Vishnu Prayag on way to Sri Badrinath

Vishnu Prayag is on Joshimath to Sri Badrinath highway NH 58 , 263 km from Rishikesh at a height of 1372 meters from sea. the Alaknanda which originates from glaciers of Chaukhamba meets the Saraswati river near Mana village and flows near the Sri Badrinath temple it meets the Dhauli Ganga about 12 km before the Joshimath , before it meets Alaknanda at Vishnu Prayag it meets the Rishi Ganga  at Raini 25 km before Joshimath , River Dhauli Ganga originates from the height of 5070 meters in the Niti Pass and flows through the Dharma Valley travels about 82 km until it meets the Alaknanda or Vishnu Ganga at Vishnu Prayag, it is the only Prayag where there is no town or village , one is to cross the river by using the hanging bridge and then there are stairs to reach the temple situated over a rock at the confluence.

Vishnu Prayag

Legend is that the Rishi Narad worshiped to lord Vishnu at this place . Here their is a small temple built by the Rani Ahilya Bai Holkar of Indore in mid 18th century . The strecth of Alaknanda river till it meets with Dhauli Ganga  is also known as Vishnu Ganga.

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Rudraprayag on way to Sri Kedarnath and Sri Badrinath

Rudraprayag is 34 km from Srinagar and 142 km from Rishikesh  situated at a height of 610 meters from sea level surrounded by the Himalayan  mountains it is not only one of the Panch Prayag  ( Five confluence ) or Sangam  with the holy river Alaknanda in Garhwal region of Uttarkhand in Himalayas , the river Mandakini meets the Alaknanda here but also got the religious importance  for the pilgrims travelling to Sri Kedarnath and Sri Badrinath on Yatra Chardham. It is from here the road bifurcate and one goes to Guptkashi then to Gaurikund from here the trek to Sri Kedarnath starts while the other road goes to Joshimath then to Sri Badrinath, in between is Gobind Ghat from here trek to Ghangharia , Valley of Flowers and Hemkund / Lokpal starts

Rudra Prayag

This place is named after the Lord Shiva who appeared here in form of “Rudra” after the Rishi Narad worshiped him and asked for his teachings to learn and master the Music on Rudra Veena ,  the rock where he learned music is called the Narad Shila. Legend is that Lord Shiva meditated here before leaving for Sri Kedarnath the Koteshwar temple on the banks of Alaknanda are the cave temples where the images of Lord are in natural formations of rock (Koti is 10 million, Koteshwar means God of 10 million). It is also said that the  Sati consort of Lord Shiva reborn as Parvati daughter of Himalaya  after she immolated her self in the Yagnakund performed by her father and she could not tolerate the disrespect to her husband the Lord Shiva , Parvati dedicated herself  to be his wife again and to achieve this she performed Tapasya ( Penance ) here. There is a temple dedicated to Ma Chamunda  wife of lord Rudra is worshiped here. It is also said that the Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Nritya  the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution.

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Lakshman Temple, Lokpal Lake at Hemkund

It was many generations before the Sikh community was introduced to Hemkund Sahib, was worshiped by the local Bhotia and Gharwali community who lives in the border area of India and Tibet and nearby villages of Joshimath use to come and pay their respect to the Lokpal or Lakshman the younger brother of Lord Ram , it is believed that in his previous birth as Shesnag meditated in the lake here

 

Lokpal Temple or Laxman Temple at Hemkund

Lokpal Temple or Laxman Temple at Hemkund

Situated  at an altitude of 4329 mts, (14,200 ft) in the Garhwal Himalayas , on the banks of a glacier lake, surrounded by several towering pinnacles of snow, reflected in its clear water. Surrounded  by the ‘Saptashringa’ Peaks (seven snow-clad peaks, including the Hathi Parvat), also called Hemkund Parvat, the lake mirrors its surroundings on the crystal-clear waters. It is the source of the Hem Ganga stream that merges with the Pushpawati stream flowing from the Valley of Flowers at village Ghangharia (Gobind Dham). From here onwards the river is called Laxman Ganga. This valley had been earlier known to the local residents as the Bhyundar Valley . This places is accessible from Gobind Ghat ( 20 km from Joshimath on Sri Badrinath Highway) a trek of 13 km up hill steep climb or helicopter a 7 minute flight to Ghangharia and the 6 km trek by Palki , mules, or in basket carried by porter on his back.

One can reach this place from the month of May till October

Lokpal Lake , Hemkund Lake

Lokpal Lake , Hemkund Lake

 

The stories about this place have mentions in Puranas (ancient books of Indian mythology) and the Hindu epics (the Mahabharata and the Ramayana). The sanctity of Lokpal is attributable to tales of Lakshman, (brother of Lord Rama) Goddess Durga, the Pandavas and some Rishis as well. Lakshman is said to have meditated or done penance here . In a popular story, Lakshman was brought to the shore of Lokpal after being mortally wounded in battle with Meghnad .

Another story related to Lakshman is , during a previous incarnation as a seven -headed serpent meditated under the water at Lokpal and lord Vishnu slept on his back. In a variation of the same theme, the snake was called Shesh Nag,  its tail was wrapped around the base of the mountain.

In a third legend, it is said that during Sat Yug, (the first of four ages according to Hindu mythology), fierce demons called ‘Dhents’  were terrorizing humans and gods. The goddess Durga was engaged in battle with the demons Bel and Subel , she had to flee and take refuge in the mountains. There, she approached a great Rishi who was meditating, seated on a lion skin. When Durga asked for his help, he told her to hide near him. The demons came the Rishi said that ” the mother of all, had come to him and it his duty to protect her”. The demons were infuriated , they were about to attack him , the Rishi said he and his disciples do not kill any one but he will  create a Khattri ( Warior) to kill them all ,  he got up and shook the lion skin , from the dust of lion skin there emerged a shakti (power) in the form of a strong Khattri (warrior) youth clad in lion skins and carrying a sword. The Rishi commanded the youth to kill the demons . When the youth had destroyed all the demons, the goddess appeared before him and gave him a sword with the blessing that he would henceforth be known as Dusht Daman, the ‘destroyer of evil’ since he came from the skin (khal) of a lion, he would also earn renown as Khalsa. The goddess departed after telling the youth that he would be given a mission to fight like a lion (Singh) in a later incarnation as a human being and for that he would create the Khalsa ( ‘The Pure).  The Rishi mentioned above is also known with references in various holy scriptures as Samundh Rishi, Rishi Medhasa, Rishi Bishala,  and Asan Rishi , the story of Dusht Daman’s battle is recorded in the Brahma Purana and some of the characters and events also resemble those in the Markandeya Purana, referred to in the Dasam Granth ( the Sikh Holy Book) References to Lokpal and Sapatsring also appear in the Skandha Purana.

Camps at Ghangharia

Camps at Ghangharia


Lokpal also reputed to be an ancient place of pilgrimage for the Tibetan people.  The local Garhwali people have followed a tradition of visiting the temple on the shore of the lake on three annual festivals held during the summer season: Rakshabandhan, Janam Ashtami, and Durga Ashtami ( Nanda Ashtami) The sacred journey was made primarily by women, both Garhwali villagers from the valley below Lokpal and villagers of Bhotia (Indo-Tibetan) ancestry from neighboring valleys. Out of respect for the purity of the water and the surrounding landscape, they made the steep climb barefoot, clad only in white cotton dhoti. The women left their clothes and shoes behind at a halting place set in a glade of fir trees. This place became the site of what is today Gobind Dham or Ghangaria, named after the ghagara (petticoats or skirts ) which the pilgrims would leave there. The women would spend the night singing songs of the goddess, and at dawn they would set out to climb the slope to the lake, at the Lokpal lake . They would bathe in the cold water, and pray to Lakshman for the blessing of a son, a better future, the health of their menfolk, or a cure for sickness.

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Pandukeshwar on way to Sri Badrinath

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Pandukeshwar is a small village 283 km from Rishikesh, 20 km from Joshimath , from Govindghat  it is 4 km,  Sri Badrinath Dham is about 25 kms from here. This place is also known as Yogadhayana Badri It is a winter seat of Sri Badrinath the Udhwa , there are two temples, the other one is the Vasudeva temple from here all the rituals are performed and when the summer comes the main idol of Udhwa is carried in a procession to the Sri Badrinath dham .

Pandukeshwar Temple

This village holds very important place in the legends of Mahabharata . It was established by King Pandu who had two wife , Kunti and Madri , while hunting King Pandu killed a male deer in mating , these deers were actually a Rishi Kindama  ( sage ) and his wife, the Rishi Kindama  before breathed last cursed Pandu that when ever he will approach a women with a desire to make love he will also die , King Pandu after reaching home narrated the story to his two wife and then denounced his kingdom, handed it over to his blind brother Dhrishtrastra , Pandu never wanted to die childless and expressed his desire to Kunti , she informed him about a boon which she had from Rishi Durwasa and used it to be mother of  Yudhistar by lord Dharma , Bhim by lord Vayu and Arjun by lord Vishnu, then she the taught Madri who had twins Nakul and Sehdev by lord Ashwin Kumars , thus the Pandvas were born here.

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Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib Trek

Hemkund Sahib

Hem Kund or Hemkunt is one of the holiest Sikh pilgrim place in Uttrakhand, it has a mention in the Bachitter Natak authored by the Tenth Guru, Gobind Singh Ji that he meditated in his previous birth at a lake of ice  surrounded by Sapt Spring mountains and where the King Pandu ancestor of Pandavas of Mahabharata ,  practiced yoga.

Until nineteenth century the geographical location of this place was not known, it was the efforts of Pandit Tara Singh Narottam, Sikh scholar Bhai Vir Singh, Sohan Singh, a retired Granthi and soldier Havildar Modan Singh from Indian Army, located this place and laid foundation of this pilgrimage site, at a height of 15,200 feet , it  opens during the summers from May till September, rest of the year it is covered under the snow and becomes inaccessible.

Lokpal Lake

Lokpal Lake

 

Starting point to this pilgrimage is Hardiwar/Rishikesh about 275 km drive to Gobind Ghat, it is advised to stay at Joshimath where there are good hotels, camps and rest houses which are easily available, next morning travel by bus or car 22 km up to Gobind Ghat situated at the confluence of River Alaknanda and Laxman Ganga, a gurudwara is situated at the right bank of Laxman Ganga,  a small market with restaurants, guest houses, shops for trekking equipment, one can get porters and mules,  vehicles can be parked here  till their return from the trek, there is a helipad and  Helicopter service is also available up to Ghangharia.

First stop on this trek is Ghangaria also known as Gobind Dham it is 13 km rocky path and unclear road, a base camp for two treks at a height of 3050 meters, one trek leads to Hemkunt Sahib and the other leads to Valley of Flowers. There are no arrangements for overnight stay at Hemkunt Sahib therefore pilgrims have to leave early to return the same day, there are open ground tents with mattresses, gurdwara, guest houses and dhabas(small restaurants) to take care of basic needs, it is here the river Pushpavati coming from Valley of Flowers and Laxman Ganga from Hemkund Lake meets. Pilgrims leave early morning on a 6 kms rocky trek which takes about 5-6 hours crossing the glacier to reach the Hemkund Lake, it is also known as Lokpal lake, there is a, Lord Ram‘s younger brother’s, Laxman temple on the banks of lake, it is believed that after the battle with Meghnad when Laxman got wounded, came here to take rest and regain his health.

Gurudwara Hemkund Sahib and Lokpal Temple

A star shaped Gurudwara which is designed and  constructed under the supervision of Major General Harkirat Singh and Architect Siali from 1960AD onwards. Situated at the height of 4240 meters on the banks of lake surrounded by seven snow capped mountains. One has to return to Ghangaria as there are no arrangements for night stay at Hemkund Sahib .

The Valley of Flowers

Next day one can take a trek to Valley of Flowers which is 3 km from Ghangaria after crossing the bridge over River Pushpawati, which takes about 2-3 hrs, no mules are allowed, at check post one is to make entry in register and a nominal fee is charged, one can feel the exotic scent in the atmosphere from here as trek to Hemkund is full of smell of Mules dung, this valley is 5 km. long, it was known as Bhyunder Valley, In 1931 mountaineer Mr. Frank S. Smithe, lost his way after successful expedition of Kamet, by chance reached here, he was so impressed he authored a book “The Valley of Flowers” and wrote about the beauty and flora, thus giving its present name,  until then this valley was not on a tourist map, legend has it, that Lord Hanuman came in search of Sanjivani Buti (herb) after Laxman got injured in battle with Meghnaad. This valley has mostly the orchids, poppy, marigold, daisies and anemone looking like a carpet on the ground and many medicinal plants, besides flowers there is a variety of wild life and commonly found animals are Snow Leopard, Musk Deer, Red Fox, Langur, Himalayan Black Bear and Brown Bear over 100 types of Butterflies are found here, among the birds are Snow Partridge, Himalayan Monal, Himalayan Golden Eagle, Snow PigeonGriffin Vulture, Sparrow Hawk etc. there are no tall plants, everywhere there is some grass, berries, shrubs, flowers, what to see and what to leave one gets so exited about the beauty. Rain is quite unpredictable and one is not allowed to stay in the valley at night and just one day is not sufficient if one is really interested in plants will like to come again and again.

Valley of Flowers

Valley of Flowers

 

Flowers in Wild

Flowers in Wild

 The return journey starts from Ghangaria/Gobind Dham to Gobind Ghat and then to Joshimath, one can stay for one day to explore the Ski slopes of Auli and views of Himalayan mountains or trek to lakes and meadows above Auli .

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About the Author

[author]
[author_image timthumb=’on’]wp-content/uploads/authors/anil-rajput.jpg[/author_image] Anil Kumar Rajput is well known in the travel trade since 1980. Worked in India and abroad. A boxer, Rifle Shooter and Para Jumper. As a Boy Scout and NCC Cadet, attended Adventure camps, trek in Himalayas which developed  interest in traveling and to explore new places, loves driving to adventurous places and photography. (promarktravels.com)  Connect with him on Facebook (htttp://www.facebook.com/anil.k.rajput) and Twitter (@PromarkTravels)
[/author]

Yatra Chardham – Joshimath

Joshimath is also called the Jyotirmath established as one of the four main “pithas” by the Adi Shankaracharya in four different places in India the other three are Shrigeri in South , Puri in East and Dwarka in west. It is at a height of 1890 meters from sea on the Rishikesh – Badrinath  highway 220 km from Rishikesh and Badrinath is further 42  km, it is situated at the confluence of river Alaknanda and  Dhauli Ganga the Vishnu Prayag. This town is also the winter seat of Sri Badrinath at the Vasudeva Temple, other important temples are the Lord Narshimha the incarnation of lord Vishnu, the Hanumaan , the Gaurishankar, the Ganesha, the Nau Devi and the Surya .

Around Joshimath

This place is famous for base camp for many treks , Auli is at 3940 meters from sea level , from Joshimath there is a Asia’s longest 4 km Ropeway to reach here , it has the famous Ski slopes beautiful views of Nanda Devi peak , Mana and Kamet also a close view of the peak Hathi Ghora Palki and behind it the Neelkanth.  There are many trekking routes starts from here , the Gorson, Tali and Kauri Pass, Khulara and Tapovan. Valley of Flowers can be reached from here upto Govindghat by road and the trek 14 kms to Ghangharia and then three km trek to the Valley of Flowers, from Ghangharia the Hemkund sahib the famous Sikh shrine and a temple dedicated to Laxman the younger brother of Lord Ram is situated , it is the place where Tenth Sikh Guru Gobind Singh Ji meditated in his previous birth which he mentioned in his book Bichitra Natak.  Nanda Devi National Park is 24 km from here. Oldest tree in India the Kalpvriksh since the time of Adi Shankracharya is in Joshimath.

Most of the pilgrims stay a night at Joshimath before proceeding for Sri Badrinath , Sri Hemkund Sahib or Valley of Flowers journey and Lokpal Temple trek, it is a single road from here and traffic is allowed turn by turn in both direction for two hours.

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Valley of Flowers , Uttrakhand trek opens on 1st June 2014

 

Valley of Flowers Uttrakhand

Valley of Flowers Uttrakhand a World Heratage site , opens for the visitors every year along with the opening of trek for Hemkund Sahib , Lokpal temple after the melting of snow at Bhyunder Valley ( 3658 mtr.) .This year the trek opens on 1st June 2014 .

One can reach here from Rishikesh/Haridwar by road up to Joshimath and then 21 km to Gobind Ghat , the 13 trek to Ghangharia the base camp for Valley of Flowers , Hemkund Sahib and Lokpal Temple , starts  after crossing the river Alakhnanda . Mules , Palki and Pittho are available and there is also a helipad for flights up to 1 km short of  Ghangahria.

Three Km. from Ghangahria the Valley of Flowers starts and the narrow path starts after crossing the river Laxman Ganga which originates from Lake Hemkund. One leave for  Valley of Flowers from Ghangharia early as one is to return the same day.

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Helicopter Charters Yatra Chardham 09 May 2014 onwards

Yatra Chardham 2014,  doors will open on 02 May at Yamunotri and 05 May at  Sri Badrinath Ji . 

The last year cloud burst and floods washed away roads and bridges at most of the places in Uttrakhand , lots of work by the Govt. agencies were put in action  to make the roads and bridges  travel worthy but still the roads and treks at higher reaches could not be brought up to the  satisfactory level specially the areas around and above Guptkashi towards Sri Kedarnath and Joshimath area onward the Lambagarh roads are yet to be fully repaired , the repair work will start after the month of March when the snow will melt and heavy machines are put in action.

The news coming in from the unconfirmed sources are that Govt. of Uttrakhand will not allow the pilgrims to have night halt at Sri Kedarnath and also the new trek will be longer than the last years .

Yatra Chardham Helicopter service

The helicopter service may be affected this year in this area due to the private helicopters services will be diverted in use by the political parties in  the Lok Sabha elections .

Pilgrims planing Yatra Chardham this year must decide and make bookings in advance with us to make sure their pilgrimage is successful and without any problems.

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Yatra Chardham – Hurdles this year 2014

Sri Badrinath Ji Temple

 

The Yatra Chardham for the year 2014 will start from Akshaya Tritiya which falls on the third Tithi (Lunar day) of Bright Half (Shukla Paksha) of Hindu month of Vaishakha , when the Sun and Moon are in exaltation; they are simultaneously at their peak of brightness, which happens only once every year .   Lord Vishnu and his incarnations are worshiped on the day. People also conduct Lakshmi puja on Akshaya Tritiya.

This year it falls on 2nd May 2014 and pilgrims from all over India will assemble at Haridwar / Rishikesh and start the holy journey on 30th April or 1st  May to reach the dhams at the time of opening of gates at the main temples of Sri Kedarnath and Sri Badrinath .

The devastating  floods, last year on 16th and 17th June 2013, washed away many roads and bridges in the Uttrakhand along with many thousand deaths of pilgrims and the local residents, it also washed away many guest houses, hotels and flat land suitable for the camps .

Upon talking with the local residents the information shared about the road conditions is bad at many places , Govt. agencies are working to repair the damaged roads and bridges but with the onset of winter the and snowfall in the area the works are stopped and it will resume only after the melting of snow around mid or end March 2014 .

The roads towards Barkot and Janki Chatti were not affected much and are in good condition , the onward  7 km trek to Yamunotri temple is safe ,  the road for Gangotri , Uttarkashi on wards washed away at 7-8 places  near Bhatwari , it is a soft road and at present suitable for light vehicles .

The road form Rudraprayag to Guptkashi / Phata is good for small / light vehicles but onward road to Gaurikund is in bad condition , the 14 km old trek route along the river Mandakini  from Gaurikund  to Rambara and then to Sri Kedarnath is washed away at many places and a new trek is under construction , this new route is aprox. 24 km long climbing up to  13000 ft. and then coming down to Sri Kedarnath at 11760 ft. , it is not possible to travel this distance in one day, one night stop will be required in both the directions and  it is not certain if Govt. will allow the pilgrims to have a night stay at Sri Kedarnath , where the yatris will spend the night , even if it is decided it will be in the tents or may be this year the Yatra for Sri Kedarnath will be by Helicopters with same day return .

The road from Guptkashi to Chopta and then to Pipalkoti is good for small vehicles , the road from Rudraprayag to Pipalkoti and then to Joshimath is better . Road from Joshimath to Gobindgaht and then to Pandukeshwer is ok but onward to Lambagarh, Hanuman chatti till Sri Badrinath is not good only light vehicles can go . There are chances of preparing a helipad at Gobindghat for Helicopter Shuttle service for Sri Badrinath . The trek for Ghangharia , Velley of Flowers and Sri Hemkund Sahib are travel worthy .

Changed flow of river Alakhnanda at Lambagarh after June 2013 floods , it use to flow on the other side of temple built by JP Hydel Project .

In all the preparations this year,it seems that most of the pilgrims will avoid Sri Kedarnath and the road journey will be done in small vehicles for Yamunotri , Gangotri and Sri Badrinath .

This year the yatris may have to get registered and will be allowed only to travel by registered Tourist and State Roadways vehicles .

 

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Yatra Chardham Lesser known places

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Yatra Chardham in Garhwal region of Uttrakhand State in Himalayas is considered to be one of the Holiest and devout wish of a Sanatan Hindu to perform it once in his/her life time. This yatra ( pilgimage) is not only being performed since the establishment by Sri Guru Adi Shankaracharya in the Eight centenery but also our old texts like Skandh Puran , the Garur Puran and many other books have a mention of places and events happend in this part of land known as Kedarkhand named after the King Kedar who ruled this land in Satya Yug he is also father of Vrinda who performed Tapasya for 60,000 years , she is wife of Demon King Jalandhar who was killed by Lord Shiva .

Places are Kharsali , Devprayag, Karanprayag, Vishnuprayag, Rudraprayag, Soneprayag, Guptkashi, Tungnath, Pandukeshwar, Harsil, Dharali, Mukhba, Joshimath, Uttarkashi, Kedareshwar and many more places in Kedarkhand the Garhwal Uttrakhand.

I would like to invite the readers to share their knowledge about these places or any legend which is lesser known or any ritual which is followed by the local people which have any religious significance. Please also comment on the articles how you have liked it. Register your email on our blog page  promarktravels.com/blog  for your articles and comments.