Recently my mom and I undertook an ambitious journey to Badrinath in Uttarakhand – one of the Char Dhams (four sacred abodes) and a holy place. A trip to Badrinath is the Vaishnavite equivalent of a Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land or a Muslim making a Hajj journey. It was wonderful. It is the trip of a lifetime though many get the opportunity and strength to undertake it several times during the course of their life.
Pre Trip – Research
I wanted to write elaborately about my trip mainly because there is hardly any relevant information on the net about a trip to Badrinath in the recent years. People I spoke to – offline travel agents, online tour operators, hotel people discouraged me from undertaking this journey. They said that the travel would be extremely tiring and hectic, impossible to do in four days, it would be difficult to make arrangements, and that it was not advisable to go alone not to mention expensive. But I was adamant. I have been waiting for nearly 20 years to make this trip.
I will not lie. The journey was tiring, frustrating, demanding, and expensive but then best things in life are that. Arrangements are difficult to make so you’ll need to be decisive about what you absolutely need and what you can compromise on. Group tours provide few facilities and personalised tours are super expensive. There will be delays. But from my experience I can say that it is a safe place for women to travel alone. It is also doable in less than a week’s time if you are not over ambitious.
There are a couple of old posts that gave me confidence. The series on My Yatra diary by Arti though written in 2011 were the most elaborate and really helped me. You can also search for information in Travel blog. There is a series that was written in 2016 that includes information on all the Char Dhams – Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. Mine will be a series as well as it is not possible to combine everything in one post. I’ll link to the respective reviews on Trip Advisor to shorten the posts.
Trip to Badrinath
Day 1: Chennai to DevPrayag
The shortest route from Chennai is to fly till Dehradun (Change planes at Delhi) and start your car journey from Jolly Grant airport Via Rishikesh Bypass road to Devprayag. Do not do this trip on a weekend if you do not want to be stuck in a traffic jam for 3 hours. We travelled by GMVN (Uttarkhand Government) tour car. Once you get to the rafting areas of Rishikesh, it gets really beautiful. So enjoy a few minutes watching Ganga flow while sipping hot tea and munching on noodles. I left Chennai around 6 AM and reached Devprayag by 7:45 PM and stayed the night at Chakasa Govindham.
Devprayag – where Alagnadha and Bhagirathi become Ganga
Known as Devaprayag or Deoprayag this is the mythical town of Thirukandam. It is one of the 108 Divya Desams – No. 103 Kandam Kadi nagar. At the Confluence of the rivers Alagnadha and Bhagirathi, Lord Rama performed penance for Killing Ravana to rid himself of Bhramagathi dosham. Bathing in the sangam here and worshiping Lord Raghunath here is said to wash away all your sins. Offering can be made for your ancestors here. Because we lost 3 precious hours the previous day we skipped bathing in the Sangam. We descended to the Raghunath temple (easier than climbing up from the river bank), had dharshan and came back up after taking pictures in less than an hour. It is advisable to do this climb on an empty or light stomach.
This is not a picture taken 20 -30 years back but a new one even though the colours are very distinctive of that period. I have heard that the rivers are all different colours but now they all look a similar murky brown. It took a designer’s eye and a lot of concentration to separate the greenish brown of Bagirathi from the Reddish brown of Alknandha. With a bit of exposure correction on the camera you can actually see the difference in the pictures.
Day 2: Devprayag to Joshimath
We had breakfast at Kritinagar around 9:15 AM and travelled via Srinagar, Rudraprayag, Karna Prayag, Chamouli, Pipalkoti (lunch) to reach Joshimath by 3PM. We were road sick by then and too nauseous to eat or Drink. After sucking on lemons we steadied ourselves and went the Narasingh Mandir complex. This is Divya Desam 104. Thiruppirudhi – Sri Paramapurusha Perumal Temple. Here Lord Krishna or Vasudev can be seen standing with his conch and disc with his three consorts – Sri devi, Bhu Devi and Neela devi. There are very rare shrines here. I saw a 8 handed Ganesh (Ashtabuja Vinayaka), Nava Durga (9 forms of the goddess), Shiva and Parvati standing in an embrace and Bhairava in this complex. Contrary to what is mentioned in many Divya Desam books the Deity here is standing and not in sleeping position.
The neighbouring temple is the Narasingh mandir with the deities Narasimhar, Lakshmi, Kubera, Uddhava, Ram, Lakshman, Badri Vishal, and Garuda. I fell in love with the little Narasimhar deity (10 inches tall and lounging like a bushy cat) at this temple and did not wish to leave at all. They are building a new shrine here (see above) but the old temple (see below)that looks like a monastery is extremely beautiful and showcases the Pahadi aesthetic that is unique to this region. It is said that the wrist of this Narasimhar murti is becoming thinner with time and when it snaps the Nar and Narayan mountains along with many hill ranges will shift and Badrinath and Kedarnath as we know it now will cease to exist. The Idols will disappear from the existing temples and appear at Bavishya (future) Badri and Bavishya Kedar respectively. It sounds like an apocalyptic theory about earthquakes to me.
Joshimath is the place where the Utsava murthis and priests of Badrinath stay from Nov – May every year after the roads to Badrinath are closed due to heavy snowfall. But there are a lot of conflicting reports of which shrine is the Divya Desam and if it is indeed Joshimath in the first place. Only a learned person can answer this question. is a fantastic place and on our return journey, we stayed in a gorgeous resort. If I get an opportunity I would like to visit Joshimath once again and stay there for a few days.
Joshimath to Badrinath
There used to be gate system limiting vehicles on a one-way road. It is no longer the case. You are free to travel till 7 PM in the night. But if there is rain or even a tiny rock shower the authorities will stop vehicular traffic until it clears. This is only a 2-hour journey but one that must be done cautiously. The brooks that look beautiful falling on the road are extremely dangerous as this means slippery roads and slush that can cause a car to spin out of control. It also means that rocks are going to start falling soon.
After Joshimath, you can see Govind Ghat from where you can trek to Hemkund Sahib or the Valley of Flowers. We saw a lot of Shiks making their annual pilgrimage trip on buses, on bikes, even on foot leading upto here. So we felt extremely safe. Then comes Yogdhan Badri or Pandukeshwar (Picture above). The Pandu Maharaj (of Mahabharata) is known to have lived here with his wives. There is also a temple of Badrinath Ji here. We thought of seeing this place on our return trip but the trek down looked steeped and we were tired. So we just gave up. Just on the road we found a helpful signage giving details about Yogdhan Badri and distance to all the other Badris. Unfortunately, it is in Hindi.
Alaknanadha keeps you company all the way from Devaprayag and the hills turn different hues as you travel up. The Browns, blues, and luscious greens are enough to erase any thoughts of city life. But there are no facilities on the way and no hotels between Hanuman chatti and Badrinath town. Not even a building in sight. We did not stop at Hanuman chatti (the place where Hanuman challenged Bheem to lift his tail in Mahabharata) as our driver was not “Interested”. Yes, we did not stop at many such places of interest. We got stuck with an irritable driver with bad attitude and he made our lives hell by screaming at all vehicles passing us and fighting with us at every opportunity. I will not waste my time and yours by writing about that Kadoos but if you ever book a GMVN vehicle, please say that you do not want “Mr. Kali Charan” as your driver. Ever!
Trip to Badrinath
We reached Badrinath by 5:45 PM and stayed at the GMVN’s Devlok which was in the Temple’s parking lot. Its a spartan building with hardly any facilities but it is just 10 minutes from the temple. I stood in the parking lot, shivering and took a few pictures of the Mt. Neelkanth. He seemed moody and distant and so I vowed to take more pictures next morning at sunrise when the peak is supposed to be golden in colour. The hotel folks warned us to wear winter wear immediately but what we had with us didn’t suffice. So we went out to shop and bought quilted jackets and fur lined caps. It was extremely funny as we started the day walking in the blistering hot sun.
To find out what happened next on my trip to Badrinath, you will have to wait a week. Did I see Neelkanth in all his glory? Did I travel beyond to the Indo – Tibetan border? I’ll answer these questions and more in the next post in the series.
Till then enjoy the pictures. A lot of then were taken on my Cell phone (ASUS) from a moving car because of the above mentioned driver who considered photography a waste of time.
Hotel bookings were made on Makemytrip and GMVN (Hotel & Cab booking) over phone. Contact Mr.Gambir Singh – Transport ( 9568006657) or Mr. Surya Prasad (9568006619) for GMVN bookings. Hotel UMA is also a good place to stay at Devprayag. Mr.Vipul (9412303906) is very helpful.
Fin the second post of the series : Things to do at Badrinath here
I hope you find it Interesting