My Himalayan Travels – Day 7
During Day 7, I will traverse the path back from Badrinath to Joshirmath. So the map is pretty much the same as that of Day 6.
In Badrinath, there are some places to see. I went back during the morning to have a second darshan of Shri Badri Vishal. Then I proceeded to the left of the temple. The path leads straight to Bamni village. Bamni village is located at the foot of the Urvashi mountain. Urvashi mountain and Narayana mountain are separated by a river called Rishi Ganga which comes down from the magnificent Neelkanth peak and joins Alakananda at Badrinath.
The picture below shows the Rishi Ganga valley with the Neelkanth mountain as the backdrop. The Urvashi parvat (mountain) is on the left side while the Narayana Parvat (mountain) is on the right side.
The first part of the trek was to goto Bamni village and visit the Bhagavathi temple in the village and the Urvashi temple at the foot of the Urvashi mountain.
The Bhagavathi temple (for the mother) is a simple village temple at the middle of the Bamni village. I went on the day before a great mela.(end of September) The villagers of the Bamni village have gone up to the Neelkanth mountain base to obtain a special flower called Brahma Kamal which is the state flower of Uttarkhand. These flowers are collected and brought down to decorate the Bhagavathi’s temple on the next day.
I then walked behind the Bamni village to go to the Urvashi temple. The Urvashi temple is situated at the base of the Urvashi mountain behind the Bamni village. When Nara and Narayana were engaged in meditation, Indra sent some celestial apsaras (nymphs) to lure them away from their penance. Apparently, Narayana tore his left thigh and Urvashi emerged from it along with other maidens each one more beautiful than the ones that were sent by Indra. Urvashi led them all back to Indra thereby shattering his pride. Hence there is this temple that is constructed for Urvashi here. (probably the only one dedicated to her)
It is a nice peaceful spot.
I came back to the base of the Urvashi Parvat, crossed the Rishi Ganga and proceeded to the Narayana parvat to see Charan Paduka. Charan Paduka is the rock on which Lord Badri Vishal first placed his foot. There is an impression that exists even today. Charan Paduka is around 2.5 kms from Badri along the Rishi Ganga valley. I started walking up the mountain and see this imposing red colored structure that beckoned me. On reaching closer to it, I realized that this is a meditation ashram of a person who is the disciple of the great Mahavatar Babaji who is mentioned by Paramahamsa Yogananda in his classic book – Autobiography of a Yogi. I was ecstatic since I am always very attached to Mahavatar Babaji. The icing on the cake came when I was told that there is a marble statue of the Mahavatar in the ashram. I hastened it and prostrated at the feet of the great Babaji’s idol. It is a nice peaceful ashram and is a perfect place for meditation. The great Babaji is deathless and is ever young. He is considered by many to be the living manifestation of Lord Shiva. He is visible to a select few. I felt privileged to even get to see his idol.
Stories abound about him. It is said that the very utterance of his holy name is potent enough to merit a blessing. I prostrated to him and moved reluctantly out of the ashram.
I kept looking back at the red ashram and took several pictures. Here is one with the Nara mountain as the backdrop. Nara is on the other side of the town of Badrinath and now from this height we get to see the lovely mountain.
Now I started hastening towards the Charan Paduka and saw this cave where they installed an idol of Hanuman. It is called Hanuman Gufa. I passed it on the way up in my quest to reach the Charan Paduka quickly. It is a good climb to the top. The pilgrim is rewarded with magnificent views of the Rishi Valley and the Badrinath Valley. I would have loved to see the Neelkanth mountain but unfortunately the mountain was covered with clouds.
Charan Paduka was soon visible.
At the back of the Charan Paduka was a cave with a perpetual light (Akhand deep) glowing. This was unfortunately locked at that time. Apparently, a great yogi sits there in meditation. He is from the Nath sect of Yogis who owe their lineage to the great Shiva himself (who is called as Adi Nath)
On the way back, I stopped by at the Hanuman Gufa and got blessings from the guru who was doing the pooja there. He also has lighted an Akhand Deep for Hanuman.
From Hanuman Gufa, I hastened back to Badrinath temple and soon started down to come back to Joshirmath. On the way, I stopped at Pandukeshwar. Here Pandu the father of the Pandavas erected a temple for Vishnu. It is called Yog Dhyan Badri temple and is considered to be part of the Panch Badri temples which are famous in this region. The first of the Panch Badris is Badri Vishal temple at Badrinath. The others are Yog Dhyan Badri at Pandukeshwar, Vriddha Badri (old Badri) on the way down from Joshirmath on the main road itself, Bhavishya Badri which is supposed to be the future site of the current Badri temple and finally Adi Badri which is a set of 16 temples installed by the indefatigable Adi Shankara.
We get to see all of them barring Bhavishya Badri. The Yog Dhyan Badri temple is easily accessible from the highway with a very short walk.
Arrived at Joshirmath and stayed at the same place – Himalayan Abode. There are some important places to visit in Johsirmath. So I decided to spend sometime today to do that. The first place is the Adi Shankar Matt. The matt has a temple dedicated for Bhavishya Kedar. This will supposedly become the new Kedar temple once the current Kedar temple becomes inaccessible at the end of the Kali Yuga. The Shankar Matt has a beautiful Spatika (Crystal) linga which was supposedly worshipped by none other than the great Adi Shankara himself.
The Shankara Matt was almost uninhabited. I felt a little sad since the mutt of the personage responsible for all the temples here in this area is not given the importance that it should have been.
There is also a Kalpa Vriksha with a Shiva temple underneath it. This Kalpavriksha is supposed to be 25oo years old. The Shiva temple has an Akhand Deep as well. This tree is supposed to be eternal and has the ability to fulfill the wishes of a serious devotee.
The final destination in Joshirmath is the Nrusimha Dev temple. This temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu’s four avatar – the Nrusimha (half man half lion) avatar. This temple serves as the winter headquarters for Lord Badri Vishal. The arm of the Nrusimha idol is getting reportedly thinner with the passing years. The legend is that if it breaks, then the Nara and Narayana parvats would fall down blocking access to Badrinath. So the new seat for Lord Badri Vishal would move to Bhavishya Badri – which is one of the Pancha Badris that I mentioned before. I was not able to squeeze a visit to Bhavishya Badri in this pilgrimage due to paucity of time and also my limited abilities to walk after the tough ordeal at Kedarnath.
With this I retired for the night in anticipation of seeing two more of the Panch Badri temples and one Panch Kedar temple in the next day.