The four Hindu Pilgrimage Sites in the Four Corners of India

30 Jan 2021 by Swati Mamgain

What are the Chardham of India

The Matha tradition in Hinduism was believed to have been well established by the second half of the first millennium CE. The famous Mathas that were centers of Vedanta studies were the ones started by Adi Shankaracharya. He created four Shankaracharya Peeth at Chardham school of Hinduism. He further organized Hindu practitioners under four Mathas with the headquarters at Dwarka that is in the west, Jagannath Puri that is in the east, Sringeri Sharada Peetham that is in the south, and Badri Ka ashram in the north

The four associated places of Chardham follow the rule that wherever Lord Vishnu resides Lord shiva resides nearby. Accordingly, Kedarnath is considered as the pair of Badrinath, Ramasetu is considered the pair of Rameshwaram, Somnath is considered as the pair of Dwarka. Some traditions establish the Chardham as Badrinath, Ranganatha- Swamy, Dwarka and Jagannath Puri and their associated places are- Kedarnath, Rameshwaram, Somnath, and Lingaraja temple. 

Badrinath came to be known as the first Dham according to Hindu belief and it got its importance in Satyayuga. The second-place Rameshwaram got its importance in Treta Yug. The third Dham that is Dwarka got its prominence in Dvapara Yug. During Kalyug the fourth Dham the Puri Dham became famous. 

Another four pilgrimage sites- another small circuit the Chota Chardham is in the state of Uttarkhand. These are Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath. It is termed Chota Chardham to differentiate it from the bigger circuit of Chardham sites. Chota Chardham shrines are closed in winters due to snowfall and only open with the advent of the summer season.  

In which parts of India are these Chardham Located

Badrinath Dham is located in the north in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. It is located on the banks of the Alaknanda river. Dwarka Dham is located towards the west in the state of Gujarat of India. It is located at the confluence of the Gomti river and the Arabian sea.  Rameshwaram Dham is located towards the south in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is situated in the Gulf of Mannar at the tip of the Indian Peninsula. The Puri Dham is situated towards the east in the state of Orissa on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. 

A Detailed description of each Dham

1. Badrinath Dham

Badrinath temple is in the Badrinath town that is situated between the Nar and Narayan mountain ranges with the overshadowing peak of Neelkanth that towers at 6,560 m in height. The slopes above the confluence of river Alaknanda and Dhauliganga have Joshimath which is the winter seat of Chardham. Of the Chardham, Badrinath Dham is closed during winters and opens for pilgrims from April to October each year. 

Other beautiful sites around Badrinath Dham that are quite interesting and important to pilgrims and lie within 3kms of Badrinath Dham are -Mana, Vyas Gufa, Maatamoorti, Charanpaduka, Bheemkund, and the Mukh of Saraswati river. 

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2. Dwarka Dham

Dwarka Dham is situated in Dwarka city. The name of the city Dwarka is derived from the Sanskrit word- “Dvar” which means door or gate. The place where the Gomti river merges with the Arabian sea is the place where Dwarka city is located. It is worth mentioning that this Gomti river is not the one which is the tributary of river Ganga. 
The city lies in the Westmost part of India. The legend says that Dwarka was the place where Lord Krishna lived or one can say it was the dwelling place of Lord Krishna. Dwarka is believed to have been submerged six times in the sea and modern-day Dwarka is the seventh such city to be built in the area. 

3. Rameshwaram Dham

Rameshwaram Dham being located towards the extreme south of India is the very place, as per the legend, where Lord Rama along with his brother Laxman and his ardent devotee Hanumana built Ramasetu to reach Srilanka to rescue Mata Sita who had been abducted by Ravana- the ruler of Srilanka. 

The major area of Rameshwaram is occupied by the Ramanatha Swamy temple. The Ramanatha Swamy temple is the temple of Lord Shiva. As per Hindu mythology pilgrimage of Hindus to Banaras is complete only when the pilgrimage to Rameshwaram is undertaken. Here the presiding deity is in the form of Linga and is named Sri Ramanatha Swamy. It is one of the 12 jyotirlingas. 

4. Puri Dham  

Puri Dham is located in the Puri city of Orissa and lies in the eastern part of India. The presiding deity is Sri Krishna who is established here as Lord Jagannatha. The Puri Shrine is the only shrine in India where goddess Subhadra, the sister of Lord Krishna is worshipped along with her two brothers- Lord Jagannatha and lord Bala Bhadra. Puri is also the site of Govardhana Matha which was converted by Adi Shankaracharya. Oriya people celebrate a special day in this Dham in the form of Rathayatra which is in the form of Chariot festival.  

The Legend related to Chardham of India

Badrinath Dham

Hindu scriptures and holy Bhagavata Puran mentions lord Vishnu undergoing penance here in his incarnation as Nara and Narayan, since time immemorial for the wellbeing of all living forms of the Universe. Another narrative from Hindu mythology states that Lord Vishnu sat meditating in the forest full of Badri bushes. Badrinath Tour Package

To shelter meditating Lord Vishnu from the sweltering heat of the sun Goddess Luxmi stood next to him providing shade and with the passing time Goddess Lakshmi turned into Badri Vishal herself and Lord Vishnu became the Badrinath. Padma Purana mentions the area in and around Badri Dham as replete with spiritual treasure. 

Dwarka Dham

According to the legend, Kansa was the ruler at Mathura. Kansa was the uncle of Lord Krishna who was an oppressive ruler. Lord Krishna defeated and killed his uncle Kansa, the oppressor to liberate the masses. The mythological account further mentions that Krishna migrated to Dwarka from Mathura. This is also ingrained in the culture of Gujarat. Lord Krishna is set to have reclaimed land from the sea that was to the tune of twelve yojanas to create Dwarka. Hence Dwarka is the dwelling place of Lord Krishna. 

Rameshwaram Dham

The legend mentions the story as mentioned in Ramayana where Rama the seventh avatar of Lord Vishnu worshipped Lord Shiva to absolve him of his sin that he had committed as a result of the war against the king Ravana of Sri Lanka who had abducted Mata Sita, the wife of Lord Rama. Lord Hanumana was ordered by Rama to bring a large lingam from the Himalayas. It so happened that Lord Hanumana was delayed in bringing the lingam hence Rama built a small lingam out of the sand on the seashore and worshipped Lord shiva. The legend has it that it is the same lingam that is present in the Rameshwaram temple and is considered as one of the 12 jyotirlingas in India. 

Puri Dham

As per the legend, it was in the Treta yuga that Vishnu in the form of Indranila Mani could grant instant moksha so Lord Yama hid it in the earth. In the Dvapara yuga king, Indradyumana of Malwa did penance for Indranil Mani and was instructed by Lord Vishnu to go to Puri seashore and find a floating log of wood. 

The king found the log of wood and did yajna. So Vishnu himself appeared in the guise of a carpenter to make the idols of Jagannatha, Balabhadra, and Subhadra. But it so happened that queen was, after two weeks, very anxious as no sound of work came from the temple and thought the carpenter to be dead. She goaded the king to open the door of the temple. Lord Vishnu who was at work abundant his work and left the idols unfinished. The idols were left devoid of any hands yet king INdradyumana installed the idols in the temple. It is believed that the lord in the form of an idol without hands is still able to watch over the world and bless their worshippers.

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Who established the Chardham of India

The Matha tradition in Hinduism was believed to have been well established by the second half of the first millennium CE. The famous Mathas that were centres of Vedanta studies were the ones started by Adi Shankaracharya. He created four Shankaracharya Peeth at Chardham school of Hinduism. He further organized Hindu practitioners under four Mathas with the headquarters at Dwarka that is in the west, Jagannath Puri that is in the east, Sringeri Sharada Peetham that is in the south, and Badri Ka ashram in the north. 

Sri Adi Shankaracharya was the eighth-century philosopher who is credited for establishing the renowned Chardhams for Hindu pilgrims to visit. Three of the four sites are the Vaishnava sites which are Puri, Dwarka, and Badrinath while the one which is a Shaiva site is Rameshwaram. 

What route should be taken to complete this pilgrimage yatra

The Chardham yatra can be performed in the sequence as mentioned below-

First to Badrinath then reach Dwarka in Gujarat then proceed to Puri Dham at Orissa and finally conclude the yatra by reaching Rameshwaram Dham. It will take around two weeks or a little more to complete the Chardham circuit. 

Reach Rishikesh via any available mode of transport which may be via road, or rail or by air(the nearest airport is the Jolly Grant airport). From Rishikesh, one can reach Badrinath via Joshimath by boarding a bus or hiring a taxi. One will have to stay at Badrinath till the darshan is over. Early morning the coming day, after the darshan is over one can come back to Rishikesh and then to Haridwar. Stay back for a night and the next day board the train to Dwarka from Haridwar via Delhi. 

As one reaches Dwarka hire a cab and one can go for darshan at Dwarka Dham. One can stay here at Dwarka for a day or two and visit nearby places. 

From Dwarka one will have to board a train to Puri which is a long journey. One arrives at Puri railway station one can hire a cab to visit Puri Dham. Stay at a hotel for one or two days and visit nearby places. From here at Puri, one can board a train to Rameshwaram. One can visit Rameshwaram Dham and worship lord shiva after which one may return to his place of residence from wherever in India he had started his yatra. 

Best time to do this Chardham Yatra

Best time to carry out the Chardham Yatra is only during the months from April to October because it is the time when Badrinath which is in the snow-clad Himalayas is open for the pilgrims.

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