The Char Dhams of India, namely, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri have various legends related to it. The origin of the holy shrines dates to thousands of years back. Situated at the Garhwal Hills of Uttarakhand, these holy shrines are also known as Chhota Char Dham.
Badrinath Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. There are various believes related to the Temple. One story is about him and his consort Lakshmi and other relates to Adi Shankaracharya, who is believed to have made the temple and the third relates to Lord Shiva.
- According to the first belief, Narad Muni once rebuked Lord Vishnu when he saw his consort, Goddess Lakshmi massaging his feet. Following this, Lord Vishnu decided to practice meditation on an isolated island. What he was unaware of is that Goddess Lakshmi protected him throughout his meditation. She took the form of a Badri tree (Indian date/Jujube) and protected him from the cold weather. Upon learning about this, Lord Vishnu was impressed by Goddess Lakshmi’s dedication. He named the place, ‘Badrika Ashram’.
- Another story from the Vishnu Puranas narrates that Dharam had two sons, Nar and Narayana. They chose this place to spread their religion. They came across the other four Badris out of the Paanch Badri. They were Bridha Badri, Yog Bhadri, Dhyan Badri and Bhavish Badri. Then they could finally find the hot and cold spring behind the Alaknanda River and named it ‘Badri Vishal’.
- Another history of the temple dates back to Vedic Ages. According to the mention in the Vedic Puranas, Adi Shankaracharya established this place as a Pilgrimage site. It is said that this temple was a Buddhist site until the 8th century. After this time, Adi Shankaracharya converted this to a Hindu Temple. People say that Adi Shankaracharya discovered the Badrinath deity in the Alakananda River.
- The last story of the Temple is related to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Lord Shiva wanted this place to meditate. However, even Lord Vishnu also wanted to sit here for meditation. Lord Vishnu then took the form of a baby boy and started crying, lying down on the rock. Parvati tried consoling him but he did not stop. When both Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati failed, they left to some other place to meditate.
The origin of the Kedarnath Temple is not known yet. The history of Kedarnath Temple dates back to the Kurukshetra War. The Pandavas came to meet Lord Shiva here, after the Kurukshetra War. This is because they wanted to seek forgiveness for killing their relatives during the war. Shiva turned into a bull and hid among the cattle on the hill because he didn’t want to forgive them. When the Pandavas still found him, he tried to disappear. He put his head first inside and tried to disappear inside the ground. Bhima grabbed his tail and forced him to come out and forgive them. Portions of Shiva’s body appeared at other places. The Pandavas first built the Kedarnath Temple. Together all the places where Shiva’s body was found is called ‘Panch Kedar’.
Goddess Ganga is the ‘Daughter of Heavens’. It is believed that she used to flow in Heaven as a river. She came down on Earth due to the continuous meditation of King Bhagirath. King Bhagirath wanted his ancestors to get salvation. King Bhagirath continued his penance for 1000years for Goddess Ganga to appear before him. King Bhagit=rath wanted his 60,000 uncles to attain moksha. As per a legend, The sons of King Saraga disturbed sage Kapila during his meditation. As a result, he cursed them. When the king sent his grandson Anshuman to find out what happened to his sons, Anshuman found out what happened and pleaded sage Kapila for forgiveness. Kapila said that only the water of heavenly Ganga can wash away the sins of the princes.
Lord Shiva agreed to bear the force of the Ganga’s descent onto Earth by absorbing it into his locks of hair. The flow through the locks slowed the flow and split it into seven streams – Bhagirathi, Alaknanda, Janhvi, Saraswati, Bhilangana, Rishiganga, and Mandakini.
The history of Yamunotri Dham has connections with sage Asti Muni. The Sage took bath daily in both the River Ganga and the Yamuna during his early life. However, as he started growing old, he was unable to reach Gangotri to take a dip in Ganga. Impressed by his belief, Goddess Ganga emerged as a stream next to River Yamuna to assist the Sage in continuing his daily rituals. According to beliefs, Tehri Naresh Sudarshan Shah constructed the original Yamunotri Temple. An earthquake in the region destroyed the temple.
However, Maharaja Gularia of Jaipur rebuilt the Yamunotri Temple in the latter half of 19th century.