Kalpavriksha of Joshimath (6th Feb 2016) : The town Joshimath is said to have derived its name from the word Jyotimath, which itself originates from the belief that Adiguru Sankaracharya received the Jyoti or enlightenment while meditating in this place around the 8th century.
It is believed that Adiguru Sankaracharya came to present-day Joshimath all the way from Kerala at the young age of 11 and spent some 5 years meditating in a cave under a mulberry tree. He received jyoti here and went on to establish one of his four mathas in Joshimath, the Jyotirmath. Adiguru Sankaracharya is also said to have recovered the idol of Lord Badrinath from the NaradKund where it had been thrown into, and re-established it in what is today the temple of Lord Badrinath.
Today the cave in which Adiguru Sankaracharya meditated and the mulberry tree above it are still there for visitors to see and they count among the more interesting places of visit in Joshimath. The mulberry tree in particular is an amazing sight. Its age is estimated to be anywhere between 1500 to 2500 years and its appearance supports this estimate. The girth of the tree is an astonishing 21 meters and it is almost as big as a hut. An interesting characteristic of this tree is that while it flowers regularly, it does not bear any fruits, perhaps because of its great age. This mulberry tree is popularly known as the Kalpavriksha, the legendary tree of life which in Hindu mythology emerged during the churning of the ocean of milk(samudramanthan) by the devas and asuras. A small Mahadev temple and its porch under the Kalpavriksha provide a tranquil place for visitors to rest and meditate.
To visit the Kalpavriksha one has to take a flight of stairs that climbs past the Bhavishya Kedar temple, a small no descript temple that houses a conical stone shivling reminiscent of the shivling of Lord Kedarnath. The interesting thing is that locals believe that this stone shivling is growing with time and if in the future when it becomes impossible to worship Lord Shiva at Kedarnath, he will be worshipped here. As they say, there is a story or legend associated with almost every place in Uttarakhand!