Sanskrit word Char Dham literally means ‘Four Shrines’. It can also be interpreted as correlated with the four directions.
The significance of these holy places is mentioned in all the four Vedas, namely, the Atharva Veda, the Rig Veda, the Yajur Veda, and the Sama Veda. They speak of places related to the Hindu deity Lord Vishnu and his various incarnations. Adi Shankaracharya, a Hindu theologian and philosopher propounded that pilgrimages to these four holiest shrines is essential for the attainment of Moksha, or salvation, of any human soul, particularly that which is entrapped by material and carnal desires, and the actions taken for their fulfillment.
Lord Vishnu and his various incarnations are related to these holy places and the significance of these holy places are mentioned in Vedas. It is revered as one of the most sacred pilgrimages in the world - four temples nestled in seclusion, among the mighty Himalayan peaks. Nothing spells devotion more than a visit to the Char Dhams. Ganga, Yamuna, Vishnu, and the mighty Shiva exist in their purest incarnations up there, and for a Hindu, it is the closest one can come to experiencing heavenly bliss.
The four Dhams are Badrinath in North, Rameswaram in South, Dwarka in West and Jagannath-Puri in East.
In the Puranas Hari (Vishnu) and Hara (Shiva) are referred as eternal friends. It is said wherever Lord Vishnu resides, Lord Shiva resides nearby. The Char Dham follows this rule. So Kedarnath is considered as the pair of Badrinath, Rama Setu is considered the pair of Rameswaram, Somnath is considered as the pair of Dwaraka. However, according to some traditions, the Char Dham are Badrinath, Rangnath-Swami, Dwarka and Jagannath-Puri, all of which are Vaishnava sites, and their associated placesare Kedarnath, Rameshwaram, Somnath and Lingaraja Temple, Bhubaneswar (or maybe Gupteshwar) respectively.
वायुर्यमोऽग्नि र्वरुण: शशाङ्क: प्रजापतिस्त्वं प्रपितामहश्च |
नमो नमस्तेऽस्तु सहस्रकृत्व: पुनश्च भूयोऽपि नमो नमस्ते ||
PILGRIMAGE DHAM DETAILS
Badrinath is located in the state of Uttarakhand. It is in the Garhwal hills, on the banks of the Alaknanda River. The town lies between the Nar and Narayana mountain ranges and in the shadow of Nilkantha peak (6,560 m). There are other interesting sightseeing spots like Mana, Vyas Gufa, Maatamoorti, Charanpaduka, Bhimkund and the Mukh of the Saraswati River, within 3 km of Badrinathjee. Joshimath is situated on the slopes above the confluence of the rivers Alaknanda and Dhauliganga. Of the four Maths established by Adi Shankaracharya, Joshimath is the winter seat of Chardham.
Badrinath Temple is the only temple among the four Char Dham pilgrimage sites which is situated in the Himalayas and surrounded by snow-clad mountains. It is situated at an 'altitude of 3,300n is 10,826ft where the temperature is extremely cold. Unlike the three Char Dham pilgrimage sites, Badrinath Dham remains closed for 6 months during winters due to extreme weather conditions and snowfall which makes it impossible to reach the site. Badrinath Temple is mentioned in various sacred texts of Hindus such asBhagavata Purana, Skanda Purana, and Mahabharata. The area around Badrinath Temple has been mentioned in Padma,Purana as a spiritual site. It is one of the 108 Vishnu Divyadesam or holy temples of Vishnu that is mentioned in the works of saints.
It is believed that the sculpture of Badrinath was established by Gods. It was thrown in the Alaknanda River by Buddhists during their era. Adi Shankara discovered the sculpture of Badrinath in the Alaknanda River and enshrined it in a cave near Tapt Kund hot spring. Later Ramanujacharyo removed the sculpture from the cave and established it in the temple. The 3.3 feet long statue located at the entrance of the temple is one of the main attractions of Badrinath Temple.
Rameswaram is located in the South Indian State of Tamil Nadu. It is situated in the Gulf of Mannar at the very tip of the Indian peninsula. According to legends, this is the place where Lord Ram along with his brother Laxmana and devotee Hanumana built a bridge (Rama Setu) to reach Sri Lanka to rescue his wife Sita who had been abducted earlier by Ravana, the ruler of Sri Lanka. The Ramanatha Swamy Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva occupies a major area of Rameswaram. The temple is believed to have been consecrated by Shri Rama Chandra. Rameswaram is significant for the Hindus as a pilgrimage to Benaras is incomplete without a pilgrimage to Rameswaram. The presiding deity here is in the form of a Linga with the name Sri Ramanatha Swamy, it also is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas.
Dwarka located in the west is in the state of Gujarat, country India. The city derives its name from the word "dwar" meaning door or gate in the Sanskrit language. Literally means the “gateway to heaven” in Sanskrit, as Dwar means “gate” and ka references “Brahma”.Dwarka has also been referred to throughout its history as “Mokshapuri”, “Dwarkamati”, and “Dwarkavati”. It is mentioned in the ancient prehistoric epic period of the Mahabharata. According to legend, Krishna settled here after he defeated and killed his uncle Kansa at Mathura. This mythological account of Krishna’s migration to Dwarka from Mathura is closely associated with the culture of Gujarat.Krishna is also said to have reclaimed 12 yojanas or 96 square kilometres (37 sq mi) of land from the sea to create Dwarka. It is located confluence to where the Gomti River merges into the Arabian Sea. However, this river Gomti is not the same Gomti River which is a tributary of Ganga River The city lies in the westernmost part of India. The legendary city of Dwaraka was the dwelling place of Lord Krishna. It is generally believed that due to damage and destruction by the sea, Dwaraka had submerged six times and modern day Dwarka is the 7th such city to be built in the area.
JAGANNATH - PURI
Puri located at the east, is located in the state of Odisha, India. Puri is one of the oldest cities in the eastern part of the country. It is situated on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. The main deity is Shri Krishna, celebrated as Lord Jagannatha. It is the only shrine in India, where goddess, Subhadra, sister of Lord Krishna isworshipped along with her brothers, Lord Jagannatha and Lord Balabhadra. The main temple here is about 1000 years old and constructed by Raja Choda Ganga Deva and Raja Tritiya Ananga Bhima Deva. Puri is the site of the Govardhana Matha, one of the four cardinal institutions or Mathas converted by Adi Shankracharya. Pandit Nilakantha Das suggested that Jagannath was a deity of Jain origin because of the appending of Nath to many Jain Tirthankars. Jagannath meant the 'World personified' in the Jain context and was derived from Jinanath. Evidence of the Jain terminology such as of Kaivalya, which means moksha or salvation, is found in the Jagannath tradition. Similarly, the twenty two steps leading to the temple, called the Baisi Pahacha, have been proposed as symbolic reverence for the first 22 of the 24 Tirthankaras of Jainism.