सतगुरु कोट* पैंडा अग्गे होए लेत है.
* पैंडा - कदम; *कोट - सहस्त्र, हज़ार
(Only the first step towards the refuge of the Guru, the believer needs take;
And He comes forward a thousand steps to receive and carry you along)
I am just back after paying my obeisance at one of the holiest Hindu shrines - Shree Badrinath, and the above beautiful baani from the Holy Gurbani of the Sikhs best describes what I acutely feel when I recall the multitudes of people thronging this mountain temple - some of them barely able to walk, others with nothing to shield themselves from the icy winds, yet others infirm with age or disease - but all of them having reached here to pray at the abode of their God .
Badrinath is a small temple town in the Himalayas on the banks of the mighty Alaknanda river and although one of the rather easily accessible dhams, it still takes 12 hours of an arduous uphill journey from Haridwar, full of treacherous roads, high mountains, deep gorges, lush green valleys, and of course an occasional impatient driver.
Once you reach the dham, however, the effort seems worth it. I do not consider myself religious in the strictest sense of the word but there surely flows some divine undercurrent which charges your inner being. Then, the systematic arrangements in the temple, including an option of participation in aartis (prayers) to choose from, and the absence of pandas are a pleasant surprise.
Just 3 kms ahead of Badrinath is the village Mana, which is the last Indian village before the Chinese border 30 kms ahead. This village also houses the ancient Ganesh Gufa, the cave where supposedly the great epic Mahabharata was penned by Lord Ganesh. Owing to both these reasons, this village is also a great tourist attraction. The great Sikh pilgrimage site – Hemkund Sahib also lies enroute to Badrinath.
Notwithstanding your religious inclination, Badrinath is a place to be visited at least once, what with all the natural beauty spread around. All the travel information is easily available on the internet. What I would only suggest is to give a serious thought to book through the government tourism agency GMVNL (Garwhal Mandal Vikas Nigam Limited), which I found to be surprisingly efficient with probably the most cost-effective and reliable arrangements.
Below are some pictures for you (ignore the dates wherever printed on the pictures):
Temple of Shree Badrinath Ji
The Lemon Juice Wallah on the Way
The Night Sky
Entrance to Village Mana
बंद गली का आखरी मकान.
Shree Ram Temple at Pandu Keshar
Neelkanth Mountain beyond Badrinath
Triveni Ghat, Rishikesh