Karnaprayag on way to Sri Kedarnath

Karnaprayag is one of the five holy Prayags  with Alaknanda in Himalayas which all together forms the holy river Ganga , situated at 172 km from Rishikesh at a height of 1451 meters from sea level , it is a Prayag  (confluence ) river Alakhnanda with river Pindar which originates from Pindari glacier in Kumaon region of Uttrakhand . This place is surrounded by the Peaks Nanda Devi ( 7816 meters) , Trishul , Dron Giri , Narad Ghunti , Migathuni and Maikotli ,

Kran Prayag

The temple here is dedicated to Uma and Karna , this temple holds high importance and respect among the local people . The legend is, the name of this place is after the name of Karna from the epic Mahabharata, friend of Duryodhana , son of Kunti who is also mother of five Pandva brothers, Karna who is son of Sun God The Surya  performed his prayers for three years after this he was rewarded a impregnable shield to protect himself, he became unmatched  warrior in the battle field, he was cremated here by Lord Krishna after he was killed in the battle fields of Mahabharat at Kurukshetra .

It is also a place where King Dushyant met Shakuntla, had courtship and she gave birth to Bharat on his name our country is named Bharat,  Abhijanana Shakuntalm play written in Sanskrit  by poet Kalidas in 1st centuary in the period of King Vikramaditya of Ujjain  is based on this legend

Nauti village  is the maternal place of Nanda Devi , It is said that for the past Five Thousand years every twelve years a Nanda Raj Jat Yatra is performed it is the longest and most strenuous pilgrimages done on foot , the male members of Garhwal royal families and Chand Garhi village visits the Nauti village to worship the SRI YANTRA  in a tantrik rites and rituals to invite the sprits of Godess Nanda into the Gold Idol from her husband’s abode  the Himalaya , very strange but true a four horned male sheep is born every time in this period  is given in the custody of royal family to be fed and taken well care of along with the other preparations to perform a 22 days long journey and to leave this Sheep in the Himalayas in Nanda Devi area passing through the age-old legendary Himalayan trek that has so much of traditional religious significance. The beauty of the trek is a picture perfect fusion of high mountain valleys, lakes, streams, glaciers and luminous dense green forests and it is a veritable paradise for trekkers. The Nanda Raj Jat Yatra is a spectacular festival.

Karn Prayag is also a base for Roop Kund and Pindari Glaciers trek.

Swami Vivekanand along with  Guru Turianand ji and Akharanand Ji  meditated here for eighteen days in 1890 when he was wandering and meditating at different places from 1888 till 1893 .

 

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Tungnath on way to Sri Badrinath

Tungnath  temple situated at the highest spot at the height of 3680 meters from the sea at Chandranath Parbat , 3 km trek from Chopta 2700 meters from sea,  it is dedicated to lord Shiva it is more than one thousand years old and of high importance of being at the highest elevation in the world and one of the Panch Kedars of lord Shiva, legend is when Pandva brothers were searching lord Shiva who went in hiding at Guptkashi and when Bhim recognized him among the bulls , lord Shiva dived in the earth , at Kedarnath his back in the form of hump is worshiped , here at Tungnath  lord Shiva’s arms appeared and are worshiped in that form it  is a swambhu limgam ( self manifest). Head appeared at Rudranath , naval at Madhayamaheswar and Jata (hair) at Kalpeshwer. 1.5 km from here Lord Ram meditated  at Chandrashila peak and Demon King Ravana also meditated here. From Chandrashila peak one can have a beautiful view of Trishul , Chaukhamba and Nanda Devi peaks

Tungnath Temple

The Lingam here is in form of a black rock tilted slightly on left , other idols are of Ma Parvati, The Nandi bull idol is facing the lord Shiva at the entrance , Lord Ganesha idol is on the right side of the entrance , the other idols are of Rishi Vyas and Kal Bhairav . There are also images of five Pandva brothers, the temple is said to be built by one of the Pandva brother Arjun who worshiped here. The temple style is similar to Kedarnath and Guptkashi temple.

This temple was discovered by Adi Guru Shankracharya in eight century. In winters the temple is closed and symbolic of the main deity is shifted to Mukunath near Ukhimath .

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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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My Yatra Chardham by Helicopter

Yatra Chardham in Uttrakhand Himalyas is one of the wishes of any Sanatan Hindu, it is the salvation of soul , our life of birth and rebirth is free from this cycle after making prayers at these places, the soul rests in peace or it attains the “Moksha“. Reaching by road to all four Dhams is long journey , difficult treks at Yamunotri and Shri Kedarnath , road journey from Joshimath to Shri Badrinath is very tiring . The opening of Helicopter services to all these places have cut down the journey from 12 days to 2-3 days it is a boon for the old aged and people with time constrain can fulfill their wishes.

The helicopter used in this tour were state of art BELL407 four seater along with the Pilot and Flight Engg. From Dehradun Sahstrdhara helipad, it takes 35 minutes flight to Kharsali , helipad is on the left bank of river Yamuna there is no motor able road from helipad one is to walk across the foot bridge to reach Janki Chatti, from Janki Chatti there is a 6 km. steep trek one is to climb from 2650 meters to reach Yamunotri temple at a height of 3293 meters, one can take a horse or Palanquins a chair which is carried by four porters . One can perform the puja and return to Janki Chatti and then crossed the river to helipad at Kharsali in 4 to 5 hours. There is a oldest Lord Shani Dev temple at Kharsali which is constructed like a fort made of stones and wood it is also called the Someshwer temple .

Flight from Kharsali to Harsil is of 30 minutes located at a height of 2623 meters from sea level , Harsil the Maha Prayag of nine rivers in to Bhagirathi and a temple didicated to lord Vishnu, place where lord Vishnu is in form of Shaligram at the confluence of river Jalandhari , Vishnu Ganga and Bhagirathi, we stayed at Harsil Retreat cottages next to the confluence , the Mah Prayag at river Bhagirathi, a beautiful village Dharali the last village on Indian side on Indo-Tebitean border is about two km from Harsil

Rishi Markandey Ashram which is marked by a white temple didicated to  Ma Bhagwati on the right banks of river Bhagirathi where he wrote the Durga Saptshati the first ever written text on the Godsess Durga .

After the night stay early morning we took a car arranged for us from Uttarkashi , road to Gangotri is 24 Km drive along the river Bhagirathi which crosses the Asia deepest Gorge near Bhairon Ghati , road is good, passing through dense pine forest and Apple orchards, except for few rough patches , before the temple there is an arched gate from here the main shrine is about 600 meters this temple is at a height of 3120 meters from sea level was built by Gurkha Army commander in early 18th century. the actual source of river Ganga is at Gaumukh which is a climb of a beautiful 18 km trek at a height of 4120 meters the Bhagirathi glacier which is fed by three glaciers namely the Raktvarn , the Chaturangi and the Kirti , the impressive Aarti is performed at Gangotri temple it is a stately affair on the banks of rushing holy river  Bhagirathi here, we return to Harsil for the night stay . Harsil is beautiful landscape full of Deodar and Pine trees with apple orchards and nine rivers ( Jalandhari, Vishnu Ganga, Bhim Ganga , Telangna, Lakshmi Ganga, Him Ganga, Pawan Ganga, Khir Ganga and Hatya Harini ) criss crossing and joining the Bahgirathi to form a Maha Prayag , from here there is a beautiful view of Mayank Parwat and Banderpunch range.

Mayank Parvat

Next morning after the early breakfast we reach the helipad at Harsil on the banks of river Bhagirathi it took a 45 minutes of flying over the Tehri Dam a lake a massive water body fourth largest in the world ,we change the helicopter at Phata and flew over the Mandakini river in a narrow valley to reach Kedarnath situated at a height of 3553 meters surrounded by snow-capped mountains , the main temple is about 600 meters from the helipad , one is to be careful not to walk fast here because of thin air low in oxygen can result in head ache and breathlessness.

deepest Gorge in Asia near Gangotri

Kedarnath is one of the twelve Jotirlings of Lord Shiva , the present structure is built by Adi Shankarcharya at the site which existed at the time of Mahabharta , Lord Shiva is worshiped of his Hump over ground at the entrance there is a Nandi Bull , it is also one of the Panch Kedars the body parts of Lord Shiva others are Tungnath , Rudranath, Madhmaheshwar and Kalpeshwer are in Uttrakhand while Pasupatinath is in Nepal. This temple is a massive rock stone structure fixed without the mortar surrounded by high snow covered mountains standing on a plateau in a glacier , there are several Kunds (pools, tanks) are known for their religious significance – Shivkund , Retkund, Hanskund , Udakkund, Rudhirkund are the most important. A little away from Kedarnath is a temple dedicated to Bhaironathji who is ceremoniously worshipped at the opening & closing of Kedarnath temple . The belief is that Bhairavnathji protects this land from evil during the time when temple of Kedarnath is closed in winters . just behind the temple is the Adi Shankaracharya samadhi , it is said that after establishing the Dhams The Shankaracharya at the age of 33 took the “Jal Samadhi” here. There is a priority darshan slip for the pilgrims arriving by helicopter at the main shrine .

It took about an hour and half to have darshan and to perform the pooja , we took our flight back to Phata where helicopter for flight for Sri Badrinath ji was waiting , 35 minutes flight over Rudra Pryag, Joshimath and having the view of Nanda Devi peak, Choukhamba peak and Hathi , Ghora, Palki peak we landed at helipad after taking a circle of the main temple which looked beautiful, from helipad the main temple is a small distance passing through the street with restaurants and shops on both sides, after crossing the Alaknanda river bridge is the main shrine , from out side the Blue , Red , White and Golden colour of main entrance, impressive gate look like a Budhist Mutt ,

This temlpe is about 1200 years old built by the Adi Shankaracharya to re establish the Sanatan Dharma which was being over took by Budhisim and Jainism , we were taken inside and seated just in front of the main deity for 15 minutes with the help of main pujari to perform the pooja The image of Badarinarayan here is made out of Saligram. Sri Badarinarayan is seen under the Badari tree, flanked by Kuber and Garuda, Narad, Narayan and Nar. Mahalakshmi has a sanctum outside in the parikrama Lord Badari Narayan (also called as Badari Vishal) is armed with Shankh (Conch) and Chakra in two arms in a lifted posture and two arms rested on the lap in Yogamudra.The principal image is of black stone and it represents Lord Vishnu seated in meditative pose.

We were overwhelmed after completing the pilgrimage which is one of the life time wish of a devout Hindu in a short time of just two days which normally takes 12-14 days if done by road , the flight back to Shastradhara was an hour flying over the river Alaknanda ,

confluences at Karnpryag , Rudrapryag and Devprayag from here it is known as the Ma Ganga , flows onwards to its journey to Rishikesh and down plains of North and East of India as a holy mother giving birth to the civilasations and making the land most fertile in Asia before entering into Bay of Bengal at Ganga Sagar , making a world famous delta in the Sundarbans with mighty Bharamputra river .

All above arrangements were handled by M/s PROMARK TRAVEL SVCS PVT LTD NEW DELHI  phone 09810506646

About the Author

[author]
[author_image timthumb=’on’]wp-content/uploads/authors/madhu.jpg[/author_image] Mrs. Madhu, Joint Director, Govt of Indiais currently in Parliament House Secretariat.She loves to travel to Religious Places in India.
[/author]

Helicopter Charter Chardham

We all gathered at Dehradun on a hot summer day, but comparatively cooler than Delhi. Stayed night at Hotel Pacific which is one of the best in this city. It was a nice Chinese dinner after a long time , we had to retire early as next day we were to be at helipad early in the morning.

Helicopter at Yamunotri , Kharsali helipad 

 

Senior Citizen pilgrims in Doli/palki from Kharsali helipad to Yamunotri

 

It was a nice day with a pleasant weather at helipad but little haze in the mountains. With lots of excitement we took off at 0800 hr. from Sahastradhara helipad for Kharsali , hovering over the green steps fields , small villages here and there.  In about 40 minutes we were at Kharsali helipad, recevied by our local representative Mr. Rajpal Rana, he lives next to the helipad and owns a peice land around and Janki Chatti it is on the left bank of River Yamuna approach is through a dirt road, the old bridge is closed as main road collasped and not yet repaired, a parallel small hanging bridge is being used to cross the river.

Janki Chatti bus stand and foot over bridge at Yamuna from Kharsali

 

When local people cross the river they pay their respect by bowing their head to the river. We had to hire the Palki or Doli, a light wodden chair carried by four men on their shoulders  from the helipad I hired a mule for 6 km a steep climb of 800 meters from Janki Chatti  to Yamunotri trek which is on the right bank of river it is narrow at many places the passage is cut through the rocks one is to take care of head due to low height of passage there are many tea and cold juice vendors, on the way people from all age groups walking and chanting “Jai Yamuna Maiya Ki”

Senior Citizen pilgrims carried in a basket chair on way to Yamunotri

Steep climb treak from Janki Chatti to Yamunotri after the bridge

I could see the faith on their faces in spite of tiredness due to difficult  climb , it took us about 2 hr to reach the main shrine the temple of Maa Yamunotri River which is on the left bank of stream comming down from the Kalind mountain the Champasar Glacier. This temple is tall  pyramid style structure painted yellow a strong contrast with surrounding, we performd the puja at Tapt Shila  which is just over a hot water spring the floor where we performed the puja was of white marble stone we could sit comfortable on warm surface had a darshan of Yamuna Maa in the temple after the puja , the water at hot water spring was boiling hot and pilgrims were cooking rice tied in a cloth  dipping it in the hot water, there is one more hot water spring whose water is less hot and pilgrims were taking bath before coming in for the puja at Tapt Shila.

Yamuna decending down from Kalind mountain and Yamunotri Temple

 

Tapt Shila , before the Yamunotri temple poja is first performed here

 

Soon after we started our journey back to Janki Chatti to take our chopper flight to Gangotri , on our way back mid way it started drizzling which is quite unpredictable, by the time we reached the helipad it started to pour we took shelter at Raj Singh’s house next to the helipad  there I got a call from the control room that  Choppers are stuck up in bad weather at Phata and Dehradun  there is no chance we were to be picked up from Kharsali for our onward destination  Harsil helipad , it started raining heavily  at Janki Chatti  Promark Travel representative Raj Singh arranged for two rooms with western toilets  Raj Singh also arranged the Doli for the us  transported from helipad to the guest house as it was pouring and the dirt road became slippery with out light it bacame more dangrous but the passage from Janki Chatti to Yamunotry we were told is always illuminated with high-powered lamps.

We spent our night in a small guest house called Modi Bhavan owned by one of the priest at Yamunotri temple , had our dinner just opposite the guest house it was pouring and cold but we enjoyed our hot simple dinner in candle light as there was no power but the trek to Yamunotri was well illuminated after the dinner we decided for next day to fly for Kedarnath instead of Gangotri if time allows we may do it after the Badrinath visit, I informed the headquarters about the change I was told the chopper will be there  at 0600 hr. to pick us up , it poured the whole night but early morning the chirping of birds assured me of clear weather before I could look out from the window.

We had a hot water in buckets for bath got ready, our porters were waiting for us they loaded the luggage and picked up the three dolis while I prefered to walk up to the helipad , Captain Ahluwalia was in time entered the valley and landed at the helipad he didn’t  switched off the engine and got us in the cabin and took off , we had a nice clear view of Bander Punch mountains and flew over the Tehri Dam on the way we were informed that there is no parking place at Badrinath helipad we may have to either wait at Gauchar or Phata helipad .

View of Bander Punch from the helicopter cockpit  

View of Bander Punch range from Helicopter

We landed at Phata where we changed the helicopter and took off to Badrinath after getting the clearance it took about an hour to reach there on the way had a beautiful view of Nanda Devi peak, Hathi Ghora Palki , Chukhamba peak , flew pass the beautiful entrance to the Valley of Flowers.

Mount Hathi Ghora Palki view from Helicopter on way to Sri Badrinath

 

Before landing at helipad the chopper took a circle of the Sri Badrinath temple the bright blue, red and golden painted entrance  more typical of a Buddhist temple is a contrast to the surrounding , it was clear sky but at a height 3133 meters from sea level and surrounded by Nar and Narayan peaks with Neelkanth peak in the back it was cold and windy out here our local representative Vineet was there to pick us up in a car to the main shrine which is about a kilometer from the helipad , passing through the shops and restaurants we crossed the bridge over the river Alaknanda.

Ariel View of Sri Badrinath temple on banks of Alaknanda

 

On the right bank of river is the Brham Kapal and the two hot water springs the Tapt kund where before entering the temple pilgrims take bath, we had the arrangements for a priority darshan which is with a fee paid to the shrine board , within few minutes we were allowed to enter the temple seated in the enclosed just opposite the main black stone statue of lord Badri Vishal representing lord Vishnu seated in a meditative pose along with Garuda and Godess Mahalaxmi, a ten minutes  puja with Sanskrit shlokas was performed by the priest who offered us the Prasad and the green Tulsi leaves garland of lord Badri Vishal as blessings, my heart was full of gratitude we came out in the market and informed Capt Ahluwalia to pick us up for our onward journey.

The main entrance to the Sri Badrinath Temple

We waited for about an hour at helipad finally sighted the chopper entering the valley it landed and we boarded the chopper within two minutes without switching off the rotors again we took off for a 45 minutes flight to Phata , we had to change to a six seat chopper for Kedarnath , it took off and within minutes we were in a narrow valley flying over the river Mandakini I can never forget this 15 minute  flight as it gave me a feeling of a 3D movie show .

Entering the narrow valley from Phata to Kedarnath flight over Mandakini

 

Flying in the narrow valley to Sri Kedarnath 

We landed at the height of 3384 meters from sea level helipad and wanted to walk up to the shrine but one of the lady felt breathless due to thin oxygen we waited and hired two porters to carry the old ladies on their back for a distance of  800 meters , we showed the priority darshan slip to the office just next to the main temple  were escorted by a  priest,  lots of pilgrims were inside and it was almost free for all with no control over the crowd , facing the  main entrance is the big statue of the Nandi the bull , the main temple is made of big blocks of stone and one wonders as to how without facilities this construction job would have been done without using any kind of mortar to grip the stones together 1000 years ago . we entered the first room where there are statues of the five Pandavas brothers and the Dropdi ,after crossing the narrow door with stone foot steps  in the Garbh Griha is the main Sadashivam lord Shiva in a form of conical rock is worshiped , we sat there for a while performed puja I offered almonds which I had carried with me from Delhi , came out and took a  parikarma of temple , there were lots of sadhus devoties of lord Shiva each one a unique in appearance bare foot nominal or no cloths on body , the weather was clear and warm but with chill in the air the small dhabahs serving pakoras and samaosa tempted us to have it with tea while waiting at helipad , we took off and flew back to Phata where our chopper was waiting for us, we inquired from the captain if he can take us to Gangotri , he informed that it was not the right time as the weather can change any time in the afternoon there .

Sri Kedarnath temple view from the main street

We decided to return to Sahastradhara / Dehradun flying over the Rudra Pryag, Karan Pryag , Srinagar watching the confluences of rivers Alakhnanda and Bhagirathi  to form river Ganga finally at Dev Prayag , at Rishikesh an hours flight we turned right  in the direction of Dehradun leaving behind the river Ma Ganga  landed at Shastrdhara helipad , we had to wait for some time for our car to pick us up to our hotel as roads were blocked due to felling of trees on the previous days hail storm, we had a nice diner at hotel slept with fond memories of a life time wish fulfilled.

 

About the Author

[author]
[author_image timthumb=’on’]wp-content/uploads/authors/anil-rajput.jpg[/author_image] Anil Kumar Rajput – Managing Director at Promark Travel, is in the travel trade since 1980. For more Info Do Visit (promarktravels.com) which caters all the travel needs of it’s clients. Connect with him on Facebook (htttp://www.facebook.com/anil.k.rajput) and Twitter (@PromarkTravels)
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