I am a rationalist and therefore atheist. In spite of that Badrinath was the high point of the trek for me. Hinduism also include non believers. Being born as Hindu one undergoes various sacraments of faith and they pile up in the subconscious mind without you even noticing it. Chardham is one such matter of faith. Temple of Shri Badri Vishal on the banks of river Alaknanda. The stone carved temple facade which depicts wood. Vishnu sitting in padmasana, the black stone idol. This picture is engraved in your mind somewhere.
We started from Ghangaria this morning, walking towards Govindghat. We heard that further road to Badrinath is closed. I am carrying my own rucksack. Some fellow trekkers have send it on the back of mule. V22 batch roll call was done. 13 men and 15 women, all present. Damodar had fallen into the valley yesterday along with mule. He is lucky to be fine today and able to walk. It took us some time to get out of the place where roll call was done. Meanwhile ‘Sheetal’s Boys’ left me behind. Dr. Shruti has named us ‘Sheetal’s Boys’. By this time we have Sayali and Yogita included in the group so let’s call it only ‘Sheetals’. I walk faster to reach them.
“Sheetal, I am left behind, lets go a little slow.” I said.
“ We thought you are leading in front. “ – Paritosh
“If some member of the group is missing, shall we not be aware whether he is leading or trailing.” I express annoyed.
I am again left behind. Sounds a bit bad that you are left alone. But this time I am not going to run and catch Sheetal’s. Expectation is the cause of grief. So I forgive Sheetal’s and detach. Now I am a solo trekker. River Pushpavati is flowing down into the valley. The mountains on both sides of the river have thick vegetation of coniferous. As the weather is clear today, helicopter service from Govindghat to Ghangaria has resumed. The green blue copter flies dreamily between the mountains and valley like the scene in the movie. I thoroughly enjoy this euphoric loneliness.
I came down the hill taking shortcuts sometimes and cross river Pushpavati near Bhyundar. At Bhyundar there is a confluence of Pushpavati river and Bhyundar Ganga. The joint water is now called Laxman Ganga. Laxman Ganga is now to my left side. The trail is parallel to the river. Bhyundar has some eateries and shops. I see Sheetal getting out of the shop and moving on. I move at my pace and come to the eatery where Sheetal was sitting.
“Madhukar” I hear my name, and started looking right and left.
“Madhukar, come here inside” That is Sayali calling me. Yogita and Sayali are sitting inside that small eatery by the side of the river. I join them finally and I am happy now.
After having breakfast at 5:30 in the morning, you get hungry again by 10. I get acidity if I don’t eat by that time. Ordered masala maggi and mixed pulao into it which was given to us as packed lunch at the camp. A lemon sharbat to finish with. We move on after lunch. After a short while we see Sheetal, Paritosh and Surendra sitting on a bench and having their lunch. Yogita gets out sweets from her pendura box. She is carrying gul poli and laddu from home.
I offer it to the Garwalis in the forest check post in front of us. “Have it, she got it from home in Pune.”
Garwalis are happy with this gesture.
“Is the road to Badrinath open?” I ask.
“You will have to go to Lambagad, walk a kilometer and you will get jeeps for Badrinath” Garwalis inform.
Wow, I am ready to walk even longer distances to go to Badrinath. We discuss among ourselves. All set to go. We reach Pulna village. There is a landslide on the road between Pulna and Govindghat. The jeep drops us near the landslide and we walk further ahead to Govindghat. Our bus is waiting for us in the parking on the banks of Alaknanda. There is a convoy of army vehicles and artillery there. Considering tension on the Indo China border this is a common scene in the border areas. After having ice cream bus leaves for Lambagad. Prasad, Trina, Sushmita, Aditi are returning from here to Joshimath. They won’t be coming with us.
Within 15 minutes we reach Lambagad. The road here is kaccha road parallel to the river on a very fragile and landslide prone landscape. As of now it is closed for traffic and Border Road Organization men and machinery is trying to clear the landslide. They are putting metal net on the rock face uphill. We start ascending a small hill at Lambagad. It has started raining. Our sacks we have given it to porters. Sheetal is tired climbing. From the hilltop we see Army convoy has reached the landslide spot. One vehicle crosses at a time. Army truck start crossing. We also see a jeep and bike crossing. Tomorrow the road shall be opened for all. We met villagers carrying firewood. Folks in the mountains are beautiful and innocent. This is a cold evening and raining continues.
We descend the hill. There is a crowd of people waiting for jeeps to go to Badrinath here. Army men are managing the show. Jeeps start slowly coming in. We manage to get place in one such jeep. On the middle seat we are sitting 6 of us. 2 on the lap. Ascending Hanuman Chatti jeep reaches Badrinath.
Location of youth hostel Badrinath is spectacular. It is on top of a small hillock giving splendid views of the surrounding mountains and pilgrim town with river Alaknanda’s gushing waters. After reporting we proceed to the temple.
Temple is on the banks of river Alaknanda. We cross the bridge and enter the temple premises. There are hot water springs in the temple premises where one can take a bath. We enter the temple after bath. There is hardly any crowd in the temple except few locals. Temple is simple but grand. A Sadhu is doing Pradakshina to main shrine with wooden sandals on. The flooring of the temple is wooden too. That makes unique sound ‘Khad Khad’. In some time Evening Prasad (Bhog) is offered to the Lord Vishnu. Once God and Goddess Lakshmi have their dinner together. The Poojaris start preparing for their sleep. Except chandan all the idol decoration is cleared. Shej Aarti starts to sleep God. ॐ यज्ञेन यज्ञमयजंत देवास्तानि धर्माणि प्रथमान्यासन्.
“Go to your hotels now, it’s time for God to sleep” Poojaris declare.
Its 08:30 pm, I received an sms from Sushmita that they have reached Joshimath. The number of uniform gunman in the temple premises have increased. The big garland which Lord Vishnu was wearing made of Tulsi and Roses, Sayli got it from pujaris. She feels blessed and lucky. She is need of the blessing this time as she is starting her married life this December. The temple will reopen at 4 in the morning.
Gratified with the powerful experience we start returning to the Hostel. ‘Jay Badri Vishal’ tune of Garhwal Rifles in riningin in my ears…
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