Thursday, June 26, 2008
Badrinath, Mana And Vasudhara
A mission of a lifetime. It was so for all Hindus. It is so for many many Hindus even today.
A visit to the temple at Badrinath.
As for me it was the beckoning of the eternal Himalayas more than religion.
2 girls. Me and a friend. Packed one morning and left to the Himalayas.
The bus drive from Rishikesh to Joshimath was nine to ten hours long.
Narrow roads. Dangerous curves. Uphill climb. But breathtaking views, as you near Joshimath.
Our first view of snow.
A lot of things can be said about the terrain in this part. The mountains are rocky and therefore you don’t get to see much greenery. I first thought it was deforestation, but realised later that, that was not possible, for the mountains are very steep.
The Alakananda river flows in the valley and you see it throughout your drive up. The water is very muddy and the colour brownish, probably because of the fast currents that erode soil as they charge forwards.
A view from our hotel room in Joshimath. A 360 degree spin on your heels will give you plenty of such views. I need to buy a panoramic camera.
After a night’s halt in Joshimath, we took a jeep to Badrinath. What a ride it was! The driver stopped every time I wanted to take a picture. And I took soooooo many… This is the Dhauli Ganga river... which will soon meet Alakananda...
Aquamarine waters in the valley. Glistening snow on a peak. Which was more beautiful, I don’t know yet.
Reached Badri at last. Visited the temple twice. Once in the afternoon and once in the evening for the Shayan Aarti during which all the jewels and flowers that embellished the idol in the sanctum were removed and we had a chance to see only the idol. I was a bit disappointed to see that the mukha mudra(expression on the face) was not very clear. I had forgotten that it is a 2000 year old temple established by Shankaracharya.
The Badri temple along with the entire town of Badri is closed for six months during winter. I am told the town is entirely covered by snow. During those 6 months, the town shifts to Joshimath. But when the temple is reopened in May, the lamp is found to be burning in the sanctum of the temple. It is not musty like one would expect it to be. It is as if the temple was never closed. I am told that Narada maharshi comes to the temple everyday and lights the lamp. I was astonished.
I learnt from Parag that the idol at the Badri temple is actually a Buddha statue. That is why the idol is in a sitting position. Nowhere else will you find Narayana in that position. He is in a standng posture everywhere. I learnt that the temple was a Budhha temple intitially. But a Muslim ruler, destroyed it with the intention of building a mosque there and threw the idol in some river or lake. It was Shankaracharya who later retrieved the idol and established the present Badri temple and declared it a Narayana temple.
In Tapovan, which is a few kilometers from Gaumukh, an idol of Narayana is emerging from earth. People have been seeing it grow, with the passing of time. At present, one can see the idol from head to waist. The limbs are expected to emerge soon. I believe it will be the future Badri temple.
For those of you who do not know the Mahabharat well, the Pandavas proceeded to the heavens through the Himalayas (after ruling this earth for several years), and as they did, a dog followed them till the end. It was Yamadharmaraja himself in the form of a dog. This episode of the epic is know as swargarohana meaning “ascent to the heavens”. This part of the Himalayas is known today as Swargarohini. It is at a really high altitude of 20000 feet and not many people trek in this area. There is no civilisation there. But even to this day, a dog follows the trekkers as they proceed. Nobody knows where it comes from and no one knows where it goes to.
There are mountains all over the world. But mysticism, only in the Himalayas. God lives here and to the one who has faith, there are enough traces strewn all over the place.
One of the many views from our hotel in Badri…
I was lucky to capture this. Just a few minutes later it was covered by a veil of thick clouds.
Three kilometers from Badri is the village of Mana which is the last village in the Indian territory (in that area of course!).
A place with a lot of history I must say. Others would use the word mythology. I too used to. But I have grown up to believe that it is history. Our history is so old that it is now called mythology for lack of modern records as testimony. Present day intelligence is blind to glaring evidence and depends excessively on textbooks, however unauthentic they may be.
In Mana, you will find Vyas Gufa, Ganapathi Gufa, the Saraswati river and Bhim Pul, among other things.
This is the Vyas Gufa where Vyas recited the Mahabharat to Ganapathi who documented it. Interestingly, they were in different caves.
The Saraswati river. It is also called Guptagamini, meaning, one who moves discreetly. This river is visible only here for some distance and then it disappears. I am told, it resurfaces in Allahabad for its confluence with the Ganga.
The water is so pristine. And it is roaring!
Over this river is the Bhim Pul. A bridge put in place by Bhim. According to legend, Draupadi found it difficult to cross the river and Bhim made this pul for her. It is a gigantic block of stone, a monolith, the size of a 4 story building. There are impressions of his fingers and thumb all over this stone. Don’t miss them in the pics…
Five kilometers from Mana is a waterfall called Vasudhara. That’s where we headed after spending enough time at Mana getting more and more of the Saraswati river.
This was a difficult climb. Just 5 kilometers and it took us more than 4 hours. There were not too many people as most people would be content with seeing Badri and some with Mana. There is not much greenery and therefore I felt a lack of oxygen. It would get cloudy and in a few minutes it would get very sunny.
But the views it offers are splendid. Snow covered mountains in a row as you walk towards the waterfall.
Ah! What colours! Golden grass here, green pasture there, small yellow and purple flowers, a brown mountain like chocolate and milk white snow like vanilla. A blue sky and some grey clouds.
And the waterfall!
It is known to be 500 feet high. It was believed that water from this fall, falls only on those who have not sinned. We crossed a large area covered with snow to reach this place. It was really difficult. Even as we planted our feet carefully and firmly, we slipped and fell. After we had crossed to the other side, we were at the foot of the waterfall, seated on huge rocks.
As the water sprayed on us, we became relieved to know that we were not sinners.
It was getting cold and beginning to get dark. We had to leave.
I made a silent promise to come back.
For more pictures, do visit Badrinath, Mana and Vasudhara