Char Dham

Char Dham- How Order of Dham Defined

Char Dham refers to four holy abodes of God, considered by Hindus as the primary pilgrim centres in India over centuries. Devout Hindus believe that these centres possess some mystical and spiritual characteristics attached to a deity or deities. Every devout Hindu would like to visit these sacred temples generally termed as Char Dham Yatra at least once in his lifetime. He believes that by performing such a yatra, he will get Moksha or salvation.

Char Dham includes four famous, old temples of India located pretty much at the four cardinal points of the subcontinent. These are the Badri Narayan Temple or Badrinath Temple of Badrinath in Uttarakhand, Sri Ramanathaswamy Temple of Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, the Dwarkadhish Temple of Dwarka in Gujarat, and Shree Jagannath Temple of Puri in Odisha.

Char Dham Defined by Sri Adi Shankaracharya

Sri Adi Shankaracharya, the eighth-century Hindu reformer and founder of Advaita philosophy defined the original Char Dhams.

Sri Adi Shankaracharya, the eighth-century Hindu reformer and founder of Advaita philosophy defined the original Char Dhams.

He also created four Shankaracharya Peethas or Seats at the Char Dham school of Hinduism. These were alongside the four monastic institutions built to help monks perform religious rites and practices.

Adi Sankaracharya- Char Dhams

The Peethas include Govardhan Peetham at Puri, Odisha; Dwarka Sharda Peeth at Dwarka, Gujrat; Jyotirmath Peetham at Badrikashram, Uttarakhand;  and Sringeri Sharada Peetham at Sringeri, Karnataka.

  Char Dham: Order of prominence

The Char Dhams were prominence based on their date of origin and spiritual significance. Accordingly, Badri Narayan temple is considered as the first site among the four original Char Dhams. Rameswaram, Dwarka and Puri follow in that order.

Badrinath is the place where Nar-Narayan, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu is believed to have performed long penance. It was during the first yuga i.e., Sathya Yuga. Nar and Narayan were born to Dharma and his wife Murti as twin brothers. They performed the Tapasya at Badrinath to gain heavenly powers to kill the demon named Sahasra Kavacha. Thus, the presence of Lord Vishnu made Badrinath a sacred centre.

Rameswaram is the second in the order in the chain of Char Dhams. It got significance as Sri Rama, the seventh incarnation of Lord Vishnu installed a Shivlingam there  in the Tretha-Yuga. Sri Rama prayed to Lord Shiva at Rameswaram to absolve him of the sin of Brahmahatya (killing a Brahmin).  Because,  Ravana whom he killed in the war to rescue Sita Devi was born to a Brahmin father, sage Vishrava.

Dwarka and Puri gained prominence because of their spiritual rudiments in the  Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga respectively.   Dwarka is important because Lord Krishna made Dwarka his residence instead of Mathura, his birthplace.

Puri in Odisha gained pre-eminence, when Lord Vishnu was being worshiped there as Jagannath in the Kali Yuga.

Char Dham: Rameswaram Temple the only Shaivite Temple

Of the Char Dhams, Badrinath, Dwarkadhish and Shree Jagannath Temple of Puri are all dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Whereas,  Shree Ramanathaswamy Temple at Rameswaram is a Shaivite temple.

Of the Char Dhams, Badrinath, Dwarkadhish and Shree Jagannath Temple of Puri are all dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Whereas,  Shree Ramanathaswamy Temple at Rameswaram is a Shaivite temple.

Traditionally, pilgrims who venture to visit the Char Dhams starts at the eastern end, i.e., Jagannath Temple of Puri . Then, they proceed in a clockwise direction as if in circumambulation and end up with Badrinath Temple.

According to Hindu Puranas, two of the divine trinity, Lord Maheshwara (Shiva) and Lord Mahavishnu are referred as eternal friends. And by tradition, wherever one resides, the other would stay nearby. This means, these Char Dhams have associate Dhams of the other deity in their close vicinity.

Accordingly,  Badrinath temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu has an associate nearby in Kedarnath (Lord Shiva) in Uttarakhand. Similarly, Ranganathaswamy temple (Lord Vishnu) at Srirangam in Tamil Nadu is the associate temple of Ramanathaswamy Temple at Rameswaram. Somnath Temple at Prabhas Pata in Gujrat and Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneswar in Odisha, both dedicated to Lord Shiva are the associate temples of Dwarkadhish and Shree Jagannath temples respectively.

Chota Char Dhams

There is another circuit of four ancient Hindu pilgrimage sites situated in Uttarakhand viz. Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath. This circuit is known as Chota Char Dham or four small abodes of divinity. They are open to devotees only in summers, due to snowfall in winters making access to the sites impossible.

Chota Char Dhams

 

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