Badrinath Dham is one of the oldest of Hindu places of worship. On the right bank of the river Alaknanda lies the sacred shrine perched at an altitude of 3133 m above sea level, guarded on either side by the two mountain peaks Nar & Narain with the towering Neelkanth peak providing a splendid back-drop. Also known as the Vishal Badri, the largest among the five Badris, it is revered by all as the apt tribute to Lord Vishnu.
The revered spot was once carpeted with wild berries which gave it the name ‘Badri Van’ meaning ‘forest of berries.’ Built by Adi Shankaracharaya, the philosopher-saint of the 8th century, the temple has been renovated several times due to damage by avalanches and restored in the 19th century by the royal houses of Scindia & Holkar. The main entrance gate is colourful & imposing popularly known as Singhdwar. References to Sri Badrinath have been made in the Vedas & perhaps it was a popular shrine during the Vedic age also. The Skand Purana gives an accvount of the Adiguru consecrating the idol of Lord Badri Vishal in the temple after recovering it from Narad Kund, in a pursuance of a divine call from heaven. The idol is made of black stone similar to granite. So holy is the shrine that it forms one of the four prominent places of Hindu worship. The epic Mahabharat, it is believed, was composed in the Vyas & ganesh caves close by. The Vishnu Ganga which later becomes the Alaknanda flows below the temple. Almost 3 km north of Badrinath, mana is the last Indian village before the Tibetan border. The Vasudhara falls are quite spectacular. On the closing day the residents of Mana offer a choli to the deity to cover the diety all the winter. It is taken off on the opening day & its fibres are distributed amongst the Yatris (pilgrims) as a maha prasadam. Joshimath is the winter deity of Badrinath.
The temple opens every year in the month of April-May & closes for winters in the third week of November. Badrinath’s four subsidiary Badris include Bhavishya Badri, Yogdhyan Badri, Bridha Badri and Adi badri. It is popularly believed that with spread of Buddhism, the Buddhists enshrined the statue of Lord Buddha there and during the Hindu renaissance, the statue of Buddha was later restored by Adi Guru as the idol of Vishnu. This possibly explains the deity sitting in Padmasan posture, typical of Buddha icons. However, also according to Hindu mythology, Buddha was considered to be the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
Badrinath is devoted t the worship of Vishnu, who, according to an amusing tale, usurped this place from Shiva. For Vishnu had come here as the gods once did, to offer penance. He loved the place so much that he plotted to unseat Shiva from his meditation here. He took on the form of a beautiful child and began to wail. Shiva’s wife, Parvati, picked him up but could not calm the child. Since his wailing continued to disturb Shiva, he shifted to Kedarnath in exasperation, leaving the spot free for Vishnu to occupy. But reminders of Shiva’s stay continue to linger, most visible in the name, Badri, a kind of berry that Shiva was most fond of and the gigantic tree, invisible to the mortal eye, that served Shiva. Legend also has it, when the Ganga was requested to descend to earth to help the suffering humanity, the earth was unable to withstand the force of its descend. Therefore the mighty Ganga was split into twelve holy channels, Alaknanda was one of them that later became the abode of Lord Vishnu or Badrinath.
When the sage Narad disapproved of Lord Vishnu’s way of living in worldly comforts, he was hurt and sent his spouse to nagkanyas. He himself decided to disappear in the Himalayan valley-whose peaks make for some of the most enticing manifestations of God’s creations. The spot was carpeted with Badris or wild berries and hence was famous as Badri Van. The Lord Vishnu assumed a yogdhyani posture and for several years meditated at the same spot and fed himself with wild berries. Laxmi on return found the sesha shayya empty, she went to the Himalayas in search of the Lord and ultimately found him amidst the badri in deep meditation. He addressed the Lord as Badrinath and requested him to give up the yogdhyani posture to return to his original sringaric form.
He agreed to do so provided the entire mankind abides by that he will be worshipped in yogdhyana form by the Gods and in sringaric form by the mortals and further Goddess Laxmi will sit on the left side in yogdhayni form and on right in sringaric form. The Hindu tradition demands that the place of the spouse is on the left but sitting of the Goddess Laxmi on the right is meaningful to convey that they should not be worshipped as a divine couple but as two individual deities with no marital relation. It is for the reason that the Rawal (main priest) of Badrinath must not be married. The pilgrims to the temple worship the Lord in his sringaric form during the summer and in the winter, he is worshipped in his yogdhyani form by the devtas & sages. There are many sacred spots of pilgrimage in the heaven, earth but there has been none equal to Badri, nor shall there be.
SIGHT SEEING & EXCURSION :
Panch Dharas : (a) Prahalad Dhara (b) Kurma Dhara (c) Urvashi Dhara (d) Bhrigu Dhara (e) Indra Dhara
Panch Shilas : (a) Narad Shila (b) varaha Shila (c) Garurh Shila (d) Markandeya Shila (e) Narshingh Shila.
Tapt Kund : Natural thermal springs on the bank of the river Alaknanda, where it is customary to bathe before entering the Badrinath temple.
Narad Kund : A recess in the river, near Tapt Kund, forming a pool from where the Badrinath idol was recovered.
Brahama Kapal : A flat platform on the bank of river Alaknanda. Hindus perform proppitiating rites for their deceased ancestors. Legends has it that when Shiva chopped of the fifth head of Brahma, it got stuck to his trident. Lastly with the blessing of Lord Vishnu at Badrivan, the head of Brahma fell down from the trident at this place & hence the name Brahma-Kapal (head).
Sheshnetra : 1.5kms. away is a boulder having an impression of the legendary serpent, better known as the Sheshnag’s eye.
Charanpaduka : 3kms. away is a beautiful meadow where the footprint of Lord Vishnu is seen on a boulder.
Neelkanth : A pyramidal shaped snowy peak ( 6,600mts.) towering above Badrinath presents a dramatic sight. It is popularly known as the ‘ Garhwal Queen’.
Mata Murty Temple : Devoted to the mother of Sri Badrinathji. Other important temples include Sesh Netra Temple, Urvashi Temple and Charanpaduka.
Mana Village : Inhabited by an Indo-Mongolian tribe, it is the last Indian village before Tibet.
Vasundhara : As the name suggests, vasundhara is a magnificent water fall. This place is 5 kms. from Badrinath out of which 2 kms. is motorable upto Mana.
Bhim Pul : On the other side of Mana village, a massive rock forming a natural bridge, lies over the roaring Saraswati river. It presents a spectacular view of water thundering down through the narrow passage under the rock and is believed to have been placed there by Bhim, the second eldest among the five Pandava brothers.
Vyas Gufa (cave) : Near Mana Village, this is a rock-cave where Ved Vyas is believed to have composed the Mahabharata and the pauranic commentaries.
Alka Puri : 15 kms. from Badrinath and located via Mana village, lies the source of Alaknanda river from the glacier snouts of Bhagirath-Kharak and Sato Panth glaciers. The spot is supposed to be the adobe of Kuber, Yakshas and Gandharvas.
Sato Panth : 25 kms. from Badrinath and located at an elevation of 4,402 mts. is a three cornered lake of serene water with a circumference of about 1 km. The lake is named after the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and mahesh, who are believed to occupy one corner each of this lake. The trek is hazardous and full of dramatic views. An experienced guide is advisable. There is no place to rest except in the caves. Cooked food, stove etc. must be carried from Badrinath itself.
Arwatal : For the more enterprising, a trek to Arwatal (3,980 mts.) via-Mana, Ghastoli and Arwatal is immensely rewarding. The trek passes through a hazardous icy and snowy terrain and a number of streams have to be crossed. badrinath to Ghastoli is 17 kms. and Arwatal is approximately another 18 kms. Photography is prohibited in this area and a guide is essential.
General Information :
Area : 4.5 Sq.kms.
Altitude : 3133 mts.
Rainfall : 1460 m
Temperature : Summer – Max 17.9° C, Min 5.9° C, Winter- Generally snowbound from December to March with minimum subzero temperature.
Best Season : From opening to closing, generally from April to November.
Clothing : Heavy woolen garments required throughout.
Air : Nearest airport is a Jollygrant, 314kms.
Rail : Nearest railhead is Rishikesh, 297kms. which is connected to major cities like Howrah, Mumbai, Delhi & Lucknow by rail.
Road : Badrinath is connected by a motorable road with Rishikesh, Kotdwar, Dehradun, Hardwar and other hill stations of Garhwal. Some important road distances are Delhi (518Kms), Joshimath (42Kms), Hardwar (321 Kms), Gopeshwar 9106 Kms).