada Peetham, Govardhana Matha, and Jyotir Matha.|
|Padmapāda||Acharya of the Dwaraka Matha in the West.|
|Sureśvara||Acharya of Sringeri Sharada Peetham in the South.|
|Hastāmalakācārya||Acharya of the Govardhana Matha in the East.|
|Toṭakācārya||Acharya of Jyotir Matha in the North.|
What is Char Dham?
Char Dhams are the most revered shrines of the Hindus, located in four directions in the country. They are Badrinath in the North, Jagannath Dham in the East, Rameshwaram in the South, and Dwarka in the West. Every Hindu desires to visit these shrines at least once in a lifetime and cover the char Dham yatra circuit. Devotees believe that completing the Char Dham Yatra and paying obeisance to the presiding deity at the main temple will absolve them of all their sins and attain moksha.
The four maths established by Adi Shankracharya in North, East, South, and West were the seats of the Hindu religion. In the township in that region, the main temple, several ancient temples, and shrines are built around the main temple, pilgrimage routes, springs, etc., complete the Dham. Adi Shankracharya first referred to these shrines as the Char Dham.
Origin of Real Char Dham
The real Char Dhams of the four shrines- Badrinath Dham, Jagannath Dham, Rameshwaram, and Dwarka, resemble a similar pattern. There is a main temple with other ancient temples around it. At
the main temple at Badrinath, the presiding deity is Sri Badrinarayan. At Rameshwaram, the main temple is Rameshwaram temple, and the primary god is a linga known as Ramnatha Swamy. The Jagannath Dham, the presiding deity, is Lord Jagannath, and idols of his elder brother Balbhadra and sister Subhadra are in the temple. In the temple of Dwarka or Jagat Mandir, the preceding god is Lord Krishna.
Badrinath Char Dham Yatra
Basking in the reflecting sun’s rays from the snow-covered peaks of the Nar and Narayan mountains, Badrinath is the first destination of the Char Dham parikrama/ Yatra. The shrine is located 3133 meters above sea level in the Chamoli District of Uttarakhand. An important link of the Char Dham parikrama is also a vital part of the Chota Char Dham Yatra. The yatra happens in the high-altitude Himalayas of Uttarakhand and includes Yamunotri, Gangotri, and Kedarnath.
The Badrinarayan temple is a majestic sight on the banks of the holy Alaknanda River. The installation of a 1-meter high idol of the presiding deity is in the main temple. The carving of the idol is on the shiny black stone. It is chaturbhuji (four arms). You can see two of its arms carrying a shank (conch) and chakra (wheel).
The remaining two rest on the deity’s lap in padmasana. Idols of Kuber, Uddhava, Narad Muni (sage), Nar and Narayan (sons of Dharma), goddess Lakshmi, Narsimha, Jagadguru, Adi Shankracharya, and three other saints are in the temple. These idols, too, are carved in glistening black stone.
The present temple was built in the 16th century by the king of Garhwal. The temple is a part of five temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu. This group of temples is known as Panch Badri, and visiting all of them is considered very auspicious. The town of Badrinath is also a part of the five Badris.
The panch Badri temples include Adi Badri, Bhavishya Badri, Yogdhyan Badri, VriddhaBadri, and the main Badrinath temple. You will hear several myths and legends that prevail about the inception of the Badrinath Dham.
It is said that Jagadguru Adi Shankracharya found the Badri Narayan idol in the Alaknanda river. He installed the idol in the Tapt Kund (a hot water spring nearby), and later, it was placed in a cave near the Tapt Kund. After the construction of the present temple, the idol moved there.
Before the shrine is closed for winter, a lamp is lighted and placed inside the temple. Akhanda Jyoti always keeps burning. When the temple doors reopen after the advent of summer, the lamp will be burning. On no occasion has the Jyoti burnt out. The flowers placed inside the temple are always fresh.
Situated in the Purushottama kshetra, Jagannath Puri is one of the revered links of the Char Dham parikrama/ yatra. This holiest of the holy cities is famous for the Jagannath temple, the mesmerising sea, and the eternal golden beach.
The presiding deity of the Jagannath temple is Lord Jagannath, and the main idol of the temple is Lord Vishnu. You can see idols of Lord Balbhadra, who is the elder brother of Jagannath, and his sister Devi Subhadra. Idols of siblings are on the Ratna simhasana (bejewelled pedestal). Anantaverman Chodaganga Deva constructed the temple in the 12th century.
The 65-meter-high temple was built in Kalinga architectural style. Several festivals are associated with the temple throughout the year. Devotees and tourists throng the city to participate and pay obeisance. The celebrations are:
- The Snana Yatra
- The Netrotsava
- Rath Yatra
- Sayan Ekadashi
- Chitalagi Amavasya
- Sri Krishna Janani
It is the most important ritual in the Hindu Odia calendar. The Navkalevar ritual repeats in the previous one’s 8th, 12th, or 19th year. During this process, the wooden icons of the deities follow a fixed ritual to worship in the Jagannath temple. This event consists of installing new images of the four gods in the temple and burying the Earlier ones in the area of Koili Baikuntha on the temple premises. Yanduvanshi King Ramchandra Dev first organised such a ritual in 1575 AD. It symbolises the demise and rebirth of Lord Jagannath.
The spiritual city of Rameshwaram, located in the Gulf of Munnar, is one of the links of the famous Char Dham in India. Standing between India and Sri Lanka, Rameshwaram is a holy and serene place and a popular destination for devotees and tourists alike. Being a part of the sacred Char Dham Yatra, it sees great traffic of pilgrims.
Ancient temples of historical and religious importance invoke devotion and reverence in the devotees’ minds and find solace and fulfilment in the peaceful environment of the Dham. The Ramanathaswamy temple is one of the Char Dham Yatra places to visit and one of the twelve Jyotirlinga temples. The holy pilgrimage site is for Shaivites, Vaishnavites, and Smarthas.
The presiding deity is the lingam of Ramanathaswamy (Lord Shiva). Rama established it, and he went to the temple to seek victory before crossing the bridge to conquer Lanka. King Muthuramalinga Sethupathiy built the present temple, and it has the longest corridor compared to other Hindu temples in the country.
The Hindu devotees visit Dwarka, the capital city of Lord Krishna, one of Bharat ke Char Dham. The pilgrims visit this Dham in the hope of Moksha (Salvation). The temple is named Dwarkadhish, referring to Lord Krishna, who is considered the Lord of Dwarka. The main shrine is five-storied, and 72 pillars support it.
It is estimated to be 2000 to 2500 years old. Vajranabha- the grandson of Lord Krishna, had built the original temple. Destroyed by Mahmood Begada in 1472, it was rebuilt in the 15th – 16th century and became a part of the Char Dham circuit. Adi Shankaracharya visited the shrine, and it’s a dedication to his visit.
Essentials To Carry For Char Dham Yatra
- Photo Identity Proof
- Clothes (according to the weather)
- Snacks and Dry Fruits
- First Aid Kit
- Medicines (if any prescribed)
- Mobile Charger and Power Bank
- Water Bottle
- Trekking Shoes/ comfortable footwear
- Face Mask
- Rain Coat or Umbrella
- Towel and Toiletry Kit
Best Time To Visit
The location of Badrinath Dham is at high altitude Himalayas. It faces extreme weather conditions and is closed for pilgrimage from October/November to April/May. The summer season is suitable for pilgrimage. During the monsoon months, the route/ path becomes difficult and treacherous. You must get Char Dham Yatra E-pass online registration done before embarking on the journey.
The current Char Dham highway status is that the route will soon provide connectivity in all seasons. The Chota Char Dham official website is https://badrinath-kedarnath.gov.in/, and the government tourism website of Uttarakhand is http://uttarakhandtourism.gov.in/activity/char-dham.
Although Puri has a very pleasant climate, it is advisable to visit the Dham during the winter months. The winter sun in Puri is very comforting and enjoyable.
The best time to visit Rameswaram is during the winter season. However, monsoons are good for having a really enjoyable time here.
Winter is the best time to visit Dwarka. The maximum temperature from November to February is 34 degrees C, and the minimum is 9 degrees C, and the climate usually stays cool.
Reaching The Char Dham In India
- By Air: Situated at 314 kilometres, Jolly Grant Airport is the nearest airport to Badrinath. You can get daily flights to Delhi, and you have to reach Badrinath by road from the airport.
- By Train: The nearest railway station is Rishikesh from Badrinath. It is 295 kilometres from Badrinath.
- By Road: Badrinath connects with the major destination of Uttrakhand by road.
- By Air: The Biju Patnaik Airport in Bhubaneswar is the nearest airport to Puri. It is about 56 kilometres away from Puri and connects with Delhi and Mumbai.
- By Train: Regular direct train services from all over the country are available. Since Puri is a railway junction, there is good rail connectivity.
- By Road: Puri is also well connected by road.
- By Air: At 170 km from Rameshwaram, Madurai Airport is the nearest airport to the city. After reaching Madurai, you can hire a cab or take a bus to get to the holy city.
- By Train: Rameshwaram railway station connects with cities like Thanjavur, Madurai, Trichy, Chennai, and Coimbatore.
- By Road: Rameshwaram is also well connected by road.
- By Air: Nearest airport from Dwarka is in Jamnagar, about 137 kilometres away, and it connects with cities like Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and others.
- By Train: Dwarka railway station connects to the Ahmedabad-Okha rail route.
- By Road: Dwarka is also well connected by road.
Which are the 4 Dham in India?
The Char Dham Yatra comprises the Jagannath Puri, Rameswaram, Dwarka, and Badrinath.
What are the 7 Dhams in India?
The 7 Dhams in India are
1. Jagannath Dham
2. Rameshwaram Dham
3. Dwarka Dham
4. Badrinath Dham
5. Yamunotri Dham
6. Gangotri Dham
7. Kedarnath Dham
Why is it called Char Dham?
It is known as Char Dham because there are four shrines in this parikrama that Hindu pilgrims cover.
What is the cost of Char Dham Yatra?
There is no fixed cost unless you opt for a guided tour from travel agencies.
Is Char Dham Yatra safe for seniors?
The Char Dham Yatra is safe for seniors if done at their own pace. Also, keep in mind your physical limitations.