Yoga in ‘Char Dham’- the four abodes of God

We human beings are amusing creatures; trapped within the illusions of our own mental prison! We surround ourselves with umpteen materialistic milestones in a bid to achieve a sense of success and satisfaction. Our eternal industry seems to revolve around being socially worthy in terms of those material achievements. And yet, we seem to be forever searching for something more… We are forever on the move, achieving one goal after another, not feeling the adrenaline rush that we were expecting on achievement of our goals. What is the reason that this quest for peace and happiness are always elusive? We will need to travel back in time to understand this elusive nature of human being’s spiritual progression.

Indian philosophies articulate the goals of humankind as ‘Purusharthas’ – the blueprint for the fulfillment of human birth. Purusha is the individual, and Artha signifies the objective, meaning, or pursuit of that individual. The four stages of Purusharthas are Dharma (Righteousness), Artha (pursuit of material Wealth), Kama (fulfillment of Desires) and Moksha (Liberation). To reach the ultimate destination of ‘Moksha’, the barrier of the first three aspects of life must be crossed. Therefore, while the race for material possessions that humankind indulges in is required, peace can only be achieved when we break free of this cycle to amass physical wealth and strive towards self-knowledge, leading to self-realization. But how do we achieve freedom from worldly attractions, and how do we work towards self-realization and ultimate salvation?

The ‘Char Dham’ pilgrimage marks a special significance amongst spiritual seekers as it is considered as one of the ways of reaching this stage of liberation. The literal meaning of ‘Char Dham’ is ‘four abodes or seats of God’. The actual ‘Char Dhams’, or abodes of God, as coined by Indian Sage and philosopher Sri Adi Shankaracharya, are situated in the four directions of India – Badrinath in the North, Puri in the East, Rameshwaram in the South and Dwarka in the West. There is also a ´Chhota Char Dham´, or a smaller circuit, comprising of four famous holy destinations in the north of India, namely Yamuotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. They represent all three major sects of Hinduism i.e. ‘Vaishnava’, ‘Shaiva’ and ‘Shakta’ traditions. Seated in the backdrop of epic, mythology and culture, these destinations attract millions of pilgrims every year; some, walking barefoot on the sheer wings of faith.

The pilgrimage starts with Yamunotri Dham, the source of the sacred Yamuna River. It is believed that anyone taking a dip in the Yamuna achieves salvation. From the origin of the Yamuna, pilgrims walk to the origin of the Ganga river – the Gangotri and Gomukh. The story goes that King Bhagirath meditated for thousands of years to bring the river Ganga to earth and grant life to his children. The Ganga is believed to be so holy that one dip in her waters is supposed to wash all sins of believers.

Shri Kedarnath, a prominent pilgrimage and one of the twelve ‘Jyotirlingas’ (Radiance of Lord Shiva), is the next stop of this pilgrimage. The present temple here was built by Adi Shankaracharya, and stands adjacent to the site of an earlier temple built by the Pandavas.

Shri Badrinath is considered as the most sacred among the four shrines. It also forms a part of the larger Char Dham circuit. The shrine of Lord Badrinath is made of Shaligrama, a highly sacred stone, worshipped for six values of life – righteous living, creation of wealth, protection, sound health, pleasures and spiritual attainment. The Badrinath temple opens only for six months and is closed during winters. A small lamp is always left burning inside the temple, and is found burning even when the temple is reopened after six months of winter. Also, the flowers that are offered to the deity in the temple remain fresh during this time. This is considered a miracle. This region is also believed to have witnessed the Adi Shankaracharya attaining freedom from the process of reincarnation.

Nestled in the lap of the mighty and mesmerizing Himalayas, the ‘Char Dham’ journey truly opens the traveler to the minuteness of human existence and spirit. The sheer altitude of the mountains, lush green forests and the freshness in the unadulterated atmosphere with the thick layer of soul-soothing air of divinity crafts a perfect meditative atmosphere.

This phenomenal journey also trials the seeker in countless ways. Human frailness comes to fore as the multitude of furious rivers. The known appear unfamiliar; strength is tested to limits. And when one is on the verge of defeat, a stranger lends an encouraging hand. The simplest gets hardest and the hardest part of the journey brings calmness. In the silence of nature, thoughts start clamoring for attention; and amidst the loud drumming of bells and chants it gets still as the stretches of eternally frozen glaciers. Treading these routes, in this quest towards salvation, one travels to the unexplored places within; uncovering one’s TRUE SELF! … Isn’t that what Yoga is really all about??

This journey is incomplete without the mention of Dheersingh ji (the man in pic)
Himalayas represent nothing less than the crowning apex of nature’s grandeur. It’s laden with adventure & scenic magnificence. But, it also tests your mettle against some of the most treacherous & crisscrossed tricky terrain. The single-lanes, steep cliff, unpaved passes have absolutely no runoff and no guardrail for if one gaffes. A flash’s slip-up means you’ll be tumbling down thousands of feet, never to be heard from again!
Dheersingh’s flawless and vigilant driving skills is the reason I am still around 😉 Being his co-driver, I also picked up a few mountain driving tricks…
1. Use 2nd gear while ascending; it gives enough low end grunt to the vehicle
2. While descending again use the 2nd or the 3rd Gear to have better control of the Vehicle & Engine breaking will be on your side for need for a sudden halt
3. The most sensitive part – Chamber or the Sump needs to be kept away from the nasty stones and bumps on the road.
4. On the widening roads always anticipate by looking at the Road as far as you can especially when going downhill as reversing a Car uphill on a narrow Road with a steep fall on one side can become somewhat of a task. It’s better to just stop at a broader part of the Road to let the vehicle pass.
5. Never overtake anything on a blind curve. It’s better to be late than never!!!

*Google.com

38 thoughts on “Yoga in ‘Char Dham’- the four abodes of God

    1. Impactful and brilliant writers like you would know I’m not a writer of any grade. But thankyou for being this generous 🙏… My phone had limited potential in capturing the magnificent beauty of the Himalayas… sometime, you must experience them yourself 🌸

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thankyou Sean 🙏… I understand; yes, some did have hard time traveling. But in the end, we were all glad we could do it together…i guess that is the beauty of being in a group – you know or you don’t, there’s always someone guarding your back 😍🌸

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      1. The Houseguest, her friend Gavin, and I went up to the mountains in Arizona once (nothing close to yours in height and majesty) and the road was bad, but not as perilous. Still, Gavin had recently developed a severe anxiety about small winding road, and he was driving (and he’s a big, strong fellow, so kind of ironic). He reached a point where he could no longer drive and got out of the car. I had to take over for him, so I guess I did have his back.

        Liked by 2 people

  1. I do not speak for others, but in the West it is very difficult to understand Hindu meditation. I would like to have that spiritual strength to face everyday life. We are suffocated by consumerism and material value is a priority to live. Young people, for the most part, think of fashion, sex and having a good time. The value of the family is not in their plans. That’s why your article impresses me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Mac for this. To be honest it’s also the situation in this part of the world. It’s not about Hindu or any other religion’s way of worship/spiritual practice. I
      What I understand in my limited experience of life is if you feel it within… Then boundaries, culture have no role; as on the inside all emotions, turmoils are the same!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re right about that. But what happens is that you have spirituality inside. Like a legacy Instead we are more reluctant to part with what we were taught since childhood and it has nothing to do with the spirit. I know it is up to one to feel it or not. If I didn’t have it in my being, I couldn’t write poems.

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      2. You said it! These philosophies mesmerizes me… Thousands of years and we across borders live on the same principles… Dharma Artha Kama… This drives us! No matter which part of the world- degree may differ but it’s us. All modern western phycology is also based on it. And on top of all… This spirit (moksha) unites us with the Ultimate. And so I feel it in your poetries and you see it in my articles!

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  2. Your appreciations are a reflection of life. It is the most complete definition of the pure being that I have been able to read. Writing about happiness while doing it is true, and if your explanation comes from meditation on the mountain of wisdom, it is more credible. Leaving aside the material courage to find spiritual peace within us is an overwhelming mental exercise if you are surrounded by a capitalist world par excellence. I accompany you in your conclusions and from now on I will have an incentive in your words to follow your teachings. I’m 2.30 in the morning but happy to read it. A hug.

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      1. Your simplicity is part of your person. That makes the light of your knowledge shine brighter when I read you. Your blog is a guide to know how we have to do to endendar our “I”. Each article is a step to know more. Your writing is very clear, direct and very well structured. And I’m sure you’ll be writing a book soon. You have the gift of the word and the qualities of a writer.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thankyou Mac for every word!
        I don’t know about the book… What can I write that’s already not written? We have all kinds of books available on ‘how to succeed being a Yogi’ … Maybe I can write stuff on ‘how one keeps failing being one’… I could be great at it 😂… And you’ll be my only reader 😍

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    1. Yes Sonia, I am so glad to have met you. It’s not just words, I mean it ❣️… I’ll admit, you were the most difficult to crack😂😉… but so glad we spoke and shared those precious moments. The journey was not the same without you… Love you loads ❤️

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    1. I think it was also more of a reminder to myself! Life is mysterious in many ways… And every experience ends in some life lessons! Thankyou for reading beyond the obvious 🙏😍🤗🌸

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