Planning the Trip:
This year during monsoon, we decided to visit The Valley of Flowers as it is on its best during the month of July-August. Planning was started, searched a lot on the internet, friends were informed and all set for 8 days leave from the office. We decided to visit Badrinath Temple, Mana Village, Vasudhara Fall, Valley of Flowers, Hemkunt Sahib alongwith Joshimath and Auli. Two couples from office and two other friends were keen to join us in the beginning, but as the time approaching, everyone was busy with his priorities. Persuaded my parents and sister to join us for this trip, but they also refused because of their busy schedule. Hence in the last, only we two left for the trip. But who care, we two are always ready to pack our bag anytime, anywhere. Got 8 days leave from the office from July 13 to July 20 and made a detailed planned for the trip. Not booked any hotel anywhere in advance as we wanted to be flexible in our trip because of the places, where we were heading. There was a high probability of landslides, road blockages and torrential rain along the route during this period. Everybody warned us not to go there in the rainy season, TV channels were showing road blockage due to landslides every second day, but we were determined to complete this trip.
From Delhi to Rishikesh:
We started our journey from Delhi ISBT on July 12 at 9 PM; so that we can reach Haridwar as soon as possible in the morning to catch the first available bus to Joshimath. It was an ordinary roadways bus of Uttar Pradesh (Fare Rs.170/- per person). We stopped near Khatauli for the dinner as almost all buses plying on this route stop at the motels and roadside Dhabas of this area routinely. It took 6 hours and 15 minutes to reach Haridwar and nothing special happened throughout the journey. By 3.20 AM, we were at Haridwar bus stand. At the bus stand, I was approached by several Rickshaw-wallas offering me a paid ride to Har ki Pauri and some agents offering a cheap decent guest house, but we were in no mood to stay there rather we wanted to catch a bus to Joshimath. I enquired about the Garhwal Motors Opertaors Union (GMOU) Office and found it is just 100 meters away from the bus stand. There was the first bus to Joshimath at 4.15 AM. We fortunately got two left-side (as suggested in many blogs) front seats <Fare Rs.250/- per person to Joshimath). We still had half an hour with us, so after placing our luggage in the bus we went to a Sulabh Toilet Complex at Haridwar Bus Stand to be ready for the twelve hours long journey. Approx. 35-seater Bus started at 4.25 AM and with this; started our journey to the Devbhoomi. The bus was full with pilgrims and some workers going for their job to Joshimath. First we reach to Rishikesh, where bus stopped at local GMOU office to full its tank with diesel. From Rishikesh, we started ascending the Shivalik Hills of Mighty Himalayas.
Breakfast at Devprayag:
Our first stop was at Devprayag for the breakfast, 70 kms from Rishikesh. It is one of the five sacred confluences in the hills and is an important place of pilgrimage for devout Hindus. The Alaknanda rises at the confluence and feet of the Satopanth and Bhagirath Kharak glaciers in Uttarakhand. The headwaters of the Bhagirathi are formed at Gaumukh, at the foot of the Gangotri glacier and Khatling glaciers in the Garhwal Himalaya. These two sacred rivers join to form the Ganges (Ganga) in Devprayag.
Lunch at Karnaprayag:
We moved further and stopped at Srinagar. Srinagar is situated on the banks of Alaknanda River. Srinagar was the capital of Garhwal before the arrival of British rule. It is the biggest town in Garhwal.
Then next stop was at Karnaprayag for the lunch. Karanprayag is one of the Panch Prayag (five confluences) of Alaknanda River, situated at the confluence of the Alaknanda, and Pindar River. Karanprayag is believed by many to be the place where Karna of the Mahabharata, was to have worshipped the Sun God.
The bus was going to Badrinath, but we decided to leave the bus at Joshimath, so that we could be able to visit Joshimath in the evening. From Karnaprayag, we reached Joshimath at about 3.20 PM. We both were tired after a long bus journey, so badly need a hotel to stay there. I was not in the condition to search a hotel and bargain for the prices, so straight went to The Tourist Rest House of Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN) and got an Economy room there for Rs.600 per night. We took shower, ordered the noodles and tea, and after the snacks went to sleep. After the brief nap of 45 minutes, we woke up to explore nearby areas.
Joshimath, also known as Jyotirmath, is a fairly large town. It has to be, since most of Badrinath arrives here to spend the winter months when the shrine of Badrinath remains snowbound for six months. It is the winter shrine of Badrinath which is worshipped here during the winter months. Today, it is a comparatively modern town with small hotels, modern shops, and even a cinema. Beware of ‘proppers’, people who offer kindly their help, but lure you into shops or hotels.
First, We went to Shankaracharya Math, which is just above the GMVN hotel. A narrow lane leading from a side of the hotel to the Math. Joshimath is the uttaramnaya matha or northern monastery, one of the four cardinal institutions established by Adi Shankara, the others being those at Sringeri, Puri and Dwaraka. Their heads are titled “Shankaracharya”. According to the tradition initiated by Adi Shankara, this matha is in charge of the Atharva Veda. Jyotirmath, which is close to the pilgrimage town of Badrinath, has not always been an active matha. It is sometimes said incorrectly that the original northern matha was established at Badrinath.
This tree is believed to be the oldest tree of India and stood at Joshimath from the time of Adi Shankaracharya. More than 2500 years ago Adi Shankaracharya used to meditate in the shades of this beautiful tree and the cave where he lived is also there. The circumference of this mulberry tree is 21.5mts. The tree is now only able to bear flowers and not fruits, but the leaves are still young and fresh of this historic tree. Millions of people visit Badrinath every year unknowingly that the tree they pass through is about the same age as the Badrinath temple is.
After that we visited the Narshimha Temple. When the Badrinath Temple is closed in winter, devotees throng to worship at the Narsimha Temple ,which is the winter adobe of Sri Badrinath. The temple is about 1200 years old. Dedicated to Vishnu, the presiding deity of the temple is Narsimha, the half-man, half-lion and fourth incarnation of Vishnu. The characteristic feature of the deity is that its left wrist is very thin and is shrinking day by day and it is said that the day when it will fall, the route to Badrinath will get closed permanently by a major land slide.Situated some 30 yards from the Narsimha Temple, the Vasudeva Temple is one of the most famous Vishnu temples in India.
This temple is at lower bazaar road. There was a long queue of the vehicles along the road becuase of the gate system on this road. The road was closed for the day for traffic and now everyone has to wait till early morning when first gate is open at 5.30 AM. We went to the upper bazzar of Joshimath and seen some cabs were still moving to Baddrinath. The local people informed that these were local cabs and they can ply upto 8.00 PM.
After taking a good dinner at a newly open restaurant at upper bazaar road, we went to sleep so that we can wake up early in the morning to catch the first available vehicle to Badrinath.