After spending 3 days in Uttarakhand and visiting Haridwar, Rishikesh, Dera Dun and Mussoorie it was time for us to head to New Delhi and then back home. What a trip it had been.. But it’s over now. Back to mundane life 😦 Ohh wait.. Over? Really?? From this end starts the story of another voyage and the best one of my life until that point.
In the evening after returning from Mussoorie I and my friend were standing in a bus bay at the Haridwar bus stop to inquire about the timings of buses to New Delhi. Suddenly my eyes fell on a bus with the board BADRINATH. I knew that Badrinath is a temple around 300 km from Haridwar and a part of the Char Dham but I never knew that buses ply from Haridwar to Badrinath. Neither my friend had any idea about it. “Ohh so we get buses for Badrinath from here”. We looked at each other and the maverick in us took over. A precipitous decision was made. Return tickets were canceled and we went to a private travel agent and got tickets of Badrinath for the next day. We were extremely fortunate to get tickets for the next day as tickets are generally booked well in advance. But again fortune is known to favour the brave. We went to the market and bought woolen gloves and caps. What about jacket? Badrinath is at 10,170 feet and there will be snow. No money for it now. We will see! Another bold decision. We rushed back to Shanti Kunj, where we were put up in Haridwar to ensure a good sleep before undertaking the tiring 3 day journey.
Next morning we woke up at 4 AM. He had to reach for the bus by 6 AM. After taking bath and having breakfast we took an auto rickshaw to the bus stop. People don’t go on religious voyages at the age of 21. We stepped into the bus and found it full of old, elderly people and the few who were less aged were in saffron robes with rudraksha beads indicative of their life as a religious recluse. We were definitely the youngest in the bus. People in the bus loudly chanted the holy name of Lord Badrinath as the bus started to move. ” Badri Vishal ki Jay”.
The bus passes through sections of the Corbett National Park. Its a dense jungle known for its large population of tigers and other wildlife. It was exciting to pass through it. Just before Rishikesh, the bus took a left diversion. This route is a popular pilgrimage route which connects revered religious sites like Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, Hemkund Sahib, etc. From here on the road almost went parallel to the Ganges. These roads are maintained by the Border Road Organizations of India and are extremely challenging to drive on. The anfractuous roads along with sharp turns, low width and deep gorges on the sides add to the foes of driving. A slight lapse in concentration can prove fatal as was evident from the unusually large number of mutilated vehicles on the roadsides and painted caution messages advising to drive carefully. The drivers who drive on these hazardous roads are undisputed experts in their trade. The humongous Ganges which we saw at Haridwar slowly attenuates as we went up circulating the lower Himalayan sierra.
On moving further up we reached Dev Prayag. I wanted to see this place ever since I read about it in my geography textbook when I was in class 8. So it was a personal accomplishment for the traveler in me. Dev Prayag is the place from where Ganga gets its name. Dev Prayag is the site of the confluence of two holy rivers- Bhagirathi and Alaknanda and is called the Ganga from here on. The source of the Bhagirathi river is the Gangotri glacier which is regarded as the source of the Ganga and is another sacrosanct shrine of Hindus. The water of the Bhagirathi river had a bright green tinge which created an awe among the tourists and everyone flocked to the right windows of the bus to adore it.
On going further up we come across many other Prayags or Sangams each of which has a reference or tale of its own in the Hindu scriptures. Nanda Prayag, Rudra Prayag and Karna Prayag are the most popular ones among them. The Karna Prayag which is the meeting point of the holy rivers Alaknanda and Mandakini is believed to be the place where the legendary warrior Karna used to offer his obeisances to the Sun God after bathing. The Kedarnath route which is along the Mandakini river separated from Rudra Prayag and we continue to follow the route along the Alaknanda. On the way, we crossed Srinagar (it is different from the one at Jammu & Kashmir), Chamoli and Auli.
Finally, around 7 PM, we reached Joshimath. The road ahead was closed in order to keep an check on the number of tourists reaching Badrinath on a particular day as well as to ensure safety by prohibiting driving on the dangerous roads at night. So we had to stay overnight at Joshimath. Cheap overnight accommodation is easily available here. We stayed in a double sharing room which charged us only Rs. 600. Next morning we woke up early, had bath in the icy-cold water, had breakfast and resumed our journey.
The 46 km journey from Joshimath to Badrinath is extremely beautiful. We pass through the outskirts of the Nanda Devi National Park. Early morning you can also see the golden peak of Mt. Nanda Devi as the peak dazzles with sunlight falling on top of it. You can also see other snow peaked hills and enchanting landscapes. The river flows by the side of the road as it has been right from Rishikesh. In spite of visiting in the summer, it was very cold and we were shivering courtesy our bravery of not buying jackets :P. In between all the tourists are given bread, curry and tea by a local temple which is the prasad there. We reached Badrinath bus stand around 7 AM.
After alighting the bus we went straight to the temple to avoid the long queues afterward as advised by a person in Haridwar. But don’t do this. It was a mistake. Although reaching to the temple early helped us avoid the long queue (it still took us 2 hours to get the darshan) but later we struggled badly to find an accommodation as there are limited guest houses, ashrams and lodges and almost all were booked. On the way to the temple, there are small shops selling prasad, and other religious items. You get the first glimpse of the colourful Badrinath temple from a distance and the temple looks beautiful. Then you have to cross a footbridge over the Alaknanda to reach the temple side. After crossing there are shoe stands where you have to keep your shoes and stand in the queue which may be very long. There is a Tapta Kunda or hot water spring where people take bath. There are many stories of miracles associated with this hot spring. The surroundings of the temple are extremely beautiful. There were the snow peaked mighty Himalayas with their lush green slopes, river Alaknanda flowing on your left, the cold weather and the mystic aura of spirituality. All these combine to create a spell which will make you forget the pain of standing in long queues. Badrinath trip is an arduous religious trip and only people who with deep devotion for the Lord undertake these journeys so you would find a sense of pure devotion and spirituality among the devotees.
We reached the temple after 2 hours. The temple has a small premise. Inside the sanctum sanctorum of the temple reside the divine idols of Badri Vishal; “Nara and Narayana“. The sight of the idols marked the success of our trip and filled us with joy. There are 2-3 other temples inside the premises. As prasad you can get the pious water in which the holy idols have been bathed. They are also sold in small tubes should you wish to carry some back home. After spending about 30 minutes inside the temple we came out and took some pictures of the beautiful temple. After that, we returned from the temple and after searching for over 30 minutes we managed to find a 2 sharing room just by the bank of the river which was only a few feet wide at that point. It was interesting to see the giant river which we saw at Haridwar attenuated to a small stream of few feet at Badrinath. The room was average priced, 1200 per night. We slept for some time and then woke up to visit the famed Mana village.
Mana village is about 3 km from the Badrinath temple and is the last Indian village. Here there are two caves – Ganesha Guha and Vyasa Guha. Here Lord Ganesha is believed to have written the Vedas on the dictation of Rishi Ved Vyasa. Then there is the Vishnu Prayag. Mana is believed to be the place where the legendary king of Mahabharat Yudhistir ascended to the heaven with his human body.
On moving higher up there is a tea shop which boasts to be the “Last Tea Shop of India”. The sobriquet itself is too alluring to attract tourists who visit that shop and sip a cup of tea.
After returning from Mana we had dinner and slept in the freezing weather. Next morning at 6 AM we boarded our bus back to Haridwar. Although Badrinath trip was totally unplanned and out of the itinerary, we managed to complete it and we had a wealth of experience to carry with us on our way back.
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