Char Dham (literally: ‘the four abodes/seats’) are the names of four pilgrimage sites in India that are widely revered by Hindus. It comprises Badrinath, Dwarka, Puri and Rameswaram. It is considered highly sacred by Hindus to visit Char Dham during one’s lifetime. The Char Dham defined by Adi Shankaracharya consists of three Vaishnavite and one Shaivite pilgrimages.
According to Hindu mythology, Badrinath became prominent when Nar-Narayan, an incarnation of Vishnu did Tapasya there. At that time that place was filled with Berry trees. In Sanskrit language they are called Badri, so the place was named Badrika-Van i.e. the forest of Berry. The particular spot where the Nar-Narayan did Tapasya, a large Berry tree formed covering him to save him from rain and sun. Local believe mata Lakshmi became the Berry tree to save Narayan. Post Tapasya, Narayan said, people will always take her name before his name, hence Hindus always refer “Lakshmi-Narayan ” unlike “Shiva-Parvati” . It was therefore called Badri-Nath i.e. the Lord of Berry forest. This all happened in the Sat-Yuga. So the Badrinath came to be known the first Dham.
The second place, the Rameshwram got its importance in the Treta-Yug when Lord Rama built a Shiv-ling here and worshiped it to get the blessings of Lord Shiva. The name Rameshwram means “the God of Lord Rama”. Rama himself is considered an incarnation of Lord Vishnu
The other pilgrimages sites in the Indian state of Uttarakhand viz. Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath were known as Chota Char Dham to differentiate them from the bigger circuit of Char Dham sites, but after the mid-20th century they have been also referred to as the Char Dham.
The Char Dham is the most important Hindu pilgrimage circuit in the Indian Himalayas. Located in the Garhwal section of the state of Uttarakhand (formerly the northwestern section of Uttar Pradesh), the circuit consists of four sites—Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath. While each site is unique in its own fashion, inclusion in the Char Dham has, over time, caused them to be viewed together in popular imagination and actual pilgrimage practice.