The last dham is Badrinath, the abode of Lord Badri Narayana. Badrinath is at an elevation of 3,300 mts from the sea level. Badrinath is the headquarters of one of the four mathas that Sri Shankaracharya established. This temple too, like the Kedarnath, is closed in the winter. The main idols are brought down the peaks to Joshimath.
There are many legends associated with Badrinath. Badri is a type of edible berry belonging to Jujube variety that was supposed to have been in abundance here. It is said that the Pandavas traveled through these hills in their journey towards salvation in the Swargaarohana parva. Another story states that Lord Vishnu sat in meditation here. Goddess Lakshmi turned herself into a large Badri tree to give shade to Lord Vishnu here. She is called Badri Vishal and her Lord is Badri-Nath.
Sri Shankaracharya is said to have found an idol of Lord Vishnu in saligram stone here. He established the temple here near the Tapt Kund, a hot spring. The temple here has been rebuilt many times. It has suffered from several earthquakes and avalanches earlier.
We reached Badrinath at around 8 pm. The hotel was quite near the temple, but buses or vans were not allowed in that road. So we loaded our luggage on to pittu boys’ baskets and walked to our hotel. After dumping our luggage, we went off for a darshan of the Lord. We were just in time. After we were allowed inside, the main door was closed. We had a good darshan of the Lord. I was so emotional after that. This completed my lifelong wish of being able to see the Char dham. The Almighty was kind enough to help me complete this journey with my near and dear. Such a blessing.
The plan for the next day was to get up by 4 am. This was because, as the day goes on, the rush becomes heavy. Also, there is a chance of seeing early morning sunlight falling on the surrounding mountains and that spectacle is supposed to be divine. In Badrinath, there is a custom of offering obeisance to our forefathers on the banks of Alaknanda. We wanted to be able to that too before departing.
The cold in Badrinath is to be experienced to be believed. It was bone chilling in the night and to get up in the morning was not easy at all, that too at 3am. Both D and S simply could not open their eyes. So I locked them up in the room. Me, husband, sister, brother-in-law, K and C, all us of walked out in the super chilly morning to the temple. First we went to the Tapt Kund.
This is a hot water spring where a holy dip can be taken. There are separate places for men and women. I and sister went there. We sat at the edge of the kund, with our legs in the water. It was super super hot, but slowly our body got used to the heat. We poured water over our bodies. It was heavenly. The chill we had felt simply left us. The fumes from the Tapt Kund gave out sulphury smell.
The golden glow of the early morning sun lit up the snow clad hills and 2 peaks called the Nar and Narayan became kind of silvery-gold. It was beautiful. The Badrinath peak is surrounded on all sides by 5 peaks, Nar, Narayan, Narad, and Nilakantha. I forget the name of the last one.
Then after brother-in-law also had his dip and then we went to stand in the queue for darshan. It was so long. We had removed our footwear. The cold ground did nothing to keep us warm. The toes curled up. The queue moved very very slowly. C and K could no longer keep awake. I took them back to the hotel. Put them in their room, locked up and came back to the queue. By the time we had darshan, it had become morning 9 am. The rush also increased exponentially. The queue for darshan had gone out of the temple complex and had reached almost 2 kms in length!
After darshan we went to the place on the banks of Alaknanda for performing rites to pay respects to ancestors. Here we can find many priests who have different “packages” to suit every budget.
After this, we had breakfast, packed up breakfast for the locked up kids and went back to the rooms to pack up.
Since our main photographer of the trip, D was asleep in the room, we have not many photos to share. I managed to take a photo of the temple. We also took the services of one of the many Polaroid photographers and we now have an iconic photo of the 4 of us. All of us are dressed as “Ramu kaka” of the quintessential old Hindi movie. 😀