Mahabyakhyas of the Char Dhams

Disclaimer: This is a post which I’d posted on my personal blog some time back. This is perhaps a better place to put it up for the benefit of our readers.

I never have been very spiritual but I?ve been religious, the degree varying from mild at times to highly orthodox at others. Of late, I have had hardly any time for religion (or religious pursuits) which has kind of mellowed down my religious sentiments. But the day before, it received a sudden boost and my interest in religion was piqued by a visit to a certain place. I came to know of things previously unknown, things which can only make a person wonder. And it has some quizzing significance too. I wouldn?t like to dwell much on the rules and discourse on Hinduism, but I?d like to shed some light on the Mahabyakhya (Grand Descriptions) of the Char Dhams (the four places of religious significance) identified by the Shankaracharya.

The Char Dhams consist of Shringeri (in the south), Badrinath (in the north), Dwaraka (in the west) and Puri (in the east). Each has its own importance in the sequence of religious events that has placed it in this elite group. Now, each of these places were described by a single sentence (eka pada) by the Shankaracharya depicting their significance and value in life, religious or otherwise. If one were to embark upon elaborating these eka padas, the Mahabyakhya would never come to an end. I?m just putting these one-liners and explaining their meaning in a few words.

Shringeri ?Ahan Brahmasmi? meaning ?Mu hi Brahma? or ?I am Brahma?. It points to the fact that Brahma is within each one of us. Everyone of us is important in the creation of this universe and hence is a part of that great power, The Brahma.

Badrinath?Ayamaatma Brahma? meaning ?Eyi aatma hin Brahma? or ?The soul is Brahma?. It also highlights the importance of an individual in the universal scheme of things. Each soul is a part of that great power and thus has a spark of divinity in it.

Dwaraka?Tat Twam Asi? meaning ?Sehi tume ata? or ?You are He?. It also propounds the theory of the other two dhams vindicating that everyone is a part of the higher force and since He is in everyone, so is everyone some part of Him.

Now, all these dhams signify the relationship of Man with Brahma. But Puri is different. Puri is the only place of worship in all of India where God is treated just like Man. He feels hot in summer and takes boat rides to cool off, bathes and falls sick, is put in a closed chamber to rest, goes out to visit his relatives, eats food just as we do (complete with ?na tiana, chha bhaja, sathiye pouti? meaning ?9 dishes of curry, 6 kinds of fries and 60 measures?), enjoys dance and music and so on. So, the Mahabyakhya of Puri dham is also a bit different.

Puri ?Pragyanan Anandan Brahma? meaning ?Mu Gyanaswarupa, Anandaswarupa? or ?I am the embodiment of both Knowledge and Joy?. It points out to the mortal behaviour of the immortal Brahma. It encompasses both Knowledge and Joy by indulging in both intellectual discourse and spiritual entertainment. And Man has every right to engage both in his pursuits and pleasures being a part of Brahma.

Now, the above was a revealation to me. I?d never cared to ponder on this matter of the relationship of the higher power and us (though from a spiritual point of view). It has only made the goals of religion a bit clearer if not completely.

Oh, and another thing, on the internet whenever one searches for Char Dham, it?s either the ?Char Dhams of the North? or Rameshwaram instead of Shringeri. I can?t figure out if this is a mistake. Even if it is, how does it matter as long as the Mahabyakhyas are intact?

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