Why do Hindus aspire to go on the Char Dham Yatra?
Char means four. Dham denotes the adobe of a deity and yatra refers to a pilgrimage. Therefore, Char Dham Yatra means pilgrimage to offer obeisance to the four important adobes of Hindu gods. It isw noteworthy that the four dhams are situated at four different ends of the country. Jagannath Puri is alongside the sea on the east, Dwarka is on the seaside in the west, Badrinath is deep in the hills in the north and Rameswaram is on the seaside in the south.
It is the secret desire of every Hindu to visit all the four dhams in his lifetime. That would qualify him for a place with divine. Earlier, with thousands of kilometers between one dham and another it was a very difficult task. Few had the time and wherewithal to do it. It is still not easy now either. But with many swift forms of travel and more conveniences, it is not as difficult. It is said that in the Hindu traditions just as there are four Vedas, four Varnas, four directions and there are four important places of pilgrimage.
Perhaps these four places of pilgrimage are recommended to Hindu to make them aware of the extent of influence of Hindu deities. Visiting these places is also a test of one’s devotion. Travelling such long distances is not always easy. Therefore it is a challenge to all those who undertake to visit all the four dhams. Besides the spiritual influence of a visit to each of these four powerful deities, one cannot ignore the experience or gains through such long travel and interaction with people who look, eat and speak differently.
Jagannath Puri has been described as a heavenly pilgrimage. Lord Krishna spent some time here. Jagannath literally means master of the universe, that is, Lord Vishnu. The deity in the temple is that of Vishnu/Krishna. Alongside the main deity the idols of Balram and Subhadra are also present. The idols are made of sandalwood. It is believed that Brahma presented the eyes of the principal deity there is a casket containing a portion of Krishna’s ashes. Every 12 years the casket is transferred into a new idol and the old one is replaced. Within Jagannath Puri there are five sacred places – Markandya, Chandan, Parvati Talab, Shwetganga and Inderghuman.
The prasad distributed at Jagannath Puri is renowned worldwide as extremely pure and wholesome. It can be consumed even when one is fasting. Interestingly, people of all religions sit together and eat. A visit to this site is particularly virtuous.
Dwarka has ancient, historic and religious importance. After leaving Mathura Lord Krishna, his brother Balram and the Yadavas moved to Dwarka to establish it as a capital city. Dwarkapeeth was established here in the 8th century by Adi Shankaracharya to promote SanatanDharm. Since then Hindu have accepted it as one of the four dhams. Vajranath, son of Anirudh, constructed the adobe of the deity in Dwarkadheesh temple. Here an idol of Lord Krishna reigns supreme. Dwarkapeeth Math holds special significance for all Hindus. A temple dedicated to Rukmani, one of Krishna’s queens, is famous for its unique architecture.
In the Skandpuran, Prabhaskhand, it is mentioned that the deity at Dwarka is very benevolent. Even those born as bacteria, insects, birds, animals and reptiles are absolved of their sins and attain salvation. Those who live there are specially blessed because they are always serving Lord Krishna. Even sages and ascetics cannot attain the righteousness achieved their sins. It qualifies them for heaven. Even the dust of Dwarka is said to be special. All those who pray, meditate, offer sacrifices and penance in Dwarka offer it all to Lord Krishna who comes closer to them.
Rameswaram is well known because after his victory over Ravana is Lanka, Lord Ram came here and offered his gratitude to Shiva. The Ramayana says that it was here that Lord Ram bathed and offered his prayers to Shiva before he advanced to wage war against Ravana surrendered before Lord Ram and sought his protection. In Dhanushkodi temple thre are idols of Lord Ram, Sita Lakshman, Hanuman and Vibhishan. The corridors of the Ramnath Swami temple are larger than those of any other temple in India. The temple fulfils all the requirements of Vaastu.
Of the 12 famous Jyotirlinghas one is at Rameswaram. In the Skandpuran, Brahmkhand, it is said that Rameswaram is important because of the bridge constructed here by Lord Ram. By seeing the bridge one is blessed. The devotion for Lord Vishnu and Shiva increases and one becomes virtuous. A person succeeds in whatever he does through physical or mental effort or through speech.
Badrinath is situated deep within the Himalayas between Nar and Narayan peaks alongside the Alaknanda River. The beauty of Badrinath has been described in the Mahabharata, Skandpuran and several other Hindu religious texts. The principal deity is Lord Vishnu. Madeof Shalgram stone, the idol is artistically carved. According to old descriptions, Adi Shankaracharya located the idol in a nearby pond in the 7th century. While the rapidly flowing water in the Alaknanda River is freezing cold, there are hot springs next to it. The devotees bathe in the Tapti kund before offering prayers in the temple. When the Pandavas visited Badrinath, Bhim placed a hugeboulder in the river to help others cross it. This is known as the Bhim shila. It is said tha tin a nearby cave known as Vyas Gufa, Vyas wrote the Puranas. The rocks outside the cave resemble a book and are known as Pustika. The two hot water ponds are known as Narad kund and Surya kund.
In the Mahabharata, it is said that to benefit from pilgrimages to other holy places one must perform religious ceremonies. However, a visit to the area in the viscinity of Badrinath temple is enough to attain salvation. Of all pilgrimages, a visit to Badrinath is most outstanding. Lord Vishnu resides here. A visit to Badrinath frees one from worry, greed and grief. By offering prayers at the temple one attains heaven.
Situated deep within the Himalayas at a height of over 10,000 feet above sea level the temple is surrounded by snow for long periods. The temple is open for about six months every year. When it is opened in the beginning of summer people from all over the country assemble to see the Akhand Jyoti that continues unattended through the winter months.
Your question answered:
When hundreds of important temples and pilgrimage sites are spread all over the country why special why has emphasis been given to the Char Dham Yatra?
The principal reason for the recommendation is that all the four places of pilgrimage are special. The deities are very powerful. However, an important reason for recommending them is that they are situated in four different corners of the country. Travelling to them is difficult. It arouses faith and devotion. Beside travelling to far off places affords an opportunity to come across a variety of people and situations. The experience helps one grow spiritually.
~ Prem P. Bhalla