# Dijkstra’s Algorithm

# Dijkstra's Shortest Path Algorithm

Before proceeding, it is recommended to have a brief idea about Adjacency Matrix and BFS

Dijkstra's algorithm (opens new window) is known as single-source shortest path algorithm. It is used for finding the shortest paths between nodes in a graph, which may represent, for example, road networks. It was conceived by Edsger W. Dijkstra (opens new window) in 1956 and published three years later.

We can find shortest path using Breadth First Search (BFS) searching algorithm. This algorithm works fine, but the problem is, it assumes the cost of traversing each path is same, that means the cost of each edge is same. Dijkstra's algorithm helps us to find the shortest path where the cost of each path is not the same.

At first we will see, how to modify BFS to write Dijkstra's algorithm, then we will add priority queue to make it a complete Dijkstra's algorithm.

Let's say, the distance of each node from the source is kept in d[] array. As in, d[3] represents that d[3] time is taken to reach node 3 from source. If we don't know the distance, we will store infinity in d[3]. Also, let cost[u][v] represent the cost of u-v. That means it takes cost[u][v] to go from u node to v node.

cost[u][v] Explanation (opens new window)

We need to understand Edge Relaxation. Let's say, from your house, that is source, it takes 10 minutes to go to place A. And it takes 25 minutes to go to place B. We have,

d[A] = 10
d[B] = 25

Now let's say it takes 7 minutes to go from place A to place B, that means:

cost[A][B] = 7

Then we can go to place B from source by going to place A from source and then from place A, going to place B, which will take 10 + 7 = 17 minutes, instead of 25 minutes. So,

d[A] + cost[A][B] < d[B]

Then we update,

d[B] = d[A] + cost[A][B]

This is called relaxation. We will go from node u to node v and if d[u] + cost[u][v] < d[v] then we will update d[v] = d[u] + cost[u][v].

In BFS, we didn't need to visit any node twice. We only checked if a node is visited or not. If it was not visited, we pushed the node in queue, marked it as visited and incremented the distance by 1. In Dijkstra, we can push a node in queue and instead of updating it with visited, we relax or update the new edge. Let's look at one example:

Example Graph (opens new window)

Let's assume, Node 1 is the Source. Then,

d[1] = 0
d[2] = d[3] = d[4] = infinity (or a large value)

We set, d[2], d[3] and d[4] to infinity because we don't know the distance yet. And the distance of source is of course 0. Now, we go to other nodes from source and if we can update them, then we'll push them in the queue. Say for example, we'll traverse edge 1-2. As d[1] + 2 < d[2] which will make d[2] = 2. Similarly, we'll traverse edge 1-3 which makes d[3] = 5.

We can clearly see that 5 is not the shortest distance we can cross to go to node 3. So traversing a node only once, like BFS, doesn't work here. If we go from node 2 to node 3 using edge 2-3, we can update d[3] = d[2] + 1 = 3. So we can see that one node can be updated many times. How many times you ask? The maximum number of times a node can be updated is the number of in-degree of a node.

Let's see the pseudo-code for visiting any node multiple times. We will simply modify BFS:

procedure BFSmodified(G, source):
Q = queue()
distance[] = infinity
while Q is not empty
    u <- Q.pop()
    for all edges from u to v in G.adjacentEdges(v) do
        if distance[u] + cost[u][v] < distance[v]
            distance[v] = distance[u] + cost[u][v]
        end if
    end for
end while
Return distance

This can be used to find the shortest path of all node from the source. The complexity of this code is not so good. Here's why,

In BFS, when we go from node 1 to all other nodes, we follow first come, first serve method. For example, we went to node 3 from source before processing node 2. If we go to node 3 from source, we update node 4 as 5 + 3 = 8. When we again update node 3 from node 2, we need to update node 4 as 3 + 3 = 6 again! So node 4 is updated twice.

Dijkstra proposed, instead of going for First come, first serve method, if we update the nearest nodes first, then it'll take less updates. If we processed node 2 before, then node 3 would have been updated before, and after updating node 4 accordingly, we'd easily get the shortest distance! The idea is to choose from the queue, the node, that is closest to the source. So we will use Priority Queue here so that when we pop the queue, it will bring us the closest node u from source. How will it do that? It'll check the value of d[u] with it.

Let's see the pseudo-code:

procedure dijkstra(G, source):
Q = priority_queue()
distance[] = infinity
distance[source] = 0
while Q is not empty
    u <- nodes in Q with minimum distance[]
    remove u from the Q
    for all edges from u to v in G.adjacentEdges(v) do
        if distance[u] + cost[u][v] < distance[v]
            distance[v] = distance[u] + cost[u][v]
        end if
    end for
end while
Return distance

The pseudo-code returns distance of all other nodes from the source. If we want to know distance of a single node v, we can simply return the value when v is popped from the queue.

Now, does Dijkstra's Algorithm work when there's a negative edge? If there's a negative cycle, then infinity loop will occur, as it will keep reducing the cost every time. Even if there is a negative edge, Dijkstra won't work, unless we return right after the target is popped. But then, it won't be a Dijkstra algorithm. We'll need Bellman–Ford (opens new window) algorithm for processing negative edge/cycle.


The complexity of BFS is O(log(V+E)) where V is the number of nodes and E is the number of edges. For Dijkstra, the complexity is similar, but sorting of Priority Queue takes O(logV). So the total complexity is: O(Vlog(V)+E)

Below is a Java example to solve Dijkstra's Shortest Path Algorithm using Adjacency Matrix

import java.util.*;
import java.lang.*;
import java.io.*;

class ShortestPath
    static final int V=9;
    int minDistance(int dist[], Boolean sptSet[])
        int min = Integer.MAX_VALUE, min_index=-1;

        for (int v = 0; v < V; v++)
            if (sptSet[v] == false && dist[v] <= min)
                min = dist[v];
                min_index = v;

        return min_index;

    void printSolution(int dist[], int n)
        System.out.println("Vertex Distance from Source");
        for (int i = 0; i < V; i++)
            System.out.println(i+" \t\t "+dist[i]);

    void dijkstra(int graph[][], int src)

        Boolean sptSet[] = new Boolean[V];

        for (int i = 0; i < V; i++)
            dist[i] = Integer.MAX_VALUE;
            sptSet[i] = false;

        dist[src] = 0;

        for (int count = 0; count < V-1; count++)
            int u = minDistance(dist, sptSet);

            sptSet[u] = true;

            for (int v = 0; v < V; v++)

                if (!sptSet[v] && graph[u][v]!=0 &&
                        dist[u] != Integer.MAX_VALUE &&
                        dist[u]+graph[u][v] < dist[v])
                    dist[v] = dist[u] + graph[u][v];

        printSolution(dist, V);

    public static void main (String[] args)
    int graph[][] = new int[][]{{0, 4, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 8, 0},
                                {4, 0, 8, 0, 0, 0, 0, 11, 0},
                                {0, 8, 0, 7, 0, 4, 0, 0, 2},
                                {0, 0, 7, 0, 9, 14, 0, 0, 0},
                                {0, 0, 0, 9, 0, 10, 0, 0, 0},
                                {0, 0, 4, 14, 10, 0, 2, 0, 0},
                                {0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 2, 0, 1, 6},
                                {8, 11, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 7},
                                {0, 0, 2, 0, 0, 0, 6, 7, 0}
        ShortestPath t = new ShortestPath();
        t.dijkstra(graph, 0);

Expected output of the program is

Vertex   Distance from Source
0                0
1                4
2                12
3                19
4                21
5                11
6                9
7                8
8                14