The “Char Dham Yatra” literally translates to “a journey through the four abodes or seats”. This includes visiting four of the most religious destinations in India, revered by Hindus. Some even call it a pilgrimage that every Hindu must undertake at least once in their life. Three of the spots are important to Shaivite and one to Vaishnavite history. They are located in four distinct parts of the country so as to traverse the entirety of the nation, in spiritual pursuit. the summer months see the minimum amount of activity at these spots. Each spot rose to prominence in a different period of history, none less pious than the other. There’s also a smaller circuit in Uttarakhand of four religious places to visit known as the Chota Char Dham.
A holy town in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand, Badrinath is the northern leg of the Char Dham Yatra. It is at an elevation of 11204 ft and is alongside the banks of the Alaknanda river. Badrinath rose to prominence after an incarnation of Vishnu did tapasya there. Badri means “berry” and nath means “lord of” and the places got its name as at the time it was replete with berry trees. The Badrinath Temple is the main attraction of the town and attracts thousands upon thousands of devotees. Earlier, people would make the journey on foot but now, it’s connected with various forms of transport.
Connectivity – If you want to fly down, Dehradun is the nearest location to Badrinath. A helicopter can also be taken here. For taking a train journey, Haridwar serves to be the best connected and closest stop, from anywhere in India. Buses and personal cars and taxis can again be taken till Badrinath, especially if you are coming from a state closer to Uttarakhand.
Best time to visit is from May to October, except during the monsoon season.
A small town in Odisha, located 60 kms from the capital Bhubaneshwar, Puri is the eastern stop of the Char Dham yatra. Home to Lord Vishnu, the site commemorating him is the Jagannath Temple – which dates back to the 12th century. The name is derived from the words “jagan” and “nath” which literally translates to “Lord of the Universe”. The reverence and importance of the temple is substantiated by the fact that it’s responsible for 80% of the economy of the town. It was invaded by Hindu and Muslim rulers through history and was even subjected to the Raj till India gained independence. The “Rath Yatra” is also held every year.
To know more about it, you may read our article on Puri Rath Yatra
Connectivity – The closest airport is in Bhubaneshwar. Trains and buses connect this town to all parts of the country.
Best time to visit is from October to April and you could also spend the new year here to start the year in a pious way!
Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu
In your pursuit of piety, the small temple town of Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu is the southernmost point of the Char Dham yatra. What’s unique about this site is that it is a small island separated from the mainland by the Pamban Channel. According to Hindu mythology, this is the site from where Lord Rama built a bridge to go rescue his wife Sita from Ravana. To atone the sin of killing Ravana – a Bramhin – Rama and Sita built a lingam (symbol of Lord Shiva) to be worshipped here.
Connectivity – Madurai and Tuticorin airports are the closest to Rameshwaram and trains and buses ply regularly here, connecting it to different parts of the country.
Best time to visit is from October to April.
The western stop of the Char Dham yatra located in Gujarat is Dwarka. It is situated at the extreme western tip of the Kathiawar peninsula and is one of the seven most religious cities in the country. The kingdom of Lord Krishna, it is believed to have been the first capital of Gujarat. The Dwarkadhish Temple, in the heart of the city, was built around 2500 years ago in honour of Krishna. It was destroyed and then rebuilt in the 16th century. It is also said that those who visit the temple attain “moksha” or liberation and hence it is referred to as Mokshapuri.
Connectivity – The closest airport is Jamnagar from where you can drive to Dwarka. Dwarka is well connected by buses and trains with the rest of the country with train and bus stations there. One can also take their own private vehicles here.
Best time to visit is any time during the year as the weather is always welcoming.
Tip – Keep a check on the food you consume on the way as there have been reports of adulteration of food.