Fateh Veer Singh Guram, Travel @ The Hush Post: The Badri Narayan Temple in Badrinath, Uttarakhand is one of the most important places of worship for Hindus across the world. Part of the Char Dham and the Chota Char Dham Yatra, this temple is one of the 108 Divya Desams dedicated to Lord Vishnu. A holy site for Vaishnavites, it is open for only 6 months of the year (between April-November) due to extreme weather conditions high up in the Himalayas.
The presiding deity which is worshipped in the temple is a one metre tall black stone statue of Vishnu. This statue is believed to be the form of Badrinarayan, and the statue is also considered to be one of the eight ‘swayam vyakta kshetras’, or self-manifested statues of Vishnu.
Apart from the statue, the annual Mata Murti Ka Mela is another holy event that draws lakhs of people to this remote mountainous town every year. The mela (fair) commemorates the descent of Ganges on mother Earth.
The prestige of this ancient temple was spread far and wide, and is testimony from the fact that the temple has been glorified in the Divya Prabandh, which is a compilation of 4,000 Tamil verses from the 8 th and 9 th centuries.
The Badri Narayan Temple has also been mentioned in the Vishnu Purana and the Skanda Purana.
Legends surrounding the Temple:
Due to the religious importance of the temple and the fact that it was constructed nearly 1,000 years ago, there are a number of legends and myths that are associated with this temple.
According to one very popular myth, Lord Vishnu meditated at this place and decided to stay away from Thuling, a place in the Himalayas which is infamous for meat-eating monks and unchaste people. Unaware of the cold weather, Vishnu was suffering a great deal while meditating. In order to ease his suffering, Lakshmi protected him by assuming the form of a badri tree (a jujube tree). Touched by such devotion, Vishnu decided to name this place Badrika Ashram.
Mentions in Literary Texts:
The Badri Narayan Temple has been mentioned in the Bhagavata Purana, Skanda Purana and the Mahabharata. In the Bhagavata Purana, it is said that “here in Badrikashram the Personality of Godhead (Vishnu), in his incarnation as the sages Nar and Narayana, had been undergoing great penance since time immemorial for the welfare of all living entities.”
The Skanda Purana says “There are several sacred shrines in heaven, on earth and in hell; but there is no shrine like Badrinath.”
The temple also finds mention in Padma Purana, Nalayira Divya Prabandham and Thirumangai Azhwar.
According to some historians, the temple was initially a Buddhist shrine until the 8 th century CE, when Adi Shankar visited the area and with the help of the Parmar king Kanak Pal, drove away all Buddhists from the region. The architecture of the temple resembles a Buddhist vihara and the brightly colours used to paint the facade point to typical Buddhist architecture.
Others believe that the site of the temple was initially established as a prominent pilgrimage site by Adi Shankar, who resided at this place for six years, between 814 CE to 820 CE. It is believed that he found the image of Badrinath in the Alaknanda river and instilled it in a cave near the Tapt Kund hot springs.
Architecture and Shrines:
The temple consists of three structures: the sanctum (Garbhagriha), the worship hall (Darshan Mandap) and the convention hall (Sabha Mandap). Consisting of a gold gilt roof, the temple has been made of stone and wood and the walls of the temple have intricate carvings.
The main shrine contains the Shaligram, which is the black stone believed to be the image of Badrinarayan. The Shaligram is housed in a gold canopy, under a Badri (jujube) tree. Images of various other gods and goddesses are also placed in the main sanctum.
Shrines of Lakshmi Narasimhar, Adi Shankara, Vadanta Desika and Ramanukacharya are also located within the temple.
A group of hot sulphur springs, called Tapt Kund, are also located near the temple, and it is believed that bathing in the springs is a necessity before going to worship at the temple.
Prominent Festivals and Religious Practices:
The Mata Murti ka Mela, which commemorates the descent of the Ganges River onto Earth, is the most important function that is organised at the temple. It is held every year in the month of September.
The Badri Kedar festival, celebrated in the month of June, lasts for a period of eight days. Religious artists from all over the country visit both Badrinath and Kedarnath, where the festival is held.
The Badri Narayan temple is closed for the winters on Bhatridwitiya (late October-early November). One the day of the closure of the tempe, Akhand Jyothi, an auspicious lamp is filled with ghee to ensure that it keeps burning for six months. Special prayers are conducted by the chief priest and the image of Badrinath is transferred at the Narasimha temple at Joshimath. The temple is re-opened around April-May (on the day of Akshaya Tritiya). Many pilgrims visit the temple to witness the Akhanda Jyothi
Best Time to Visit:
The temple can only be visited for six months of the year, since it becomes inaccessible and shuts down during winter months. The temple is open from April-October, and thus, the months of June and July are an ideal time to visit the temple since the temperature during these months is not too cold.
How to Reach:
Badrinath, located at a height of 10,800 feet is situated in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. The nearest airport is in Dehradun, which is located at a distance of 336 kilometres. The nearest rail head is in Rishikesh, which is located at a distance of 295 kilometres.
The district headquarters, Chamoli Gopeshwar, is located at a distance of 108 kilometres.
The cities of Chandigarh and New Delhi are located at distances of 503 kilometres and 529 kilometres, respectively.