Sri Badrinath Dham is perched comfortably at an elevation of 3122 m above sea level on the slope of a V shaped valley, comprising the two well known mountains the Nar parvat and the Narayan parvat, which is protected from avalanches by a rocky projections on Narayan parvat. The temple of Sri Badrinathji lies in the lap of Narayan Parvat. The ‘Virgin Queen’ of Himalaya, the Nilkanth peak stands by like a sentinel. The valley is spread in 3 sq km area. In between these two mountains runs out the sacred river Alaknanda touching the feet of lord Vishnu. The waters of the Vishnu Ganga (Alakanada) are crystal clear, icy cold and seems flowing like a stream of milk. One can sit on the shore and contemplate the glory of nature. It gives a thrill of pleasure and one can hardly control his tears of joy and one foregets the hustle & bustle of the routine life.
The Hindu shastras enjoin that no pilgrimage would be complete unless a pilgrims paid a visit to Badrinath, the lofty abode of Vishnu (The Vishnulok). Badrinath has been described in the Hindu scriptures as the “superme place of pilgrimage” The shrine of Sri Badrinath Dham is one of the four most holy places in India, the other three being Rameshwar, Dwarika and Jagananth. It is living to elevent and enrich his psychic and Spiritual plane. This place is also known as Satyug chhetra.
Badrinath has a hory past. It dates from the Vedic period. It common belief that some of the Vedic hymns and the major portions of the Upanishads were first sung in this land called Badarikashram. Traditions points to this place as the abode of all the gods of the Puranas and also as the penance grove of all the maharshis, sages, saints and seers, ancient and modern. The living faith of the orthodox Hindus was that the more the tribulations, the more the degree of salvation. In fact, this was considered to be the charm of Badrinath pilgrimage.
In Mahabharata it is said, that Lord Krishna visited the hermitage of Manu and the Pandavas in their exile and himself lived together with Arjun for a considerable time in Badarikashram. In their previous incarnation, Arjun as Nar, and Krishna as Narayan, performed austerities here on the Gandh Madan Mountain. There they were visited by the sage Narad, who remained with them for a thousand years. Rishis headed by Vyas came to Badarikashram to learn religious from sage Parsar. There are other innumerable reference in the Puranas about the sanctity of this shrine. Vedas were collected together and divided into four separate parts at Vyas Gupha at Mana (Manibhadrapur), near Badrinath. The various Puranas were also complied here. In Vedic period, saints and sages like Vashishtha and others retired to this land for the attainment of divine knowledge.
This revered spot was once carpeted with wild- berries. Thus the place got the name “Badri Van” meaning “forest of berries.
Badrinath is also known as Vishal Badri. It is the largest and most popular of the Vishnu pilgrimages among the Badaris.
The original temple here is believed to be built by King Pururava and the icon of the Lord carved by Vishwakarma, the creator of the gods. The idol of Sri Badrinath ji was retrieved by Adiguru Shankaracharya from the waters of the Narad Kund and consecrated once more in the temple, restored in the 19th century by the royal houses of Scindia and Holkar dynasty.
The temple of Sri Badrinath is about 15m high. It is built in the form of a cone with a small cupola of a gilt bull and spire. The temple has been renovated several times due to damage by avalanches.
Singhdwar, the main entrance gate of the temple is imposing and colourful. A large brass gong hangs in the middle of the gate. A flight of steps take pilgrims to the main gate and then into the temple.The temple has three parts: Garbha Griha (the sanctum-sanctorium), Darshan Mandap (for special Puja), and Sabha Mandap (for pilgrims to assemble for the Darshan). No body can enter inside the Garbha Girha except the chief priest (Rawal) and his associates Pujari.
The idol of Lord Badrinath ji is made of black stone-Shaligram. The Lord is seated in Padmasan posture. To the right of the idol are the image of Nar and Narayan and on the left those of Kubera, Udhava and Narada. This main idol along with other deities are bathed with special water which contains milk, curd, kesar, this purified water thus comes out and used as charnamrit Prasad. The deities are then clothed with rich gold brocade and adorned with many gold, silver ornaments and Tulsi flowers. Above its head is a small golden chhatra (canopy). This special Puja is called Nirwan Darshan and is performed in the morning hours.
Regular Prayers (four times a day) are performed by the Rawal at morning, noon and evening and are very important ceremonies and attended by several devotees. Every puja must be preceded by a bath in the Taptkund.
At Sri Badrinath, various pujas are performed.
1.) Specail Morning Pujas: Abhishek, Mahaabhishek, Sri Madbhagwat, Bal Bhog and Geeta Path.
2.) Special Evening Pujas: Arti and Geeta Gobind.
The morning pujas must be looked the previous day and the evening pujas can be looked before noon. The puja of Sri Badrinath ji is performed is south Indian “Aagama” style by the south Indian Chief Priest (Rawal). This has been the custom for hundreds of years ever since Adiguru Shankaracharya installed the image of Badrinathji. It also surpasses one’s imagination how at so young an age Shankaracharya could visit Badrinath and established the seat of his math to propagate his philosophy at Joshimath.
Darshan: Timing for darshan at the temple:
Morning: Opens at 4:30am with Shubha Prabhatam and closes at 12:30 pm.
Evening: Opens at 3:30 pm and closes at 9 pm after the divine song Geeta Gobind.
Darshan of Lord Badrinath ji and other deities i.e. Udhavji, Kuber ji, Nar and Narayan, inside the Garbha Griha are available form the Sabha Mandap all the time temple is open.
Buddhist claims that the idol of Lord Vishnu is that of Buddha. According to Hindu Shastra that Budha was the ninth incarnation of Lord Vishnu and therefore, Budha can be considered another form of Badrinath. Jainies also claim that the idol is that of Mahaveer Jain. Anyway this highly prestigious shrine is visited by the pilgrims of all faith and sect and blessed equally by the Lord Badrivishal ji. Badrinath ji is the only one for all faiths.
Offerings at the temple may be in the form of cash, gold, silver oranaments, dried fruits such as cashewnut, almond, walnut, etc. (panch mewa), tulsi mala, saffron, sandal, perfume, clothes etc. in varying quantities depending on individual capacity. The cash is placed in a sealed box. This along with the cash from different pujas constitute the main income of the temple.
It is a common belief that sage Narad performs offerings to Lord Vishnu and other deities in Yogdhayani (meditative )form during six months when the shrine remains close and Rawal (head priest) in Shringaric (Decorative) form for the six months when the shrine remains open.
The chief priest of Sri Badrinath ji is known as Rawal and invariably he is a Namboodripad Brahmin, who hails from Kerala. To assist Rawal in various pujas, the pujari from Dimri community is appointed by the temple committee.
Opening Day (30-April-2018)
The opening day of the temple is decided by the former king of Tehri Garhwl, Chief Executive officer, astrologers and pandits on the auspicious day of Basant Panchami at Narendra Nagar, Tehri Garhwal. The temple of Sri Badrinathji is gernally opens in the last week of April or the first week of May.
Akhand Jyoti Darshan (Flame Viewing Ceremony)
It is very significant features of Sri Badrinath ji on the opening day of the shrine. The flame in an ancient deep (lamp) keeps on burning throughout the year, and on the closing day of the temple, ghee and oil are filled into the lamp to make certain it will continue to burn, and be available for Darshan on the opening day. People come in large numbers on this special day to attend the flame viewing ceremony. The choli is taken off the deity on the opening day of the temple and small pieces of it are distributed to pilgrims as blessing, called Mahaprasad.
The closing day of the temple is decided by the Chief Executive Officer, the Rawal and the Dharmadhikari on the auspicious day of Vijya Dashmi. (The Dusshera festival). Normally the temple closes on the second week of November.
The temple closes with usual ceremony. On this occasion a choli made up of woolen is offered by the residents of the Mana village to the deity, to keep him warm during the winter months. The choli needs to be spun and woven by the unmarried girls of Mani only. After the choli is placed on the deity, bhog is offered and mantras chanted. It is a very emotional time and even tears rolled down from the eyes of many devotees.
The Rawal, Temple Committee staff and local residents departure from Sri Badrinath Dham for winter months to their native places. A representative idol is carried to Pandukeshwar for winter pooja in the temple of Yog Badri.
Other Temple Near Badrinath Temple
Just out side of the main temple on the circumambulation path, there are located many temples.
Lakshmi Temple This is the most important temple on the right side of the main temple. Goddess Lakshmiji (the goddess of wealth) is worshipped in this temple for six months by the Dimri Pujaris. The goddess is the spouse of Lord Vishnu.
Ghanta Karan Temple this is a small temple dedicated to the deity Ghantakaran or Cheetrapal (security incharge). It is said that during the winter months the temple and town is protected by the Ghantakaran ji. Specail puja is offered in the temple before the closing of the shrine by the purohits of Brahma Kapal Tritha and Bhotia community. On this occasion a goat is sacrificed and the Prasad is distributed to the devotees. The ‘Jan’ (local made liquor) is also served as Prasad of Ghanta Karan.
The Garur Bhagwan Statue There is located a black shining statue of a Garur, the mount of Lord Vishnu, near the Singhdwar.
The other temples of legendary importance dedicated to various gods are Adiguru Shankaracharya Samadhi, a huge marble statue of Hanumanji and Ganeshji are enshrined on parikrama path.
Temple Administration the administration of the temples of Sai Badrinath-Kedarnath Temple Committee (BKTC). The Chief Executive Officer is the administrative head and is assisted by two separate Executive Officers, one at Sri Badrinath and its another one at Sri Kedarnath. The President off the committee and its members are nominated by the state. The temple closes with usual ceremony. On this occasion a choli made up of wollen is offered by the residents of the Mana village to the deity, to keep him warm during the winter months. The choli needs to be spun and woven by the unmarried girls of Mana only. After the choli is placed on the deity, bhog is offered and mantras chanted.It is very emotional times and even teras rolled down from the eyes of many devotees.
The Tapta Kund (The Thermal Spring) there are four natural there springs on the banks of the river Alaknanda. The covered one is specially built for women pilgrims. A darshan of Sri Badri vishal ji is always preceded by a holy bath in the Kund. It is better to avoid long standing in the Kund; otherwise one can suffer from faint or giddiness. A bath in the Kund is really refreshing and stimulating. The water of the Kund is believed to have medical properties.
The Narad Kund
A recess in the Alaknanda river and just a few yards from the thermal springs down stair, forming a pool. The path is slippery because of the smooth carpet of algae. This is the Kund from where the idol of Lord Badrivishal was recovered by Adiguru Shankaracharya. It is advisable to take safety precautions going to the Naradkund.
The Panch Shila (The Five Blocks of Stone)
The Narad Shilas (stone blocks) in the vicinity of the Tapta Kund and are believed sources of five siddhies. They are Narad, Narsingh, Barah, Garur and Markandey shilas.
The Narad Shila
The Narad Shila stands in between the Tapta Kund and the Narad Kund, near Adikedar temple. It is believed that sage Narad, meditated on this block for several years in order to please Lord Vishnu and was granted three boons, viz sage Narad will be a devotee of Lord Vishnu for ever, Lord Vishnu will stay near this Shila, any living being whosoever takes bath in this Tirtha, worships or have darshan or even drink water will be born as a human being in the very next birth. Since then the Narad Shila is so sacred.
The Narsingh Shila
The Narsing Shila is just below the Narad Shila and it stands in the waters of the Alaknanda. This huge stone block shaping like a lion. Its gaping jaws and hooked claws can be seen from the other side of the river. Legend is that Lord Vishnuin his lion incarnation as Narsingh killed the demon King Hiranyakashyap and chose to stay in the icy cold water of the Alaknanda, so that his anger would be cooled by its water. At the request of the Gods, Narsinghji decided to remain in the river permanently in the shape of a block of stone.
The Barah Shila
The Barha Shila has the shape of a boar and it is in the Alaknanda near the Narad Kund. It was Barah Bhagwan, one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu, who brought the Prithvi (Earth) back from rasatala (Beneath the Earth) and set off to Badrikashram after killing Hrinyakasha, who was a brother of Hiranakashyap.
The Garur Shale
The Garur Shila is near the Tapta Kund. Garur (Eagle), the mount of Vishnu, is said to have meditated on this stone and till date lives in the form of the stone.
The Markandey Shila
The Markandey Shila is near Narad Kund in the middle of the flowing waters of the Alaknanda. Muni Markandy meditated on this shila. He attained salvation here and got blessings of Lord Badarivishal. The shila is not visible in the summer or during monsoons.
Panch Dhara (The five streams)
There are five well known Dharas in Badrinath viz. the Prahlad, Kurma, Urvasi, Bhrigu and the Indra Dhara. The water in each is different in its temperature, while water of the Prahald is lukewarm, that of Kurma Dhara is icy cold. Flowing from the Nilkanth range, the Urvashi Dhara forms the right arm of the Rishi Ganga. Flowing past a number of caves, the Bhrigu Dhara is about 1 km from Badrinath, while the beautiful of all, Indra Dhara, glides majestically down the Narayan Parvat rocks and is about 1.5 km north of Badrinath.
On the left of the Alaknanda, in the lap of the Nar Parvat and between two highly polluted seasonal water pools, is a boulder having an impression of the legendary serpent-known as Sheshang’s eye. The formation of the eye is natural. It is saif that the Shesa Nag is patintly watching Narayan and waiting to accomoany him in his re-incarnation
It is a continuous climb of 2 km from Badrinath to Charanpadauka. It is a delightful trek through emerged green meadows. Carpeted with wild flowers in the rainy season. One can view the beautiful and enchanting scenery of Badrinath from the prints of Lord Vishnu. It is believed that Lord Vishnu descended from Vaikunth be stepped on this boulder. The area is full of caves and huge boulders.
Nilkanth Peak And Base Camp (The virgin queen of Himalaya)
A pyramidical shaped snow clad majestic peak towering above Badrinath and popularly known as the ‘Virgin Queen of Garhwal Himalaya’. It reflected the first red glow of dawn in to the valley, and at sunset it glitters like a golden temple. The weather is generally uncertain in the afternoons. So the best viewing time is early in the morning.
In the moon lit night, glancing at the sky and the white snow clad peak is really a rare experience of life and provides peace of mind and soul. Intermittent audible sounds of glacier falls is a quiet common phenomena to this trek. From the base of the peak can be seen the hanging glaciers and the peak in all charm.
Nilkanth has been scaled by several expeditions, and is a very popular name in the realm of mountaineers.
Base Camp Trek
The base camp to the Nilkanth peak starts from the back of the temple on the Narayan parvat. It is 9 km beyond the town. The trek passes through vast stretches alpine meadows, which burst bloom with a variety of alpine flowers during summer season, moraine boulders and pebbles and along the Rishi Ganga River. There are a number of caves throught the trek. The base camp is located at an elevation of 4545 m above sea level. One can cover the trek in one day. It is a very delightful excursion to Nilkanth base camp from Badrinath. From Badrinath to Charanpaduka it is a 2 km steep ascent and from here a 5 km gradual ascent through boulders and moraines find Dumkual Kharak and then a 4 km steep ascent through meadows leads to Nilkanth base camp.
Brahma Kapal- Kapal Mochan Tritha
(The Head of Brahama) Brahma Kapal is also known as Kapal Mochan Tirtha. Hindus perform Pinddan or Sharadha ceremony (the propitiating rites for their deceased ancestors) here, in a quest to ensure heavenly abode for their ancestors.
Pinddan is also offered in several other religious places like Gaya. Kashi, Kedarnath, Haridwar etc., but the ceremony performed at Brahmakapal is different. After offering Pinds here, the manes are permanently enshrine in heaven and no more Pinds are to be offered elsewhere, if it is done the manes will suffer a setback. Shradha or Pinddan at Brahmakapal Tritha in Badrikasharm gives eight times more benefits then that at Gaya Tritha.
Legend is that when Shiva chopped off the fifth head of Brahma (the creator of Universe), it got stuck to his trident and Shiva was blamed for Brahma Hatya (killing of Brahma). The worried Shiva went to Badrikasharm to seek the blessing of Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu blessed Shiva and the head of Brahma fell down from the trident at this place. Hence this Tritha is called Brahma Kapal.
It is a flat platform on the bank of the river Alaknanda about 200m north (left side) of the temple.
The Purhoits of the Brahmakapal Tritha are: Sati, Nautiyal, Hatwal and Kothiyal Brahmins. One particular cast gets six months term in a year.
Originally, Sati Brahmins were the Purohits of Brahma Kapal Tritha. This Tritha was given to them by the king of Tehri Garhwal for performing pinddan ritual at Badrinath. But later on Sati Purohits donated three consecutive terms of six months in a year to the husbands of their sisters, who were married to Nautiyal, Kothiyal and Hatwal Brahmins, respectively. One particular cast gets six months term each year. Sati Purohits now get their six months term once in every four years time.
A small temple is located in the valley of Alaknanda, opposite to Mana Village, on the confluence of the Kesav Prayag, at an elevation of 3186m above sea level, at a distance of 3 km from Badrinath and dedicated to Mata Murti. It is said that Nar- Narayan were born to Mata Murti here.
Once a year, on the day of Vaman Dwadashi, the Narayan (Badrinathji) pays a visit to Mata Murti, when she is worshipped by the Rawal of Badrinath along with the local villagers \, in a festival of prayers, haven and bhog.
A big fair is also held here on this occasion and large number of locals and pilgrims visit the temple and prays their homage to the deity.
Mana is considered to be the last Indian village before Tibet on this route. It is inhabited by Indo-Mangolian tribe, known as Bhotia. It is situated at a height of 3186m above sea level. It is also known as Manibhadrasharam and Manibhadrapuram. One rote from this village also branches off to Nitipass (5069 m) via Ghastoli enroute to Sri Kailash Mansarover. Once it was a popular trade route with Tibet and pilgrimage to Sri Kailash-Manas.
The villagers of Mana are closely linked with the activities of Sri Badrinath temple and the annual worship of Mata Murti. The villagers are generally engaged in woolen works, making carpets, pashminas, woolen pullovers, mufflers etc. The Bhotias did flourishing business with Tibet until 1962. But later on with the invasion of the Tibet by China, trade links between these two countries received a great set back. However, people from Mana and Niti valleys are still agitating for re-open of trade with Tibet. Several Bhotia traders still have their properties in many Mandies of Tibet
The Mana village can be reached either by a trekking route first to Mata Murti and then to cross the Vishnu Ganga by a suspension bridge, 3 km from Badrinath or by a motor road 3 km. Tea shops exist here. A trekking route starts from here to the Satopanth Lake via Vashdhara falls and a high cross country trek to Gangotri via Khalindikhal.
Vyas Gupha (The Rock Cave of Ved Vyas)
There bare many caves widely spread in the mountains of Sri Badrinath. Among them are the Vyas Gupha and the Ganesh Gupha having religious importance, located near Mana village.
At the rock cave of Vyasji, Maharshi Ved Vyas dictated his well renowned epic, the Mahabharata to his scholar secretary Ganesh. There cave is under a huge slab of stone. The salb consists of several thick layers of stone and its book like appearance is Vyas showing him writing the grantha.
There is a Gupha for Ganesh close by where statue of Ganeshji is enshrined.
Muchakund Gupha is located about 2-1/2 km beyond Mana village enroute to Ghastoli (Tibet border). The foot prints of Lord Vishnu can be seen on a stone slab inside the cav. A local fair adorn this region on the occasion of Janam Asthami festival and a large number of devotees throng to this place to pay their homage to the deity.
Bhim Pul (Bhim’s Bridge)
Across Saraswati is a huge rock slab called Bhim Pul which acts as a bridge to cross the Saraswati gorge and Bhim is supposed to have put it across to enable hi brothers and Dropadi to pass the gorge on their way to Swargarohini (an ascent to heaven). It provides a spectacular view of the roaring river. In a sunny day one can see many rainbows forming by the sun rays and droplets of water.
It is a popular picnic spot in this valley and visited by a large number of pilgrims and tourists.
The area around Mana is serene and best for meditation.
The Saraswati River
The Saraswati River originates from Dev Tal (5684m), which is about 3 km in circumference 50 km north of Mana village on the ancient trade route to Tibet. This river is dedicated to the Goddess of learning. It is believed that Mahashri Ved Vyas was blessed by Saraswati to write the great epic Mahabharata at Vyas Gupha near Mana. The river Saraswati flows down the Mana Village and after touching Vyas Gupha, gets lost in the Alaknanda at Kesavprayag. From Kesavprayag to Allahabad, with Saraswati remaining invisible. This is the reason that the confluence at Allahabad is also known as Triveni (the three sisters).