Holy Badrinath Temple, one of the Char (four) Dham (pilgrimage centre) in India, is the temple of Lord Vishnu in Uttarakhand. Nestled in the lap of Himalayan mountain ranges, this colourful temple stands with the river Alakananda flowing on its front and the magnificent peak Neelkanth, also known as ‘Garhwal Queen’ on its back. Just imagine, there you are, at one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in India, the Badrinath Temple!
A small valley town, Badrinath, is located between two Himalayan mountain ranges, Nar and Narayan. The river Alakananda flows right through middle of the town. Badrinath is one of the holiest places in India, one of the Char Dham, the other being Puri, Dwarka and Rameshwaram.
It was already late in the afternoon and was drizzling when we reached Badrinath town. We were there in late August and by that time of the season, number of pilgrims were less in Badrinath. So getting accommodation was not difficult at all for us. There are many hotels and ashrams in Badrinath which offer decent accommodation but no deluxe kind of thing. In this pilgrimage destination, one gets only vegetarian foods.
After the lunch, we went to the temple. Situated on the right bank of river Alakananda, the colourful temple of Badrinath was visible from far. We reached the temple and saw pilgrims were entering the temple after taking a holy dip in the ‘Tapt Kund’ which locates next to the temple. A Tapt Kund is a natural hot water pool fed by sulphur spring. The bathing area of the kund has arrangements separate for men and women.
We saw no crowd at the entrance gate of the temple. The main entrance gate, called “Singha-Dwar”, is colourful and an imposing one. It is a tall temple with round dome adorning a glided roof. Happy seeing fewer crowds in the temple, we entered through the colourful “Singha-Dwar”.
In the sanctum sanctorum, we saw the image of Lord Badrinarayan made of black stone. Then we saw the devotees singing prayers in the Sabha Mandap (assembly place for devotees). Photography is strictly prohibited inside the temple but it did not come to my notice and I had already clicked a picture of Sabha Mandap by the time all the devotees started shouting.
Lord Vishnu as Badrinarayan or Badrivishal, resides on the banks of Alakananda river on the Garhwal hill where every year more than ten lakhs pilgrims visit this holy shrine. Though this holy shrine is located in Northern India, the head priest is traditionally a Nambudari Brhmin from Kerala.
The daily rituals at the temple starts at early morning, around 4 – 4.30 am with abhishek puja and closes at around 8.30-9 pm with shayan aarti. The temple remains close for visitors’ Darshan between 12pm to 3 pm. Due to the extreme weather conditions in the region; Badrinath Temple remains open only for six months from end of April to the beginning of November.
The Neelkanth Peak
There is a trail on the left side of Badrinath temple which takes you to the spectacular Neelkanth Peak. In this trail you will come across with the foot prints of Lord Vishnu which is popularly known as ‘Charan Paduka’. The beginnings of the trail were covered by beautiful flowers on both sides.
Neelkantha Peak was not very far, only a 9 Kms trek on which Charan Paduka comes after 3 Kms. We were going only to the point of Charan Paduka. But hardly could we walk for a few minutes as it started pouring heavily. Badrinath Valley is slowly turning out to be a valley with mass construction, and on this trail we easily found a shelter from the rain. The rain did not last long and we set off on the trail after a short break. After reaching Hanuman Cave on the trail, we look down to the valley. Besides the river Alakananda, the valley was covered under mists making it a spectacular place to watch from the top.
We continued on this easy trail and reached Charan Paduka after a walk of about one hour. At this place, a small rock holds the foot marks which are believed to be the foot prints of Lord Vishnu. Charan Paduka offers excellent view of Garhwal Queen Mt Neelkanth Peak which lies a further distance of 6 kms. But the cloud was playing hide and seek and we could only watch the luminous white peak for a few seconds.
Returned from the trek, we walked around the Badrinath town which surrounds near the temple. After spending some times in the market we came back to the Hotel. We were staying in the GMVN Tourist Bungalow ‘Hotel Devlok’. The lawn of this hotel offers great sunrise view on Neelkanth Peak but the way weather was behaving we had our doubts.
It was still dark outside when we woke up early in the morning. While I was still on the bed, my friend went outside the room and hurriedly came back. I understood no further time could be wasted. So I jumped out of the bed, grabbed my camera, tripod and rushed to the Hotel lawn. Ah! It started happening.
It was extreme cold outside and I was only in T-shirt. But less could I bother about the cold as missing the opportunity would be no less than a sin. I fixed the camera on tripod as swift as I could and stood quietly. We were probably the only tourists in the Hotel as whole lawn belonged to us.
Everything was happening quickly. The luminous Neelkantha Peak was appearing close and looming large over the Badrinath temple. It was offering a great view even before the sunrise. All of a sudden the weather god played foul and the show delayed by the thick grey clouds that were cast over the sky. We were prepared to experience a magical show of sunrise but now had to accept whatever the weather god offers. Weather can change anytime here and it happened so. We were soon blessed by the weather God. The wait was over and for a fraction of a moment the show did happen when the first orange hued rays kissed the luminous Neelkanth peak. We witnessed the changing colour of the peak. Though short, it was mesmerising, surely a sight to behold when you are in Badrinath.
So even if you are not a religious person but a nature lover, Badrinath valley is the place which you should visit once. So get ready and gear up for your next journey into the Himalayas, to the holiest shrine of India, Badrinath. The imposing Garhwal queen Neelkantha peak, Mana Village, river Sarswati, Vasudhara falls, Badrinath temple and the valley will certainly occupy your memory for long.
How to Get There
The road to Badrinath starts from Rishikesh, the nearest Railway head which locates at a distance of 297 Kms. The distance remains almost the same if you select Dehradun to be your choice of Railway station or nearest airport which is 314 km away from Badrinath.