In our successfully completed Char Dham Yatra, we had an overwhelmingly refreshing experience at the Mana village – the last village on Indo-Sino border. We did our little shopping, and we were back on the roads. As Uday, our guide cum driver efficiently managed the wheels, we got lost in the scenic beauty and got engulfed in it. Our heart sang, O Himalayas, you are mightier and higher than to any other mountain ranges of the world. The bonding established between you and every Indian is eternal. You rightly deserve the status of our protector O Himalayas. You are not only rich in flora and fauna but also are full of mystic and mythic aura. I wish to explore you again and again.
In our journey for today, we were now moving toward “panch prayags”– confluence of important rivers at five different places and Joshimath- the winter house of Lord Badrinath.
How to reach Joshimath
Joshimath or Jyotirmath, as popularly known is situated in the Chamoli District of Uttarakhand State. It is generally considered as the gateway to several Himalayan expeditions. Located at a height of 6150ft, Joshimath is at 224 km distance from Rishikesh. A good 8.30 hours’ drive on the terrain is quite enchanting. Though the State Road Transport buses directly bring the traveller to Joshimath, for a nominal charge. I suggest that a tourist might take rather a taxi as there are many interesting places on the way. But, this would stretch your journey time which exactly happened with us. Every interesting spot we stopped delayed our pre-planned schedule, that we had kept a buffer time of 36 hours, we continued to be relaxed. Well, that is the next part of our story. Remember right now we are traveling from Mana to Joshimath, the distance between the two is 48 km and the time has taken is one hr and 45minutes. Please remember all the time mentioned depends on the traffic and road conditions at the time of travel.
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What to see in Joshimath
Joshimath is home to one of the four cardinal ‘pithas’ established by Guru Adi Shankaracharya. This tinsel town is considered sacred as the winter seat of Lord Badrinath. Like Kedarji, who comes to Ukhimath in ‘doli ‘- palanquin, Badrinarayanji is brought in a ‘doli’ to Vasudeva temple. Believed to be built in the 8th century, by the Guru Adi Shankara has a huge, mulberry tree in its premises. This mulberry tree which is said to be around 2400 years old is located atop a cave where Adi Guru meditated. The tree is also called as Kalpavriksha-and people offer their respects to the tree.
Joshimath has other temples Narasimha, Hanuman, Gaurishankar, Ganesh, Nandadevi, and Surya. The most famous among them is Narsimha temple. Records detail that the temple was established in 8th century by King Lalitaditya Yukta. The statue of Lord is finely carved of Saligram.
Places in and around Joshimath
There are many important places in and around Joshimath. Some of them I have listed here. I could not go to these places due to constraints of time. I will make it sure not to miss them during my next journey.
As we travel towards Vishnuprayag on the way we come across Hanuman Chatti, that has a mythological significance. It is believed to be a place where Bheem- one of the Pandava brothers, was humiliated by Hanuman, for his arrogance. A temple of Hanuman is built signifying the importance.
As we move from Badrinath to Rishikesh, among the five prayags or a confluences of important rivers, the first one we arrive is Vishnuprayag. It is here in Vishnuprayag the river Alakananda meets Dhauli Ganga River. Alakananda, after her long journey from the eastern slopes of Chaukamba, meeting the river Saraswati at Mana, passing through Badrinath reaches Vishnuprayag. t Dhauli Ganga River, originates from Niti Pass (an international mountain pass connecting Northern part of India and Southern Tibet. It is an autonomous region of China). Alakananda at this stretch is also known as Vishnu Ganga.
A confluence of rivers is considered a pious place according to the Hindu belief. This confluence is blessed with a mythological belief. It is believed that at this place Sage Narada offers prayers to Lord Vishnu and pleases the Lord, thus adding more importance to the Confluence. As we look down, from the bridge, we will see a temple built in an octagonal shape, at the confluence which is believed to be built by Maharani of Indore during 1889. A well-constructed stairway with approximately 300 to 350 steps from the road leads to the confluence called Vishnu Kund.
Hemkund: Situated 20 km away from Joshimath, this place is considered important for the Hindus and Sikhs. It has an interesting narrative. Guru Govind Singh is believed to have meditated on the shores of the lake. With seven snow-covered peaks surrounding, Sri Hemkund Lake is believed to be heaven on this earth. Those who are interested in trekking can find lodging in Joshimath. A trek of 20km takes us to Ghangaria also known as Govind Dham or Valley of Flowers. People can utilize the services of a horse. The trek is believed to be tough but will bring constant delight to the trekkers due to the beautiful surroundings. The valley is always filled with ethe nchanting fragrance of flowers.
Auli: Auli is an enticing village near Joshimath. Auli Ski Resort is connected by cable car from Joshimath. The place is favourite for skiing sport of both professionals and amateurs.
Camping: There are many hotels and Dharamshalas that provide the best lodging facilities to the travellers. There are some lodgers who encourage camping, which is another delight here. Sleeping under the starlit sky is something every tourist must experience. Tourists can hire tents or can bring their own tents.
Nanda Devi: Trekkers’ delight, Nanda Devi is known for its biosphere. Recognized as a place of World Heritage by the UNESCO.
‘O’ Traveller, please Remember
Traveling in the Himalayan Ranges is not only enchanting or pleasurable but also enriching. Plan meticulously and research well before you start your journey. Keep buffer time, so that if there are a place or two within reach, you don’t miss them due to paucity of time. Keep not only your bag light but also mind and heart. Enjoy every moment. Enjoy ever curve of the terrain to unfold new experience.
Dr. Nandini Lakshmikantha