Against the backdrop of the towering Neelkanth, in the lap of of Nar-Narayan Parvat, lies Badrinath, among the holiest of the Hindu shrines in India. There was a time when the spot was carpeted with 'badris ' or wild berries and hence was famous as 'badri van'.
One of the four Dhams, which a devout Hindu has to visit in his life time to attain salvation, Badrinath has for centuries been the seat of seers and saints who assemble and live out their ascetic lives here. Which is probably why it is also known as 'Tapobhumi', the land of meditation and penance. Its other name is 'Bhubaikunth', which means heaven on earth. Legend has it that when Ganga was requested to descend to earth to help the suffering humanity, Earth was unable to withstand the force of its descent. Hence, the mighty Ganga was split into twelve holy channels of which Badrinath was one.
Between May and October. The temple usually remains open from the first week of May to the second week of November.
The nearest railhead is Rishikesh.
Badrinath is well-connected by road to Rishikesh, Haridwar, Dehradun, Kotdwar and other hill-stations of Garhwal and Kumaon region.
Found by Sri Shankaracharya in the ninth century, this temple on the right bank of the Alaknanda river, at an altitude of 3133 metres, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Its chief attraction is the main entrance gate. The complex houses 15 idols. The one metre high image of Badrinath, depicting Lord Vishnu sitting in meditation, is the show-stealer. Curiously, a Namboothiri Brahman from Kerala presides over Badrinath as the head priest.
Just 42 kms from Badrinath, Joshimath is a well-known religious centre situated on the confluence of Alaknanda and Dhaulinganga. It was established by Adi Shankaracharya and houses some fine temples.
The Valley of Flowers
Nestled close to the Pushpavati river and with the majestic Rataban peak towering above it, this valley, which gets its name from the riot of beautiful flowers that grow there in wild abundance, is a trekker's delight.
Situated between Joshimath and Badrinath, at the confluence of the Alaknanda and Lakshman Ganga rivers, Gobindghat is the starting point for the trek to either the Valley of Flowers National Park (which is 19 kms away) or Hemkund Sahib (a little further on).
This tiny mountain retreat, with gorgeous landscapes, is just 10 kms. from Gopeshwar on the Badrinath Highway.
People throng to this place, just before the Badrinath Temple, to take a dip in the holy waters of the natural thermal springs. These are believed to possess medicinal properties.