Saturday, June 20, 2009


Badri Nath Temple

Badrinath is also called the valley of flowers and it was such an enchanting experience seeing the flowers of different hues in full bloom. It is 11000 feet above sea level.


Valley View - Badri Nath

In Badrinath the tributary of Ganges is Alakananda. We have to cross a bridge to reach the temple and river Alkananda was flowing with all her might beneath it. It was really a scene worth watching and we stayed on the bridge for a while. Here too there is a hot water spring called Tapt Kund (which means boiling water) and pilgrims were taking a dip (no chance of taking a dip only one can take mugs full and splash it little by little, it will be striking hot when it hits you and biting cold next moment because of the strong shivery breeze) ‘a natural Jacuzzi’, before paying obeisance to lord Badri Narayan. My husband and my son also had a refreshing bath in the hot waters, only thing was there was no mug and they had to use their hands which were like a red Bangalore tomato after the bath. It was so hot that we could see the steam emanating. We found all places were very clean though thousands of people were using the Tapt Kund.

River Alakananda

The temple was established by Swami Sankaracharaya and has an entrance attractively painted with myriad colours. We had a darshan in the evening itself and went for grub. Here we could find many restaurants offering even South Indian cuisine. My SIL ordered idli delightedly which was served with sambar and chutney. When she sunk her teeth in the idli for the first bite one of her teeth started shaking and after effect of the chutney left her making her day miserable till we reached Haridwar, the next day evening. Those who skipped chutney were spared. Fruits were rare sight here. We could very easily get to see red, yellow and green bananas in many parts of India, here we got to see black bananas. (Over ripe & shriveled with black skin). Night we stayed in a dharamsala which offered us a big room end to end carpeted and only quilts. We retired early as usual because there was no power. When we woke up next day we found that there had been a snowfall during the night which we unfortunately missed to see and it was not very heavy as well, to affect our return journey.

Badri Village

The ride down was pleasant for a couple of hours until we missed a speed breaker near a bridge and pretty soon our car started giving peculiar music. Balbir a very sharp driver he is promptly diagnosed the problem as the plug below the engine casing had given off emptying the whole of engine oil. Though the upward journey had many stoppages for watering we never had hiccup like this and every body was anxious.

Balbir went to the nearby town and got a mechanic for repairs and we rested under the comforting shades of a tree and enjoyed the presence of Alakananda flowing by our side.

Then we headed straight to Haridwar as my SIL fell sick. We skipped Hrishikesh but we could get a glimpse of the famous Lakshman Jhula, the hanging bridge at Hrishikesh.

We reached Haridwar in the evening and we stayed at Kashi Math. We could see the Ganga arthi that evening and next day we spent some time in shallow part of the Ganges enjoying its coolness.

We had Delhi and Agra on our itinerary and left for the same. SIL, MIL & BIL, wanted to spend some more time at Haridwar and later they visited Hrishikesh also.

We saw Birla Mandir and Bahai temple in Delhi along with other tourist places & had a brief visit to Agra. Later our Haridwar team joined us for the return journey to Chennai. The return journey was uneventful; and we relaxed very well.

Many had asked me before I started the journey Why pilgrimage at such a young age? I had answers for all of them. Go and enjoy the pilgrimage if you are interested especially to Himalayas when you are young and kicking as the journey is tough. It’s altogether a different kind of experience.

This was only a beginning. My husband and I decided that we should visit as many temples as possible and indeed we did. So keep watching for my interesting travel posts.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Our stay in Chamoli - an unforgettable experience

The journey from Kedar was pretty long and we reached Chamoli district which is located in the Garhwal Himalayas of Uttaranchal around 6 P.M.The district is largely inhabited by Tibetans.

We were advised not to travel as we had to cross the forests to reach Gopeshwar which was only about 25-35 kms. With our super heating car it would have taken at least another two hours if we were to travel there for the night stay. We heard that there was a government tourist bungalow and when we decided to camp for the night, well it indeed turned out to be a camp really as we found the only tourist bungalow at Chamoli was fully occupied. We were little anxious as it was getting dark. A man on the road suggested that some accommodation could be available in a small village little ahead. When we reached there what we found were some tin shacks and a family was coming out nodding their heads unhappily. We learnt that they were unhappy with the accommodation and rejected the same .So, when we reached the owner; he readily offered us the rooms which we gladly accepted because of the predicament we were in.

We found the owner to be very kind and he offered us hot coffee which was refreshing after a long drive but for small halt for lunch in between. We felt it was like a heaven for us. For dinner his family prepared nice phulkas and bindi masala which was delicious, which even now we recall quite often. We posed with his daughter and took snaps. As we were very tired, we straight away hit the bed. No sooner had we done so, it started pouring heavily and the tin roof made it a nice jazz and we slept blissfully. There were only 2-3 cots in the room and bed was hard and the quilt was cold but at that time it felt like five star comfort. Next day when we started early for the Badri journey we saw the family which had rejected the accommodation the previous night, standing under a shelter beside their car. They too were scared to travel in the night through the forest and probably took shelter there. We really wondered how horrible it would have been for them in the miserable cold and wet night which really would have been ours but for their rejection of that shack. Probably this is what people mean when they say the fortune favours the brave.

Happy Moments In Chamoli

From Chamoli, 2 1/2 km. up through a trek is Tunganath temple, it is one among the Panch Kedar temples, but we skipped that as it was not in our itinerary and nobody was in a mood to climb for a 5 km. up and down trek.

As soon as we left Chamoli we were into the forest .The journey was pleasing for the eyes as there was greenery and colorful wild flowers all around and we could see lot of birds and small animals crossing our path at regular intervals. We reached Gopeswar in a couple of hours and we found that was the largest town till then and decided to have our break fast there. After a halt of an hour relishing on Aloo parottas with Dahi and pickles we set forth towards Badri “The Valley of Gods.”

The next halt was Joshi Math which was around 30-40 kms. drive and it took us a couple of hours. We had to wait for our turn for the drive to Badri as only one way traffic was between Joshi math and Badri, the roads being very narrow and it could take one vehicle to pass at a time in one direction. No over taking was allowed and in many places molten streams of snow crossed the roads making the journey even slower. We found on one side the slippery mountain of melting snow and on the other side it was a 200 meters drop into the ravines below. The journey was scary and exciting and we got so absorbed in the surroundings that we never felt we had spent the next 2 hours as we approached Badri.

To be continued….
See you soon.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Off to Kedarnath- 12000 ft. above sea level

Early morning we set off to Kedarnath. It took about 2- 3 hours to reach Gouri kund, the base camp from where the trek starts. No vehicles can go beyond this point as there are no proper roads. Gouri kund has hot springs & many were taking bath in it. It was surprising to see hot springs in that place. Kedarnath is 14 kms from Gouri kund and one has to rely on pony, palki or baskets which are carried by pahadis (People living on hilly terrain) on their backs. Many choose to go on foot. We hired 2 ponies, for my SIL and me, a palki for MIL and my husband and BIL decided to go on foot. Walking sticks were available for a nominal rent.

The air was cool and pollution free. Everything was perfectly set and I mounted the horse along with my son. My sonny was comfortable but when the pony started moving my head reeled and I screamed. My throat went dry and I wanted to jump down. It took a while for me to settle down and after a while we set off.

Soon I became comfortable and started enjoying the upward trek taking in all the pristine beauty of nature. The path was narrow and at times the pony jumped to avoid big rocks and my heart came to my mouth. My son was enjoying the ride. Little boys of 7-8 years were manning the ponies and mine was also managed by a small boy. They are very casual in managing the ponies as they are very familiar with the surroundings. At one point he just left the pony and it was moving on its own. While taking a turn it went close to the edge of the cliff and stood there. I thought that was the end of my journey.


We decided to skip lunch and took rest & had tea in the afternoon. My SIL was with me but I could not find other members. The saddle was biting into my flesh and I was finding it difficult to move my legs with my son in front so I shifted him in MIL’s Palki when I met her. We reached Kedarnath in 5 hrs. My hubby and brother in law took about 9 hrs and for last 1 km. which was quite steep; they too used ponies as it was getting dark. But till 8 p.m day light was there which was surprising.

We got accommodation again in Kali kambli (it is run by Rajasthanis) and we got into something like a hut. Inside was dark as there was no electricity, as during the snow fall previously the electricity had been switched off and we were one of the early pilgrims that season & they informed us that it will take another week to re start the supply. We were not sure how that room looked. Due to tiredness, MIL & SIL called it a day and got into the bed. They decided to visit the temple the next day. Outside our room it was full of snow which was slippery as it had started melting.

Then we went to the temple and had Darshan of Kedarnath. At night we were served hot rotis but by the time it reached our hands it turned cold. A sigree (A stove like thing in which burning coal is kept) was kept in the room for keeping us warm and we switched it off when we went to sleep as it is harmful to keep burning coal in a closed room.

Next day we went to the temple performed pooja and we could actually touch the Siva lingam which is in the form of a pyramid. Here we can perform our poojas and all that is required for the same is available at the entrance itself.

Our Team with Kedar Nath temple in the background

Morning light gave us a clear picture of the surroundings. The Scenery was of the snow covered Himalayas was breath taking (even other wise one gets breathless as the oxygen in the high altitude is low) and we could see only snow covered mountains all around. I felt we had reached the heaven finally.
Snow covered Kedar Mountains

Accommodation is not a problem in Kedar Nath but it is wise to plan well before taking the journey. There are many dharamsalas and hotels around the temple.

After the pooja we started our journey downwards. This time both men in our team, also used ponies to reach the base fast as we wanted to leave for Badrinath on the same day.

To be continued…

Friday, June 12, 2009

Deva Prayag and Rudra Prayag

Deva Prayag and Rudra Prayag
Then our journey to Himalayas started. Balbir was very busy as the car started huffing and puffing every few kilometers. The car’s radiator had to be cooled and we had to pour water in it. As there were natural springs this did not pose a problem. As we were going up and up the scenery became more beautiful; one side it was mountain ranges and on the other side we could see many villages on the banks of Ganges. At some places the river was flowing calmly like a stream and at some places we could see fury of the river flowing with strong currents.

We also saw forest fire and small pieces burning wood sliding down on to the road. There is also threat of landslides in this hilly terrain which was experienced by my cousin and they were stranded for a day. But luckily for us we encountered no such problem.

First we reached Deva Prayag which is situated 90 km. from Hrishikesh. Here river Alakanada meets river Bhagirathi, after the confluence it is known as Ganga. It is a holy place where Lord Rama had performed worship to God to wash away his sins after killing Ravana.

We didn’t spend much time D.Prayag as we wanted to reach Rudra Prayag before night fall. This is also a holy place, one of the Pancha Prayags. Here river Mandakini meets Alakanda. It was slightly a bigger town and we decided to stay here for the night. We had food in small hotel and they suggested us a dharamsala Kali kambli for our stay. Kali kambli had spacious rooms and attached bathrooms. Here we had a restful sleep. We also found river Mandakini (tributary of Ganges) roaring beneath our room with strong currents. It was really a beautiful sight. The next stage of our trip was to Kedarnath and we decided to start early morning the next day.

To be continued….

See you soon.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Kedar Nath and Badri Nath- A Trip to Heaven and Back.

We decided to go on a pilgrimage to Kedarnath and Badrinath in May 1991.At that time my son was 4 1/2 years. My SIL, BIL, MIL were in our team. Many discouraged me telling that it would be very cold and may be difficult for my son, who was allergic to cold climate. Some teased me that we were undertaking a pilgrimage at a young age. But we went ahead with our decision and let me tell you that we enjoyed every moment of it & the same has etched vivid pictures of that in my memory and even after two decades I am able to recall it very clearly.

We embarked on the journey with so much excitement as this was the first time we were going to see snow covered Himalayas. We took the train to Delhi on May 20th. 21st was uneventful as far as we were concerned as we spent the day by eating, sleeping and chatting in Tamilnad express. But next day i.e. 21st of May, some thing was in store for us. On that day, as we were reaching Delhi station a coach attendant rushed to us and told us to down the shutters of all the windows. We got worried at the sudden turn of events. We did not understand what was happening but we knew that something was wrong. We heard from the coach attendant that Mr. Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in Chennai and we were shocked. He also said as our train was from Chennai they wanted to avoid any untoward incidents. We really got scared, I called and prayed to, all the Gods I knew and we thought that was the end of our journey.

When we reached Delhi station we heard that all the trains were cancelled and there was a kind of tension in the whole city. We had to catch the Dehradun express that night and we knew we had to resort to some other mode of transport.

First thing we wanted was to get out of the railway station, as we feared some disturbance. No buses or taxis were plying in the city. Every thing had come to a sudden halt. So we went to the Rail yatri niwas which was close by and thankfully got accommodation which gave us great relief. We stayed there anxiously worried, doing nothing as there were no mobile phones then. We wanted to get out of Delhi as early as possible as there was an uneasy calm in the city.

Next day my husband’s colleague helped us to get a taxi up to Haridwar which was our first scheduled halt and we thought we would think about our further journey once we reached there. Our taxi driver was a young cheerful sardar called Balbir. As we were nearing Meerut we heard it was under curfew and we took a by pass on the way to Haridwar. My husband asked Balbir if he would take us to Kedar and Badri. He agreed readily to our great relief, the repercussions of it we had to endure through out our subsequent eight days.

We reached Haridwar in 4-5 hours and we went straight to Kasi Math, where we had planned our stay at Haridwar. They provided us with excellent accommodation and homely food particularly Konkani cuisine. We felt safe in the confines of the Veda Vyasa Mandir which was inside Kasi math . To our great relief the authorities informed us that there was no harm in continuing our journey further up. We stayed in Haridwar visiting Hari Ki Pauri where evening aarti to Ganges is performed. We strolled along the banks of Ganges for a while, taking in all the charm of the river. Next few days We had this river by our side through out our journey up The Himalayas.

Next day was Sunday and we left early morning at 7 am on our Kedar, Badri mission. We just passed Hrishikesh and climbed around 5 kms. and we got the first check post. To our surprise we learnt that all vehicles beyond that check post requires a hill permit which our vehicle did not have and which Balbir conveniently forgot to inform us earlier. To our relief we found that temporary permits could be obtained from an office close by. We turned back to locate the office and promptly found it to be closed, that being a Sunday. On enquiry we found the officer was living close by. With great difficulty we located his house. It was around 9 ‘o clock and our officer was busy sleeping. On knocking his door he got up reluctantly and informed us he would come to the office shortly and asked us to wait in the office. We returned and completed our break fast and waited patiently. It was nearly lunch time when he came and by the time we left completing all the formalities it was noon. With glee in our mind and cheer in our heart finally we set course. “KEDAR BADRI HERE WE COME.”


To be continued….