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Interesting facts about the Four famous Dhams of India

Char Dham opens up for visitors after 6 months of winter shutdown

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Kedarnath Temple night view Image: Wikimedia Commons
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The annual char(four) dham pilgrimage is opened for its pilgrims from Monday onwards. The two important shrine Gangotri and Yamunotri shrines are opened on the the auspicious ‘Akshay Tritiya‘. The pilgrimage spans for a period of six months after remaining closed for six months in the winters. Religious sites like Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, Badrinath are parts of the chota Char Dham.

NewsGram decodes the significance of these four Char Dhams in Hindu Mythology:

Yamunotri

Yamunotri temple and Ashram Source: Wikimedia Commons
Yamunotri temple and Ashram
Source: Wikimedia Commons

This is the first stopover of the char dham yatra. Yamunotri, the source of the Yamuna River and the seat of the goddess Yamuna. It is famous for its thermal springs and glaciers is a part of famous Char Dham Yatra. Yamunotri is the source of Yamuna river. According to a legend, Asit Muni, a revered sage, used to reside here. The actual source is a frozen lake of ice & glacier (Champasar glacier also known as Yamunotri Glacier) located on the Kalindi mountain at the height of 4421 m above sea level, about 1 km further up, is not frequented generally as it is not accessible and hence the shrine has been located on the foot of the hill. The approach is extremely difficult and pilgrims therefore offer pooja at the temple itself.

Gangotri

Gangotri Temple, Uttarakhand
Gangotri Temple, Uttarakhand Source: Wikimedia Commons

The picturesque pilgrimage in the hinterlands of the Himalayas is the most sacred spot where Ganga, the stream of life, touched earth for the first time. According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Ganga took the form of a river to absolve the sins of King Bhagiratha’s predecessors, following his severe penance of several centuries. Lord Shiva received into his matted locks to minimize the immense impact of her fall. She came to be called Bhagirathi at her legendary source.

Kedarnath

Kedarnath Temple Source: Wikimedia Commons
Kedarnath Temple
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The lingam at Kedarnath, unlike its usual form, is pyramidal and is regarded as one of the 12 Jyotirlings. Lord Shiva manifested in the form of Jyotirlingam or the cosmic light. Kedarnath is highest among the 12 Jyotirlingas. This ancient and magnificient temple is located in the Rudra Himalaya range. This temple, over a thousand years old is built of massive stone slabs over a large rectangular platform. It is endowed with utter scenic beauty and lies at an altitude of 3.581 meters.

Badrinath

Badhrinath Badhrivishal Temple Source: Wikimedia Commons
Badhrinath Badhrivishal Temple
Source: Wikimedia Commons

The name of the pilgrimage originates from the local word badri which is a type of a wild berry. It is said that when Lord Vishnu sat in penance in these mountains, his consort Goddess Laxmi took the form of a berry tree and shaded Him from the harsh sun. It is not only the dwelling place of the Lord Himself but also home to countless pilgrims, saints and sages, who meditate here in search of enlightenment.

 

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  • Pragya Jha

    These are also called ‘small circuit of four abodes’.

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    Almost every Hindu wants to participate in this pilgrimage at least once in his lifetime

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This is like a bench mark for every hindu. Just like how Varanasi yatra is considered one of the holy places to visit once in a lifetime, the chaar dhaam is visited by hindus in great great numbers

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  • Pragya Jha

    These are also called ‘small circuit of four abodes’.

  • Pashchiema Bhatia

    Almost every Hindu wants to participate in this pilgrimage at least once in his lifetime

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This is like a bench mark for every hindu. Just like how Varanasi yatra is considered one of the holy places to visit once in a lifetime, the chaar dhaam is visited by hindus in great great numbers

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BJP Offers Christians a Pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Is Religious Pilgrimage A New Playground For The Political Parties?

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community

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In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented. Wikimedia Commons
  • The political parties (BJP and Congress ) are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage in the coming local elections of the eastern states of India
  • The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively
  • After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022

The Campaign promises during the elections times are quite bizarre nowadays, from “I’ll cut your taxes,” to “vote for me, and I’ll set you free.”

In the coming local elections in the Christian- majority state of Nagaland in India the agenda by the rival BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and Congress parties are unique: “Vote for us and get either a free or a heavily subsidized pilgrimage to Jerusalem.”

Yes, you read it right. The political parties are promising a free trip to Jerusalem for the pilgrimage. The offer has been put up by the Prime Minister Modi- led BJP for the upcoming elections. Even the local partners of the Congress party are treading up the same path.

Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons
Recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. Wikimedia Commons

The BJP has not made it clear yet if it is offering the scheme to all of India’s Christians, or only to Christians in the northeast, or only to Christians in Nagaland. The Christian population in Meghalaya and Nagaland is almost 75 percent and 88 percent respectively. Nagaland is one of smallest states of India, with the population of just under two million people.

Also Read: Muslim women can now travel for Haj without Mahram

As per the Tourism Ministry figures, around 58,000 Indian tourists came to Israel in 2017, a 47% increase from 2015.

The elections are scheduled for the February 27 in three northeastern states – Meghalaya, Nagaland and Tripura – later this month.

The AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi also tweeted on the double standard of the government and lashed out at the government for its discriminatory decision, ending Haj subsidy but allowing subsidies to continue for Hindu pilgrimages like the Mansarovar Yatra.

This would not be the first time that India has bankrolled pilgrimages for the Christians. Before this, the government had subsidized the Haj pilgrimage for the Muslim community. But recently, the central government decided to withdraw subsidy given to hundreds and thousands of Muslims for the annual Haj pilgrimage. The government cited the reason for the subsidy withdrawal as they wanted to utilise the funds saved from withdrawing the subsidy for the education of minorities, particularly girls. After the Supreme Court’s intervention, the government had drafted the policy to abolish the Haj subsidy in a phased manner by 2022.

Also Read: Government ends Haj subsidy as part of a new policy

The scheme is a clear cut example of hypocrisy and opportunism, especially considering the cancellation of Haj subsidies. It seems quite contrary, on the one hand, the government is cutting down the benefit scheme for one section of the society and on the other hand, some other community is been offered the same thing. Such moves bring out the double standards of the political parties just for the sake of vote bank. In a country like India, such miscalculated steps could backfire in form of communal rights and the results could be unprecedented.

In 2011, Nigeria also did something same as that of India. For many years, their government financed a trip to Mecca for Muslims, leading to some 42,000 Nigerians visiting the country. But with the change in the government, subsidies have been cut considerably and now a 12-day pilgrimage costs around 2000 dollars. The change in stance has resulted in 78% decrease from 2011.