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The Sacred Places of Hindus-Some General Information for the Pilgrims

Travel, especially the pilgrimage are the great pleasure for Sunil Kunnoth. He loves to wander with his spiritual sojourns.

Life is a pilgrimage. The wise man does not rest by the roadside inns. He marches direct to the illimitable domain of eternal bliss, his ultimate destination.

-Swami Vivekananda

Everyone loves pilgrimage. All religious people are fond of making some kind of spiritual journeys. The Hindus are one of the most travelling folks when it comes to pilgrimage. For him, a 'thirthasthana' or a pilgrimage center is a sacred space. The 'Char Dham' (four pilgrimages) are the most sacred places of Hindus for pilgrimage. In India, they have plenty of options to make a divine journey, whether it be in the South, North, West or the East.

India is a vast country of various cultures. It has hundreds of 'tirthas' or sacred places across the country and finding a list of the most important holy places of pilgrimage is a little bit trivial. This article is to help you find some important places of pilgrimage for Hindus. People from other communities can also visit these places and there is no restriction for them. In fact, many people from Europe and other regions do visit these places regularly when they land in India.

Of the several holy destinations, the most important ones for the Hindus are the Char Dham (four pilgrimage places) of Vishnu.The Char Dham are often considered the most holiest sites for Hindus that have to be visited in one's lifetime. The Char Dhams are

  1. Badrinath (Uttarakhand)
  2. Puri (Odisha)
  3. Dwaraka (Gujarat) and
  4. Rameshwaram (Tamil Nadu)

Apart from the above, there is one more type of Char Dhams and that is in the Himalayas. These are

  1. Kedarnath
  2. Badrinath
  3. Gangothri and
  4. Yamunotri

All the above four places are in the state of Uttarakhand (formerly Uttaranchal). Obviously for this very reason, Uttarakhand is the most revered and sought after destination for Hindu pilgrims. The state is often described as the 'Land of the Gods' (Deva Bhumi). It is a newly formed state in India.

You may ask what is the difference between both these Char Dhams or what are the features of these locations. Well, that is a genuine doubt and needs some clarification.

The Char Dham I mentioned first is the most important and sacred one. These four locations are spread across the country (India) in all directions, i.e. the South (Rameshwaram), North (Badrinath), East (Puri) and the West (Dwaraka). Thus, making a trip to the Char Dham gives one an experience of travelling the entire nation. The pilgrims enjoy the feeling of having covered the country completely. It is not a small thing either.

Making a visit to the Charm Dham is a strenuous and time-consuming task. But it is worth and a divine experience. The pilgrims can be proud of the fact that he has traveled the entire nation! These four destinations are thousands of miles apart. Each place has a vibrant identity with different cultures and languages.

While in Rameshwaram (Tamil Nadu), Tamil is what spoken, it is Hindi in Badrinath (Uttarakhand). Similarly, while the people of Dwaraka (Gujarat) speak Gujarati, what you hear in Puri (Odisha) is Odiya. Fortunately except Tamil Nadu, people of other centers use Hindi also, which makes communication an easy thing. It is one of India's unique features.

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The other significant point of the Char Dham is that these are the sacred abodes of Vishnu, a Hindu God.

The Features of Other Char Dham in the Himalayas

The second set of Char Dham is in the Himalayan sector. These four places, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri are situated in the state of Uttarakhand. Here the language is Hindi.

What makes it different is that it is not fully dedicated to Vishnu and his avatars. Here, the worshiping are as follows:

Kedarnath - Shiva Temple by the banks of the Mandakini river

Badrinath - Vishnu Temple by the banks of the Alakananda river.

Gangotri - Dedicated to the Goddess Ganga, the holy river.

Yamunotri - Dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna, the holy river.

A Video on Char Dham

The Saptapuri

The Saptapuris are believed to offer the liberation of 'moksha'. Moksha is a Hindi word which means release from birth and death. This has seven sacred cities called 'Mokshapuri'. They are Kashi (also known as Varanasi/Banaras/UP), Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu), Mayapuri (Haridwar/Uttarakhand), Ayodhya (UP), Avantika (Ujjain/MP), Mathura (UP) and Dwaravati (Dwaraka, Gujarat).

The Seven Sacred Rivers

In India, some rivers are worshiped as Goddess. Most of the pilgrimage centers are on the banks of the rivers and a bath in the river is considered as a ritual. The seven sacred rivers in India are

  • Ganga
  • Yamuna
  • Godavari
  • Saraswati
  • Kaveri
  • Narmada and
  • Sindhu

Ganga, for Hindus, is the most sacred river. It has four streams. They are

  1. Alakananda
  2. Bhagirathi
  3. Mandakini and
  4. Yamuna

Pilgrimage is a sacred journey. It is adventurous, dangerous and enjoyable alike. In the present world of pressure and tension, a spiritual journey will keep you relaxed and refreshed. It is a search of spiritual significance and a sort of discovery. Your destination may be anywhere, but the journey must go on.

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2014 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth


Veeresh Babu on October 26, 2018:

Simple, nice and wonderful depiction of Holy places and its significance!

Sunil Kumar Kunnoth (author) from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India) on May 11, 2014:

Anne Harrison

Thanks for stopping by and leaving some encouraging comments. I have already done a couple of hubs on pilgrimage. Hope you will find the same and read. This week I will publish another hub on Christian pilgrimage in Kerala. Please watch for. Thank you for the support.

Anne Harrison from Australia on May 11, 2014:

A really interesting article - I look forward to reading your others on pilgrimages. Thank you

Sunil Kumar Kunnoth (author) from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India) on May 03, 2014:

So glad to note your comments on my hub featuring pilgrimage aspects of India. You are right it is a wonderful land to visit and live in. Thank you for your visit and comments.

Al Wordlaw from Chicago on May 02, 2014:

Thanks again sunikunnoth, it is amazing to read about the beautiful aspects of India. It sounds like a wonderful place to visit and live in. Looking forward to reading more.

Sunil Kumar Kunnoth (author) from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India) on March 10, 2014:


Hello Sir, Thank you for your precious comments. I too share the concern on the present crisis related to Char Dham due to last years calamity. Let's hope things will turn positive soon. Thanks for your vote as well.

Sunil Kumar Kunnoth (author) from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India) on March 10, 2014:


Thanks for your kind words. I am so happy to know that you have enjoyed it well. It is also joyful to note that you are interested in learning more about pilgrimage.

Sukhdev Shukla from Dehra Dun, India on March 10, 2014:

Thanks for summarising the information about Char Dhams. It is unfortunate that we had such set back to the Yatras during last year cloudburst and landslides. Let us hope that we recover out of it fully. Nice Hub. Voted up and useful.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 10, 2014:

You always have a new topi con mind and this one is no exception I enjoy learning more about pilgrimages the photos are so beautifully clear.

Sunil Kumar Kunnoth (author) from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India) on March 10, 2014:


Thanks for stopping by and leaving some fine comments. Glad to know it is of interest to you. It is even more fine to know that you are interested in learning about different religious practices.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on March 10, 2014:

Thank you for sharing about these pilgrimages and the divine experiences the offer. It is interesting to learn about different religious practices.

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