My Himalayan Travels – Day 8
Day 8 was a magnificent day. I had hoped to cover quite a bit of ground on that day and almost come back a significant way from the thick of the mountains. The route that I had in mind is shown below.
I was wanting to cover Vriddha Badri, Kalpeshwar Mahadev temple and Adi Badri before returning back to Rudra Prayag for the night.
The day was picture perfect. The blues of the skies, the greens and browns of the mountains and the whites of the snow capped peaks blended perfectly to create a heaven like atmosphere.
I started from Joshirmath in a Sumo and reached Vriddha Badri in no time. It was a short walk down to Vriddha Badri. Be sure to tell the driver to continue further down and meet you in the same highway at the bottom of the hill. This will avoid an unnecessary trek back uphill to the vehicle.
Vriddha Badri is situated in a small hamlet between Helang and Joshirmath. There was no one inside the temple. I took a few photographs and prayed to Lord Badri before departing from here.
From Vriddha Badri, we set out to a place called Kalpeshwar Mahadev.
Shiva likes solitude. He does not stay in areas of substantial activity. This is evident in the Pancha Badri temples. All these temples are situated far away from the main roads and need a lot of trekking to get there. Kalpeshwar Mahadev symbolizes the Jata or hair of Shiva. It emerged from the ground. Kalpeshwar is situated about 5 kms from a place called Urgam. (They mention it as 2 kms but don’t believe them). One needs to walk from Urgam to Kalpeshwar. Urgam is situated about 30-45 minutes drive from Helang which is in the main Badrinath Rishikesh highway.
The truck crossed a bridge across the Alakananda from Helang and we started moving towards Urgam. This is clearly one of the most dangerous roads that I have travelled in even by Uttarkhand’s standards. There are sections of this road which cannot accommodate two vehicles. One sometimes may have to go in the reverse for substantial distances to let the other vehicle pass. And this needs to be done on extremely muddy roads with a drop below of more than 100 ft.
I was at the edge of my seat for the most part and we reached Urgam soon. From there, it is a pretty long walk before one can reach Kalpeshwar Mahadev. You need to cross a couple of villages, temples, hills, waerfalls, streams before you reach the temple. The temple itself does not have a complex or even a building. It is inside a small cave that rises steeply from the KalpGanga river that flows below. The Urgam valley itself is amazingly picturesque. It is a place that you would like to stay for a day to absorb the beautiful nature.
Part of the Nanda Devi ranges is visible from the trail and looks magnificent.
The views were stunning though there was not a single soul in many places in the trail. The Jata or the hair of Mahadev is worshipped inside the temple. In fact, the whole cave is visualized as the Jata itself. Hence the deity inside is also called Jateshwar.
The Kalp Ganga river flows across the Urgam valley and eventually joins the Alakananda quite close to Herlang. It is the only Panch Kedar temple that is accessible throughout the year.
Nand Prayag and Karna Prayag
These are two more confluences that are part of the Pancha Prayag. In Nand Prayag, the Nandakini river from the Nanda Devi ranges merges with the Alakananda. In Karna Prayag, the Pindari river merges with the Alakananda.
Adi Badri is a group of sixteen temples constructed during the Gupta period. They were sanctified by the great Adi Shankara. These temples are dedicated to various deities. But the Badrinath temple is still being used for prayer while the others look quite antiquated. I was also shocked at the number of cockroaches I found inside the Badrinath temple there. It is a beautiful complex.
Adi Badri is readily reachable from Karna Prayag. It is about 17 kms away in the Karna Prayag – Ranikhet road. The temples are worth the small detour.
From Adi Badri, we retraced the path to Karna Prayag and from there proceeded to Rudra Prayag for the stay there for the night. The place is called Monal which is a very nice resort. I stayed there for the night.