One of the most difficult things in life is getting up early in the mornings. But this is never an issue when you have something exciting awaiting you. We woke up in the morning at 4.30AM and got ready. By 5.20 AM, we were at the Taxi Stand (On the Upper Market Road towards Badrinath) of Joshimath waiting for the shared Sumo to reach Badrinath. It was a slight rain there, but we were safe covered by our raincoats. For our disappointment, no jeep/Sumo turned till 6 AM. Finally a Sumo came, but there were only 8 passengers by 6.40 AM and the driver was continuously waiting for the last passenger. Finally, after waiting for next 20 mins, we suggested the driver to charge Rs.10 extra from each passenger, so that we could be able to proceed. He happily agreed with the proposal and with 8 passengers the cab left from Joshimath.
The road passes through Govindghat from where the people start the trek to Ghangaria, base station for Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek. There were large number of Sikhs plying on the road on their motorbikes from Haridwar up to Govindghat, but after that only a few were found on the road to Badrinath. This seemed to be a very tough terrain for biking, but I have seen 125 cc splendors, cd deluxes, TVS stars, 150cc pulsars and even scooters alongwith mighty Bullets and mostly with a pillion at the back. Till then, I heard that for mountain biking you need a very powerful bike, it shoud be at least 200 cc, but here everything seemed to a lie. They were travelling comfortably on their bikes. But the biggest surprise was near Badrinath, where I saw 5 cyclists riding on their bicycles on the way to Badrinath. It was the amazing height of human faith. After a roller coaster ride on the mountains, we reached to Badrinath by 8.30 AM.
Badrinath, at an elevation of 3,130 meters (10,250 feet), is the abode of Lord Vishnu. Situated in the lap of Nar-Narayan mountain range with the towering Neelkanth peak (6,597mts.) in the background, Badrinath is one of the most revered Hindu shrines of India.
At Badrinath,we got a decent guesthouse at Rs.300 for 24 hours. We placed our luggage and washed our hands and feet as it was too cold to bath. We went to Sri Badrinath Temple.The temple of Shri Badrinathji is on the banks of the Alaknanda river, dates back to the vedic times. Situated at an altitude of 3,133 mts., the present temple is believed to have been built by Adi Guru Shankaracharya- an 8th century’s philosopher-saint, who also established a ‘math’ here. Also known as ‘Vishal Badri’, Badrinath is one of the Panch Badris.
There is a waterpool, known as Taptkund,where hot water is always coming throughout the day and night. By night, it became too hot to bath. The water of the kund is believed to have medicinal properties.We purchased a prasad thali and offered our prayer to Shri Badri Vishal.
A flight of steps takes us to the main gate and then into the Badrinath temple. The temple is divided into three parts – the ‘Garbha Griha’ or the sanctum sanctorum, the ‘Darshan Mandap’ where the rituals are conducted and the ‘Sabha Mandap’ where devotees assemble. The Garbha Griha portion has its canopy covered with a sheet of gold offered by Queen Ahilyabai Holkar. The complex has 15 idols especially attractive is the one-metre high image of lord Badrinath, finely sculpted in black stone. It represents Lord Vishnu seated in a meditative pose called padmasan.
Lord Badrinath is sitting meditating in the padmasana (lotus yogic posture). As you look at the Deities, standing to the right side of Badrinarayana is Uddhava. To the far right side are Nara and Narayana. On the left side are Kubera, the god of wealth, and a silver Ganesh. Garuda is kneeling in front, to the left of Badrinarayana.
Special pujas are also performed on behalf of individuals. Every puja must be preceded by a holy dip in the Tapta Kund. Some of the special morning pujas are Abhishek, Mahaabhishek, Geeta Path. Some special evening pujas are Aarti & Geet Govind. Such pujas are to be booked in advance. The Badrinath temple opens at 0430 hrs & closes at 1300 hrs. Once again it opens at 1600 hrs & closes at 2100 hrs after the divine song Geet Govind. Rawal is the administrator-Pujari of the temple well versed in puja ceremonials & Sanskrit language and is expected to be celibate. While returning from the temple, the guards started dispersing the people away from a gate. A man appeared from that gate with a Golden Rod in his hand. A guard informed us that he is the present Rawal, chief priest, of the temple and while going inside the temple, he should not be touched by anyone.
After prayer, we went to a nearby restaurant and took the breakfast.
We returned to our guesthouse and after some rest went to visit Mana Village. As it was only 3 kms from Badrinath, we wished to go on the feet. Mana is a beautiful village nestled between the mountain ranges. The road to Mana is well maintained as the Indo Tibetan Border Police has got a prominent presence there. There were potato fields all around and the plants were in bloom, giving a nice contrast to the deep blue skies and grey mountains. You get some pretty amazing views as you walk towards Mana.
We reached Mana in 45 minutes. It was a very small village. Mana is the last village before the Mana Pass and is 24 kilometres from the border of India and Tibet/China. The village is also famous as it is the place from where Saraswati River originates, where Sage Vyas meditated and dictated the Hindu Veda Puranas to Lord Ganesha who compiled it for the humanity. The village is known for its scenic beauty, religions and mythological places.
We crossed Mana Village and reached at Bhima Pul(Bridge).It is believed that on his way to Swarga (Heaven), Pandavas came across Sarswati river, then Bhima put a large stone here so that they can cross the river. The river is in full spate at this place before it vanishes after a few miles in Brahm Kund to re-originate at Prayag at the confluence of river Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.The narrow trek path leading above the Bhima Pul is known as Swargarohini and in mythology, it is believed that Pandavas used this path to go to the heaven alive. Unfortunately only Yudhisthir and his fellow dog were able to reach alive and rest all died on the way. This path is leading to Satopanth Sarovar, which is 16 kms away from Mana village. One will need a special permission from government official at Joshimath, Badrinath or from the Gram Pradhan ( Village Head) of Mana Village to go on this trek.
Up to Vasudhara Fall which is 5 kms away from Mana, no special permission is needed. So we decided to trek up to Vasudhara Fall. 5 km doesn’t sound like much but starting at around 3500m above sea level and climbing almost all the way it gets heavy – going upwards and having less and less oxygen made it a good full day trek to go to the falls and back. Initially, it seemed to be easy trekking but later it became difficult and more difficult. Few words of advice – please carry enough water and some eatable as nothing would be available after you cross the last Indian shop. Please also note that only cash is accepted in Badrinath and Mana, barring one or two big jewellery shops in Badrinath. Even hotels do not accept cards since internet is not easily accessible here. It is strictly advisable to draw enough money in Joshimath as there are several working ATM’s.
On this narrow path, we met a Swamiji, who was also going to Vasudhara along with his two disciples. He said he was the Professor of English Lit at Delhi University earlier and later became a sanyasi from last 3 years. They were with us throughout the trek. A couple from Delhi is also there for the company. We reached Vasudhara by 3 PM. It was covered with dense lower clouds, so we were not able to see the fall properly. It was a big disappointment. But I knew that cloud could be disappearing at any moment in this valley, so we spent half an hour enjoying under the cloud.
There were a large glacier at the bottom of the fall and first time in our life we were so close to the glacier. At that time we didn’t know that there are still more beautiful glaciers yet to come in next few days, so in excitement, we clicked many photos of the glacier. And when the cloud disappeared, we have seen the most beautiful view of our life. It is indeed a path leading to heaven or a heaven itself. We spent another one hour there doing masti and clicking pictures. Those views were awesome as you walk towards Vasudhara falls. There were some bushes all along the otherwise barren landscape, with bright red and orange berries on them. Though the signboard said 5 kms to Vasudhara, we felt it was more than that. Probably it was just our legs complaining. The falls was visible at a distance and we thought it’s just a hill away. But we had to walk across at least another 4 hills and a stream before we could finally reach it. Vasudhara fall drops from a height of 125 meters, but due to the height, the water falls down like a shower of droplets.
We returned to Mana by 6 PM and enquired if we could get any jeep to Badrinath, but the driver asked for Rs. 150 for two persons for 3 kms drive. The tariff shocked us. Anyway, we went to Badrinath again on feet and reached there by 7 PM. During this trek my shoes torn out badly, so after leaving Nidhi to guesthouse I straight went to a shoemaker and got it fix as I have to trek 13 kms to Ghangaria, the next day. We again visited the Temple in the night. The temple was very colorful in the night and was full of devotees.
We took the dinner and after a wonderful tiring day, lost into our sweet dreams.