Sitting in a valley surrounded by huge mountains on all sides, Badrinath is considered to be one of the holiest places for the Hindus. Adi shankara during his pan India voyage established the temple of Badrinath which has become a must visit pilgrimage center. The Alaknanda river emerging from the glacial waters of the Chaukamba peak flows through the town before finally becoming the Ganga, miles away from here.
Legend has it that there is a short cut between Badrinath and Kedarnath and in the olden days the same priest used to perform puja at both the temples. In 1930’s a couple of Englishmen taking a break from exploring the Nanda devi sanctuary decided to check out this legend. The expedition group took a path crisscrossing the glaciers of Chaukamba starting from Kedarnath, It took the harried team more than 20 days to cover the 40 mile journey. A Bengali team which tried to do the route in reverse exactly 50 years after the first crossing were caught in a snow storm to be never heard off again.
After finishing the RoopKund trek, I and my friends boarded a jeep towards Karnapryag, we started off from Loharjung at around 1 in the afternoon, it was not possible to reach Badrinath on the same day. We decided to reach Joshimath by night fall and continue towards Badrinath the next day.
The journey to Karna prayag was pretty uneventful; from Karna prayag we hired another taxi for Joshimath. The driver of the jeep was one hell reckless, he was literally throttling on the full, over the dangerous curves of the huge mountains. One wrong move and everyone would have been counting the stars sitting in heaven. Satish who was sitting in the front got more and more jittery as time went on. All our requests to slow down were falling on deaf ears. The height of madness was reached when the sun had gone down and it was literally dark. This guy was driving without headlights and we could barely make out the path ahead, apparently the driver was trying to conserve the battery to the maximum extent possible. Finally we reached Joshimath by around 8 in the night. The driver was so pissed off with us that he didn’t even bother to get us into a hotel room. We thanked our stars for having survived the terror filled journey and got down. I and Sandeep went in search of a decent lodging place. We found a decent hotel room very near to the taxi stand. After having our dinner we hit the bed.
The next day, we again hired a taxi to Badrinath. The driver luckily was good unlike our yesterday’s hero. Joshimath is a common base for Badrinath, Hemkund sahib and the valley of flowers trek. Since this was the chardham season there was a huge crowd of vehicles going on towards all these places. Finding a taxi was a bit difficult and we had to part with a decent sum to get one. The driver agreed to take us to Mana before drooping us in Badrinath. The road journey from Joshimath to Badrinath is very scenic with huge LOTR kind of mountains on all sides and thin streams of water falling here and there. The river runs parallel to the road and we encounter Vishnu prayag in this stretch.
Mana is situated after Badrinath. It was drizzling a bit when we reached there and hence had to scurry to check out the Vyas gufa. Overall we were not impressed with Mana, the Vyas gufa didn’t exude any of the aura that you would expect the place where Mahabharata was written. It has become more of a commercial hotspot. Same was the case with Bhimpul.
The rain started gaining strength and we soon made our way to the taxi. After finding a suitable lodge near the temple, we went in search of lunch. Hotel Saketh which has a superb view of the temple served us good palatable food. While having our lunch the waiter mentioned that today there was no queue in the temple because of the continuous drizzle and advised us to have the Darshan if we had not done so already. After having lunch we went to the temple, our plan was to take bath in the hot springs just outside the temple before entering it. The place around the hot springs was choc-o-bloc with innumerable number of people. We just managed to pour a few drop of water from the springs on our head.
The darshan was smooth, to the loud chants of Narayana the crowd moved inside the sanctum sanctuary slowly but steadily. Lord Badri was completely decked in flowers and ornaments and it was not easy to discern the lord from his ornaments. Half of the offerings that the devotees carried in were kept for the lord and the rest was given back to the devotee.
After the darshan, we came back to our room since loitering around the town was not an option as it was still continuously drizzling. In the night we again plodded through the rain to Saketh hotel to have our dinner.
The next day the clouds had parted and the weather was perfectly clear. The mountains peaks of Neelkanth was clearly visible. We thought of having a darshan once again if the crowd was less, but to our dismay there was a huge queue extending into kilometers. We thanked our stars for having had a queue free darshan yesterday.
We booked a taxi to take us to Haridwar, but had to curtail it to Rudra prayag as we started off a bit late, thus ended the visit to Badrinath. Since this was the peak season there were people everywhere, It would be best to avoid coming here during the Chardham yatra. A peaceful and calm Badrinath would have been just right for any spiritual seeker.