Weekly Feature -Dec 10, 1999 Previous Week (Kartikai Festival)
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Significance: Considered as one of the most sacred centres of pilgrimage, Badrinath is situated in the Tehri-Garhwal hill tracks (Uttarakhand) at the height of 10,248 feet above sea level. This shrine has been visited in the past by religious leaders such as Sankaracharya. Badrinath has been sung in chaste tamil verse by one of the Alwar saints of Tamilnadu (Tirumangaialwar) , in the 8th century CE (and has also been mentioned by Perialwar, as one of the sacred centers of Vishnu) ; is considered to be one of the 108 sacred centers of the Sri Vaishnavite religion.
Antiquity: Srimad Bhagvadam has explained the significance of the temple and the glory of Shri Badri Narayan. However the history and origins of the temple have not been well recorded with due authenticity. The Kings of Garhwal built the present structure of the temple about two centuries ago. The sitting (padmasan) posture of the presiding deity a common form of Buddhists icons - has led Buddhists to believe that this is nothing but a stone image of the Buddha.
With history still suffering with paucity of details, another version is that the original temple was desecrated by Buddhists only to be reclaimed later by Hindus. The image was believed to have been thrown into Narad Kund, near river Alaknanda, and was later retrieved by Adi Sankara. The image was then restored to its original position and protocols of worship were established.
The sanctum here houses Lord Badri Narayan, Kuber ( God of wealth), Narad Rishi, Uthavar, Nar & Narayan. Lord Badri Narayan (also called as Badri Vishal) is armed with Conch (Shankh) and Chakra in two arms in a lifted posture and two more arms rested on the lap in Yogamudra. The principal image is of black stone and it represents Vishnu seated in meditative pose. The temple also houses Garud (Vahana vehicle of Lord Narayan) and Goddess Mahalaxmi (referred as Arvidavalli Thayar by Tamilians). Also here are the idols of Adi Sankara, Swami Desikan and Shri Ramanujar.
The temple, moderate in size, can be divided into three parts sanctum, the darshan mandap and sabha mandap The temple has suffered from avalanches, several times in the past and renovated. The Kings of Garhwal renovated the present structure almost two centuries ago.
The beginning of Guru-Shisya parampara is supposed to have its roots here. This is symbolised by two range of mountains Nar range of mountains (representing the individual soul - Jeevatma) and Narayan range of mountains (on which side is the temple situated representing the supreme reality - Paramatma). These forms were used to convey the Ashtakshara mantras, Vedhas and their importance. River Alaknanda, considered to be one of the most sacred, divides the two ranges of mountains.
Snow covered Neelkant Parvath in Golden colour
In the backdrop of the temple and Narayan range of mountains is the NeelKant Parvath ice clad mountain which is a feast to watch in the early morning hours when it sparkles at the time of sunrise. This majestic peak of Himalayas is of 19800-ft height.
It is said that "there are many sacred spots of pilgrimage in the heavens, earth and the nether world, but there has been none equal to Badri, nor shall there be".
Legends associated with this temple: MahaVishnu is believed to have done his penance in this place. Seeing the Lord doing his penance in the open, Goddess Mahalaxmi is believed to have assumed the form of Badri (elandai) tree to provide him shelter to face the onslaught of the weather conditions, hence the name of Badri Narayan.
Legend has it that Lord Vishnu identified Nar & Naryan forms to be of his own to Narad Rishi. Narad Rishi did his penance here and is believed to be worshipping these forms of supreme God with the Ashtakshara mantra even now.
Weather conditions are such that, worship could be offered in this temple only for 6 months (May to early part of November - From tamil month Chittirai to Aippasi). During the winter period, the shrine remains closed (to be opened only on Chritra Pournami Full moon day of tamil month Chitrai) and during this intervening period it is believed that Divine beings conduct poojas to Lord Vishnu. In accordance with established Hindu rituals of conducting poojas without any break, the Utsavars (bronze images) are taken with all reverence to Pandukeshvar - abode for Lord Badri Vishal during winter. On the day of reopening of the main shrine at Badri, these images are taken back.
Rituals offerings to pitrus (souls of the dead) are performed at Brahma Kapaalam (located at a distance of 200ft from the main shrine) on the banks of Alaknanda, by offering prasad (rice food) of Lord Badri Narayan.
Though this shrine is located in the northern most part of India, the Chief Priest Ravaljiof Keralite (Namboodri) origins - performs the rituals. Procedures of daily poojas and rituals are supposed to have been prescribed by Adi Sankara. Unlike in most of the Hindu temples all the poojas (including decoration of idols) are performed before the eyes of all devotees.
Panoramic view of temple, Tapth Gund & River Alaknanda:
Temple rituals begin at 7 a.m.
Nimalyan Darshan : Chandan (sandalwood paste) left on the image of Badrinarayan from the previous night, is removed to enable devotees to have full view of the image.
Abhishek Darshan : Process begins with Kalsa Pooja. Abishekam (ablution) is then carried out in the presence of pilgrims.
Alankar Darshan : After abhishekam, the decoration process begins in the full view of devotees. Firstly, the entire idol, excluding the face, is covered with sandal paste and followed by the decoration with flowers & jewels.
Aarti Darshan : On completion of alankars, aarthi ( lighting of camphor) is held. This marks the completion of forenoon pooja rituals and will end around 11.30 am 12.00 p.m., after which the temple is closed.
Reopening of the temple takes place at 4.00 p.m. for commencement of evening rituals which lasts till 8.00 p.m. During this period, Ashotothram and Sahasranamam recitations take place. Around 7.30 p.m. Mangal aarthi called as Geetgovind takes place. On completion of aarti, the Chief Priest removes the flowers & jewels in the full glimpse of devotees. The image of Badrinarayan is now left only with sandal paste, to be removed only the next morning and distributed as prasad.
Hotwater Springs: The pilgrimage centre boasts of two natural hotwater springs Tapt Kund and Surya Kund. The sulphurous waters have a temperature of 55* C. A bath in these springs is believed to purify the body and soul and is done before visiting the temple.
This village, located at a distance of 3 kms from Badri is the last Indian Village situated in the Indo-China Border and has gained historical importance on account of Vysas Caves. This village, located on the banks of River Saraswathi (only place where this river can be seen) is very beautiful. Vyas Maharishi (Sage), author of Mahabharata is believed to have lived in the caves named after him. Only in these caves, on the orders of his mentor Kalpatru Maharishi in his dream, Vyas Maharishi composed the Mahabharata, the eternal epic of Hindus depicting the history of Pandavas, Kauravs including Kurukshetra War and most importantly Bhagawad Geeta (Chapter 18 of Mahabharata) believed to have been revealed by Krishna (reincarnation of Vishnu). Ganesh, the elder son of Shiva & Parvathi, is said to have helped Vyas Maharishi in composing this epic in written form the beginning of education in written form. In addition to Mahabharat, Vyas Maharishi composed 18 puranas (legendary stories), Brahma Sutras and classified the Hindu Vedas into 4 parts Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharvana. It is only in this cave that Adi Sankara is believed to have met Vyas Maharishi and discussed his Bhashyam (explanatory notes) for Brahma Sutras.
Rock formation inside the Vyas Guh appears to resemble the orderly stacking of palm leave manuscripts oldest writing material and is worshipped as "Vyas Pusthak". Vyas Maharishi is also considered, by some, as reincarnation of Vishnu.
Another Cave called as Ganesh Guh (cave) is also located in this village.
View of Mana village & Keshava Prayag
The village also boasts of Keshav Prayag Sangamam (confluence) of Rivers Saraswathi and Alaknanda.
Vasudhara Falls & Bhimpul Falls are nearby. Like Badri, the village becomes inaccessible during winter (almost 6 months) and the entire village vacates and moves to a safer place down the hills.
Joshimath, the first mutt established by Shri Adi Sankara, is located at a distance of 14 kms from Helang enroute to Badri. Adi Sankara is believed to have got enlightenment here and authored Sri Sankara Bhashyam. This located at a height of 6150 ft above sea level. Here, there are separate temples for Lord Narasimha and Lord Vasudev (different forms of Lord Vishnu). This is one of the 108 Divya Desams (sung by Sacred Vaishnavaite Saints).
In the temple for Lord Narasimha , separate statues of Badri narayan, Uthavar, Kuber, Chandikadevi, Ram, Lakshman, Sita and Garud can be seen together in the sanctum sanctorum. Outside the temple separate statues of Brahma, Krishana, Lakshmi & Anjaneya can be seen. Vyas Maharishi is believed to have worshipped Goddess Lakshmi here. The presiding deity Lord Narasimha is believed to have been established by Adi Sankara. It is widely believed that one hand of the presiding deity is getting weakened and the day it disjoints, the way to Badri will get eternally blocked and Lord Badri Narayan will thereafter give darshan only from either Bhavishya Badri or Adi Badri (part of Panch Badris).
The temple of Lord Vasudev houses Lord Vasudev in the sanctum sanctorum as well as Sridevi, Bhoodevi, Leela devi, Oorvasi devi & Balram in the outer praharam. Further separate structures are available for Vinayaka, Brahma, Indira, Chandran(Moon), Navadurgas & Gauri Shankar.
Pandukeshwar: This place is believed to have been established by King Pandu, father of Pandavas. It is situated at 4kms from Govind Ghat, 219 kms from Kedarnath and 24 kms from Badrinath. There are two temples one for Lord Yogabadri Narayan and the other for Lord Vasudev. During winter, Lord Vasudev temple will function as the abode for Lord Badri Narayan and all the daily rituals connected with worship are performed here. Both the temples are quite old.
Access and Accommodation:
Narrow road enroute to Badri
The journey to Badri, mostly from Rishikesh, is through Rudra Prayag. The road from Rudra Prayag is a single way route, passing through mountainous ranges, with the entire route fraught with dangerous curves and stone falling zones. Throughout the entire route, one the one side will be River Alaknanda and on the other mountains. Innumerable milky water falls adds to the scenic beauty to the entire route. During rainy days, the route witnesses many landslides and will prove to be a hindrance for further journey. On account of the vicinity to the international borders and risks of landslide in the entire route, the task of maintenance of the road has been entrusted to Border Roads Organisation (BRO), a Unit attached to Indian Army. The distance from Rudraprayag to Badri is 160 kms. The travel time will be dependent on weather conditions and landslides enroute.
Badrinath is also connected by road to Dehradun, Haridwar, Pauri, Uttarkashi, Nainital and Almora districts in UP Hills. Some of the major road distances are: Rishikesh 297 kms, Joshimath 42 kms, Haridwar 321 kms, Karnaprayag 123 kms, Rudraprayag 155 kms, Deoprayag 225 kms, Dehradun 343 kms.
Nearest airport - Jolly Grant AirStrip ,is located at Dehradun, which is 315 kms away. The nearest railhead is at Rishikesh, which is at a distance of 292 kms.
Ideal time for visiting the shrine will be between May to November. Trips during rainy days are not desirable and are to be avoided. One should, without fail, carry Sweaters, woollen clothing, Umbrella and required medicines during the trip. Minimum luggages should be preferred. Non-vegetarian food and alcoholic drinks are strictly prohibited in this place. Reasonable accommodation, at cottages managed by Temple committee. is available at Badri. Postal and Banking facilities are available. A State Allopathic Dispensary is also available.