I was sipping a cup of coffee at my home. It was a lazy rainy morning. I was enjoying Mother Nature’s blessings on her planet. Suddenly I started remembering one of my fascinating memories of Himalayas. It was the middle of August. I was in Chamoli district; a part of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. Then it was monsoon time in the Himalayas; Chamoli was facing continues rainfall for the last few days. I had just completed Sri Hemkund Sahib and Valley of Flowers trek and my plan was to visit another remarkable destination – Sri Badrinath Temple.
Legends of Badri
Long ago Lord Vishnu was engrossed in deep meditation. The lord was surrounded by Badri (Jujuba) bushes. His beloved consort Devi Laxmi turned herself into a Badri Tree to protect her husband from harsh weather. From here the name Badri Visal was originated and the place was named as Badrinath. This is one of the many fascinating legendary stories behind Badrinath temple.
But the most popular legend is – the story of Nara and Naryana. They were the human incarnation of Lord Vishnu. They were searching for an ideal place to set up a hermitage to spread the dharma; they travelled and searched in many locations. They finally found a hot and cold spring behind the Alaknanda River and they named it Badri Vishal.
These stories are only a few among many stories. Even local tea vendors, shop owners can narrate many interesting stories. This high voltage Hindu shrine was prioritized by a great monk and scholar Adi Shankaracharya (similar to Kedarnath Temple).
[Also read:Kedarnath – where mythology blends with divinity]
Though proper historical records are not available about the origination of this temple, according to some beliefs, long ago this temple was a Buddhist temple which was converted to Hindu temple by Adi Shankaracharya. He discovered the Badrinathji and restored it to the temple. Badrinath temple is the part of top-ranked Hindu pilgrimage site (Chardham). Thus this temple has immense spiritual importance among Hindus.
Apart from its religious importance; the natural beauty of this temple is incredible. Surrounded by Nar and Narayana mountains; the temple is situated in the bank of Alakananda river.
Unlike Kedarnath; Badrinath is well connected by roads. I had planned to take a bus from Govindghat to Badrinath. (Govindghat is the base point for Hemkund Sahib and Valley of Flowers trek). But once I reached Govindghat bus stand, I got a shocking news; due to nonstop rain, there was a landslide happened in the Lambagad. Thus no buses were directly going to Badrinath and there was no chance of clearing road for the next few days. After seeing my sad face, the tea vendor empathetically told, “There is a trek route, above the Lambagad along with the village. You can try that.”
[Also Read:Journey to World’s Highest Altitude Gurdwara – Hemkund Sahib ]
Aha! A trek after another trek sounds interesting. I got excited. After a heavy breakfast, I started walking. I was looking for a lift till Lambagad but a local fellow told me that ‘Pandukesharwr temple is just a few kilometers away and you must visit it’.
As per myth; king Pandu (father of Pandava brothers) stayed here for austerity. During his stay, he built a bronze idol of Lord Vishnu here. This place was named after King Pandu. However, modern historians suggest that this temple was built by Katyuri king Lalitasura Dev in the 9th century A.D. One temple is known as Yoga Badri temple, which is also part of Sapta Badri temple.
I do not know why this old shrine is not a trending destination for Badrinath visitors. In fact, this ancient temple is now hidden between many neighbor buildings. I do not think that many countries will have this kind of old temples in their culture. Thus I strongly feel that we should stop destroying the beauty and carefully maintain our heritage.
After Pandukeswar visit I found one kind taxi driver, he agreed to give me a lift till Lambagad.
It was not raining at that time but the sky was not clear. It was a signal that rain may come at any time. After reaching Lambagad, I found a looong queue of vehicles. I noticed a side-way, which was going upward to the village. A small group of people was slowly moving on that steep upward path. I had a big heavy rucksack and a knapsack with me; with those heavy loads I started my second trek for the day ‘Mission Badrinath’.
First ten minutes were manageable, the only problem was narrow track. But the real problem was started in the middle; the problem maker was unwanted rain.
I opened my Poncho and my bag was well covered, but the rain has turned trekking to a balanced game. Now I had to move very carefully. After a long two hours battle, I reached to the opposite side of the Lambagad. At this time it was raining furiously.
The land of Lord Badri
Lambagad to Badri was very smooth. A shared safari dropped me at the bus stand.
Those who have visited Badri previously, they know that Badrinath has huge bus terminus. But now only two empty buses are standing there. It was almost evening. I needed a ‘Chaie’ break. I was damn tired after today’s inhuman trek and I was also shivering in cold. That tea worked as nectar to me. The small shop owner told me that Badri is now an empty town; I was his third customer for that day!
He was right; the charming Badrinath was looking like a haunted place. Series of hotels were closed due to lack of borders. I choose a hotel and found a palace like room at the daily rent of only Rs. 100!
In the evening I arrived before the bridge on Alkananda River. The glorious Badrinath temple was just on my opposite side. I felt a strong inner joy just seeing this temple. A holy hot spring known as Brahma Kund is located to the foothold of the temple. According to the common belief, bathing in the Brahma kund before puja is auspicious.
But with my great surprise, I discovered that the temple gate is closed. One security-guard informed me that due to grahan today temple is closed. Tomorrow morning after some special ritual the gate will be opened for visitors. I spent some time and then returned to my hotel after a light dinner.
With the divinity
Next morning I wake up early. Weather was still cloudy and cold, but luckily it was not raining. I came in front of the temple. Badrinath temple is not an ordinary temple of India. The stone made façade is painted in bright colours. I entered the temple from the main gate; this gate is popularly known as Singhdwar. The temple is divided into three parts; the first part is mandapa– the assembling hall.
The second part the darshan mandaps is the place in which all rituals are normally conducted. Within this darshan maddapa, the garbha griha is the abode of Lord Badrinarayan.
There was a short queue to enter in the darshan mandapa, I joined that. But one gentleman stopped me, he asked me to purchase a ticket to enter inside of the darshan mandapa. I was surprised, why a visitor needs to purchase a ticket to visit…?
I was sad, I left the queue. Spend some time inside the temple and slowly left it.
Legends were everywhere
After breakfast, I started roaming around the temple area. I realized legends are just part of mundane life in Badrinath. You can find extraordinary places around the town like this.
I wanted to visit ‘charan paduka’, another attraction of Badrinath. As per mythology, in this place has a footprint of Lord Vishnu. But villain rain stopped me. From the afternoon to evening I was confined to the hotel room.
It was evening time; I was again in front of the temple. I entered in the temple. Apart from priests, monks, and personnel of mandir comity, there were only a few visitors. I entered in the darshan mandapa. Wow, nobody stopped me. Majestically dressed Lord Badri was seating in his throne in garbha griha. I found a corner to seat in the Darshan Mandapa.
I did not realised how much time was spent. My mind was calm and filled with extreme joy. After sometime, somebody gently pushed me, I heard a sound – ‘bhaiya aarti ka time hain, kripaya khara ho jaiye’ (brother, it is the time for puja, please stand up). Opened my eyes and realised that I was lost in deep meditation. All the people were standing around me, Aarti was about to start.
One Rawal priest started chanting in a particular tone. Like lord Kedarnath, Lord Badrinarayan is also served by specially chosen Rawal priest, only that chosen priest is allowed to perform all rituals.
After the evening prayer, they started cleaning the throne. They respectfully removed all the garlands and ornaments. When the removed the piece of cloth, I was thrilled! It was looking like somebody meditating in a lotus position. It is not a statue, it’s a stone (a special kind of stone known as shalgram) and the image is embossed in it. Finally, they covered the Lord with white cloth and closed the temple for the day. It’s now resting time of the lord.
The weather was not looking good, I packed my dinner and returned to my room. After dinner, I was seating in my small attached balcony with a cup of coffee. The rain has started again. I was recollecting all experiences what I have gathered today. Normally getting a glimpse required hours of standing in the queue and, I got a chance to meditate in the Badrinath Temple.
What a fantastic experience it was. Life is always blessed; we just need to see it in the right way.
I thought if weather permits, I will visit Mana – the last village of India tomorrow.