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Badrinath - The Himalayan Pilgrimage in Char Dham

29 August, 2018

, Himalayas

This is the third article in our series of the Char Dham Yatra coverage. So, after looking at Dwaraka and Rameshwaram, we now take a look at the Himalayan site of Badrinath, part of the Vaishnavite pilgrimage. This holy site is part of the Char Dham as well as the Chota Char Dham Yatra. This place is situated in the Uttarakhand state, nestled in the Himalayan ranges, in between the two peaks Nar and Narayan.  The location is an epitome of natural beauty with snow covered mountains as well as a spiritual high.

Historical importance

It is said that the famous 8th-century Indian philosopher, Adi Sankaracharya found the idol of Lord Badrinath (Vishnu) in the Alakananda river and installed it in a cave here, near the Tapt Kund. Later a Garhwal king erected the temple. However, due to natural calamities, the temple has since been renovated a couple of times. It is said that Vishnu meditated here and Lakshmi protected him because of the extreme climate as a Badri tree and hence the name. This temple is open only for six months a year from April to November. The severe weather conditions in between make it challenging to keep it open or visit during the other times. The climate here is predominantly Himalayan, with extreme cold, snow, hailstorms, etc.

Even though the temple is a North Indian one, the head priest here comes from a family in Kerala, South India. You can also see the Neelkanth peak from the temple here. This is a real sight to watch at sunrise, with the sun’s rays brightening up the snow-covered peak. Apart from the chief deity Badrinath, or Badrinarayan (Vishnu), the sanctum also houses Kubera, sage Narada, Uddhava, Nar, and Narayan, as well as Lakshmi and Garuda. The Tapt Kund (hot water spring), near the temple, is said to be medicinal and the devotees bathe in it. There are many monasteries around in this place.

When the temple is closed for the winter, an Akhanda Jyothi (a lamp) filled with ghee is lit, to last for the six months. Special Pujas are performed on the day, and the image of the Lord Badrinath is notionally transferred to the Narasimha temple at Jyotirmath, 64 km away. The temple is reopened around on the auspicious day of Akshaya Tritiya, and pilgrims gather to witness the Akhanda Jyothi.

Travel tips

The best time to visit here would be around the time when it opens May to June or September to October. If you are a person who cannot tolerate cold, then it is best to avoid visiting or choose the summer time when it’s decidedly less. Even in summer, the climate may alter between 7 degrees to 18 degrees. If you are going by air, Dehradun is the closest airport, and then you have to proceed by road. There are many cabs for hire available here. If traveling by train, Haridwar or Dehradun is again the closest and then you have to proceed by road. Bus services are available from almost any city in Uttarakhand. The climate is chilly throughout the year, and it is advisable to carry warm clothing. Monsoons may bring heavy rains, and it is best to avoid. Enough socks, shoes, jackets, etc. need to be packed.

The temple has introduced a token system for devotees since 2012, and these tokens can be purchased from the stalls in the taxi stands with proof of identity. Devotees can visit at the given time and can see the deity for 20 to 30 seconds. Carry all personal essentials and medicines, and there are enough hotels and monasteries or Matts around where you can find a place to stay. Even if you have booked the tickets in advance, always check the weather forecast for the region, before actually making the trip, as it is prone to extreme weathers.

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