Currently, whoever asks about the Char Dham Yatra, they count the names of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri. Whereas these are small Char Dham and not the actual Char Dham of India.
In Indian scriptures, Badrinath, Dwarka, Jagannath Puri and Rameswaram are discussed as Char Dham. Nowadays it is also called Badi Char Dham. Actually, Char Dham means these four pilgrimage centers.
There is no definite rule and reason for why the Char Dham Yatra is performed, nor are there any definite beliefs and evidence regarding the origin of the Char Dham Yatra. But these texts mention that this journey not only frees us from sin but also takes it beyond the cycle of birth and death, that is, it paves the way to salvation.
There is a description in the Hindu scriptures that those who are able to see here the virtues, not only wash away the sins of this birth, but they are also freed from the bond of life and death. But this is also applicable to almost all pilgrimages equally. It has also been said in the Hindu scriptures that these are the holy places where the earth and heaven are united.
As far as Chhoti Char Dham Yatra is concerned, then pilgrims visit Yamunotri and Gangotri first in these places. Then, taking holy water from these places, perform Jalabhishek at Kedarnath Shivling and then see Badrinathji, a form of Lord Vishnu.
This states that: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath,and Badrinath are Char Dham of India.
Shankaracharya’s Four Monasteries
The saint society of Hinduism is under four monasteries appointed by Shankaracharya. For the solidarity and order of Hinduism, it is necessary to know the tradition of the four monasteries.
The tradition of Guru-Shishya is maintained from the four Maths (Gurukul). Making saints other than the saints of the four monasteries does not come under the Hindu saint stream.
Along with the establishment of these monasteries, Shankaracharya also appointed his mathadhis, who are later called Shankaracharya himself. A person who retires under any monastery practices one of the denominational sects. These four monasteries are as follows: –
Vedanta Gyanamath is located in Rameswaram in the south of India. The names of the ascetics who receive initiation under Vedanta Gyanamath are followed by the adjectives named Saraswati, Bharti and Puri Sampradaya, making them considered to be Saints of the said sect.
The Mahavakya of this Math is ‘Ego Brahmasmi’ and ‘Yajurveda’ has been kept under the Math. The first abbot of this monastery was Acharya Sureshwarji, whose name was formerly Mandan Mishra.
Govardhan Math is located in the eastern part of India at Jagannath Puri in the state of Orissa. Under the Govardhan Math, the name of the ascetics who receive initiation is followed by an adjective named ‘Aranya’ Sampradaya, whereby they are considered as ascetics of the said sect.
The Mahavakya of this Math is ‘Pragyanam Brahma’ and ‘Rigveda’ has been kept under this Math. Padmapad became the first disciple of Adi Shankaracharya, the first abbot of this monastery.
Sharda (Kalika) Monastery is located at Dwarkadham in Gujarat. Under the Sharda Mutt, the names of the ascetics who receive initiation are followed by the adjectives ‘Tirtha’ and ‘Ashram’, which make them considered saints of the said sect.
The Mahavakya of this monastery is ‘Tattvamasi’ and ‘Samaveda’ has been kept under it. The first abbot of Sharada Math was Hastamalak (Prithivadhar). Hastamalak was one of the prominent four disciples of Shankaracharya.
Jyotirmath is located in Badrinath of Uttaranchal. Under the Jyotirmath, saints who receive initiation are followed by adjectives named ‘Giri’, ‘Parvat’ and ‘Sagar’ Sampradaya from which they are considered as Saints of the said sect. The Mahavakya of this monastery is ‘Ayatma Brahma’. The Atharvaveda is placed under this monastery. The first abbot of Jyotirmath was made by Acharya Totak.
Apart from the above four monasteries, Kanchi Math located in Tamil Nadu is also believed to have been established by Shankaracharya but it is considered disputed. Presently the monastery of this monastery is Swami Jayendra Saraswati.
Under the auspices of the said monasteries and sub-divisions under them, it is considered as Hinduism to make saints or to initiate initiation from them. This is considered the saint stream of Hindus.
Chhota Char Dham of India
Chhota Chard ham or Char Dham is one of the holiest pilgrimage circuits in the Himalayan mountains of Hinduism. It is located in the districts of Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, and Chamoli in the Garhwal division of Uttarakhand state of India and has Char Dham of India of this circuit: Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. Of these, Badrinath Dham is also the northernmost of the Char Dham of India.
Although these four sites have their own specialties, they are seen as a unit in the form of Chardham.
Origin of Char Dham in India
There is no definite validity of evidence available regarding the origin of the Char Dham Yatra. But Char Dham is a group of four religious places in India. Important temples from four directions of India come under this sacred circumference. These temples are- Puri, Rameshwaram, Dwarka and Badrinath. These temples were threaded by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century. It is impossible to decide which of these four temples should be given the ultimate place. But of all these, Badrinath is the most important and more visited temple by pilgrims.
Apart from this, Chhin Char Dham on the Himalayas (which will be discussed further in the Char Dham Yatra) is also very important and popular in temples. This small Char Dham includes Kedarnath (Shiva temple), Yamunotri and Gangotri (Devi temple) in addition to Badrinath. These Char Dham of India hold their separate and important place in Hinduism. In the middle of the twentieth century, all four of these shrines in the lap of the Himalayas were given the small ‘adjective’ that still defines these temples here. To visit Chhota Char Dham one has to climb to a height of more than 4,000 meters. This walker is easier and more difficult.
Before 1982 it was very difficult to travel here. But as the movement of troops increased after the war with China, the way for pilgrims also became easier. The word ‘Chhota’ was later removed to remove any confusion and the yatra has come to be known as ‘Char Dham of Himalayas’. With the improvement in means of transport, it has become a major pilgrimage center for Hindu pilgrims in India. Its popularity can be gauged from the annual number of tourists, pilgrims. According to the available data, more than 250,000 pilgrims visit here every visit (from 15 April to early November). Two months before the arrival of monsoon, there is a tremendous noise of tourists, pilgrims. It is considered dangerous to visit here in the rainy season because during this time the possibility of landslides is more than usual.
According to Indian scriptures, Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath are the holiest places of Hindus. They are also known as Char Dham of India. It is said in the scriptures that those who are able to see here the virtues are not only washed away the sin of this birth, but they are also freed from the bond of life and death. In relation to this place, it is also said that this is the place where the earth and heaven come together. Pilgrims first visit Yamunotri (Yamuna) and Gangotri (Ganga) during this journey. Devotees perform Jalabhishek at Kedareshwar by taking holy water from here.
The traditional route for these pilgrims is as follows:
Haridwar -> Rishikesh -> Dev Prayag -> Tehri -> Dharasu -> Yamunotri -> Uttarkashi -> Gangotri -> Triugnarayan -> Gaurikund -> Kedarnath.
This passage is similar to the sacred circumambulation in traditional Hinduism. While the second route to Kedarnath passes through Rishikesh, Devprayag, Srinagar, Rudraprayag, Augustamuni, Guptkashi and Gaurikund. Mandakini is the place of origin near Kedarnath. The Mandakini River joins the Alaknanda River at Rudraprayag.
Char Dham In India
The holy Yamunotri temple is located at the western end of Bandarpunch. Traditionally, Yamunotri is the first stop of the Char Dham Yatra. Yamunotri can be reached after climbing 6 kilometers from Janki chatti. The Yamuna temple located here was built by Queen Guleria of Jaipur in the 19th century. This temple (3,291 m) is located on the western side of the Bandarpuchh Peati (6,315 m). According to mythology, Yamuna was the daughter of Surya and Yama was his son. This is the reason why Yama is not strict with his devoutly bathed people in his sister the Yamuna. The origin of Yamuna is Yamunotri Glacier, situated at an altitude of 4,621 meters, about one kilometer away from Yamunotri.
Near the Yamunotri temple, there are several hot water springs that pass through various pools. Of these, Surya Kund is famous. It is said that Lord Surya took the form of a hot stream to give blessings to his daughter. The devotees tie rice and potatoes in the cloth and leave it for a few minutes, which cooks it. Pilgrims take these cooked substances home as offerings. There is a rock near the Surya Kund, which is known as ‘Divya Shila’. Pilgrims worship this divine rock before worshiping the Yamuna.
Nearby is the ‘Jamuna Bai Kund’, which was constructed some hundred years ago. The water of this pool is lightly warm in which the holy bath is performed before the worship. The priests and pandas of Yamunotri come from the village Kharsala to perform puja which is near Janaki Bai Chatti. The Yamunotri temple remains closed from November to May due to inclement weather.
Temple opening time: The temple opens on Akshaya Tritiya (May) and closes on two days (November) after Yama Dwitiya or Bhai Dooj or Diwali. The temple is open from 6 am to 8 pm. Aarti takes place at 6:30 in the morning and 7:30 in the evening. Also special poojas are organized on the occasion of Janmashtami and Diwali.
Gangotri is situated at an elevation of 9,080 (3,160 m) feet above sea level. The river Bhagirathi originates from Gangotri. Gangotri is also the origin of the sacred and spiritually important river of India, the Ganges. Ganges is known as Bhagirathi in Gangotri. According to mythology, this river was named Bhagirathi after King Bhagiratha. It is also said in the legends that King Bhagiratha brought penance to the earth by doing penance. The river Ganges originates from Gomukh.
Mythology states that Suryavanshi King Sagar decided to perform the Ashwamedha Yagna. In this, 70,000 sons took their places wherever they came under their control. This made Indra, the king of the gods, worried. In such a situation, he grabbed this horse and tied it in Kapil Muni’s ashram. Raja Sagar’s sons disrespected Muniver and rescued the horse. This hurt Kapil Muni a lot. He cursed all the sons of King Sagar, which transformed them into ashes. On the apology of King Sagar, Kapil was moved and he told Raja Sagar that if the river flowing in heaven comes to earth and his holy water is touched by this ashes, then his son will be alive.’
But Raja Sagar failed to bring Ganga to the ground. Later, King Sagar’s son Bhagirath succeeded in bringing Ganga from heaven to earth. To control the rapid flow of the Ganges, Bhagiratha requested Lord Shiva. As a result, Lord Shiva controlled the flow of Ganga by taking it in his jata. After this, the sons of King Sagar came alive with the touch of Ganges water.
It is believed that Gorkha Captain Amar Singh Thapa built the Gangotri temple in honor of Adi Shankaracharya in the 17th century. The temple is built of white stones on the left bank of the river Bhagirathi. Its height is about 20 feet. After the temple was built, King Madhosinh renovated this temple in 1935. As a result, the structure of the temple gives a glimpse of Rajasthani style. Close to the temple is the ‘Bhagirath Shila’ on which he did austerities to bring the Ganges to earth. Apart from Goddess Ganga, Yamuna, Lord Shiva, Goddess Saraswati, Annapurna and Mahadurga are also worshiped in this temple.
In Hinduism, Gangotri is considered as mokshapradayani. This is the reason why people of Hinduism donate shraadh and bodies of their parts according to the lunar calendar. After praying and worshiping in the temple, the devotees go to the ghats on the banks of the Bhagirathi river for a bath. Pilgrims take the holy waters of the Bhagirathi River home with them. This water is considered sacred and is used in auspicious works. Ganga water taken from Gangotri is also offered in the temples of Kedarnath and Rameshwaram.
Temple timings: 6.15 am to 2 pm noon and 3 pm to 9.30 pm (in summer). 6.45 am to 2 pm noon and 3 pm to 7 pm (in winter).
The temple opens on Akshaya Tritiya (May) and closes on Yama Dwitiya. The activity of the temple starts at 4 am. First of all, there is the method of ‘Uchana’ (wake up) and ‘Shringar’ which is not open to the common people. Mangal Aarti of 6 am is also done in closed doors. At 9 o’clock the patta of the temple is kept closed for 10 minutes for ‘Rajbhog’. For makeup at 6.30 pm, the board is closed once again for 10 minutes. After this, the temple gate is kept closed for 5 minutes for Rajbhog at 8 pm. In this way, the evening aarti is done at 7.45 pm but in the winter, the aarti is done at 7 pm. Rajbhog, which is made of sweet rice, is available for pilgrims (after paying appropriate fees).
Pilgrims often go via Gangotri via Gangnani. This is the same route on which Parashar Muni’s ashram used to take a bath in a hot spring. On the arrival of the Ganges on earth (Ganga Saptami), special makeup is organized in Vaisakh (April). According to mythology, the day Lord Shiva presented the Bhagirathi river to Bhagiratha (Jyeshtha, May) is celebrated as the Ganga Dussehra festival. Apart from this, Janmashtami, Vijayadashami, and Diwali are also celebrated in Gangotri.
Kedarnath is situated at an altitude of 11,746 feet above sea level. It is near the originating point of the Mandakini river. Jalabhishek at the Jyotirlinga from Yamunotri to Kedarnath is considered sacred in Hinduism. According to Vayu Purana, Lord Vishnu came to inhabit the earth for the good of mankind. He made his first move to Badrinath. This place was earlier inhabited by Lord Shiva. But he abandoned this place for Narayana and resided in Kedarnath. Therefore, Kedarnath occupies an important place in the Panch Kedar Yatra. At the same time, Kedarnath also reflects the spirit of renunciation.
This is the same place where Adi Shankaracharya got absorbed in samadhi at the age of 32. Earlier, he appointed Veer Shaiva as the Rawal (Chief Priest) of Kedarnath. The Kedarnath temple is currently operated by Rawal of 337th from Ukhimath, where Lord Shiva is taken in winter. Kedarnath in the only Shiva Temple in Char Dham of India. Apart from this, Pandits residing around Guptkashi also see the work of this temple. Approach to Administration This place is divided into various parts among these Pandits. So that there is no problem.
The Kedarnath temple is different from other temples not only in spirituality but also in the art of architecture. This temple is built in Katyuri style. It is situated on the hilltop. Large stones of brown color have been used in its construction. Its roof is made of wood, on which the gold urn is placed. The outer gate of the temple has a huge statue of Nandi as the guard.
The Kedarnath temple is divided into three parts – first, the sanctum sanctorum. Secondly, Darshan Mandap, this is the place where the visitors stand in a big hall and worship. Third, the assembly hall, all pilgrims gather at this place. The pilgrim here also worships Lord Ganesha, Parvati, Vishnu and Lakshmi, Krishna, Kunti, Draupadi, Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakula and Sahadeva along with Riddhi Siddhi besides Lord Shiva.
The opening time of the Kedarnath temple is not fixed. According to the date of Shivaratri every year, the Panch Purohit decides in Ukhimath when the temple will open. The temple closes on the day of Yama Dwitiya or Bhai Dooj. After the temple gate is closed in winter, no one stays there. The Panda people live in Guptkashi and Rawal Ukhimath. The temple is open from 6 AM to 2 PM. Again the temple remains open from five to eight in the evening.
Special poojas are also organized in Kedarnath. It usually occurs from four to six in the morning. But even after midnight, special pujas are held when there is more crowd. Visitors can also arrange for special poojas to be held once in 20 years. For this, they have to post the required draft in the name of State Bank of India, Ukhimath in the name of Gauri Mai Mandir, Ukhimath, District-Rudraprayag, Uttaranchal.
Badrinath is situated between the Nar and Narayan mountains, which is situated at an altitude of 10,24 feet (3,133 m) above sea level. The Alaknanda River adds to the beautiful beauty of this temple. It is believed that Lord Vishnu lives at this place. To provide shade to Lakshminarayana, Goddess Lakshmi took the form of a tree of Bair (Badri). But at present, the hatred tree is seen in very small amounts, but Badrinarayan still remains as it is. Narada, who is an exclusive devotee of both of them, is also worshiped here.
The temple that has been built over time was built by the Garhwal king exactly two centuries ago. This temple is built in a conical style. Its height is about 15 meters. On top of which is the dome. There are 15 idols in this temple. In the sanctum sanctorum of the temple, Nara and Narayana sit with Vishnu in a meditative position. It is believed that this temple was built in the Vedic period, which was later renovated by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century. The temple also has idols of Lakshmi, Shiva-Parvati and Ganesha apart from Nara and Narayana.
This temple is often damaged due to landslides. Due to this, it has also been modernized repeatedly. But the lion gate which is also the main gate of this temple, after it is built, its beauty has become four moons. The temple has three parts – the sanctum sanctorum, darshan mandapa (place of worship) and sabha griha (where devotees gather). Regarding Badrinath in the Vedas and texts, it is said, ‘There are many holy places on heaven and earth, but Badrinath is the foremost among them all.
It is mentioned in the mythology that when Goddess Ganga accepted the arrival of the earth to save the suffering humanity, there was a stir because the earth was unable to bear the flow of the Ganges. As a result, Ganga divided herself into 12 parts. Among these, Alaknanda is also one which later became the abode of Lord Vishnu, which is known as Badrinath. Badrinath is the one in ‘Panch Badri’.