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Beautiful Badrinath - Part 1

Updated on October 8, 2015
The temple shrine at Badrinath
The temple shrine at Badrinath | Source

Of all the Himalayan shrines, Badrinath is very unique. This is because legend goes that the Himalayas belonged to King Himavan, the father of Parvati. The entire Himalayas were gifted to Lord Shiva during the marriage with Parvati. And so it is that the whole mountainous kingdom is pervaded by Shiva temples and shrines all over. Badrinath is the only shrine which has as its presiding deity, Lord Vishnu!

How Lord Vishnu came to be worshipped in Badrinath is a story that has many accounts and versions. I will share in brief the version that I heard. This is important and it is called the sthala purana or “the special story of the place”.

There is this demon named Sahasrakavacha (which translates into “one with thousand armors”). He had a special boon - it would take 1000 years of penance followed by 1000 years of fierce fighting to break one of his armors. The two heroes, Nara and Narayana, who are aspects of Lord Vishnu decided to end the tyrannical reign of Sahasrakavacha. They had a plan - while one of them would fight the demon, the other would do penance.

It was at this time that Sage Narada, the celestial wanderer, came to the spot called Badrinath which was inhabited by Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Even a day’s penance at this place was equivalent to penance for a thousand years. Thus, the sage suggested to Nara and Narayana that they do their penance at this spot as it would drastically reduce the time needed to kill the demon.

Now came the next problem. How to get the place from Lord Shiva?

Narayana donned the form of a baby wailing for milk. Parvati saw the baby and her heart melted for it. Lord Shiva said,

“Goddess! You know who this is and what his intention is. Why do you pick up the baby?”
“My Lord! My duty as a mother is foremost for me. I cannot forsake this baby”, was the reply.

The baby is taken home by the divine pair. However, when the pair left their home for their daily walk, Narayana assumed his true form and locked them out stating that he needed the place for penance! It was a 'funny' situation - to be locked out of one's own home! The divine pair had known that this would happen and they just played out the Divine drama. Thus, they shifted to Kedarnath about which I shall write soon.

Having obtained the holy place, Narayana began meditating while Nara fought the demon. 1000 years passed in a day due to the specialty of Badrinath. The next day, Nara and Narayana interchanged roles and this continued till the demon lost 999 armors. After losing all but one armour, the Rakshasa feared his end was near and prayed to Sun God for his safety. Sun God took pity on him and promised to help him. The demon was transported into the womb of Kunti to be born as Karna (a hero of the Mahabharata).

Nara and Narayana were surprised at the sudden disappearance of the Rakshasa. Narayana through this yogic power could figure out all that had happened and decided that they, Narayana and Nara would also take birth as Krishna and Arjuna and vanquish Karna. At last, in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, Arjuna killed Karna. Thus Narayana and Nara put an end to the demon, Shasrakavacha. The Badrinath shrine is where one finds Nara and Narayana engaged in penance, forever, for the benefit of humanity. Anyone who does penance here is said to gain great merit.

Nara and Narayana worshiped at the shrine in Badrinath. (This is not the picture of the Badri shrine where photography is not allowed)
Nara and Narayana worshiped at the shrine in Badrinath. (This is not the picture of the Badri shrine where photography is not allowed)

Now that we know the story of Badrinath, let me assure you that one does not need the story to realize that there is something very special about the place. We landed there late in the evening and were housed in the GMVN dormitories. ( Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam or GMVNis a convenient and economical way to book the travels and accommodation to all these Himalayan shrines.)

When you stay overnight at Badrinath, you must wake up at least by 5:30am. Sunrise happens quite early in these places and along with the sunrise, some unforgettable scenes open out. Badrinath is surrounded by many peaks - the Neelakanth peak, the Nara peak, the Narayana peak, the Kuber peak, Urvashi peak and so on.

The striking one among them all is the Neelakant peak. The first rays of the sun hit this peak and slowly uncover its snowy slopes. And even as you are thinking that the Neelakant peak has been fully uncovered, clouds fly in from nowhere and completely mask the mountain. And the mountain remains masked by clouds throughout the day! Even I did not believe this legend till I saw it for myself. This is a spectacle that nobody should ever miss. You will stand transfixed with the beauty of this natural wonder.

The Neelakant Parvat as the first golden rays of the sun strike it at 5:30am.
The Neelakant Parvat as the first golden rays of the sun strike it at 5:30am. | Source
Within 2 hours (by 7:30am), it is bright and sunny and clouds start appearing from nowhere to cover up Neelakant. (I had to go to the temple and did not stay to shoot the fully covered peak)
Within 2 hours (by 7:30am), it is bright and sunny and clouds start appearing from nowhere to cover up Neelakant. (I had to go to the temple and did not stay to shoot the fully covered peak) | Source

The next thing to be done is to wake up from this ethereal beauty to complete the morning’s ablutions. The temperatures here in the peak of summer will be around 4-5 degrees Centigrade. Hot water comes at a premium - Rs. 40 per bucket! But as they say, the best things in life are for free. Pick your belongings and go straight to the temple. At its base is the marvel of nature - the Tapt Kund.

Water from a natural hot-water spring has been led into this little bathing spot and it will be bustling with people. One is not allowed to brush one's teeth or use soap for bathing at the bathing spot. But as I said, the spot is fed by an eternal spring. The inlet is at one end and the outlet at another. The outlet leads to another bathing spot where the water temperature is cooler - about 55 degrees Centigrade. The primary bathing spot has water at almost 75-80 degrees centigrade! The authorities have intelligently diverted some of the spring water to taps where one can brush and have bath with soap!

It is an amazing sight to behold - 2 degrees Centigrade water and 80 degrees centigrade water within meters of each other! The 2 degrees Centigrade water is from the river Alakananda that emerges in the peaks behind Badrinath.

The Tapt Kund at the base of the temple
The Tapt Kund at the base of the temple | Source
The bathing spot has many taps too for those that want a complete bath. The marked area is called Brahma Kapaal - a spot from which Swami fetched water for the Abhisheka of the Jyotir-Linga He materialized. (read about it further)
The bathing spot has many taps too for those that want a complete bath. The marked area is called Brahma Kapaal - a spot from which Swami fetched water for the Abhisheka of the Jyotir-Linga He materialized. (read about it further) | Source

The association of the shrine with Swami...

Once the bath was done, excitement filled me. I was about to enter the temple which had been blessed by Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in 1961! I had read an amazing account from theSathyam Shivam Sundaram (Part 2 of the biography of Baba). I quote it here:

“At Badrinath, Baba drew from under the present Narayana image, a Nethra-linga (symbolic representation of Lord Shiva as an oval globule) which according to Him was brought from Mount Kailasa (!) and ceremonially installed there, by no less a person than Sankaracharya about twelve hundred years ago! This Nethralinga when it emerged at the call of Baba, created a chapter in history; a Linga as the basis of the celebrated Vaishnava shrine was a welcome reminder of the basic harmony of Saivites and Vaishnavites.”

Swami spoke of the Linga which He had brought out as being one of the Five Lingas which Adi Sankaracharya brought from Kailas and installed in India. When Swami said this, the wonder grew and there was earnestness among the members of His entourage to know more of this divine mission of Sankara.

Remember, this was 1961 when there were many skeptics! Those who knew Him accepted the accuracy of this exalted origin of the Linga which they were privileged to see for some precious minutes on that never-to-be forgotten day. However, there was one certain Saligrama Srikantha Sastry. He was afflicted by an earnestness to discover the authenticity of what Swami had said. He had studied the Sankara-vijaya, the classical biography of Adi Sankaracharya and he sought to know the origins of the Lingas that had been installed by Sankaracharya in the monasteries which he had founded.

He wrote to the nucleus of Sankaracharya’s establishments - the Sringeri Mutt. In the reply he received from the Sringeri Mutt, the monastery established by Sankaracharya amidst the mountains of western Mysore, he was told that mention was made of these Lingas in the Sivarahasya Mahethihasa, a book which he was able to get after elaborate search from the library of a Vedic College at Varanasi.

In the XVI chapter of the IX Section of this book, it is said that Lord Siva welcomed Sankara at Kailas and blessed him with the words,

"You are marked out for the establishment in the world of the true teaching of the Vedas, viz., Adwaitha (non-dualism). Spend 32 years of your earthly existence spreading this faith and overwhelming those who decry or deny it. Accept these five Lingas that I am giving you now. Worship them with the Panchakshari and with Satharudrabhisheka. Offer the sacred Bilva leaf and Vibhuti and recite the holy Pranava (Aumkaaram). Complete your three Tours of Victory dispelling the darkness of Dwaitha (dualism) and then, install these Lingas from this thrice-holy Kailasa, marked by the effulgence of the Crescent, named Yoga Bhoga Vara Mukthi and Moksha, in sacred sites chosen by you, before you shed this mortal frame at Kanchipuram."

Thus it was that the great scholar and follower of Adi Sankaracharya was convinced through research, the authenticity of Swami’s manifestation. Swami had then materialized Thumme flowers and golden leaves of the Bilva. He re-charged the Jyotir-Linga before sending it back to its resting spot under the main deity. And now, it was this very temple precincts that I was about to enter. About 30-50 steps separated me from the shrine.

to be concluded in Part 2

The simple yet beautiful Badri temple at night...
The simple yet beautiful Badri temple at night... | Source

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© 2012 Aravind Balasubramanya


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    • wisatakarawang profile image

      Sayyidah Syarifah 

      4 years ago from Indonesia

      I like this, god bless you!

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 

      6 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Beautiful presentation and beautiful pictures. You have done a great job to educate the travel folks to visit a great place. I love to land here in future as it is one of my dream lands. Thank you for sharing. Hope you will continue writing stories on places like this.

    • profile image

      Mark Aspa 

      8 years ago from Berlin, Germany

      this article brought alive the sacred precincts of Badri, which is even more blessed by Swami's visit.

    • profile image

      Ramesh P 

      8 years ago

      Sairam, it is really great

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      i am sorry for the link .but you can get it


      satya sai speak contain many sai discourse ,it's a great source to learn baba's teaching

      may god bless you


    • profile image


      8 years ago


    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Karna the example of sacrifice

      this excerpt is taken from satya sai speaks volume 30-02 (1997)-(be prepared for a life of sacrifice)

      It would be good to remember the supreme sacrificing spirit of Karna. Although because of his association with some evil minded men, his name got tainted, no one can equal the spirit of sacrifice of Karna.

      The great Mahaabhaaratha war came to a close on the seventeenth day with the fall of Karna.

      The Paandavas were celebrating their great victory over Karna. The Kauravas felt utterly hopeless as Karna was their greatest warrior.

      The Paandavas rejoiced in the fall of their most powerful opponent.

      But, Krishna was sitting apart and appeared to be immersed in sadness.

      Arjuna went to him and asked why he was feeling sad on a day when they should be rejoicing over their victory Krishna told him that Bhaarath had lost its most heroic warrior that day.

      The hero who had brought glory and good name to Bhaarath had fallen. "I feel immensely sad because the country is losing such a great hero."

      On hearing these words, Arjuna looked at Krishna with a feeling of amused surprise.

      He said: "Krishna! To ensure the victory of the Paandavas you chose the role of charioteer. Because of that, Paandavas won their victory. Instead of rejoicing over this victory, why are you feeling sad

      over the fall of our enemy?"

      Karna's greatness as warrior and donor

      Krishna replied: "Karna is the very embodiment of sacrifice.

      Sacrifice is a synonym for Karna.

      In the entire world you can not find one other man equal in the spirit of sacrifice to Karna.

      In weal or woe, triumph or defeat he could not forget the quality of sacrifice.

      Have you got that spirit of

      sacrifice? No."

      Krishna then asked Arjuna to follow Him.

      Darkness had enveloped the battlefield.

      Krishna was proceeding with Arjuna.

      In his sweet voice, Krishna was exclaiming: "Karna! Karna!" Karna was gasping for breath in his last moments.

      He cried: "Who is calling me? I am here."

      Following the direction from which the words came, Krishna went near Karna.

      Before approaching Karna, Krishna assumed the form of an indigent Brahmin.

      Karna asked him- "Who are you, Sir?" Karna was nearing his last breath.

      Even at that moment, without any hesitation or faltering in his voice, He put that question to the stranger Krishna, as the Brahmin

      replied: "For a long time I have been hearing about your reputation as a charitable person.

      You have acquired fame as Dhaana.

      Karna (Karna the great giver). Today, not knowing about your

      plight, I came to ask you for a gift.

      You must give me a donation.

      "Certainly, I shall give you whatever you want," replied Karna.

      "I have to perform the marriage of my son. I want a small

      quantity of gold," said Krishna.

      "Oh what a pity! Please go to my wife, she will give you as

      much gold as you need," said Karna.

      The "Brahmin" broke into laughter He said: "For the sake of a little gold have I to go all the way to Hastinapura? If you say, you are nor in a position to give me what I ask I shall leave you."

      Karna opened his mouth, showed the gold fillings in his teeth and said: "I shall give this to you. You can take them."

      Assuming a tone of revulsion, Krishna said: "What is it you suggest? Do

      you expect me to break your teeth and rake the gold from them? How can I do such a wicked deed? I am a Brahmin."

      Karna offers his heart itself to Krishna

      Immediately, Karna picked up a stone nearly, knocked out his teeth and offered them to the "Brahmin".

      Krishna in his guise as "Brahmin" wanted to test Karna further: "What? Are you giving me as gift teeth dripping with blood? I cannot accept this. I am leaving," He said.

      Karna pleaded: "Svaami, please wait for a moment."

      Even while He was unable to move, Karna took our his arrow and aimed it at the sky.

      Immediately rain dropped from the clouds.

      Cleaning the teeth with the rainwater, Karna offered the teeth with both his hands.

      Krishna then revealed his original form.

      Karna asked: "Who are you, Sir?" Krishna said: "I am Krishna. I admire your spirit of sacrifice.

      In any circumstance you have never given up your spirit of sacrifice. Ask me what you want."

      Beholding Krishna's beauteous form, Karna said with folded hands- "Krishna! Aaapadh-baandhava (reliever of troubles)! Lokarakshaka (protector of the world)! Oh Lord, who holds the universe in yore palm, what can I seek from you? At riffs moment of my passing,

      I am fortunate to close my eyes gazing at your Divine form. This is my greatest blessing. This is boon enough for me. To have the vision of the Lord before one's passing is the goal of human

      existence. You came to me and blessed me with your form. This is enough for me. I offer my salutations to you,"

      Arjuna was observing the whole scene.

      Krishna turned to him and said: "Are you prepared for this kind of sacrifice?" Arjuna bowed his head in silence.

      The Lord praised the greatness of the quality of sacrifice in man.

      Of all kinds of sacrifice, the greatest is the sacrifice made for God.

      "Oh Lord! That heart which you gave unto me, I am offering to you. What else can I bring to offer at your lotus feet? I prostrate before you. Please accept my offering." This was the prayer

      addressed by Karna to Krishna.

      link :

    • profile image

      Arpita Mallajosyula 

      8 years ago

      The sthala puranam is so beautiful....i was amazed at the interconnected stories of mythology....the end of the kurukshetra war was not something unknown to me...but this aspect of the story is awesome..hearing it for the first time....wonderfully narrated i must say....the pictures are superb....thanks for sharing this...sairam

    • poornimasrinath profile image


      8 years ago from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA

      Is there junior prof Kasturi on the making? :) Enjoyed nara narayana story. The coherence and style of deliverance shows the acme of perfection! Kudos for your attempt to make us feel the heat , cold and mood of Badhrinath.

    • aravindb1982 profile imageAUTHOR

      Aravind Balasubramanya 

      8 years ago from Puttaparthi, India

      @ Venkat - As I mentioned in the post, I heard the sthala puranam from our guide there in Badrinath. There are so many versions. And so, I have put here a version which I heard - have not come across this exact version online...

      Swami's discourses are always sourced :)

      @ An Impressed Reader - I too admire Karna... When I read and hear all these stories, I get more and more convinced that all the world is a play and we are but actors... :)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Sairam, A good Article. In fact the entire blog is very good. Just a suggestion. In case of Puranic stories or Sthala puranms, reference may be added as to where this material is taken. Also if any of the stories are from Swami's discourses that reference may also be included. Thanks

    • profile image

      An Impressed Reader 

      8 years ago

      That was such an enlightening post!!

      The sthala puranam was very interesting .. I have never heard this story about Arjuna, Krishna and Karna .. Being a demon reborn, I wonder how Karna turned out to be such a great hero with sterling qualities .. Yes, he had his shortcomings .. But even his support of adharma was born out of iron strong loyality to his friend .. Karna is one of may favourite characters in the Mahabharatha ..

      The Himalayas are so beautiful and mystic.. How many wonders lay hidden there!! Waiting to hear more from you on these ..

      And now that you have reminded me, I will read up Swami's Badhri yathra .. Am sure it will prove to be an awe inspiring read ..

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      No suspense please Brother


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