December 12, 2008

valley of flowers: part VI

Day 5, Wed Aug 27 2008 (contd.): After checking into our hotel in Badrinath and taking bath, we were all fresh by 6 pm or so. We were in a chill mood and wanted to take it easy, so we thought "lets just find out about the temple - where is it, what are the timings etc - today and do the darshan tomorrow". One specific thing we wanted to find out was where Adi Kedareshwaram temple was. Actually, it is said that one should go to Barinath only after visiting Kedarnath, and if you are not able to do so, you should at least visit Adi Kedareshwaram temple, which is in Badrinath itself, before visiting Badrinath temple. We asked the caretaker, but he didn't seem to know where it was.

When we came out of the hotel, we came to know that temple was pretty close from there. In fact it was visible from the other side of the road (our hotel was in the higher parts of the town). We decided to go till the temple at least, even if not inside. It was an enchanting walk till the temple. There were shops throughout on the way, playing religious audios and videos, and selling various religious things like pictures and idols of Lord Badrinath, diya and ghanti (lamps and bells) for prayer, necklaces with God's idols in it, etc. The temple was on the other side of Alaknanda, we had to a cross a bridge to reach there. We were still trying to figure out where Adi Kedareshwaram temple was. Finally, after strolling there for some time, we came to know from a video playing in a shop that it was near the main temple only.

As there was still time for the temple to close, we decided to visit the temple that day only. We kept our shoes in one prasadwala's shop (shop which we'll keep coming to), bought some prasad, and after washing our hands and feet in Tapta Kund (hot water springs), we moved forward by the stairs which approached the temple from right side. Few stairs up, there was a guy rubbing sandalwood. He put some sandalwood paste on our forehead. Few more stairs up, there was Adi Kedareshwaram temple. It's a small, but peaceful and powerful temple on the right side of the stairs. After paying our reverence to the Shivling there, we moved forward. Few more stairs up, and we were in the Badrinath temple. We entered the temple from the right side.

Inside this temple, there was a smaller temple in the middle where Lord Badrinath was seated, and in the corridor around it, there were temples of Goddess Lakshmi, Hanuman, Nar-Narayan and Lokpal. Lord Badrinath temple, the one in the middle, had 2 doors, one on the front and the other on the left side. When we reached there, the Bhog was going on and people were waiting in queues outside both the doors. Luckily we somehow got into the left door queue. Lucky, because left door opened first. So, we were among the privileged crowd that entered the temple first. Front door opened afterwards and the aarti started.

This was one of the most mystifying experiences of my life. There were sounds of drums and chants in sanskrit. It felt as if these sounds were calling for gods from the skies above. Just imagine a temple on a lofty himalayan peak, in a small town populated only by religious people, with most of the unsettling noises of cities far far away, and the peace of the night all around except for the drums in the temple. It was amazing. I let myself slip into believing that a tremendous flow of energy was descending down into the temple on the call of those drums and chants. I felt a certain kind of joy. Certain kind of relief. Relaxation. As if there was nothing else to do in the world. I was smitten.

Once the aarti was over, we offered our prasad and got some in exchange. We walked back in a mesmerized state of mind, with a promise to ourselves to come there again. We had our dinner near the guest house and after a bit of walking and then watching tv in the room, we turned to bed.

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