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Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand
Badrinath Temple, Uttarakhand - Famous Hindu Temples
134    Dibyendu Banerjee    07/06/2024

Nestled in the Garhwal hills at an altitude of 10,279 feet (3133 m), along the Alaknanda River, the Badrinath or Badarinarayana Temple, located in the picturesque Chamoli district in Uttarakhand, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, considered to be the protector in Hinduism and is one of the Chota Char Dhams or the four places of pilgrimage of the Hindus, which also include Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. Situated in the backdrop of the stunningly beautiful Neelkanth Mountain, a major peak of the Garhwal division of the mighty Himalayas, the temple is guarded by Nar and Narayan Mountain peaks, offering a picturesque landscape and snow clad mountain peaks. However, although the temple is one of the most visited pilgrimage centres of India, it remains open to the public for only six months every year, during May to November, and remains closed for worship for six months from mid November to April end, due to the extreme weather conditions in the region. A six-month- long Akhanda Jyoti lamp is lit on the day of closure and the image of Lord Badrinath is relocated to the Narsimha temple in Joshimath, also known as Jyotirmath, one of the four cardinal pīthas established by Adi Shankaracharya. Mentioned in the ancient Hindu texts of Vishnu Purana and Skanda Purana, the Badrinath Temple was established by Adi Shankaracharya as a pilgrimage site in the ninth century, and although the temple is located in North India, the head priest, or Rawal, is traditionally a Nambudiri, a Malayali Brahmin, chosen from Kerala in South India.

badrinath temple uttarakhand

According to a popular legend, Lord Vishnu sat in meditation at this place, as he liked the calm and quiet atmosphere of the region, which is ideal for mediation. He was not aware of the harsh cold weather of the region during the winter, but he was so deeply engrossed in meditation that he could not even feel the bite of the bitter cold against his body. However, as his consort Lakshmi was anxious for his well being, she manifested herself in the form of a Badri Tree, to make sure that he was protected from the extreme weather condition. Later, impressed by the devotion of Lakshmi, Lord Vishnu named the place Badrikashram. Another version of the origin of the place is narrated in Vishnu Purana, one of the 18 Purana of ancient Hindu text, according to which the site was often visited by Nara and Narayana, sons of Yama, who were in search of an ideal place to set up a hermitage. When they chanced upon the site, with the hot and cold spring behind the dancing Alaknanda River, they knew they had found the ideal location for their ashram and named it Badri Vishala.

badrinath temple uttarakhand

Although there is no historical evidence relating to the age of the temple, there is a mention of the presiding deity Badrinath in the Vedic scriptures, which suggest the temple existed since 500 BC. Later, due to the spread of Buddhism, the shrine might have been converted into a Buddhist shrine during the reign of Emperor Ashoka, which is evident from the structure of the edifice, which resembles a Buddhist Vihara and also its brightly painted façade, which is also atypical of Buddhist temples. It remained as a Buddhist shrine till the 8th century, when according to a popular local story, Adi Shankaracharya ousted all the Buddhists in the region with the help of the Parmar ruler King Kanak Pal and reconverted the edifice into a Hindu temple. However, according to popular belief, it was originally established as a pilgrimage site by Adi Shankaracharya in the ninth century, who resided in the place for six years from 814 to 820 BC, six months in each year, and the rest of the year in Kedarnath.

badrinath temple uttarakhand
Lord Badrinath

The Badrinath temple is regarded as one of five related shrines, known as Panch Badri, all of which are dedicated to Lord Vishnu and apart from the Badrinath temple in Badrinath, includes Yogadhyan Badri in Pandukeshwar, Bhavishya Badri in Subain, located around 17 km from Joshimath, Vridh Badri in Animath, located 7 km from Joshimath, and Adi Badri located 17 km from Karnaprayag, believed to be the place where Karna of the Mahabharata, was cremated by Lord Krishna. However, the Badrinath temple is considered one of the holiest of Hindu Char Dhams or four divine places, which apart from Badrinath also include Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, Puri in Odisha and Dwarka in Gujarat.

badrinath temple uttarakhand
Wrapped under snow

The façade of the 50 feet (15 m) tall Badrinath temple, crowned with a small cupola on its top and covered with a conical, gold gilt roof, is built of stone and is equipped with arched windows, and a broad stairway leads up to the main entrance, which is a tall, arched imposing gateway, containing the image of Garuda, the bahana or carrier of Lord Badrinath, in sitting position with folded hands. The temple has three structures, consisting of the Garbha Griha or the main sanctum, the Darshan Mandap or the worship hall and the Sabha Mandapa or the convention hall, where pilgrims assemble. A large, pillared hall, with decorated walls and pillars, leads to the garbha griha or the main sanctum, which is covered with a conical, gold gilt roof. The garbha griha contains the one foot tall Shaligram Shila in black stone, representing the deity of Badrinath, in a gold canopy under a badri or berry tree. According to legendary stories, the Shaligram Shila, the black stone image of Lord Badrinath, was discovered by Shankaracharya in the Alaknanda River, who initially enshrined it in a cave near the Tapt Kund hot springs. Later, in the sixteenth century, the King of Garhwal enshrined it in the present temple. Apart from that, the sanctum also houses images of Kuber, the god of wealth, Narada, Udhava, Nar and Narayan. However, there are fifteen more idols around the temple complex, which include Lakshmi and Navadurga, the manifestation of Devi Durga in nine different forms. Interestingly, many pilgrims consider it compulsory to bathe in the hot sulphur springs, known as the Tapt Kund, located just below the temple and maintain a year-round temperature of 55 °C (131 °F), while the outside temperature typically remains below 17 °C (63 °F) all year round.

Kedarnath Temple, Uttarakhand
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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