THE GLORY OF BADARIKASHRAMA – II

By: Sanjay Bharatha

As the title goes, this is about the glory of the most exquisite, ancient and powerful place on this planet. The Headquarters of the very Ancient Hierarchy of Beings who have transcended the birth and death and have now dedicated their existence for the upliftment of the rest of us who are still struggling to find the way forward.

Sri Krishna Sending Uddhava to Badari-Vana, also in the Picture Maharshi Maitreya who lives in Kalapa Village near Badrinath

Map showing Four Sacred Places in Himalayas

This principal source of River Ganges has a number of sacred spots on its holy banks near Badarinath. At various places in Badarinath there are a number of secret and hidden sacred spots that are only described in various Puranas and it is only those who are blessed and those who are meant to visit such sacred spots are either guided by unseen forces or all of a sudden find themselves at such spots. Apart from such secret Teerthas or pilgrim spots there are a number of pilgrim spots that are very famous and visible to the naked eye and which are known to all those who are familiar with Badarinath. Now we shall know about a few such Tirthas that are described in various Puranas. The presence of River Alakananda here at Badarinath is a story in itself. It is said that due to the prank played by Lord Narayana upon Sri Lakshmi Devi, she was compelled by Him to curse Mother Ganga and Himself. As a result of such a curse He gets a face of a horse that enables him to kill an evil Asura and Mother Ganga is made to flow near Badarinath in the name of Alakananda. Thus it is due to the curse of Ma Lakshmi Devi that we have River Alakananda to cleanse our sins. All this was a part of the drama enacted by Lord Narayana for the benefit of humanity.

The gigantic mountain ranges of Himalayas, which extend for thousands of square kilometres, are broadly divided into five parts - Nepal, Koormanchal (Kumayu), Kedar-Khand, Jalandhar and Kashmir. Badarinath is located in KedarKhand and is considered most holy of all. The very air that flows in this sacred place is said to purifying and conducive for Tapas or Penance. While sending Sri Uddhav to Badarivana at the time of his ascension to Vaikunta, Lord Sri Krishna says to him that the very breeze that flows over the holy Alakananda River would purify him and annul his sins and that he can happily live there doing tapas and meditating on His form and attain to the Supreme Bliss and hence he should proceed to Badarivana after His ascent to Vaikunta. He also warns him to wear woollen cloths and not to stay on empty stomach while he is at Badarinath.

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Now as we come out of the Temple of Badarinath and get down a few steps, on the right we find a small shrine of Adi Kedareshwar Mahadev, Lord Shiva. It is said that earlier this place was chosen by Lord Shiva to do Tapas. Once upon a time Lord Shiva had severed the fifth head of Lord Brahma in a rage due to the non-conformity of Dharma by Lord Brahma. That head got stuck to Lord Shiva’s hand owing to the sin called Brahma-hatya, the Killing of Brahma. It would not come-off in spite of many measures taken by Lord Shiva to absolve that sin. Wandering from place to place when Lord Shiva came to Badrinath, the fifth head of Lord Brahma fell down near a spot known as Kapala-Moksha or Brahma Kapala. From that time onwards Lord Shiva began to stay at that sacred spot.

Yet even today a small shrine of Lord Shiva is still there at Badarinath. It is said that Lord Narayana will not be happy with those who do not first worship Lord Shiva at the said Adi Kedareshwar Temple. In front of this Adi Kedareshwar Temple is a temple dedicated to Adi Shankaracharya, who installed the present idol of Lord Badarinath that was lying at the bottom of River Alakananda near a spot known as Narada Kunda.

Adi Kedareshwar Temple situated upon Garuda-Shila

And later Lord Narayana came there in the form of an infant and began do Tapas at the place where Lord Shiva was staying. Seeing this Lord Shiva along with Ma Parvati shifted his abode to the nearby place called Kedareshwar or Kedarinath.[It is said that in earlier days there used to be a single priest who used to worship at the four shrines of Badarinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. All these four peaks can be seen from a place called Tunganath that lies above all these four spots and houses a temple of lord shiva].

Temple of Adi Shankaracharya at Badarinath

As we come further down we come to a hot water spring known as Usna-Kunda. Near the feet of Lord Badarinath very hot water springs out from Narayana Mountain and is allowed to flow into Usna-Kunda to facilitate the devotees to bath in it. This is the most thrilling experience for the devotees in those ice-clad mountains and is no less than a heavenly experience to bath in those sacred waters in the nail biting cold all around.

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Such a bath actually relieves all the tiresomeness of the devotees who come to visit this holy shrine against all odds of nature, in most of the cases, travelling at least for 2 days in those gigantic peaks of Himalayas. It is also said that bathing in those holy waters burns all the sins of the devotees and also cures the diseases.

Usna Kunda – the hot water pond at Badrinath

There is a story as to how this holy hot water spring came to be at Badarinath. Once upon a time in an Ashram of a Rishi a small female child was crying and her mother said to her that if she doesn’t stop crying then she would give her to a Rakshasha, a demon. At that very instant a Demon happens to be there and overheard this conversation and decided that that girl will be his wife. All this is unknown to the mother of that child as she had said it just to make the kid stop crying. After a few years that child is married off to Brighu Maharshi and this makes that demon very angry and he waits for the right moment to kidnap her. Once when Brighu Maharshi is out of his Ashram the demon kidnaps his wife, who was at that time pregnant with Brighu Maharshi’s child. But before kidnapping her, he asks the sacred fire that is kept in Brighu Maharshi’s house whether or not it is true that the girl was promised to him when she was a kid. Now as fire is supposed to always tell the truth, the Fire God Agni says that it is true.

And then taking Agni, the Fire god as a witness that demon kidnaps the women. But as he forcefully carries off the poor wailing women who has no idea as to what was happening, she begets a child, who later goes on to become Chyavan Maharshi. Due to the splendour of that child that demon is burned to death. When Brighu Maharshi returns to his ashram and comes to know what transpired, he curses Agni to become SarvaBhakshi, that is, to become all-devouring. Getting the shock of his life, Agni approaches Sri Veda Vyasa who advises him to do penance at Badarinath to absolve his sins. Agni comes to Badarinath and pleases Lord Badarinath with is intense penance. Lord Badarinath appears to Agni and says that his sins have been destroyed by his mere coming to this sacred spot and asks him to remain at Badari in one of his forms and burn away the sins of the devotee who come there. From that time onwards Agni remained at Badarinath in the form of a hot water spring coming out from near the feet of the Lord and cleanses all the sins of the devotees who bath in those holy waters.

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It is also said in Skanda Purana that just as it is immensely beneficial to do penance and holy deeds at this Tapta-Kunda or hot water spring, it is immensely destructive to commit any sin here. Hence one needs to be very careful in the Tirthas and be of pure thoughts and deeds. Five sacred Rocks near Badarinath:1. Garud-Shila:- It is said in Skanda Purana that Garuda the vehicle of Lord Vishnu did a severe penance at a place 25 miles before Badarinath and has the vision of Lord Narayana who then advised him to go to Badarinath and fast for 3 days worshipping him. Garuda does this penance and then Lord grants him boons. Apart from being the Lords vehicle, one of it was that the rock upon which he did the penance be named after him and that those who worship it be freed from all sorts of poisons. This is the rock upon which Adi Kedareshwar Temple is situated. It is found that there are no serpents in Badarinath at all and even the black scorpions that are found here are absolutely harmless and do not sting even when they are accidentally crushed while we are sleeping on the ground. This is my personal experience at Badarinath. Just a few miles from Badarinath at Kedarnath there are a number of huge poisonous serpents but those are mysteriously absent in Badarinath. It is said that this is due to the presence of Garud-Shila or Eagles-Rock at Badarinath.

2. Narad-Shila :- This rock is located very near to river Alakananda and under it there is a small pond known as Narad - Kunda that is visible only at certain times of the year and at other times it is covered by the waters of Alakananda.

Small temple of Bhagawan Narada Maharshi at Narada-Shila Bhagwan Narada did penance here and was granted boons by Lord Narayana. One of those boons was that the Lord remains near this rock. Hence the shrine of Lord Badarinath is located here. And other was that whoever sees, drinks from or worships at the Narada-Kunda be born again only as humans and not degenerate into other species in their next birth. 3. Markandeya-Shila:- Once upon a time Siddha Markandeya met Narada Maharshi at Mathura and told him that he is finding the practice of going on pilgrimages very tough. Then Bhagwan Narada advised him to go to Badari as it would give him the benefit of visiting all the Tirthas. Hence Markandeya Rishi came to Badarinath and did fasting and worship just for three days here to please the Lord. Lord granted him the boons at this place and one of it was that the Lord has his permanent abode at this place.

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4. Varahi-Shila:- Lord Varaha, an Avatara of Lord Vishnu came to Badarinath immediately after rescuing the earth and bringing her back from the nether world of Rasatala. He remains here at Badari in the form of a holy rock ever since.

Siddha Markandeya being blessed by Bhagawan Nara-Narayana at Badari-Vana

4. Narashimha - Shila:- after killing the Asura Hiranyakasyapa, Lord in the form of Man-Lion was very angry and upon the worship by the gods to calm down he granted their wish and came and dipped himself in Alakananda river and remained there in the form of a holy rock, called Narasimha-Shila, protecting the devotees from evil influences.

Now as we proceed further along the banks of Alakananda river towards the north we come across Brahma Kapal. It is the place where the fifth head of Lord Brahma fell off from the hand of Lord Shiva. It is said that if one performs the ritual for the benefit of one’s ancestors here, they attain to higher planes and if they happen to have fallen they would again rise and get good birth.

Brahma-Kapala- The place near Badari where Lord Brahma’s Head Fell

Almost all those who come to Badarinath perform this ritual here for the sake of their ancestors. It is

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said that once such a ritual is performed here there is no need to perform the annual ritual for the same purpose. Exactly below this place in the river there is Brahma-Kunda. Here Lord Brahma had worshipped Lord Vishnu in order to get back the Vedas that were stolen by an Asura and got those back through Lord Vishnu after the Lord killed that Asura. As we proceed towards north from here to where the river takes a turn, we come to a place called Atri-Anasuya Teerth. It is where Mahrashi Atri and his wife Anasuya did there penance. Now let’s come to the other side of the river opposite to Brahma-Kapal. Here there is a big ground which is rarely found in these mountain ranges and as we proceed from there towards the Village known as Mana, we come across a silvery flow of water from the Nara Mountain. This is called Indra Dhara waterfall.

It is said that here Lord Indra did his penance for Lord Vishnu and got back his Kingdom from the clutches of Asuras. It is said that if one baths in this waterfall on the 13th day of the bright half (approaching Full Moon) of any month and does worship, one gets to go to Lord Indra’s World after ones death. Now on as we keep moving on this side of the river on the Narayana Mountain we come across a small shrine of Mata-Murthy, the mother of NaraNarayana Rishis. Nara-Narayana Rishis were born to Dharma and Murthy Devi. When both the brothers wanted to do Tapas and left for Badarikashrama, their mother could not withstand the separation from her beloved children and came to live with them at Badarinath.

Veda-Dhara water-falls beside IndraDhara waterfalls on Nara Mountain opposite to Badrinath Temple

It is said that the Lord was always immersed in Yoga-Samadhi for the welfare of the worlds but promised to his mother that he would come to visit her once a year at the place close to Badarinath where His parents decided to perform their penence. That’s why even to this day Lord Badarinath’s Utsav Moorthy (Idol meant for procession) is taken to the temple of Mata Murty on Vamana Dwadasi day and no worship is performed in the main temple at Badarinath but Lord is worshipped along with his parents at Dharmasthal (named after His father). This place is around a mile from the main temple of Badarinath where the two auspicious rivers Alakananda and Saraswati meet.

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This is the place where the pilgrims who dare to go to Swargarohini or Sathopanth rest for the day. And only one in thousands who visit Badarinath goes on these very dangerous pilgrimages as the route is very tough and if one is even a bit careless then it’s the end of the story for him. Usually only two periods are suitable to undertake this tough pilgrimage. One is at the end of Vaishaka (end of April-beginning of May) Month and the other would be at the beginning of Jestha (end of Maybeginning of June) Month. At these times the ice that is formed on the mountains would be hard and hence it becomes possible to walk on it.
Lakshmi-Vana, a tract of greenery near Badari where Bhojapatra trees are found

It is said that Sri Maha Lakshmi too accompanied Lord’s parents to Badarinath to do the service of the Lord and she choose a place about 3 miles from Badarinath Temple, it is called Sri Lakshmi Vana, the forest of Sri Lakshmi Devi. It is very interesting to note that there is no much vegetation nearby Badrinath but once you enter the precincts of Sri Lakshim Vana you find a forest of varieties of trees mainly of very large auspicious Bhoja trees that are very important for a number of rituals. May be this is the same place that is referred to as Sri Vana in Suddha literature. This is a very beautiful place that has a water fall which is called Lakshmi-Dhara.

Hard Ice enables us to walk on our way forward

Now as we travel along the Narayana Mountain towards the north-west direction to visit other pilgrim centres we come across very beautiful waterfalls known as Sahastradhara or the thousand waterfalls. These waterfalls flow from the top of Narayana Mountain.

Lakshmi-Vana on the way to Sathopanth

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There is no mention of a thousand waterfalls in this region in the Puranas but there is a mention of a number of other waterfalls like Pancha-Dhara, the waterfall form of 5 deities who are the personifications of 5 pilgrim centres at various places in India. They are Prabhas, Puskar, Gaya, Naimish and Kurushetra.

After they did and became purified they decided to multiply their forms and be permanently at Badrinath in one of their forms, the waterfalls and continue to do Penance. Likewise there are 12 Dharas called Dwadashaditya Dharas or 12 Sun waterfalls. Here the 12 deities, the sons of Kasyapa Rishi, who are the 12 personifications of Sun god did their penance in order to get the position as Sun Deity and each becomes a personification of Sun for each of the 12 months. Another 4 waterfalls that are personifications of 4 aims of Human life, namely, Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha are said to be in the same vicinity. But it is impossible for a common pilgrim to identify those out of the hundreds of waterfalls that are flowing there. It is only possible if some divine soul shows those to us. After crossing these Dharas we come to Chakra-Teertha.

Sahasra-Dhara during winter It is said that as a number of pilgrims visit these holy places annually and get cleansed of their sins, these sacred spots eventually began to lose their power and purity due to accumulating sins of the visitors and when they prayed to Lord Brahma he advised them to do penance at Badrinath.

Chakra Tirtha – a tract of land in a circular shape. The last stop before we reach Satopanth Lake

This is the last spot before we go to the very famous and very auspicious Sathopanth Teertha. Chakra Teertha is in the form of a discus and is a plain ground in the midst of these two gigantic Mountains. In the next issue we shall cover the other auspicious spots around Badarinath. (To be continued)
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