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Char Dhams – The four most sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites

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Char Dhams - The four most sacred Hindu pilgrimage sites

The Char Dhams literally meaning “four abodes” in Hindi, refers to four holiest pilgrimage sites in India. These sites located in four different directions of the country are considered highly sacred by Hindus. Three of the abodes are dedicated to Lord Vishnu, while one is devoted to Lord Shiva. Geographically, the location of the four temples forms the perfect square as Badrinath and Rameshwaram fall on the exact longitude while Dwarka and Puri fall on the same latitude. It is believed that visiting the four abodes helps a person attain moksha or salvation. Each abode represents the four yugas. While Badrinath represents Satyuga, Rameshwaram represents Tretayuga, Dwarka represents Dwaparyuga, and Puri represents Kaliyuga.

Each of the Dhams is devoted to preserving one of the sacred Vedas. For instance, the Jyothir Mutt in Badrinath was assigned to protect Atharva Vega, Sharada Mutt in Dwaraka to preserve Sama Veda, Govardan Mutt to preserve Rig Veda, and Sringeri Sharadha Mutt in Chikkamanguluru to preserve Yajur Veda.

It is believed that every Hindu should undertake the Char Dham Yatra, or pilgrimage, at least once in their lifetime to attain moksha, or liberation from the cycle of rebirth. As per the ancient scriptures, the journey to the Char Dhams must begin with the Puri Jagannath Temple in the east and proceed clockwise as a circumambulation or pradakshina. Many service providers offer a Char Dham Yatra by helicopter.

The Jagannatha Puri Temple dedicated to Lord Krishna is over 1000 years old. It is situated on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. The temple is dedicated to Lord Jagannath, a form of Lord Vishnu, the preserver god in the Hindu trinity. It is one of the only temple where Lord Krishna an avatar of Lord Vishnu is venerated along with his siblings Subadra and Balarama and is particularly renowned for its annual Rath Yatra, or chariot festival, in which the deities of Jagannath, Balabhadra (his brother), and Subhadra (his sister) are taken out in grand processions on elaborately decorated chariots.

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The temple is an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus. The temple complex is vast and includes several smaller temples, shrines, and administrative buildings. The main deities and the Sudarshana Chakra are made from neem wood. The temple enshrines the wooden deities of Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra, which are replaced in a unique ceremony called the Navakalevara (nine new forms) every 12 or 19 years. The main temple structure, known as the “Bada Deula,” or the main shrine, is an impressive example of Kalinga architecture and is adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures.

Also Read: The 12 Jyotirlingas of Lord Shiva

The Jagannath Temple is also known for its strict entry rules, as only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple premises. Non-Hindus can view the temple from a designated platform outside the main complex.

The Jagannath Temple is known for its “Mahaprasad,” cooked in the temple kitchen.

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The Temple, also known as the Dwarka Temple, is dedicated to Lord Krishna, who is worshipped here in his form as Dwarkadhish, the King of Dwarka. The Temple literally symbolizes Gateway of Moksha and stands where Dwarka, the ancient kingdom established by Krishna, once existed. It is believed that the original abode of Krishna was submerged in the sea and the modern-day temple was built over the site over 2,500 years later by Vajranabh, the great-grandson of Lord Krishna. The main deities here include Dwarkadheesh, Balrama, Pradyumna, and Anirudha, the last two being the grandsons of Lord Krishna.

The temple is considered one of the holiest places in Hinduism and is mentioned in ancient texts like the Mahabharata and the Skanda Purana. According to legend, Dwarka was the capital of Lord Krishna’s kingdom, and the temple is believed to have been built on the site where his palace once stood.

Also Read: Tallest Shiva statues in the world

The Dwarkadhish Temple is a significant pilgrimage site and attracts thousands of devotees every year, especially during festivals like Janmashtami (Krishna’s birthday) and Sharad Purnima. The temple is renowned for its elaborate architecture, especially its spire, which rises to a height of 78 meters and is visible from a considerable distance.

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The temple complex is large and includes several shrines, courtyards, and assembly halls. The main deity of the temple, Lord Dwarkadhish, is believed to be made of black stone and is adorned with elaborate decorations and clothing.

The Ramanathaswamy Temple, in Tamil Nadu, India, is one of the holiest temples in Hinduism. One of the 12 Jyotirlingas, it is considered the most sacred abodes of Shiva. The name Rameswaram is translated to “God of Rama.” It is believed that Rama’s footprints are imprinted there.

The temple is renowned for its large corridors, which are among the longest in the world. It has a unique architectural style with towering gopurams (gateway towers), mandapas (pillared halls), and a large central courtyard.

The temple is closely associated with the epic Ramayana. According to legend, Lord Rama, worshipped Lord Shiva here to seek forgiveness for killing Ravana, who was a Brahmin and devotee of Shiva. It is believed that Rama built a bridge, known as Rama Setu or Adam’s Bridge, to reach Sri Lanka from Rameswaram.

The Ramanathaswamy Temple is famous for its sacred water tanks, or teerthams, where pilgrims bathe before entering the temple. The most important of these is the Agni Teertham, located near the sea, where pilgrims perform rituals for their ancestors.

The temple is visited by thousands of pilgrims every year, especially during the festival of Maha Shivaratri, when special prayers and rituals are performed.

The Badrinath Temple, also known as Badrinarayan Temple, is situated on the banks of River Alaknanda in the town of Badrinath in Uttarakhand at an elevation of about 3,133 meters above sea level. The temple is part of the Panch Badri temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu and is one of the four Char Dham pilgrimage sites.  The temple is one of the 108 Divya Desams, which are sacred Vishnu temples.  

The Badrinath Temple is considered one of the holiest Hindu temples and is mentioned in several ancient religious texts including the Vishnu Purana, Skanda Purana, Mahabharata, and the Divya Prabhandas. The main deity in the temple is a black stone statue of Lord Badrinarayan, a form of Vishnu.

According to Hindu mythology, Lord Vishnu meditated in the area for thousands of years. Pleased with his dedication, goddess Lakshmi took the form of a Badri (berry) tree to protect him from the harsh weather. When Vishnu emerged from meditation, he named the place “Badrivan” (forest of berries), which later became Badrinath.

According to legend Adi Shankaracharya, a prominent philosopher and theologian, discovered the idol of Lord Badrinarayan in the Alaknanda River and enshrined it in the temple.

It is believed that after the Kurukshetra war, the Pandavas sought the blessings of Lord Vishnu to absolve themselves of the sin of killing their own relatives. Vishnu, disguised as a yaksha, tested them, and forgave them. Even today Lord Badrinath is believed to cleanse the sins of the devotees who visit here. It is considered auspicious to visit the temple at least once in a lifetime to attain salvation. The temple is open only from April to November because of extreme weather.

There is also a circuit of four pilgrimage sites in the state of Uttarakhand called Chota Char Dham, or “smaller four abodes”.

The Chota Char Dham or ‘the small circuit of four abodes/seats’ is an important Hindu pilgrimage circuit in Uttarakhand. Located in the Garhwal region of the state of Uttarakhand, the circuit consists of four sites—Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath. The Chota Char Dham Yatra begins with Akshaya Tritiya (April or May in the Gregorian calendar) and closes two days after Diwali, on the day of Bhai Dooj.

The Chota Char Dham Yatra traditionally begins with Yamunotri in the west and proceeds clockwise to Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath in the north:

The journey begins at Yamunotri, nestled in the Himalayas, where pilgrims pay homage to Goddess Yamuna, the daughter of Surya (Sun god) and the sister of Yama (god of death). Devotees collect holy water from the source of the Yamuna River, considered sacred and possessing healing powers.

Next is Gangotri, the source of the mighty Ganga River, another holy river in Hinduism. Here, pilgrims worship Goddess Ganga and collect sacred water for spiritual offerings. The scenic beauty of the Himalayas surrounding Gangotri adds to the spiritual significance of the visit.

Kedarnath, located at a high altitude amidst the majestic peaks, is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The journey to Kedarnath is considered the most challenging due to its remote location and tough terrain.  Overcoming these obstacles adds to the merit of the pilgrimage.

The final leg of the Choti Char Dham yatra concludes at Badrinath, another high-altitude pilgrimage site.  Here, pilgrims visit the Badrinarayan Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu in his meditative form. Reaching Badrinath is believed to grant liberation from the cycle of rebirth.

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Ankit Mahajan
Ankit Mahajan
Ankit Mahajan the dynamic Chief of Bureau of Taazakhabar News is like a fire and forget missile that is sure to hit the target. A meticulous planner with an eye for detail, he never gives up and makes his presence felt in everything he does.


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