Places to visit in and around Badrinath
There are various places of interest for every kind of visitor. While there is Tapt Kund, Panch Shila, Narad Kund, Brahma Kapal for pilgrims, at the same time there is Neelkanth Parvat and Vasudhara fall for the nature lovers.
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Tapt kund is a natural hot water pool fed by a sulphur spring which is said to be the abode of Agni, the god of fire. It is customary to bathe before entering Sri Badrinath temple. This water has a temperature of 130 degrees C. To the left of this pool is the Surya Kund fed by a branch of the same thermal spring. These waters are said to be very nourishing to the body. The Alakananda flows swiftly just below these kunds and the boiling water falls into the icy waters of the river giving rise to clouds of steam.
Panch Dharas in Badrinath
The Panch Dharas (five streams) which are famous in Badrinath are Prahlad, Kurma, Bhrigu, Urvashi & Indira dhara. The most striking of these is the Indira dhara, about 1.5 km north of the town Badaripuri. Bhrigudhara flows past a number of caves. The one on the right of river Rishi Ganga, originally from the Neelkanth range is Urvashi dhara. Kurma dhara water is extremely cold whereas Prahlad dhara has lukewarm water, which glides majestically down the rocks of Narain Parvat.
Around the Tapt Kund there are five blocks of mythological importance called Narad, Narsimh, Barah, Garur & Markandeya Shilas (stone).
Standing between Tapt and Narad Kund is conical formed Narad Shila. It is said that the sage Narad meditated on this rock for several years. Standing in the waters of Alaknanda just below the Narad Shila is a huge stone looking like a lion with its gaping jaws and hooked claws. It is said that Bhagwan Narsimh after killing the demon King Hiranyakashyapa remained in the shape of a block of stone forever.
Near the Narad Kund the Barah Shila has the shape of boar. Barah is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
The Garur Shila near the Tapt Kund had Garur (the carrier of Vishnu) fasted & meditated on this stone. Sage Markandeya on the advice of Narad left Mathura to meditate here in Badarivan and attained ultimate peace. Markandeya Shila is the stone on which the Sage meditated.
A recess in the river, near Tapt Kund, forming a pool from where the Badrinath idol was recovered.
It is sheltered by a projecting rock which breaks the force of the river and allows people to bathe in it. Adi Shankaracharya knew this by his great powers and retrieved the idol from this pool. He is the one who has laid down the rules by which the Lord is to be worshipped. He decreed that the Rawal or chief priest of the temple should come from the state of Kerala, far down south. He also decreed that the chief priest of the temple of Rameswaram in the south, should be from the state of Garhwal. Thus he ensured that there was a good interchange between the north and south of this holy land. This tradition is followed to this day and the Rawal of Badrinath is always a Namboodiri Brahmin from Kerala, the land of Adi Shankara’s birth.
To the north of Sri Badrinath temple is the spot known as Brahma Kapal where Lord Brahma is said to reside. Ceremonies for departed souls are performed here.
In a quest to ensure a heavenly abode for the dead ancestors, the shradh ceremony (propitiating rites) or the offering of pind is an important part of Hindu rituals. After offering pind here, it is believed, the spirits of the dead are permanently enshrined in Heaven and no more pinds are to be offered elsewhere.
The Brahma Kapal, on the bank of the Alaknanda is a flat platform a few yards north of the temple. Legend has it that when Shiva chopped off the fifth head of Brahma, it got stuck to his trident. Lastly with the blessing of Lord Vishnu at Badarivan, the head of Brahma fell down from the trident at this place & hence the name Brahma-Kapal (head).
1.5 km away is a boulder having an impression of the legendary snake, better known as the Sheshnag’s eye (Shesh meaning Sheshnag and Netra meaning eye).
3 km away is a beautiful meadow carpeted with wild flowers in the summer. Here is a boulder bearing the footprints of Lord Vishnu. It is said that when Lord Vishnu descended from Vaikunth (the heavenly abode of Lord Vishnu) he stepped on this boulder. The area is a steep climb from the town and is full of caves & boulders.
A pyramidal shaped snowy peak (6,597 mt) towering above Badrinath, presents a dramatic sight. It is popularly known as the ‘Garhwal Queen’.
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