The virtual pilgrimage destination
Char Dham

There are four dhamas; or Abodes/Kingdoms of God, which represent the planets of the spiritual sky which consists of Brahmajyoti and the Vaikunthas. These are:

a) Badrinath
b) Jagannath Puri
c) Rameshwaram
d) Dwarka

a) Badrinath (Badri Ka Ashram) in North: Badrinath is the abode of the Nara and Narayana Rishis. It is situated in the Himalayas on the bank of Alakananda, a headstream of the Ganga river, Badrinath is visited by lacs of pilgrims every year in summer. It lies at an elevation of about 10,000 feet. Badrinath is the site of a temple that contains a shrine of Badrinath or Vishnu and has been a well-known pilgrimage centre for more than 2,000 years. Adi Shankaracharya established the fourth and last math at Joshimath, near Badrinath. The present temple was reinstalled by Adi Shankracharya in the 8th century A.D., 1,225 years ago.

Uddhava was sent to Badri Ka Ashram by Lord Krishna. The great rishis Narada, Gautama, Kapila and Kashyapa are said to have come here. Rishis Nara and Narayan performed penances at Badrinath. Sri Ramanujacharya visited Badrinath 955 years ago, Sri Madhvacharya 735 years ago and Sri Nityananda visitied Badrinath 500 years ago. During summer about 3,000 pilgrims visit Badrinath per day. Thus about 2, 50,000 pilgrims are visiting this dham every summer season.

b) Jagannath Puri (East): One of the four holy dhamas, Puri pilgrimage is one of the most essential. The Jagannath temple here is one of the major temples in India. The worship of Lord Jagannath is very ancient. Also known as Sree Puroshottam Dham, Sri Kshetra, Puroshottam Kshetra, Nilachal Dham, Jagannath Dham, and Martya Vaikuntha, Puri is located 55 km from Bhubaneshwar in Orissa on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. Sri Ramanujacharya visited Puri between 1107 and 1117 A.D. Vishnuswami visited Puri in the second half of twelfth century and established a math near Markandeshwar tank, known as Vishnuswami math. Sree Nimbarkacharya also visited Puri, as also Guru Nanak Dev and many great Acharyas. Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu spent 18 years in Puri.

Puri is also a popular tourist resort with very pleasant atmosphere and breathing beaches. The world famous Rath Yatra (cart festival) attracts about a million pilgrims to Puri. In addition, many other festivals like Chandan Yatra, Snan Yatra, Anavasara festival, etc., attract thousands of pilgrims all over the year. Everyday 56 varieties of ‘bhog’ are offered to Lord Jagannath, cooked in the world’s largest kitchen in a traditional style. The main temple structure is 214 feet high and is built on elevated ground. The temple complex comprises an area of 10.7 acres and is enclosed by two rectangular walls. There is a wheel on top of the temple made of astadhatu an alloy of eight different metals. It is known as the Nilachakra (blue wheel). It is eleven feet eight inches high and has a circumference of about 36 feet. A flag is mounted everyday on a mast attached to the Nilachakra. Every fortnight on Ekadasi day a lamp is lit on top of the temple near the Nilachakra. The main temple is surrounded by 30 different smaller temples. There are four gates-the eastern is known as Singhadwar. The main Deities in the temple are Lord Jagannath, Baldev and Subhadra. Some of the other temples within this temple have the Deities of Sri Satya Narayana, Sri Chaitanya, Sri Ramachandra, Sri Gopal, Sri Hanuman, Sri Nrisingha and others.

c) Rameshwaram (South) (A Dham as well as a Jyotirlinga): In the south we have one of the four dhama at the south eastern end of the Indian peninsula. Rameshwaram is on an island, which is in the shape of a conchshell, in the Gulf of Manner. There is a major Lord Shiva temple here called the Ramanathswami temple. This name indicates that Lord Rama visited this place, in Tretayuga. The temple covers an area of 15 acres. The eastern ‘gopuram’ is 160 feet high. The important festival celebrated here are Mahashivaratri, Brahmotsavam and Thirukalyanam. There is a 3,700 feet long beautiful corridor, which goes around the temple with large sculptured pillars that are elaborately carved. It is the longest temple corridor in India. The corridor is 27 feet high and 17 to 21 feet wide. There is a huge Nandi, the bull carrier of Lord Shiva in the east. There are 22 teerthams, holy tanks in the temple known by different names. The tradition has been to take a dip in all 22 teerthams before going to the Ramananthaswami shrine. There are many temples and shrines connected with Ramayana in and around Rameshwaram, like Gandhamadana Parvatham, Kothandarma- Swami temple, Dhanushkodi, Darbha Sayanam, Adi Jagannath temple, Lakshmana teertham, Rama teertham.

d) Dwarka (West): A ‘Dham’ as well as one of the ‘Saptapuris’: In the west one of the four dhamas is Dwarka which is also one of the seven holy cities or ‘Saptapuris’. Archaeological excavations indicate that Dwarka is built on four former cities. Much of the present town was submerged by the rising sea levels. There is evidence to suggest that this city was a large port at least as far back as the 15th century B.C.

One of the four original Maths founded by Adi Shankaracharya is in Dwarka. Both Shri Ramanujacharya and Shri Madhavacharya visited this place. In the middle of the town is Dwarkadheesh temple. The five storeyed temple is built on 72 pillars. The temple spire is 235 feet high. From the temple dome waves a multicoloured flag decorated with the symbols of the sun and the moon and is 84 feet long. Lord Krishna’s great grandson Vajranabha is said to have built the original temple of Dwarkadheesh over Lord Krishna’s residential palace. The sanctum of the temple dates back to at least 2,500 years. There are two entrances to the temple. The main entrance is called Mokshadwara. The south entrance is called Swargadwara. Outside this doorwary are 56 steps that lead to the Gomati River. The main Deity in this temple is Lord Dwarkadheesh on the central altar. To the right of the main Deity presides a big Deity of Pradyumana and small Deity of Aniruddha the son and grand son of Lord Krishna. Across from Lord Dwarkadheesh temple is a Shrine having the Deity of Devaki, the mother of Lord Krishna. In the back of the main temple on the eastern part of the temple compound are the shrines of Radhika ji, Jamavanti, Satyabhama and Rukmini.


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