Badrinath – The most revered of the Chardhams dedicated to lord Vishnu situated at a height of 3155m (10000+ feet) above sea level in the Himalayan region and accessible for only 6 months in a year and the scenic route prone to heavy landslides and varying weather conditions, and still visited by hordes of pilgrims to have a darshan of the lord Badri vishal here.
The principal image is of black ‘saligram’ stone and it represents Vishnu seated in meditative pose and is about a metre tall. Lord Badari Narayan (also called as Badari Vishal) is armed with Shankh (Conch) and Chakra in two arms in a lifted posture and two arms rested on the lap in Yogamudra. The Tapt Kund hot sulphur springs just below the temple are considered to be medicinal—many pilgrims consider it a requirement to bathe in the springs before visiting the temple. The springs have a year-round temperature of 55°C.
(It was my first view of the ice capped Himalayas so close...)
Although Badrinath is located in the far north of India, the head priest, or Rawal, is traditionally a Nambudiri Brahmin from the far south of India in Kerala. The Rawal is assisted by the Garhwali Dimri Pundits belonging to the Village Dimmer. Badrinath is one of the few temples in North India that follow the ancient Tantra-Vidhi of Shrauta tradition more common in South India. Devotees of all faiths and all schools of thought of Hinduism visit the place. Many religious heads of various Muths, such as Jeeyar Mutt (Andhra mutt), Sringeri, Kanchi, Udupi Pejavar and Mantralayam Sri Raghavendra Swamy Muths have their branches/guest houses here. The Rawal (chief priest) is selected by erstwhile rulers of Garhwal and Travancore. The Rawal has been accorded high holiness status by Garwhal Rifles and also the state governments of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. He is also held in high esteem by the Royals of Nepal. For six months in a year (during March to pre November), he performs his duties as a temple priest. Thereafter, he either stays in Joshimath or goes back to his ancestral village in Kerala.
Posts from Aarti of MYD, that I recommend to read here –
We stayed for 2 nights here and were witness to the dramatic changes in the weather conditions. Mornings and Evenings were cold and the sun often came up for a few hours (believe me and that is sufficient for a person to have sunburns, my family people had sunburns while doing shradh at the Brahmakapal). Rains were intermittent and less as it was not yet the season for rains and we were lucky in that as we were witness of fewer landslides and got to see the ice capped Himalayan mountains. BrahmaKapal is the place where people perform shraddh for the departed souls.
(River Alakananda, BrahmaKapal and the pathway on the left that goes to Mana village)
See these posts by Aarti of MYD for places of importance in Badrinath…
Mana – the last Indian village and places of interest around –
About 3kms from Badrinath is the Mana village, the last village on the India-Tibet border line. It’s a typical laid back Garhwal village and is shut down for 6 months owing to the inhospitable weather conditions, yet it has few places of importance that is a must see when visiting Badrinath. You can drive or hire a taxi from Badrinath or even walk along a small track to the village. All that you can see from here are the various ranges of the Himalayas and ecstatic views of ice capped mountains and wonderful valley views.
Aarti of MYD has compiled some excellent information on Mana -
Ganesh Gufa – the place where elephant god Ganesha composed Mahabharatha as narrated by holy sage VedaVyas.
Vyas Gufa – the place from where sage VedaVyas narrated Mahabharatha to Ganesha. A feature of the temple is the roof that resembles pages from his epics.
Bhim Phul and River Saraswati – the source of River Saraswati is hidden but is seen at Mana village. Bhim Phul has lot of stories related to it and the real story behind is not very clear as there are differences of opinion to it, so playing it safe, I’m not going into the stories related to it.
Mana is the last Indian village on the Indo Tibetan border line and the couple of shops here advertise the fact very well, in fact one of the boards in the shop has this written in over
12 different languages.
(the board depicting "its the last Indian tea shop" in 12 different languages...)
Other places that I wish to visit sometime in the near future –
Valley of Flowers (near Govindghat)
The way back was not as eventful as the onward journey with fewer landslides and fewer breaks in between. The initial stretch till Joshimath is the most daunting and covering that before dusk is the best way as you also get to see panoramic views of the valleys and the Garhwal Himalayas. Also notable are the numerous sadhus or nag sadhus who do a pilgrimage to Badrinath on foot... god knows how!