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In simple terms, Char Dham conveys the presence of four sacred abodes. But it has a got a great significance in Hindu religion. Char Dham originally used to refer to a pilgrimage circuit encompassing four holiest sites which were located at four directions of India – Badrinath, Puri, Rameshwaram and Dwarka. They were established by Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century AD. A relatively smaller circuit of Hindu pilgrimage is formed by the four hallowed places of Indian Himalayas, which are also known as Chota Char Dham. ‘Chota’ means small in Hindi. Alternately called Char Dham of Himalayas or Char Dham of Uttarakhand, the revered group possesses four sacred sites – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamnotri.
There are three major sects in Hinduism – Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism. The Char Dham of India consists of three Vishnava locations (Dwarka, Badrinath and Puri) and one Shaiva (Rameshwaram).
Hindu pilgrimage circuit of Indian Himalayas represents all the primary cults by having two Shakta sites (Yamunotri and Gangotri), one Vaishnava site (Badrinath) and one Shaiva site (Kedarnath). Adi Shankaracharya, who has been credited with the creation of the four holiest abodes in India, is believed to have attained freedom from his bodily form in Kedarnath.