Badrinath • Rameswaram
Dwarka • Puri
Char Dham (literally: 'the four abodes/seats') are the names of four pilgrimage sites in India that are widely revered by Hindus. It comprises Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram. It is considered highly sacred by Hindus to visit Char Dham during one's lifetime. The Char Dham defined by Adi Shankaracharya consists of three Vaishnavite and one Shaivite pilgrimages.
The other pilgrimages sites in the Indian state of Uttarakhand viz. Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath. were known as Chota Char Dham to differentiate them from the bigger circuit of Char Dham sites, but after the mid-20th century they have been also referred to as the Char Dham.
According to Hindu mythology, Badrinath became prominent when Nar-Narayan, an incarnation of Vishnu did Tapasya there. At that time that place was filled with Plum trees. In Sanskrit language they are called Badri, so the place was named Badrika-Van i.e. the forest of Plums. The particular spot where the Nar-Narayan resided was therefore called Badri-Nath i.e. the Lord of Plum forest. This all happened in the Sat-Yuga. So the Badrinath came to be known the first Dham.
The second place, the Rameshwram got its importance in the Treta-Yug when Lord Rama built a Shiv-ling here and worshipped it to get the blessings of Lord Shiva. The name Rameshwram means "the God of Lord Rama". Rama himself is considered an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
The third Dhaam Dwarka got its importance in Dwapar Yug when Lord Krishna another incarnation of Lord Vishnu, made Dwarka his residence instead of Mathura, his birthplace.
The Four Shankaracharya Peeth(Seats) at the Chaar Dham school of Hinduism, created at least four Hindu monastic institutions. He organised the Hindu monks under four Maṭhas (Sanskrit: मठ) (monasteries), with the headquarters at Dvārakā in the West, Jagannatha Puri in the East, Sringeri Sharada Peetham in the South and Badrikashrama in the North.
The table below gives an overview of the four Amnaya Mathas founded by Adi Shankara, and their details.
|Padmapāda||East||Govardhana Pīṭhaṃ||Prajñānam brahma (Consciousness is Brahman)||Rig Veda||Bhogavala|
|Sureśvara||South||Sringeri Śārada Pīṭhaṃ||Aham brahmāsmi (I am Brahman)||Yajur Veda||Bhūrivala|
|Hastāmalakācārya||West||Dvāraka Pīṭhaṃ||Tattvamasi (That thou art)||Sama Veda||Kitavala|
|Toṭakācārya||North||Jyotirmaṭha Pīṭhaṃ||Ayamātmā brahma (This Atman is Brahman)||Atharva Veda||Nandavala|
The four associated places of the Char dhaams
In Hindu Puranas Hari(Vishnu) and Har(Shiv) are referred as eternal friends. It is said wherever there resides Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva also resides nearby. Chaar Dhaams are also not exception of this. So the Kedarnath is considered as the pair of Badrinath, Rangnath Swami is considered the pair of Rameshwaram. Somnath is considered as the pair of Dwarka. However one thing is also to be noted here that according to some traditions the Char Dham are Badrinath, Rangnath-Swami, Dwarka and Jagannath-Puri all the four of which are Vaishnav sites and their associated places are Kedarnath, Rameshwaram, Somnath and Lingaraja Temple, Bhubaneswar(or may be Gupteshwar) respectively.
Geographically speaking the char Dham make a perfect square with Badrinath and Rameswaram falling on the same longitude and Dwarka (old) and Puri on the same latitude, representing the farthest north, east, west, and south points of India (at that time, before coastlines changed).
Badrinath is located in the North Indian 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 (6,560m).
Rameswaram located in the South is in the 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 from where Lord Rama, built a bridge Ram Setu to 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. Brahma, Vishnu & Maheswara three are together in all-time every place. Rama-Vishnu, Laxman-Brahma & Hanuman-Maheswara.
Dwarka located in the west is in the state of Gujarat, India. The city derives its name from the word "dvar" meaning door or gate in the Sanskrit language. It is located close to where the Gomti River merges into the Gulf of Kutch. However, this river Gomti is not the same Gomti River which is 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 believed[who?] that due to damage and destruction by the sea, Dvaraka has submerged six times and modern day Dwarka is the 7th such city to be built in the area.
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 is worshipped along with her brothers, Lord Jagannatha and Lord Balabhadra. The main temple here is about 1000 years old and constructed by Raja ChodaGanga Deva and Raja Tritiya Ananga Bhima Deva. Puri is the site of the Govardhana Matha, one of the four cardinal institutions or Mathas established by Adi Shankaracharya. Brahma, Vishnu & Maheswara three are together in all-time every place. In Kali yuga Sreemandir as jagannath temple in Puri. Jagannath-Vishnu, Balabhadra-Maheswara & Subhadra-Brahma. This is the plume for Oriya people to celebrate a special day in this Dham which is known as Ratha Yatra ("Chariot Festival").
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