Sri Badrinath Dham is situated on either banks of the Alaknanda. Standing like twin sentinels over the valley are the Nar and Narain mountains, and far in the distance soars the resplendent Nilkanth peak. Sri Badrinath Temple is in the lap of Narain Parvat on the right bank with Nilkanth in the background. Most of the living apartments in Badrinath are in the lap of Nar Parvat and in between flows the Alaknanda, touching the feet of Lord Badrinathji.
At Sri Badrinath, different kinds of pujas are 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, Mahabhiskek, Srimadbhagwat path, and Geeta path. Some of the special evening pujas are:-Arti and Geet Govind.
Darshan of Lord Badrinath ji is available from the sabha mandap all the time the temple is open. The Badrinath temple committee posts volunteers at various points to manage proper movement of the large crowds.
Timings for darshan at the Badrinath temple:
Morning- Opens at 04.30 hrs. with Shubh Prabhatam and closes at 13.00 hrs.
Afternoon- Opens at 16.00 hrs. and closes at 21.00 hrs., after the divine song “Geet Govind”
It is customary to close the temple for Bhog ceremony every day from 13.00 hrs to 16.00hrs. But in the event of heavy rush, the Badrinath temple administration some times shortens the Bhog interval for the benefit of devotees.
The pujari of Sri Badrinathji is known as the Rawal and invariably he is a Namboodripad Brahmin of Kerala. Adiguru Shankarachaya was a Namboodripad.
There is a large number of pandas working at Sri Badrinathji. The average panda knows Sanskrit, and is well-versed in karmakand and often has a good store of mythological knowledge. They are most helpful in performing pujas outside the Badrinath temple.
The opening day and time of the Badrinath temple is decided by the Chief Executive Officer of the Temple Committee and the former Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal in consultation with the pandits and astrologers. The consultation is held with a brief ceremony at Maharaja’s palace at Narendra Nagar, on the auspicious day of Basant Panchmi. A suitable day for the opening of Badrinath temple is normally found a few days after Akshshay Tritiya which normally falls during the last week of April or the first week of May.
The closing day of the Badrinath temple is decided by the Chief Executive Officer, the Rawal and the Dharmadhikari on the day of Vijaya Dashmi during the Dussehra festival. Normally the day of closing of Badrinath temple falls during the second or third week of November.
The Tapta Kund
Darshan of Sri Badrinathji is always preceded by a “holy dip” in the Tapta Kund. Many of the hot water springs are nature’s bounty and the water of Tapta kund certainly is a divine grace. The water may always be inviting, but it is not wise to stay in too long, as staying long in hot water may cause giddiness. Men and women have separate bathing kunds, the one for women, being covered. After the holy bath, one’s body is reinforced against the cold winds blowing off the icy waters of the Alaknanda.
The Narad Kund
The Narad Kund, from where the idol of Lord Badrinathji was recovered by Adiguru Shankaracharya, is a deep depression in the Alaknanda and just a few yards from the hot water Kunds.
THE PANCHA SHILAS – Five Blocks of Stone
Around the Tapta Kund in Badrinath, there are five blocks of stone that have acquired mythological importance. They are called the Narad, Narsingh, Barah, Garur and Markandey shilas.
The shradh ceremony or the offering of pinds, in a quest to ensure a heavenly abode for dead ancestors or manes is an important part of Hindu karmakand. Pinds are offered at various religious centres, but the ceremony performed at Brahma Kapal is different.
The Brahma Kapal, on the bank of Alaknanda, is a flat platform a few yards north of the Badrinath temple.
Panch Dharas-The Five Streams
The panch dharas are famous in Badrinath. They are called the Prahlad, Kurma, Urvasi, Bhrigu and the Indra dharas.
On the opposite bank of Alaknanda, in the lap of Nar Parvat, there are two small seasonal lakes, which some time completely dry up. Between these lakes there is a large block of stone which has on it the impression of one eye of the sesha nag. The formation of the eye is natural, even though it appears to have been carved by man. It is said that the sesha nag is patiently watching Sri Narain and waiting to accompany Him to His re-incarnation (Badrianth ji).
One of the temples surrounding Badrinath ji is Urvasi temple. When Nar and Sri Narain were in deep meditation, Indra sent a group of apsaras, beautiful celestial nymphs, to distract them. Sri Narain tore his left thigh and from there several nymphs including Urvashi appeared, even more beautiful than them all. He asked Urvasi to accompany these nymphs back to Indra. Sri Narain in doing so shattered the pride of Indra.
It is a delightful journey from Badrinath, through emerald green meadows, carpeted with wild flowers in the summer, to Charanpaduka. There is a boulder here bearing the footprints of Lord Vishnu. It is said that when Lord Vishnu descended from Vaikunth he stepped on this boulder. The area is full of caves and boulders.
Charanpaduka is about 2 km. from Badripuri and the approach to it starts with a climb.
Nilkanth Peak-The Shining Pyramid
Behind Badrinath temple, a side valley opens to the majestic, conical-shaped NilkanthPeak (6597mtrs) which soars into the blue Heavens . It looks a shining pyramid of white crystals, reflecting the first red glow of dawn into the valley, and at sunset, glittering like a golden dome. Nilkanth embodies all the divinity of this divine land and compels the visitors to wonder whether it is the mountainous form of Lord Badrivishal.
Dharma Raj and Mata Murti, in search of their meditating sons, Nar and Narain, decided to stay separately at places given to them by Sri Narain. A small temple, in the Alaknanda Valley opposite the Mana village, is dedicated to Mata Murti.
Almost 3 km north of Badrinath, Mana is the last Indian village on the mainland side of the border with Tibet. It has a population of nearly 1600 people. In the Hindu scriptures, Mana is known as Manibhadrashram and Manibhadrapuram.
Vyas Gupha: The Cave of Ved Vyas
The Mana village is full of caves and it is said that Ved Vyas dictated his famous epic, the Mahabharta to his erudite secretary Ganesh, in one of these caves, now known as Vyas Gupha. The cave is under a huge slab of stone, which because of its book like appearance is called Vyas Granth. Inside there is a marble statue of Ved Vyas shown writing the epic.
The area around Mana offered an excellent shelter and atmosphere to the philosophers and seekers of ancient times. Caves in that area, which are associated in some way or the other with the ancient sages and yogis are known as Ganesh Gupha, Bhima Gupha and Muchakanda Gupha.
The confluence of the waters of the Saraswati and the Alaknanda is known as Kesava Prayag. During October to May, the waters of the Saraswati are blue and beautiful and quite a contrast to the colourless waters of the Alaknanda.
The Saraswati river emerges from a lateral glacier about 3 km north of Mana village on the ancient trade route to Tibet. Saraswati is the Goddess of learning and it was with the blessings of Saraswati that Ved Vyas could compose the Mahabharath at Mana. The puranic Saraswati has been referred to in many a Hindu scriptures. She flows down the Mana village and after touching Vyas Gupha, gets lost in Alaknanda at Keshav Prayag. From Keshav Prayag to Allahabad, Saraswati flows incognito, that is why it is said that Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati meet at Prayag Raj Allahabad, with Saraswati remaining invisible.
On the outskirts of Mana village there is a bridge over the Saraswati, made of a huge slab of stone. It is popularly known as Bhimpul, because it is said that the huge slab of stone bridging the river is the work of mighty Bhim. When the Pandavas and Draupadi were on their way to Swargarohan, it was Bhim’s responsibility to get them across the rivers and other difficult places.
With the backdrop of snow peaked mountains and glaciers and set in the area of rocky heights, the122 mtr. high Vasudhara falls, is indeed a captivating sight. The Vasudhara falls are 8 km from Badrinath and 5 km from Mana village.
 manes = spirits of the dead, especially of ones ancestors worshipped as guardian angels.
 Vaikunth = term commonly used for Lord Vishnu’s abode in heaven.
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