Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Soak In The History Of The Chota Char Dham - An Indian Odyssey

The concept of pilgrimage is one that used to be solely the preserve of the religious. The idea in many people's minds is mostly connected with the Islamic Hajj to Mecca. And while that is a trip reserved for people of the Muslim faith, trips to famous faith sites are now popular even with the non-believer. An ability to soak up some history and culture is only a flight away.
As much as anything, this is because ancient and historic monuments are an attraction in themselves. Their religious significance means that these buildings have stood for a long time. That in and of itself makes them attractive to visitors from abroad who want to see history in the raw. They also tend to be peaceful sites where believers and non-believers alike can mix and bask in the wonder.
There are few parts of the world where this is more the case than in India. A country that has been in existence and had a civilization for so long has inevitably become a place where varied cultures and faiths live. There are few other nations in the world where churches sit side by side with temples and with mosques in such a matter-of-fact way.
The predominant faith in India, though, is certainly Hinduism. Other countries have wide and varied collections of mosques, churches, synagogues and more. In India, you'll find a collection of temples and historic religious sites that are significant to the Hindu faith. And a tour of these sites can be a wonderful way to see India at its best. For example, the chota char dham yatra tour allows you to see four holy shrines that are of profound importance to Hindu pilgrims.
Badrinath Temple
Also known as the Badinarayan temple, this is a shrine to the Hindu god Vishnu and is open every year from the end of April to the beginning of November. Located around the temple are images of other sacred figures such as Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu. These are a focus of worship for Hindu pilgrims from India and around the world.
Kedarnath Temple
The most remote of the four chota char dham sites, Kedarnath is located in the state of Uttarakhand. It is named for King Kedar, whose daughter Vrinda performed a number of austerities as an incarnation of Lakshmi. As with the other sites on the tour, it is located auspiciously at the mouth of a river, in this case the Mandakini.
Yamunotri
The shrine at Yamunotri is dedicated to the goddess Yamuna, who gives her name to the river at whose source the town is found. The Yamuna itself is recognised by Hindu worshippers as a divine mother. Pilgrims value it for the nurturing development it offered the early Hindu civilisation.
Gangotri Temple
As the name may suggest, this temple is found at the origin of the river Ganges, India's longest and most well-known river. The temple and the river are named for the goddess Ganga, who in legend took the form of a river to absolve the sins of King Bhagiratha's predecessors.
For anyone with an interest in the history of Hindu worship or in religious shrines generally, the chota char dham is a tour worth making. As a way to see India's most serene, peaceful locations, it is hard to match.

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