Table of contents for Spiritual Journeys
17th June,2010 – Mana village & around
As you have read in my earlier post, we reached Badrinath and had Darshan.
Badrinath is at a height of 11,204 feet above msl. It is around 530 Kms from Delhi and the route is Delhi – Haridwar – Rishikesh -Devprayag-Rudraprayag – Karanprayag-Chamoli -Joshimath – Badrinath. Badrinath route opens in first week of May and is closed for winters after Deepawali.
If going by own vehicle, one has to reach upto Karanprayag or Nandprayag and take a night’s halt. If there are two drivers, one can easily reach upto Joshimathh and stay there, saving one day.
For train journey, the last station is Rishikesh, from where hired taxis, chartered buses, route buses and jeeps are easily available for Badri Nath.
The mountains around Badrinath are mentioned in the Mahabharata, when the Pandavas are said to have ended their life by ascending the slopes of a peak in western Garhwal called Swargarohini – literally, the ‘Ascent to Heaven’.
Local legend has it that the Pandavas passed through Badrinath and the town of Mana, 4 km north of Badrinath, on their way to Swargarohini. There is also a cave in Mana where Vyas, according to legend, wrote the Mahabharata.
According to the Skanda Purana: “There are several sacred shrines in heaven, on earth, and in hell; but there is no shrine like Badrinath.” The area around Badrinath was celebrated in Padma Purana as abounding in spiritual treasures.
According to Vamana Purana, the sages Nara and Narayana (fifth avatar of Lord Vishnu) perform Penances here.
Badrinath has also been eulogised as Bhu Vaikunta or earthly abode of Lord Vishnu. Many religious scholars such as Ramanujacharya, Madhawacharya and Vedanta Desika visited Badrinath and wrote sacred texts, such as commentaries on Brahmasutras and other Upanishads.
References to Sri Badrinath have been made in the Vedas and perhaps it was a popular shrine during the Vedic age also. The Skand Purana gives an account of the Adiguru consecrating the idol of Lord Badri Vishal in the temple after recovering it from Narad Kund, in a pursuance of a divine call from heaven. The idol is made of black stone similar to granite. So holy is the shrine that it forms one of the four prominent places of Hindu worship. The epic Mahabharat, it is believed, was composed in the Vyas & Ganesh caves close by. The Vishnu Ganga which later becomes the Alaknanda flows below the temple.
Badrinath came into lime light after Shankracharaya, saw in his visions that some buddhist while running from India to Tibet had thrown the idol of Badrinath in Alaknanda river and demolished the temple. Shankracharya went to Badrinath with his disciples, and put his “Danda” exactly at the place in Alaknanada where the idol was lying deep under water. The idol was brought out and the temple re-built. Shankracharya appointed one of his disciples as priest in the temple and this continues till date.
Even today, the head priest is a keralite Namboodri, who is called Rawal ji. This priest has to remain “Brahmchari” all his life and keep himself pious, both physically and mentally.
The temple has undergone several major renovations because of age and damage by avalanche. In the 17th century, the temple was expanded by the kings of Garhwal. After significant damage in the great 1803 Himalayan earthquake, it was rebuilt by the King of Jaipur.
Around Badrinath shrine, Mother Nature has lavishly spread her beauty in abundance.
We left the hotel and were ready to go to Mana. When JP was arranging things in the car, I just wandered around. Two Sumos came, full of sikh pilgrims Perhaps they were coming back from their trip of Hemkund. I just overheard their conversation, a woman in the sumo said -चलो जी ऐनी दूर आए आं ते बदरीनाथ मंदर वी हो आईये…(if we have come so far let us go to Badrinath temple)..a male voice replied to her – ओ छड्ड ना, असी बामणा दे मंदर च की करना ए, ऐवें इ टिक्के ला देन गे मत्थे ते, असी माना पिंड वेखने आ ते बापस चलने आं. (Oh leave it, what we have to do with temple of Brahmins, they would put a “Tilak” on our forehead and make us impure..let us see Mana village and go back). all started laughing on these comments. I felt so sad… thousands of hindus go to Hemkund and other Gurudwaras, with respect and faith and this is how sikhs mock at our faith. In my two visits I never saw any sikh visiting Badrinath temple, barring one or two youths who were in a group with other hindus. Perhaps it is something to do with false propaganda of khalistanis. Vahe guru knows if all sikhs think like this or this was a single such incident !!
Well then we started towards Mana, the last village. The road ends at Mana, but a few hundred meters before a new road is laid by BRO which is being constructed upto Ghastoli, just near the Indo-China border. ILP is required to go on this road and perhaps by end of 2012, this road will be ready till Ghastoli, a few Kilometers before Tibet border. If China leaves her enemity with India and allows Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims from this route, then we can go upto Kailash by this road by our own vehicles, without any trekking….. When that will happen…only Lord can decide. Former PM Vajpaiji tried to persuade China to open this road, but nothing came out.
Mana is a small village inhabited by Bhutia natives, a mongoloid race. There are many trek routes available from Mana, and we can hire necessary items like tents etc, guides and ponies from Mana. Easy Vasudhara Trek (5 KM), further easy Laxmi Van trek (4 KMs) and beyond.. a difficult Satopanth trek (16 kms), are mostly undertaken by people. So we can do any of these trekking as per our capacity and availability of time.
We ventured into Mana and reached upto Bhimpul, a stone bridge over saraswati river, said to have been put by Bhima to let Draupadi cross the river.
If you see carefully the photo of bhimpul, you will notice a face in the river, with eyes, nose, mouth and hairs…. due to rocks and water creating the image.
Here we had some refreshment in the Last shop of Hindustan.
After visiting Mana, we reversed the car and headed towards Joshimath. This time too, the gate had just closed, and we had to wait another two hours in the que. Only the cars from hotel Sarovar Portico, a resort beyond the gate were allowed. We spent these two hours, taking photos of the beautiful Himalayas around.
I was amazed to see afar, a small cascade of snow. I had seen only once in my life a snow cascade while visiting Jungfrau, in Switzerland. The second such amazing phenomenon I saw here in Badri Nath. Snow was falling down the hill in a fall, like water and was looking like molten silver. I tried to take some shots, but only one was ok, that too could not depict the real beauty of the snow cascade. See below on the right hand side between electric cables, if you can notice the snow cascade.
Himalayas look so beautiful from here that we were feeling sorry to be leaving this place. See below some of the photos around Badrinath.
The gate opened and we hurled downwards. We tried cable car for Auli, but the first available was after 90 minutes, so we left this for the next time. I had gone to Auli during my last visit to Badrinath. Driving at a constant speed, we reached Chamoli and turned towards Gopeshwar. I parked the car in market and went to see the GMVN rest house, but the location was so bad, I immediately dropped the idea of staying there. It was inside a crowded market, with no view of Himalayas, but shops and cars and buses only.
We reversed and came back on the main road, and after Karanprayag, saw a very small 6 room private guest house, run by two post-graduate youths. That rest house was the only building there and there was vast valley and Alaknanda river behind. The charges were just Rs. 600 per room with attached bath. I like this type of places very much. So we decided to stay there and encourage those youths, who were for the first time trying to be entrepreneurs. Rooms were brand new, food was good and the boys were so sweet and well behaved that we promised them to come back to their hotel, the next time we visit.
18June, 2010 – We left the guest house and proceed further… watching for the last time, the snow clad Badrinath area.
Before Rudraprayag, we saw a path going towards Alaknanda. We brought the car near the river and jumped into the fast flowing, but not so deep river and took a refreshing bath in the icy cold water.
While crossing Srinagar, I asked the crew, if they would like to go to Devprayag via Pauri. Pauri is a beautiful small hill station, just 21 Km upwards from Srinagar. From Pauri, we can view almost all the Himalayan peaks, Chadrabdani temple and other great views of the valley. I suggested that instead of going straight to Devprayag, we go to Pauri and from Pauri, we take the hilly road descending down to Devprayag. It would be just 20 Kms extra but the journey would be worth remembering. All of them refused for no reasons. JP said he is tired and wished to reach Camp Kaudiyala for a night’s stay. I continued driving towards Devprayag, suppressing my desire to go to Pauri (for the 5th time). BUT THE MATRIX HAD STARTED CONSPIRING !!!
After we crossed Kirti Nagar and turned towards Devprayag… about 12 Kms from Srinagar we saw big queue of vehicles. Stopping our car in the long queue, I went ahead to see the reason for such a long queue. The other drivers told that they had been waiting for about 2 hours, due to an accident. We went forward and found that a truck had slipped on the road and was lying turtle on the road in such a way that no vehicle could cross it. There was long queue on both sides. We enquired from the policeman, who informed that the big crane is being brought from Rishikesh and after it arrives, the road would be cleared. He was advising vehicles to take Tehri road or Pauri Road to go to Rishikesh, to avoid further waiting.
Many vehicles were turning back to take either of the roads. JP came with a defeated smile on his face and asked me if we could turn back and go via Pauri. Voila… the conspiracy of the system to fulfill my desire to go via Pauri, worked and we were back towards Srinagar… from where we turned right towards Pauri road….this time covering double the distance than what we would had covered had my idea been accepted then.
Enjoying the lush and green Pauri, and enjoying the beautiful scenes all around, we advanced towards Devprayag. This road is normally empty, but this time it was full of vehicles diverted due to accident on the main road.
We descended on the steep hill at Devprayag, where the Pauri road meets the main road. Stopped for a while for a cup of tea and had a great view of Devprayag from the cafe.
We reached our favorite GMVN tent colony at Kaudiyala by seven in the evening. Had a complete rest there among the thundering sound of Ganges trying to push big boulders… and came back to Delhi, the next day.
Jai Badri Vishal… and Jai Himalayas !!!