The month of April is quite a special in many regards from Indian context, it is the first month of the financial year, it braces us for the scorching summers, and our tongues get ready for the all summer delicacies (Mango being the prime). And if we talk the spiritual point of view, April’s the month when the snow clears and the ‘Char-Dhams’ of Uttarakhand: Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath & Badrinath, the gates of these sacred shrines are opened for the devotees. Also known as ‘Chota Char-Dhaam’ or the Char-Dham of the North, these pilgrimages have their own legend that amplify their significance by manifolds, let’s know them:
Yamunotri: Yamuna river’s point of origin, this shrine is place of worship of river deity, Yamuna, situated at the altitude of around 10800 ft. The actual source though is located on Kalind mountain, 1 k.m above the shrine, Champasar Glacier; reason why Yamuna is also revered as Kalindi. According to pauranic legends, Yamuna is the daughter of solar deity, Surya dev and hence sister of Yamraj, lord of death. She is the most revered river deity after Ganga.
Gangotri: Ganga river’s point of origin. This shrine is place of worship of most revered river deity, she is also addressed as Bhagirathi, Mokshadayini, Tripathgamini and many other names. Although Ganga actually originates from Gomukh Glacier, 19 k.m.s from Gangotri. She is the daughter of Himvan, lord of Himalaya and sister of Bhagwati Parvati. She is the only female deity who is associated with the Tridevas: she travels with Brahmma in water form in his Kamandalu; she emanates from Vishnu’s foot as Vishnupadi; while Shiv holds her force by keeping her in his hair. It is believed that by the end of Kaliyuga, she will leave the Bhuloka and enter the Patala.
Kedarnath: Among all the jyotirlings of Bhagwan Shiv, Kedarnath is the most popular one. The shrine was named in honor of a noble king, Kedar, who ruled in Satyuga. Albeit, the temple was established by the Pandavas, when they visited Kailash to please Shiv. In order to test their devotion, Shiv took a bull’s form and escaped from there, with Pandavas approaching behind. Finally, here, Bhima caught hold of the bull’s hump; but the bull escaped with Bhima having the hump part. The Pandavas installed the hump and thenceforward it was worshipped as the shivlinga.
Badrinath: The most prominent place of worship of Bhagwan Vishnu, where his dual forms, Nara & Narayana performed austerity for the welfare of all living entities. Badrinath is among the four main pilgrimages of India. The legend behind Badrinath goes back to times immemorial; when Bhagwan Vishnu sat in penance, Bhagwati Lakshmi took a form of a berry tree to provide him shade from the harsh Sun. Since then the place got its name Badri nath (Badri means berry), lord of Badri. This tale also immortalized the love between Lakshmi & Vishnu.
Even after eons have passed, the significance of the shrines have only increased, people visit these pilgrimages to please their deities and seek good fortune. According to a popular belief, devotees visit there from April to September, afterwards the shrines are closed and inhabitants come to downtown. The rest months, from October to March, while the hills are snow-capped, Devtas are believed to attend the shrines and do the pooja.
Before we end, a food for thought; if we remember, earlier people used to visit the char-dhams in old age, after they have performed all their duties. But look at today’s scenario, with ease of access and concrete replacing nature day by day, we have started treating the pilgrimages as tourist destinations. And with the increasing numbers of people, the shrines are also getting affected with rise in temperature. And if we want to predict the repercussions of man’s interference, 2013 Kedarnath tragedy has a lot to teach us. We need to contemplate, what we are doing, with our faith; and what legacy are we leaving for our coming generations.
With this thought, we will conclude and see you next month.
Festivals to follow:
Sita Navmi: The arrival of the cosmic mother into the mortal realm happened for the first time in Shri Ramavtar. Never before did she participate in Narayarn’s leela during his earlier 6 incarnations. But this time, when Narayarn’s 7th incarnation happened, Bhagwati Lakshmi too incarnated as Devi Sita and with her help, the divine motive of Ramavtar was successfully achieved. Her legend educates a lot about the society of those times that was far fair and far liberal if compared to today’s. May her legend keep inspiring the generations to persist and stand with the truth.
Buddha Purnima: Among Bhagwan Vishnu’s prime incarnations, Gautam Buddha comes at no. 9. He was born as a prince, but destiny stimulated him towards sageship and immortalized his legend, the one who redefined the teachings of Vedas keeping in mind the time/circumstances and taught us the virtues of compassion & non-violence. This Buddh Poornima, make yourself aware with the legend of Siddharth, and how he became Buddh, the awakened.