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Badrinath is a Hindu holy town and a nagar panchayat in Chamoli districtmarker in the state of Uttarakhandmarker, Indiamarker. It is the most important of the four sites in India's Char Dham pilgrimage.

Geography

Badrinath is located at . It has an average elevation of 3,415 metres (11,204 feet). It is in the Garhwal hills, on the banks of the Alaknanda Rivermarker. The town lies between the Nar and Narayana mountain ranges and in the shadow of Nilkanthamarker peak (6,560m). Badrinath is located 301 km north of Rishikesh. From Gaurikund (near Kedarnath) to Badrinath by road is 233 km.

Significance

Badrinath was established as a major pilgrimage site by Adi Shankara in the ninth century. In recent years its popularity has increased significantly, with an estimated 600,000 pilgrims visiting during the 2006 season, compared to 90,676 in 1961. The temple in Badrinath is also a sacred pilgrimage site for Vaishnavites.

Badrinath has been mentioned as a holy place in scriptures and legends for thousands of years. According to the Bhagavata Purana, "There in Badrikashram the Personality of Godhead (Vishnu), in his incarnation as the sages Nara and Narayana, had been undergoing great penance since time immemorial for the welfare of all living entities." (Bhagavata Purana 3.4.22)

Badri refers to a berry that was said to grow abundantly in the area, and nath means "Lord of". Badri is also the Sanskrit name for the Indian Jujube tree, which has an edible berry. Some scriptural references refer to Jujube trees being abundant in Badrinath. Legend has it that the Goddess Lakshmi took the form of the berries to provide sustenance to Lord Vishnu during his long penance in the harsh Himalayanmarker climate.

Badrinath temple

Badrinath temple in night after closing ceremony.


The Badrinath templemarker is the main attraction in the town. According to legend Shankara discovered a black stone image of Lord Badrinarayan made of Saligram stone in the Alaknanda Rivermarker. He originally enshrined it in a cave near the Tapt Kund hot springs. In the sixteenth century, the King of Garhwal moved the murti to the present temple.

The temple has undergone several major renovations because of age and damage by avalanche. In the 17th century, the temple was expanded by the kings of Garhwal. After significant damage in the great 1803 Himalayan earthquake, it was rebuilt by the King of Jaipur.

The temple is approximately 50 ft (15 m) tall with a small cupola on top, covered with a gold gilt roof. The facade is built of stone, with arched windows. A broad stairway leads up to a tall arched gateway, which is the main entrance. The architecture resembles a Buddhist vihara (temple), with the brightly painted facade also more typical of Buddhist temples. Just inside is the mandapa, a large pillared hall that leads to the garbha grha, or main shrine area. The walls and pillars of the mandapa are covered with intricate carvings.

Neelkanth Parbat from Badrinath


History and legend

The Badrinath area is referred to as Badari or Badarikaashram (बदरिकाश्रम) in Hindu scriptures. It is a place sacred to Vishnu, particularly in Vishnu's dual form of Nara-Narayana. Thus, in the Mahabharata, Siva, addressing Arjuna, says, "Thou wast Nara in a former body, and, with Narayana for thy companion, didst perform dreadful austerity at Badari for many myriads of years."

One legend has it that when the goddess Ganga was requested to descend to earth to help suffering humanity, the earth was unable to withstand the force of her descent. Therefore the mighty Ganga was split into twelve holy channels, with Alaknanda one of them. It later became the abode of Lord Vishnu or Badrinath.

The mountains around Badrinath are mentioned in the Mahabharata, when the Pandavas are said to have ended their life by ascending the slopes of a peak in western Garhwal called Swargarohini - literally, the 'Ascent to Heaven'. Local legend has it that the Pandavas passed through Badrinath and the town of Mana, 4 km north of Badrinath, on their way to Svarga (heaven). There is also a cave in Mana where Vyasa, according to legend, wrote the Mahabharata.

According to the Skanda Purana: "There are several sacred shrines in heaven, on earth, and in hell; but there is no shrine like Badrinath."

The area around Badrinath was celebrated in Padma Purana as abounding in spiritual treasures.

Badrinath has also been eulogised as Bhu Vaikunta or earthly abode of Lord Vishnu. Many religious scholars such as Ramanujacharya, Madhawacharya and Vedanta Desika visited Badrinath and wrote sacred texts, such as commentaries on Brahma Sutras and other Upanishads.

Pilgrimage

View from Badrinath
only a few kilometers from the Indo-Chinamarker (Tibet) border, Badrinath is generally a two-day-long journey from either Kedarnathmarker, the site that precedes it in the Char Dham circuit, or one of the main disembarkation points on the plains. Hemkund Sahib, an important Sikh pilgrimage site, is on the way to Badrinath, so the road is especially crowded during the summer pilgrimage season. The temple and its substantial surrounding village are accessible by road. The best time to visit Badrinath is between June and September. Warm clothes are recommended all year.The northern math established by Adi Sankara is nearby at Jyotirmathmarker. Other places in the area are Haridwarmarker and Rishikeshmarker.

Transport

The nearest airport is the Jolly Grant Airportmarker near Dehradunmarker, (317 km). The nearest railway stations are at Haridwarmarker (310 km) and Rishikeshmarker(297 km) and Kotdwarmarker, (327 km) respectively. There are regular buses operating to Badrinath, from New Delhimarker, Haridwarmarker and Rishikeshmarker. As the roads are very narrow, for your safety it is recommended to travel by all terrain vehicles. Until recently you could not drive here, but now you can drive right up next to the temple.

Demographics

 India census, Badrinath had a population of 841. Males constitute 65% of the population and females 35%. Badrinath has an average literacy rate of 85%, higher than the national average of 59.5%; with 92% of the males and 72% of females literate. 9% of the population is under 6 years of age.


Notes

  1. Falling Rain Genomics, Inc - Badrinath
  2. The Hindu newspaper, November 17, 2006
  3. Indian Jujube
  4. Randhir Prakashan, The Holy Places of Uttarakhand Yatra.
  5. Uttaranchal Developing on Shaky Ground
  6. Sen Gupta, Subhadra, Badrinath and Kedarnath - The Dhaams in the Himalayas, 2002. ISBN 81-7167-617-0
  7. Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu mythology
  8. Nautiyal, Govind Prasad, Call of Badrinath, Shri Badrinath-Kedarnath Temples Committee, 1962.


See also



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