Badrinath 2022

May 31st, 2022.

Badrinath Dham, located in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand at the height of 3,133 meters on the banks of the Alaknanda river, is one of the paramount destinations for Vaishnavites (followers of Vishnu), along with Dwaraka, Puri, and Rameshwaram. Starting with Yamunotri, Gangotri, and Kedarnath, Badrinath, the pre-eminent abode of Lord Vishnu,  is one of the holiest and is the last and most celebrated shrines in the Chardham yatra of Garhwal Himalayas. Badrinath Dham is easily accessible by motorable roads and the Badrinath temple can be reached by walking along an easy trek. Around 3 km from Badrinath is the village of Mana, which is one of the last villages before the boundary of India ends and that of Tibet begins.

Badrinath is a land of myriad legends, each one only adding to the glory of this place. Along with these legends, the snowy mountain peaks, gracefully flowing Alaknanda River, and incredible landscapes create the perfect background to facilitate a spiritual connection. The peak of Neelkanth stands strong spreading its mighty aura for all pilgrims and travelers alike.

Badrinath Temple :

Sandwiched between the Nara and Narayana mountains, the Badrinath shrine was established by Adi Shankaracharya, with the help of endowments from King Kanak Pal. He found the saligram idol of Lord Badri immersed in the waters of Alaknanda and installed it in a cave near the Tapt Kund. The presiding deity worshipped in the temple is 1 mt tall saligram of Vishnu in the form of Badrinarayan. The statue is one among the eight swayam vyakta kshetras, or temples with Swayambhu (self-manifested) forms of Vishnu. The saligram is surrounded by idols of Kubera, Garuda, Nara / Narayana, and Narada.

Tapt Kund is located at the last level in the building in front of the temple.

It was in the 16th century that a Garhwal King got a temple erected to house the statue of the lord. The present structure is the result of plenty of restorations the temple has undergone due to damages caused by avalanches and earthquakes. In the winter season, the idol of Lord Badri is shifted to Yogadhyan Badri in Pandukeshwar (Chamoli district).

Legends of Badrinath :

There are myriads of legends associated with Badrinath. Here are a few I could gather and found interesting:

How this place came to be called as Badrinath :

Legend has it that Lord Vishnu came to the area called “Badri Van”, to meditate after Narad rebuked the Lord for being immersed in worldly pleasures. (The Badri fruit is known as Indian Dates or Jujube.) Lord Vishnu was so deeply engrossed in meditation that he forgot about his body and was completely unaware of the biting cold and scorching sunlight which gripped this place. Goddess Lakshmi stayed with Lord Vishnu throughout and took care of him. She protected him from the extremities of weather by taking the form of a Badri tree herself, called “Badri Vishal”, to provide shelter to her lord (Nath), hence the name Badrinath.

Lord Vishnu was mightily impressed and bestowed the boon of her name being called before his name was taken. Hence we always refer to various avatars of Vishnu thus: Lakshmi-Narayana, Lakshmi-Venktaramana, Radhe-Krishna etc.

We follow the same tradition while writing/printing “ahwana patrikes” for all our auspicious occasions like namakarana, upanayana, vivaha etc.

Badrinath temple on the Narayan mountain, on the banks of Alaknanda river.

Legend of Nara / Narayana :

Back in the Treta yuga, a rakshasa called Sahastrakavacha meditated for years and paid austerities to Lord Surya and asked for boon as thus: that he should naturally have a thousand armors attached to his body. To kill him one would have to meditate for 1,000 years and fight with him for yet another 1,000 years, by which he would lose just an armor at a time and he will die only after all his 1000 armors were lost. Thus he thought he could live forever.

Once he got his boon, he started causing havoc on earth and thus the residents approached Lord Vishnu for help, who agreed to find a solution to this problem. He knew he had to find a suitable place to do his meditation (before fighting Sahastrakavacha) and realised that Badri was the ideal place, as anyone who meditates here for a day, will get the benefit of meditating 1000 days elsewhere. But the entire area belonged to Shiva and Parvathi. So Lord Vishnu disguised himself as a small child by the side of the river and started crying, just as Shiva and Parvathi were passing by. Shiva realises this and warns Parvathi against this, but Parvathi’s motherly instincts ensure that the small child is picked up, brought home, and taken care of. Later that night when Parvathi visits the room where the child was made to sleep, she finds Vishnu, sitting and meditating. Vishnu, later on, tells the entire story and hence Shiva / Parvathi agree to leave Badri for Vishnu to meditate and they go to Kedar.

Lord Vishnu then takes the avatars of Nara and Narayana, two inseparable sages who were twin brothers born to Dharma (son of Brahma) and Murti (Daughter of Daksha). When Nara was meditating, Narayana would fight Sahastrakavacha and remove on kavacha. Then the next day, Narayana would meditate and Nara would be fighting Sahastrakavacha. Thus in a very short period of time, they end up removing 999 kavachas of Sahastrakavacha.

Realising that he will die soon, as he is only left with one kavacha, Sahastrakavacha approaches Surya for his protection and Surya following his dharma, gives him protection in his kingdom. Nara / Narayana arrive at the gates of Suryas’ kingdom and asks Surya to send Sahastrakavacha to fight. Surya, sighting his dharma says that would not be possible. Hence Vishnu and Surya come to an agreement that they would let Sahastrakavacha stay with Surya only till the end of Treta yuga, which was coming towards it logical end.

Once Dyapara yuga started, Sahastrakavacha was born as Karna (with the last surya kavacha) and Narayan / Nara were reborn as Krisha / Arjuna. We all know the legend of Mahabharatha and the Kurukshetra war. This was the end of Sahastrakavacha.

First rays of the Sun on Neelakanta peak.

Glacier and snow-covered peak, around Badrinath

Hanuman Chetti: Story of Hanunam and Bheema :

Just 11 km before Badrinath, we find a small temple of Hanuman on the banks of Alakananda.

Hanaman Chetti … 11 km before Badrinath

Hanuman Temple

While five Pandavas and their wife Draupadi were in vanavas / exile in the forest and wandering around the Himalayas, a beautiful lovely lotus flower came into Draupadis’ hand. Delighted with the beauty and heavenly fragrance of the flower, Draupadi requested Bheema to bring her more of them. Bheema went out in search of this flower. He wandered through the forest for a long time and saw many beautiful flowers but h couldn’t find this particular flower. Then he reached the place known as Hanuman Chetti today. There is saw an old monkey lying across his path blocking the way with its tail. Bheema, being a Kshatriya, wouldn’t cross another living being and hence asked the monkey to move its tail. Monkey told him that humans were not allowed beyond that point and if he wants to still go, he had to move his tail, as he himself was too old and frail. Bheema, who was too proud of his strength, grabbed the monkey’s tail and tried to move it with one hand, but failed to even budge it. He then tried with both his hands and failed again. He then tried with all his might and yet failed to move it.

Hanuman Chetti…on the banks of Alakananda

Alakananda flowing towards Tehri and then towards Dev Prayag….

Ashamed and humiliated Bheema realised that he was not dealing with an ordinary monkey, and asked the old monkey to reveal his true identity. After seeing that Bheemas’ pride was humbled, he answered “I am Hanuman, son of the Wind, your elder brother”. Bheema knowing that he was in the presence of Lord Hanuman, who wanted to teach his younger brother a lesson, realised his mistake and begged Hanuman for forgiveness. Hanuman blessed him and instructed him on how to reach Kuberas’ garden where he would find the flower he was looking for.

Hanuman also agrees to be on the flag, flying on top of the chariot that Krishna would commandeer during the Kurukshetra war

Other legends :

  1. The great sages of folklores like Kapila Muni, Gautam and Kashyap also did penance here.
  2. Brahma had 5 heads and one of the heads would keep abusing Shiva. After being patient with his abuses for a long time, Shiva finally cuts off the 5th head of Brahma with his trident, but the head stayed attached to his trident. Shiva dipped his trishul in Alakananda and the head fell off at this place. Thus this place came to be known as Brahma Kapal ghat, located about 300 mts from the Badrinath temple. Homages are offered to one’s ancestors and/or any departed souls on this ghat.
  3. Narada attained salvation atop the Narad Shila located at Badrinath.
  4. Vyas Gufa situated near Badrinath is the place where Ved Vyas dictated the entire Mahabharata to Lord Ganesha.
  5. Pandavas at the end of their lives started to climb to heaven via ‘Swargarohini’ peak, popularly known as the ascent to heaven, via Badrinath and Mana town
  6. The Bheem Pul near Badrinath was constructed by Bheem to make a path between two mountains so that Draupadi could cross it easily, before Swargaarohini.

The peak of Neelkanth

View of Alakananda, near Vishnu Prayag …

How we travelled to Badrinath :

As mentioned earlier, Badri is very accessible via motorable roads and one can drive all their way up to Badri. We left our hotel at Sitapur (near Sonprayag, Kedarnath) at 2 am and covered close to 230 km in about 12 hours. We had our breakfast along the way and our mini bus driver, Bala ram, did a fabulous job of driving safely and well on these small mountainous roads as we took the Sitapur -> Guptakashi -> Kund -> Ukhimath -> Chopta -> Mandal Valley -> Chamoli -> Pipal Koti -> Joshimath -> Govindghat -> Pandukeshwar -> Badri. We reached Badri around 2 PM and had our lunch at the hotel.

I had to skip the ‘dhooli darshan’ of Badrinath that evening, that most of my group members went to, due to an upset stomach. But was lucky enough to get Maha Abhishekam tickets for the next morning. So once again woke up at 2 am on May 31st and went to the temple with 2 other members from my group for the abhishekam pooja of the lord. Enjoyed the 2.5 hour maha-abhishekam of the lord and then post that met with our group’s Rawat who helped interested members in conducting various poojas and / or ‘pinda daana’ at Brahma kapala.

You can book many of these pooja’s online and well in advance. Poojas at Badri and Kedar – Online Booking

These activities took quite a while, due to delays from our rawat and his co. Finally got back to the hotel by 1 pm, by which time the entire party was all ready and had already boarded the bus to go to Mana. Did go to Mana, but just could not walk that day. My trek down Kedarnath and being sleep deprived for 3-4 days had taken its toll. Got down from the bus and just strolled around where the bus was parked and took some photos and hoped our group members would return soon from their walks in Mana.

Came back to our hotels by 3 pm, had lunch and having successfully completed all 4 dham’s, we started to pack our bags for to make our way back home.