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Char Dham Yatra Tour Puri - Rameshwaram - Dwarka - Badrinath

Discussion in 'Destination Guides' started by Debapriya Deb, Mar 1, 2016.

  1. Debapriya Deb

    Debapriya Deb Active Member

    'Char Dham' can literally be translated to 'the four abodes' and the term is coined in reference to the four widely revered sacred abodes of Hinduism - Badrinath, Puri, Rameshwaram and Dwarka. There is a belief among the Hindu community that visiting the Char Dham during one's lifetime washes away all the sins committed. Char Dham Yatra is considered as a highly sacred journey that ensures the path towards 'moksha' - the transcendent state of enlightenment.

    The four dhams are located roughly at the four cardinal points of the Indian subcontinent - Badrinath in the North, Puri in the East, Rameshwaram in the South and Dwarka towards the Western side. Incidentally, while Badrinath and Rameshwaram share the same longitude, Puri and Dwarka fall on the same latitude, thus forming a perfect square shaped pilgrimage circuit.

    Origin of Char Dham Yatra

    The concept of Char Dham came into reckoning during the period of great reformer and philosopher Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century. It was Shankaracharya who defined the Char Dham in four corners of country at Badrinath, Puri, Rameshwaram and Dwarka. He also established four Hindu monastic institutions (matha) by the name of Shankaracharya Peetha to maintain and preserve the four scriptures (Veda) of Hinduism - Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda.

    Each of the Char Dham has one famous temple as its distinguishing attraction. Badrinath in Uttarakhand is famous for the Badrinath temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The second one is the Ramanatha Swamy Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, which is the main attraction at Rameshwaram in the state of Tamil Nadu. On the Eastern side, there is the Jagannatha Temple at Puri, Odisha. And the Dwarakadheesh temple at Dwarka in Gujrat - which was the dwelling place of Lord Krishna - is the fourth abode that completes the Char Dham.

    It is worth taking a note that three of the four 'dhams', Puri, Dwarka and Badrinath, are Vaishnavite pilgrimage sites, while Rameshwaram caters to the Shivite philosophy of Hinduism.

    Planning for Char Dham Yatra Tour

    Traditionally the Char Dham Yatra starts from the Eastern point at Puri, proceeding in clockwise direction to Rameshwaram in South, Dwarka in West and finally concluding at Badrinath in the North.

    Considering the scattered geographical area one has to cover to complete the Char Dham Yatra, it is indeed a challenging task. The satisfaction of visiting these sacred temples partly lies in the challenges faced during the journey, rather than the destination itself.

    Although as per the common belief, the harder the journey goes, the better it is in terms of merit, there's no hard and fast rule that requires the pilgrims to visit all the four dhams during a single trip. While there are conducted tour operators who manage the entire trip at one go, most of the pilgrims prefer to visit the four sites on their own with sufficient breaks in between.

    If you are looking for detailed information to plan your Char Dham trip properly, then you are at the right place. This article is intended to provide you with accurate information and answer all your queries regarding the holy Yatra of Char Dham. Besides offering you detailed insight on the significance of Char Dham Yatra, it will take you on a virtual tour of Char Dhams. Let's find out where the char dhams are located at, how to get there, what to expect, and many more relevant information that can be of great help in realizing your dream of Char Dham Yatra.

    1. Puri

    State - Odhisa
    Region - East India
    Dham - Jagannath Temple

    Situated on the Eastern coast of India in the state of Odisha, the Jagannath Temple at Puri is regarded as one of the greatest spiritual and cultural heritages of the world. The main deity is Lord Krishna, celebrated as Jagannath. Countless devotees from all over the world visit Puri to seek the blessings of Sri Jagannath, the Lord of the Universe. Popularly known as the Jagannath Dham, the Jagannath Temple is usually the first stop-over for the devotees on the sacred Char Dham Yatra.

    Lord Jagannath is not the only deity worshipped in the temple, he is accompanied by brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. Ratha Yatra (Chariot Trip) is the most celebrated annual festival at Puri. During this festival, the three deities are taken out on a procession and kept for nine days at Gundicha Temple. The significance, splendor, and magnitude of Puri Ratha Yatra festival is something to be witnessed. It's an extravaganza that lures millions of devotees from all over the world into visiting Puri.

    The idols of the fundamental Trinity, Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra, are made of wood. After every twelve years, these wooden idols are replaced ceremoniously with the wood of sacred trees. Known as 'Navakalebar', the festival is celebrated with massive fan fare and it attracts huge number of devotees not only from all parts of India but also from beyond the borders.

    Jagannath Temple History & Architecture:

    Going by the accounts of mythological Puranas, the history of Jagannatha is perhaps as old as the human civilization, but the current temple complex was built in the 11th century by Raja Tritiya Ananga Bhima Deva of the Ganga dynasty. It is one of the tallest temples in the entire Indian sub-continent with a height of 214 feet from the ground level. The entire complex sits on a total surface area of over 42,000 square feet. The main temple is surrounded by 30 other smaller temples, belonging to different periods of history, dedicated to various Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

    The temple complex is bounded by two compound walls, the outer one known as Meghanada Pracira & the inner one known as Kurma Pracira. The main temple can be divided into of four structures. 1. Vimana or Bada Deula sanctorum, 2. Jagamohan or Mukhasala (the porch), 3. Natamandir (the audience hall) and 4. Bhogamandap (the hall for residuary offerings) built in a row in an axial alignment.
    One of the finest preserved speciman of Kalinga style of architecture, the Jagannath temple is full of excellent stone carvings and lovely pieces of sculpture.

    How to Reach Puri?:

    Nearest Railway Station - Puri (PURI)
    Nearest Airport - Bhubaneshwar (BBI)

    Puri has well-connected road network. Regular bus service is available from Bhubaneshwar, Cuttack, Baleshwar, Kolkata and Vishakapatnam.

    Being a terminus station on the East Coast Railway, Puri has direct rail connectivity with major Indian cities like Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Vishakapatnam. Khurda Road junction, just 44 KM away from Puri, is another important railhead. Khurda Road station has direct rail connectivity with Bangalore, Chennai, Kochin, Trivandrum, Hyderabad and Vijaywada.

    If you prefer to travel by air, then Bhubaneshwar airport is the nearest one, about 54 KM away from Puri. Being the state capital of Odisha, Bhubaneshwar has daily flights to and from Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Guwahati.

    Other Tourist Attractions In & Around Puri:

    1. Puri Beach - Blessed with one of the longest stretches of golden sands, Puri is a favorite beach destinations in the Eastern parts of India.

    2. Sun Temple - Situated at Konark, around 35 KM away from Puri, this is an architectural marvel constructed during the rulings of King Narasimhadeva I around the year 1250. Designed like a grand chariot with excuisite stone cravings decorating the entire structure, the Konark Sun Temple is something that should not be missed.

    3. Konark Beach - A very beautiful and serene beach situated in close proximity to the historical Sun temple. The Konark beach is not thronged by too many tourists, making it an ideal place to relax and enjoy the soothing atmosphere.

    4. Chilka Lake - The largest brackish water lagoon, the Chilka Lake is a favorite spot for the bird-watchers. The Chilka Lake, which is now a protected sanctuary, is known to be frequented by some exclusive variety of migratory birds species. Boat ride is the other major attraction at Chilka.

    5. Lingaraj Temple - Situated at a distance of 53 KM from Puri, the Lingaraj temple is a famous historical and religious attraction. The temple is the most prominent landmark of the Bhubaneswar city. Constructed in the 11th century, the Lingaraj temple's excuisite stone carvings are sure to leave you amazed.

    6. Udaigiri and Khandagiri Caves - Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves are partly natural and partly artificial caves of archaeological, historical and religious importance. It is believed that most of these caves were carved out as residential blocks for Jain monks during the reign of King Kharavela. One of the earliest groups of Jain rock-cut shelters, the caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri command a unique position in the filed of Indian history.

    2. Rameshwaram

    State - Tamil Nadu
    Region - South India
    Dham - Ramanatha Swamy Temple

    Rameshwaram, in the state of Tamil Nadu, is situated in the Gulf of Mannar at the very tip of the Indian peninsula. The Ramanatha Swamy Temple at Rameshwaram holds a significant place is India's religious history - not only because of the fact that it's one of the four sacred Hindu dhams, but also on account of the mythological legends that the temple was constructed by Lord Rama himself. Rameshwaram is believed to be the place from where Lord Rama had built a bridge to Lanka to kill the demon King Ravana and rescue his wife Sita.

    The presiding deity at Ramanatha Swamy Temple is Lord Shiva and it houses one of the twelve sacred Jyotirlingas.

    Ramanatha Swamy Temple History & Architecture:

    The history of Ramanatha Swamy temple is associated closely with the Ramayana and Rama's victorious return from Lanka. However, mythologies kept aside, the earliest reference to the temple can be found in stone inscriptions dating back to the 7th and the 8th century. Since then, the main temple went through several renovations and reconstructions. Most of the expansions were carried out between the 12th and the 16th centuries and the current temple is believed to have been constructed in the 17th century.

    The temple is spreaded across an area of 15 acres. Built in a traditional Dravidian style of architecture, the temple has lofty gopurams, massive walls and a colossal monolithic structure of Nandi measuring 18 x 22 feet. It also boasts of a 4000 feet long pillared corridor with over 4000 decorated stone pillars, which is supposedly the longest in the world. The beautifully carved granite pillars are mounted on a raised platform. There are four impressive gopurams, one in each direction. The Eastern gopuram, the largest one, towers to a height of 126 feet and it has nine levels. The architectural beauty and the grandeur of the Ramanatha Swamy Temple is spectacular and one of its own kind.

    How to Reach Rameshwaram?

    Nearest Railway Station - Rameshwaram (RMM)
    Nearest Airport - Madurai (IXM)

    The city of Rameshwaram is connected with all major cities of Tamil Nadu by the network of roads. The nearest major city is Madurai, around 169 KM away. Regular bus service is available from Chennai, Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Thanjavur, Kanyakumari and Coimbatore. Roads are in good condition and it is the most preferred mode of transport for tourists from major South Indian cities like Hyderabad, Bngalore and Trivandrum.

    Rameshwaram is a major railhead in Tamil Nadu. Direct trains are available from Chennai, Bangalore, Trichy, Tirupathi and Madurai. People coming from other parts of India can arrive at either Chennai or Bangalore and subsequently catch a connecting train to Rameshwaram.

    Nearest airport is in Madurai. Madurai airport is well connected to major Indian cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai. It also has a couple of international flights to Colombo and Dubai. Travellers from other foreign countries can arrive at Chennai International Airport and then proceed towards Rameshwaram by train, bus or taxi.

    Other Tourist Attractions In & Around Rameshwaram:

    1. Gandhamadana Parvatham - Remember the name of the mountain from which Hanuman was supposed to fetch the medicinal herbs to save Laxman? Yes, that's the Gandhamadana Parvatham. The highest point on the Rameshwaram island, one can get a panoramic view of the entire island from this spot.

    2. Dhanushkodi - A popular picnic spot by the sea side, Dhanushkodi also has pilgrimage significance. The name Dhanushkodi literally means the end of the bow and it is the spot from which Lord Rama believed to have built the famous bridge with floating stones. The place is also famous for migratory birds that flock here on the sea shore.

    3. Five-Faced Hanuman Temple - A unique temple where the prersiding diety is an idol of five-faced Hanuman. Each of the five faces refer to the five avatars of Hanuman - Lord Hanuman, Lord Adivaraha, Lord Narasimha, Lord Hayagriva and Lord Garuda. There is a floating stone in the temple which is believed to have been used during the construction of the floating bridge by Lord Rama in the mythological epic Ramayana.

    4. Ariyaman Beach - Looking a place to spend a relaxing evening with your friends and family members? The Ariyaman Beach, with a lush green cover and pristine white sands stretching for a length of over 2 KM, can be the ideal spot. The beach also offers different water sports activities like water scooter rides and parasailing for the adventure-loving tourists.

    5. Pamban Bridge - Annai Indira Gandhi Road Bridge or more popularly the Pamban Bridge is a sea-link on Palk Strait that connects Rameshwaram with mainland India. There are two bridges running parallel to each other - one for the road traffic and the other for the railways. The railway bridge measuring 2340 meters in length, established in the year 1913, has already made it to the history books as a heritage site. It has the distinction of being the first ever sea bridge constructed in India.

    3. Dwarka

    State - Gujarat
    Region - West India
    Dham - Dwarkadheesh Temple

    Lying in the furthest Western tip of India, Dwarka in Gujarat is the third sacred dham of Hinduism. This legendary city used to be the dwelling place of Lord Krishna according to Indian mythology and holds tremendous religious significance to the followers of Hinduism.

    The most significant attraction at Dwarka is the Dwarkadheersh temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna. The original temple is believed to have been built by Vajranabha, the grandson of Sri Krishna, although there is no historical reference to such a claim. The temple is also known as 'Mokshapuri', as a visit to the temple is believed to help a devotee achieve the state of Nirvana. Being a Pushtimarg temple, it follows the guidelines and rituals created by Shree Vallabhacharya for the Vaishnavites followers.

    Dwarkadheesh Temple History & Architecture:

    The current temple was constructed in the 15th century. It exhibits a great extent of inspiration from the Chalukya style of architecture. Also known as the Jagat Mandir, the majestic five-storied structure of the Dwarkadheesh temple stands high on the confluence of Gomati River and Arabian Sea. Elevated to the height of 78.3 meters, the huge temple dominates the skyline of Dwarka.

    Built with the support of 72 stone pillars, this beautifully carved structure constructed of limestone is still in pristine condition. The temple complex can be accessed by two huge gateways - Moksha Dwar and Swarga Dwar. The custom is to enter the temple through the Moksha Dwar and depart through the Swarga Dwar, which leads to the Gomati Ghat. Within the enclosure of the Dwarkadhish temple complex, there are other shrines dedicated to various Hindu Gods and Goddesses.

    A unique feature of the temple is the dress color of the diety. Dwarkadheesh wears 7 different colors on 7 days of the week.

    How to Reach Dwarka?

    Nearest Railway Station - Dwarka (DWK)
    Nearest Airport - Jamnagar (JGA)

    Dwarka can be reached by roadways, railways and airways. Regular bus service to Dwarka is available from Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Jamnagar, Rajkot, Vadodara and Bhuj.

    Dwarka has a railway station of its own and it is well connected to the rest of the state. Multiple daily trains are available to and from Ahmedabad, Okha, Somnath, Surat, Bhoj, and Rajkot. Besides, there are direct trains to Dwarka from Kolkata (Howrah), Mumbai, Jaipur, Puri, Varanasi, Guwahati, Gorakhpur, Ernakulam, Tuticorin and Dehradun.

    Jamnagar airport is the nearest domestic airport, situated at a distance of 137 km from this holy city. It is a small airport that has connectivity with Mumbai only, operated by Air India. Rajkot has an alternative airport for travellers coming in from other parts of India. The Rajkot airport has connecting flights to major Indian cities including New Delhi, Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Chennai. International travelers can come down to Mumbai International Airport and then catch a flight to Jamnagar.

    Other Tourist Attractions In & Around Dwarka:

    1. Nageshwar Temple - Around 8 KM from Dwarka, the Nageshwar temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a major tourist attraction for the religious minds. The temple houses one of the 12 Jyotirlingas mentioned in the Shiva Mahapurana.

    2. Gopi Talav - This is the pond where Sri Krishna used to play with the Gopikas, if you believe the mythological stories.

    3. The Light House - Dwarka Light House is a prominent landmark in the city of Dwarka. The place is known to offer splendid views of sunset.

    4. Beyt Dwarka - It's an island located around 30 KM away from the Dwarka coast. The island is famous for an ancient temple built by Vallabhacharya in the 15th century. The beach is also very popular among tourists for its rich coral reefs, water sports, camping and picnics.

    4. Badrinath

    State - Uttarakhand
    Region - North India
    Dham - Badrinath Temple

    Situated on the lofty mountaineous terrains of Himalaya, Badrinath in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand is the fourth sacred abode that completes the Char Dham. Badrinath is the third Vaishnavite site, alongside Puri and Dwarka, among the four holy dhamas. Perched at an elevation of over 3100 meters above the sea level in the Garhwal hills, the famous Badrinath temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It lies on the banks of the Alaknanda River amidst scenic natural surroundings.

    As the temple is located in the Himalayan region, it is open for the public only for 6-7 months every year due to extreme weather conditions. May to October is considered as the ideal period to go for Bdrinath Darshan.

    There's an interesting legend associated with the formation of this holy site. According to the mythological beliefs, Lord Vishnu is believed to have undertaken his penance at this place. When Goddess Mahalaxmi, the wife of Lord Vishnu, noticed that the Lord is meditating out in the open, she took the form of a Badari tree and provided shelter to protect him from adverse weather conditions. Hence the temple was referred to as Badari Narayan temple, from which the word Badrinath was derived.

    Mata Murti Ka Mela, the festival to commemorate the descent of river Ganges on earth, is the most important festival celebrated in the Badrinath temple.

    Badrinath Temple History & Architecture:

    The Badrinath temple was originally established by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century and it went through several renovations since them. The present temple is conical in shape and it was constructed by the Garhwal kings in the 16th century. The temple resembles the architecture of Tibetan Buddhist Vihara to a certain extent with its brightly painted facade, ornamental stone carving and pillar designs. The temple is approximately 50 feet tall with a cupola on top, covered with a gold gilt roof.

    The entrance of the temple has a sculpture of Lord Vishnu on top of Garuda - his Vahana. The main sanctum has an idol of Adi Shankaracharya in a meditating position. The temple can mainly be divided into three parts - the Garbhagriha, the Darshan Mandap and Sabha Mandap. The main idol presiding over the temple is of four-armed Lord Vishnu carved in black stone. The idol is seen holding a shankha and a chakra in two of its arms, while the other two hands are poised in a meditation position.

    How to Reach Badrinath?

    Nearest Railway Station - Rishikesh (RKSH)
    Nearest Airport - Dehradun (DED)

    Badrinath is well connected by road from all major cities in Uttarakhand. Bus, cab and shared taxi services are available from Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun, Kotdwar, Garhwal and Kumaon region.

    If you are travelling by train, then Rishikesh is the nearest railway station, situated at a distance of 297 KM from Badrinath. However it's a small station with only a few connecting trains. Haridwar railway station, a further 24 KM away, has connecting trains to other parts of India including Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai.

    Badrinath doesn’t have an airport and the nearest one is at Dehradun. Dehradun Airport is 310 KM away from Badrinath and it has direct flight connectivity with Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Trivandrum and Lucknow.

    Other Tourist Attractions In & Around Badrinath:

    1. Vyas and Ganesha Caves - Two natural cave formations. According to the legends, Veda Vyas, the author of Mahabharata, is believed to have dictated the entire story from the Vyas Cave to Lord Ganesha, who wrote the script sitting in the Ganesha Cave.

    2. Vasudhara Waterfalls - A beautiful waterfalls surrounded by lofty mountain peaks located at a distance of just 8 KM from the Badrinath temple. It requires a 4 KM trek down the rocky pathway to arrive at the base of the falls. A must visit site, especially for the trekking enthusiasts.

    3. Tapt Kund - A natural hot water spring, Tapt Kund is the abode of Lord Agni and is famous for its medicinal properties.

    4. Brahma Kapal - Brahma Kapal is a ghat lying on the banks of Alaknanda River. It is a platform to perform several Hindu rituals and pay homage to the departed souls.

    5. Nanda Devi National Park - Also popular by the name of Valley of Flowers, it's a must visit place for the nature lovers.

    6. Auli - Located around 25 KM away from Badrinath, Auli is a snow-covered hill station famous for its skiing slopes. If you are an adrenaline junkie, then don't miss out on the opportunity to visit this awesome place.

    Hope this Char Dham Yatra Travel Guide would provide you the desired information and prove to be helpful in planning your pilgrimage trip to the sacred Char Dhams. If you have already been to any of the four abodes of Hinduism, then feel free to share your stories, inputs, trivia or anything else that can make this travel guide to Char Dham a better resource.

    Last edited: Apr 4, 2016
    Steve Dawson and Admin like this.

  2. Steve Dawson

    Steve Dawson Member

    Gandhamadana Parvatham is an amazing place. Its supremely peaceful and not over-run by tourists. The views have to be seen to be believed and are truly breathtaking. I visited it several years ago along with the nearby ghost town of Dhanushkodi, which was largely destroyed in the 1964 cyclone. Its an amazing, unspoiled place of incredible natural beauty which you should visit if you have time during a trip to Gandhamadana Parvatham. I'm hoping to return there in 2017 and I hope it has remained as undeveloped and beautiful as it was during my last visit.