India, land of 33 crore Gods and Goddesses is a country with its roots deep grown in religion and tradition. It’s hard to give an estimate of the number of shrines or temples that we have because there are so many of them. People from time unmemorable have made it a religious duty to visit these shrines with the belief that doing so will wipe away their sins and will lead to moksha. These are several holy abodes of Hindu deities in that are highly celebrated and have been linked to the Hindu mythological tales of dharma. But these shrines are so pure we very rarely consider them as myth. Among these, the Char Dham Yatra is the most pious and most desired pilgrimage in India.
Char Dham Yatra-its meaning
In its exact meaning, Char Dham Yatra is pilgrimage or journey to the four holy sites namely; Badrinath in Uttarakhand (North India), Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu (South India), Puri in Odisha (East India) and Dwarka in Gujarat (West India).
The Char Dham Yatra dates back to the times of Mahabharata where the Pandavas defined Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri to wipe off their sins. However, the modern concept of the Char Dham consists of Badrinath, Rameswaram, Puri and Dwarka. Hindus hold a very sacred perspective of these places and try visiting them once in a life time with a belief of achieving purity of the soul.
Not to Be Confused With Chota Char Dham
Chota Char Dham or the four small abodes are an important pilgrimage tour in the Himalayas. These four dhams are Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, located in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. If you notice, these Chota Char Dhams are exactly the ones as defined by the Pandavas. To differentiate them from the Char Dham they have been referred as Chota Char Dham.
Come let’s take a closer look at the Char Dham
Badrinath- located in the state of Uttarakhand, Badrinath rests in the Garhwal hills on the banks of Alaknanda River. This holy town lies between the Nar and Narayan mountain ranges. Lord Vishnu is worshiped here as the main deity.
Rameswaram- is located in Tamil Nadu in the South, rests in the Gulf of Mannar. It is believed that Lord Rama built the Ram Setu to Lanka. However, the Ramanathaswamy temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is worshiped as Sri Ramanatha Swamy. The linga that is worshiped here is one of the 12 Jyotirlingas.
Puri- one of the oldest cities of India, Puri is located in the state of Odisha and is situated on the coast of Bay of Bengal. The temple dates back to some 1000 years ago. Shri Krishna is worshiped here with the name of Lord Jagannath. It is interesting to know that this is the only shrine in India where Subhadra, sister of Lord Krishna is also worshiped here along with her brothers Lord Jagannath and Lord Balabhadra.
Dwarka- located in the Gujarat state in the West India, Dwarka derived its name from the Sanskrit word “dwar” meaning door. This holy place is located in the junction of River Gomti and Arabian Sea. The ancient city of Dwarka is where Lord Krishna lived once. Legends has it that the city of Dwarka was destroyed and submerged six times into the sea and the present city is the 7th such city to be emerged or built. Lord Krishna is worshiped here.
Best Time to Visit
The ideal time to visit Char Dham is between May to November, try avoiding the monsoon months.
As per traditions the Char DhamYatra starts from Puri in the East, then to Rameswaram in the South, Dwarka in the West and Badrinath in the North. But due to the scattered locations of these holy shrines, it becomes somewhat difficult to cover all these places following tradition. Thanks to the tour packages that we have today arranged by the tour companies. They can help us out by managing the trip with accordance to time.
However, there is no hard and fast rule that a pilgrim is supposed to complete all Char Dham at one go or one trip journey. The holy journey to these sacred shrines can be challenging at times but all your efforts and hard work are paid off once you step inside these abodes.