The Tribune - Spectrum



Sunday, May 13, 2001

Badrinath: The abode of Lord Vishnu
By Pushpender Singh Gusain

STEEPED in Hindu mythology and tradition, having the source of the Ganga river and being home to one of the four dhams and maths, Uttarakhand has remained a centre of pilgrimage from time immemorial. Its tranquil beauty attracted young Adi Shankaracharya (788AD-820-AD), in the beginning of the ninth century, to visit the mountains of Uttarakhand and establish a dham at Badrinath and a math at Joshimath. The Badrinath temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu, is situated at a height of 10,248 feet in Chamoli district.

The Badrinath Temple on the banks of the Alaknanda riverDuring olden days, pilgrims from far-flung areas used to walk for months to seek the blessing of Lord Badrinath. There were meagre facilities en route for pilgrims. Today the things are different. One can drive up to the door of the Badrinath temple and can enjoy all comforts of modern life.

Rishikesh, the city famous for its ghats, ashrams, temples and religious fervour and where the Ganga leaves the guiding arms of the mountains and enters the great plains of India, can be considered the gateway to Badrinath.

Rishikesh onwards, the road to Badrinath is along the bank of the Ganga for nearly 30 km up to Byasi. In this 30-km-long stretch, water sports are being taken up in a big way in the mighty waters of the Ganga. Private entrepreneurs and the GMVN are providing equipment and other facilities to water sport lovers. The GMVN also conducts rafting courses at Kaudiyala, 36-km from Rishikesh.

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On the way to Badrinath, there are five revered and important prayags. These prayags are important places of pilgrimage.

Devprayag (1700 ft) is the first important town on the way and it is next only to Prayagraj (Allahabad) in importance as a prayag. Here, two great and magnificent rivers, the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi join each other and become the Ganga. The famous Raghunath and Shiv temples are situated here.

According to Kedarkhand, Lord Rama did penance here to get rid of the curse incurred by him after killing King Ravana. The 9th century Raghunath temple has been carved out of a huge monolithic rock just above the confluence. The big and impressive temple is of Katyuri style

architecture. The main idol in the temple, made of shaligram is of Raghunathji. Here onwards, the Alaknanda is a constant companion up to Badrinath.

Srinagar (1900 ft), the next important town on the way, is situated on the left bank of the Alaknanda. Raja Ajaypal founded Srinagar in 1517 AD when he shifted his capital here from Devalgarh. Raja Ajaypal played an important role in integrating the 52 garhs (forts) spread all over the present Garhwal region. The word Garhwal means the home of garhs.The Kamleshwar Mahadev and Kalyaneshwar temple and Shanker Math are important religious places here.

Dhari Devi, an important place of worship and supposed to be a Kali siddh peeth, is 14 km from Srinagar on the way to Rudraprayag. It is right on the bank of the Alaknanda and a large number of devotees visit the place round the year.

A view of a typical dahari hamlet in the Garhwal HimalayasRudraprayag (2000 ft), the next prayag , is 34 km from Srinagar. The place draws its name from Lord Shiva (Rudra) and is at the confluence of the Mandakini, descending from Kedarnath, and the Alaknanda. The ancient temples of Rudranath and Chamunda Devi are situated here and Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of Rudranath. It is believed that Sati, the first wife of Lord Shiva, meditated here. This place is also famous for the man-eater leopard who claimed 300 lives in seven years from 1918 AD to 1925 AD. The leopard was shot dead by legendary Jim Corbett.

Gaucher, famous for large stretch of flat land, is 21 km from Rudraprayag. Every year in November, a large trade fair is organised here .

Karnaprayag (2600 ft), the third prayag on the way, is 10 km from Gaucher. It is named after Karna, the popular hero of Mahabharata. The Pindar river, flowing from Pindari glacier, and the Alaknanda merge here. A temple dedicated to the Goddess Umadevi stands at the confluence of the two rivers. It is said Karna propitiated the Sun God here and acquired the impregnable shield.

Nandprayag (3000 ft) is 21 km from Karnaprayag. It is a picturesque town at the confluence of the Nandikini and Alaknanda. Nandikini is named after the glacier, the source of its origin, near the Nanda Devi peak.

The old fashioned and small town of Chamoli (3500 ft) is 10 km from Karnaprayag and is situated on the left bank of the Alaknanda. This town suffered major losses of life and property in the 1999 earthquake.

Joshimath (6150 ft), the winter resort of the Badrinath Temple establishment, is the most important town on route to Badrinath. Its name is derived from Jyotirmath, which was established by Adi Shankaracharya in the beginning of the ninth century.

The road between Joshimath and Badrinath is not wide enough for two-way traffic, hence the flow of traffic in each direction is regulated by the gate system. Convoys of vehicles leave at fixed times in either direction.

The majestic Badrinath temple is situated on the right bank of the undulating Alaknanda, guarded on either side by the snow-capped and pyramidal Nar (19,210 ft) and Narayan (19,750 ft) parvats. The Neelkanth peak (21,640 ft), towering in the backdrop, further adds charm to the splendid settings. There is a perennial source of hot water very close to the temple, known as Tapt Kund. It is said that Lord Vishnu meditated here for many years and fed himself with badris (wild berries), which were in abundance at this place. Hence the name Badrinath. Legends date the temple prior to the vedic age, but historical records are not available.

Sri Badaracharya constructed the existing temple over the old structure around 1920 AD. Its architecture is a unique blend of Rajasthani and Uttarakhandi styles. The main entrance gate Singhdwar is colourful and impressive. The 50-feet-high temple with a gilded roof, offered by Queen Ahilyabai Holkar, has two parts. The garbhgriha (the sanctorum), where the idol of Vishnu stands in the centre, and the mandapam for the pilgrims to assemble for darshan. The idol of Lord Vishnu is carved in black stone, Shaligram.

As per tradition, the idol of Lord Badrinath is provided a meal. The meal is placed before the idol and the doors of the sanctuary are then closed to let it ‘consume’ the meal in solitude. Darshan of the lord is available from the sabha mandap when the temple is open.

The shrine normally remains open from April to October. The opening ceremony takes place in the last week of April or the first week of May.

A large number of places around Badrinath are of tourist and pilgrim interest. There are five blocks of stones called Narad, Narsingh, Barah, Garur and Markenday Shilas close to the temple with different mythological contours. Each of these shilas has been associated with some mythological event.

Five dharas (streams) named as Prahlad, Kurma, Urvasi, Bhrigu and Indra are located in Badripuri, some distance from Badrinath. Mana, the last village in this valley along the Tibet border, is 2 km north of Badrinath. There are a number of caves in and around Mana.

At a distance of 3 km from Mana village are the 122 metre-high Vasudhara falls, a towering column of spray. Alkapuri glacier, the source of the Alaknanda is about 7 km from Vasudhara. The glacier (19,000 ft) is at the base of the Balkun peak and is considered the abode of Kubers, Yakshas and Gandharvas.

A visit to Badrinath and surrounding areas is fruitful and gratifying, not only for the devout but also for nature lovers.