‘Char Dham’ was coined by Shri Adi Shankaracharya. It means ‘four abodes of Gods’. These are holy pilgrimage sites. The significance of these places is that these places help attain salvation; or freedom from the cycle of life and death. It helps bring self-knowledge and realization.
Dharma (duty), Kaam (Desires), Artha (prosperity and wealth), and Moksha (salvation) are the four parts of an ideal life. The ultimate goal of life is to attain Moksha. It is Char Dham Yatra washes away a person’s sins. Therefore, it is crucial for a person to visit these holy shrines at least once in their lifetime.
The Char Dhams are situated at Uttarakhand, which is commonly referred to as the ‘Land of God’. Millions of devotees travel to these four holy places every year. It takes around 9-10days to complete the Char Dham Yatra if you are taking the road route. One can also travel these places through helicopters.
The revival of Hinduism is mostly related to Shri Adi Shankaracharya. He put all his efforts to revive Hinduism when Buddhism was taking over. He is known to be a social reformer and a spiritual leader. He took various steps to bring revive Hinduism back. One of those steps was to coin the Char Dham circuit. These were the Yamunotri Temple, Gangotri Temple, Kedarnath Temple, and Badrinath Temple. Adi Shankaracharya is believed to have taken Samadhi in Kedarnath.
The holy shrines of the Char Dham are located in the Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. These shrines are also referred to as the Chhota Char Dham or Himalayan Char Dham. Puranas, Vedas have mention of these places.
The Chhota Char Dham represents all the major sects of Hinduism. Vaishnava- Badrinath Temple, Shaiva- Kedarnath Temple, and Shakta- Yamunotri and Gangotri Temples.
The Yamunotri Temple is dedicated to Goddess Yamuna. The sacred Yamuna River starts from here. The Yamuna is the daughter of Sun and is known as the Lady of Life. She is the twin sister of Yama, the God of Death. Yama promised Yamuna in Bhaidooj, that whoever takes a dip in Yamuna River will gain salvation. He would not have to suffer the pain of Hell or Yamlog.
Gangotri Dham is dedicated to Goddess Ganga. It is the point where the River Ganga originates. River Ganga at this point is called Bhagirathi. It is believed that Goddess Ganga descended from the mighty locks of Lord Shiva. Goddess Ganga descended here for King Bhagiratha, to absolve him of his sins. This temple is the second destination of the Char Dham Yatra. It is believed that a dip in the holy waters of Bhagirathi helps one attain salvation.
Kedarnath Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple worships Lord Shiva as the ‘Lord of Kedar Khand’- Kedarnath. It is believed that Lord Shiva dwelled here at Nara- Narayana’s request. Apart from being the third destination of the Chhota Char Dham Yatra, it is also one of the twelve holy Jyotirlinga shrines of Lord Shiva.
Badrinath Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Apart from being the final destination of Chhota Char Dham, it is also a part of the Char Dham Yatra. It is also one of the 108 Divya Desams of Lord Vishnu. The temple worships a black stone statue of Vishnu.