Char Dham Yatra

Char Dham or the four abodes are four Vaishnavite pilgrim sites across India, on visiting all four one can attain salvation or moksha. The four sites being in four different directions of the Indian subcontinent, Badrinath in the North, Rameshwaram in the South, Puri in the East and Dwaraka in the West.

All these sites are linked to Shankaracharya or Adi Shankara who established four Hindu monasteries close to these temples know as Shankaracharya Peedam. Legend says that Shankaracharya who travelled the length and breadth of India had visited all these temples.

As per the Hindu beliefs lord Vishu and Shiva are eternal friends and always stays close. So all these four sites have temples dedicated to both Vishu and Shiva in close proximity. As, for Badrinath it is Kedarnath, for Ramanatha it is Rangaswamy, Lingaraja for Jagannatha Puri and Somnath for Dwaraka.

1. Badrinath

It is situated at an altitude of 3100 metres in the foothills of Nilkantha peak along the Gharwal Himalayas in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. The temple is dedicated to Badrnarayan and the idol is of Salagram stone believed to be taken from the Alakananda river by Shankaracharya. Shankaracharya placed the idol near the hot spring or tap kund and it was later moved to the present day temple. The temple resembles a Buddhist temple with elaborate decorative works and colourful arched windows.

It is the only Char Dham temple which is closed during the winter due to snow fall. All other 3 temples are functional year round. The Badrinath temple is kept open only for 6 months from the first monsoon rains when the ice starts to melt to the first snow fall of winter.

  • How to reach :

Badrinath is located around 320kms from Haridwar and there are buses from Haridwar and Rishikesh. Usually the buses starts in the morning.

Also there are share taxis available or you can book a taxi.

2. Rameshwaram

The temple of Ramanatha dedicated to lord Siva is one among the 12 Jyotirlingas situated in a small island in the Gulf of Mannar, Tamilnadu. Ramanatha means god of Rama and legend says that the Rama prayed to Shiva here after the Rama-Ravana war. There are two Lingas inside the temple one believed to be built by Sita, wife of Rama from sand and one made of stone which Hanuman brought from Himalayas.

The temple itself is an architectural marvel with numerous corridors and towers. The outer corridors are the longest temple corridor in the world at a length of 640 feets. It is also the only Shiva temple in Char Dham. All other 3 temples are of Vishnu.

  • How to reach :

Rameshwaram being an island is both connected to the main land by road and rail. The nearest city Madurai is 176kms away from Rameshwaram. The rail lines connecting Rameshwaram and mainland India across the sea is one of the most dangerous railway bridge in the world. It was constructed in 1914 and was the first rial bridge over sea in India.

If you have enough time take a train from Madurai to Rameshwaram. There are buses running from Madurai to Rameshwaram. Also you can book a taxi.

3. Puri

Lord Vishu is worshipped as Jagannath in the shore temple of Puri, in Odisha. The idols in this temple are made of wood, which is unique as most Hindu temples are with idols made of stone or metal compounds. It is also the only temple where Jagannatha is worshipped along with his siblings Subhadra and Balabadhran. These idols are taken outside the temple for an annual procession on chariots know as Ratha Yathra, which is the annual festival.

Photo by : Sidharth Acharya

The main entrance to this huge temple complex surrounded by high walls are through the Singahdwara or the lion gate. Twenty two steps leads to the temple complex which suggests a Jain origin for this temple.

Photo by : Sidharth Acharya

  • How to reach :

Puri is around 65kms away from Bhubaneswar and is connected via road and rail. There are bus services, share taxis and local trains connecting both the places.

4. Dwaraka

The Dwarakadish Temple which is located on the banks of river Gomati where the river meets the Arabian Sea is dedicated to God Krishna, in the state of Gujarat. This is the temple in west and was visited by Shankaracharya, a memorial of his visit can be found inside the temple.

Photo by : Darshit Nakrani

The temple is with intricate carvings and have two entrances. The flag with Sun and moon symbol is always found on top of the temple which is changed five times a day. The Janmashtami, which is the birthday of Krishna is the major festival of this temple.

Photo by : Sangeeth Nileshwar

  • How to reach :

The nearest town is Jamnagar which is 130km away. Buses run form Jamnagar to Dwraka. Also there are trains from Ahmedabad to Dwaraka via Rajkot and Jamnagar.

Associate Temples :

1. Kedarnath

One of the 12 Jyotirlinga temple, situated in the Gharwal Himalayas in the state of Uthrakhand, is the associated Shiva temple of Badrinath. The air distance between both the temples is just 40kms but via road, it’s 220kms.

The temple is on top a hill and is not accessible by road. The 16kms trekking to the temple starts from Gaurikund. The chief priest of this Temple know as Rawalji is from a family in Payyannur, Kerala. The origin of river Mandakini is close to the temple.

  • How to reach :

Kedarnath is 230kms from Rishikesh, buses and share taxi operates from Rishikesh and Haridwar. Road transport is available till Gaurikund from where you have to trek 16km to reach the temple.

2. Ranganathaswamy Temple :

This is the associate Temple to Rameshwaram. It is dedicated to lord Vishnu at Srirangam near Trichy, Tamilnadu is also the largest functioning Hindu temple in the world. It is the largest religious complex in the world after Angorvat.

Photo by : Karthik Ravichandran

The temple is situated in a small island between Cauvery and Kollidam rivers. The tall towers and Mandapams are with carvings and it’s quite beautiful. The famous Carnatic song Ranga Pura Vihara by Muttuswamy Dikshitar is about the deity which got popular through the band Agam, Harish Shivaramakrishnan singing.

Photo by : Karthik Ravichandran

  • How to reach :

The nearest town Trichy is only 12kms away and there are buses running at all times. Trains run between Chennai, Coimbatore to Trichy.

Photo by : Karthik Ravichandran

3. Lingaraja Temple

The Lingaraja temple in Bhubaneswar is a shiva temple close to the Jagannath temple in Puri. A Swayambhu Lingam, which is believed to have emerged from earth by itself is worshipped in this Temple. The magnificently build temple complex contains many other small shrines and the main tower is completely sculpted.

Photo by : Sidharth Acharya

The Bindusagar tank close to the temple is believed to be filled by water from an under ground spring beneath the Lingaraja Temple. And so the water is sacred.

Photo by : Sidharth Acharya

  • How to reach :

Lingaraja Temple is hardly 10kms away from Bhubaneswar city. Buses are available from the city and also share taxis. You can also get an autorickshaw to the temple.

Photo by : Sidharth Acharya

4. Somanath Temple

It is one of the 12 Jyotirlinga temples in India, situated near Veraval coast, Gujarat. There are no records about when the first Temple was built here as the temple here was destroyed several times in the past. The present day Temple was completed in 1951 and was done by the orders of Vallabhbhai Patel.

The temple has a Banastambha a piller with an arrow representing the north to south pole direction, and the place happens to be the first point of land on this line between Antartica and Indian subcontinent. It is the associated temple at Dwaraka.

  • How to reach :

Somnath is only 7kms from Veraval town which is connected to all the major places in Gujarat via road and rail. There are regular buses from Ahmedabad to Veraval and there are trains too. It is at a distance of 250kms from Dwaraka.