According to Hindu belief, Badrinath became prominent when Nar-Narayan, an avatar of Vishnu, did Tapasya there. At that time that place was filled with berry trees. In the Sanskrit language, berries are called "badri", so the place was named Badrika-Van, i.e. the forest of berries. The particular spot where the Nar-Narayan did Tapasya, a large berry tree formed covering Him to save Him from the rain and the sun. Local people believe that Mata Lakshmi became the berry tree to save Lord Narayan. Post-Tapasya, Narayan said, people will always take Her Name before His Name, hence Hindus always refer "Lakshmi-Narayan". It was therefore called Badri-Nath, i.e. the Lord of Berry forest. This all happened in the Satya Yuga. So Badrinath came to be known as the first Dham.

The second place, Rameswaram, got its importance in the Treta Yuga when Lord Rama built a Shiva-Lingam here and worshiped it to get the blessings of Lord Shiva. The name Rameswaram means "God of Ram".

The third, Dhaam Dwarka, got its importance in the Dvapara Yuga when Lord Krishna made Dwarka His residence instead of Mathura, His birthplace.

At the fourth, Puri Dhaam, Lord Vishnu is worshiped as Jagannath, his Avtar for Kali Yuga.

The four Shankaracharya Peeth (Seats) at the Chaar Dham school of Hinduism, created at least four Hindu monastic institutions. He organised the Hindu practitioners under four Maṭhas (Sanskrit: मठ) (institutions/monasteries), with the headquarters at Dvārakā in the West, Jagannatha Puri in the East, Sringeri Sharada Peetham in the South and Badrikashrama in the North.

The table below gives an overview of the four Amnaya Mathas founded by Adi Shankara, and their details.

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