Prelude It was around 8 in the morning, that I woke up only to find my friend missing.
As I came out of the room, I could see a couple of my friends had pulled out
some chairs and were seated on the balcony. Oddly enough, they were not talking
and just watching outside. It made me wonder why. I moved
towards them to see what had grasped their attention. With every step
towards them, my curiosity only grew. And as I entered the balcony, the
realization dawned upon me and it all made perfect sense, why they weren’t speaking
a word. The views that we were greeted to had stunned me as well.
We were so tired from our excursions from the previous two days, physically as well as mentally, that no one was in the right frame of mind for yet another trek. The most adventurous friend of the group was down with a slight fever. With that, our plans for the Tungnath - Chandrashila trek were put to rest. So, everyone had decided to take it easy and wake up late.
Chopta, the paradise Although we couldn’t make much of the hotel surroundings the previous night due to darkness, the morning sunlight had revealed the location's ethereal beauty. And it is this beauty that had stunned us all. In front of us, was a meadow, surrounded by tall deodar trees on all sides. A small stream of water passed through the meadow. On the left side, there were an array of tents. Our driver had stayed in one of them. If the visuals were not spectacular enough, the morning was greeted with a cacophony of chirping birds. The place was famous for bird watching in Chopta. It was called Duggalbitta. And to make the atmosphere a notch higher, there was a trickling sound of water bodies nearby. For once, it made sense to not speak a word and just soak in all the sights and sounds. The surreal sights, coupled with the fresh mountain breeze along with the good night’s rest had energized our tired bodies and minds, except for our bellies.
In such a nice environment, what better than Aloo parathas for breakfast. Well, it also happened to be the only item on the menu. We asked the hotel room service to put our dining table out in the open air. The experience of eating out in the environment that we were in had its unique charm. And we surely didn't want to miss one bit of the atmosphere.
The route was rather long with a lot of twists and turns. On the way, we took halts for snacks and lunch and lots of photos, such were the views. Must say, the Garhwal belt of Uttarakhand offers stunning views at every nook and corner. As we went higher, the chillier it got. Everyone got their jumpers and jackets on. We reached Badrinath at around 8 PM. We didn’t have a hotel booking. We enquired at a few hotels and finally settled for one on the main road closer to the temple. After having a light dinner, we all retired into our rooms.
As expected at this time of the year, Badrinath was brimming with people. There were devotees all around. The next day, as we got ready and came out of our hotels, we could see the surreal beauty of the place. Nestled in between mountains all around. We could see the snow-capped peaks of different mountains, with the morning sun shining bright on them. Neelkantha peak was the most prominent of them, right behind the temple. The holy town was on the banks of the river Alaknanda.
Considered as part of the Chota Char Dham yatra, Badrinath has attracted
millions of devotees, every year for centuries. Badrinath Dham is dedicated to
Lord Vishnu. Also known as Badri Vishal, there are multiple legends of the
name. There is one legend that goes like, Goddess Lakshmi appearing in the form
of a Badri (wild berry) tree around Lord Vishnu while he was meditating to protect him from
the cold winds. The other legend, mentioned in the Puranas, was that the temple
was named by Nar and Narayana, the sons of Dharmaraja along with the other four
Badris (temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu) in the vicinity of the Alakhnanda
River. There is a famous pilgrim circuit that follows the different Badris,
known as Panch Badri.
The temple was not visible from the road near our hotel. We had to move ahead and cross the river over a bridge to reach the other side, where the famous temple resided. As we moved near the bridge, the temple was visible now. The sight of the temple had made us forget all our tiredness. The temple was a huge and colourful, standing elegantly tall midst of the snow-capped peaks. As we crossed the bridge, we could see the might of the Alaknanda river flowing in its full might. A few devotees were taking bath near the banks of the holy river.
Darshan We soon reached the temple. A small queue had formed near the temple. We too joined the queue. We bought a few prasad items from the shops lined up near the queue. There was good security and management of the queue by the temple authorities. This helped the queue move quickly. Soon we found ourselves inside the temple complex. And in a matter of time, we had entered the inner sanctum of the temple. We had our darshan. Although there was some jostling and pushing around, overall it was a pleasant darshan. Within the temple complex, there were a few smaller temples, apart from the main temple. After the darshan in all the temples, we had the prasad and finally came out. Camera, phones were not allowed inside the temple complex. So, finally, we took some photos from outside the temple. With this Darshan, the core agenda of our journey had completed.
Mana Village After our Darshan, we moved to Mana Village. Just a few km away, Mana Village can be reached by car. It was a beautiful border village, termed as the last village of India, beyond which was our neighbouring country, Tibet. The views were stunning. After spending around a half-hour there, we returned to the hotel. We had a light breakfast, packed our stuff and started our return journey. And it was going to be a long and tiring one. However, the anticipation of our next destination gave us some solace - Rishikesh.