We are on our return journey now moving towards Haridwar, after completing our Char Dham yatra successfully. Throughout our journey god has been kind to us. After Badrinath, we visited Mana, Joshimath - the winter seat of Lord Badrinath, and Vishnuprayag, where the river Alakananda meets Dhouli Ganga or Doodh Ganga. From the ropeway bridge built across the river Alakananda, the confluence of rivers provides a spectacular picture. Well ! The view of well-structured steps provoked my husband and he decided to reach the river meeting spot. “ You can come too…the steps are easy” he offered. “ Madamji…if you go you will take additional 30 minutes to come back….don’t blame me later for not showing you other interesting places” warned Uday – our guide cum driver. Since the entire trip is time-bound, I had no option but to wait. I stood watching my husband Kanta effortlessly climbing down some 300 mts, relaxing himself sitting on the banks of the river Alakananda…. How I hate myself for pushing myself into this situation. ‘O’ traveler please remember, pony or palanquin services are available at only select places, so, if you as a traveler want to experience every bit of the Himalayas, keep yourself fit. Kanta, looked quite pleased with his quick adventure. The moment he returned without wasting anytime we were back on road moving now towards Nandprayag. Nandprayag A small town Nandaprayag is at a distance of 70 km from Vishnuprayag- i.e approximately 2.30hrs drive. This place today is known for the sacred confluence of the river Alaknanda and river Nandakini. Situated at an altitude of 870 mts Nandprayag has Nand temple built by Raja Nand. It is indeed a blissful sight to watch the river Nandakini, which takes birth at the foothills of the Nanda Devi Peak. Nandaprayag was once the capital of Yadu Kingdom. Raja Nanda performed ‘yagna’ on a stone which was later used as the foundation of the Nand temple situated in Nandprayag. Like in any confluence of rivers, it is believed that a holy dip in the confluence of Nandprayag is capable of washing all the sins. Karnprayag The next stop is at Karnprayag, which is at a distance of 21 km from Nandprayag. Here, the river Pindar which originates from Pindari glacier meets river Alakananda. Surrounded by glittering Himalayan ranges like Trishul, Nanda Devi, Drona Giri, among others, Karnaprayag offers a picture-perfect backdrop for a nature lover. Like any other place, Karnaprayag takes us to the period of Mahabharat, with an interesting story attached to highlight the significance of the place. It is believed that it is at Karnaprayag, during Mahabharath times, Karna, is believed to have worshipped the Sun God. It is also believed that Lord Krishna cremated Karna here after being killed by Arjuna- one among the Pandava brothers, in the war of Kurukshetra. At Karnaprayag, we see an ancient temple devoted to goddess Uma. There are shreds of evidence, that many great gurus like Swami Vivekananda had chosen Karnaprayag for meditating. Karnaprayag being the sub-divisional headquarters of Chamoli district, we get good networking roads from here to go to interesting places like Almora, Nainital and Jim Corbett National Park. In Search of a lodging facility That particular day, we saw many Sikh enthusiasts traveling in the opposite direction. Why so many Sikh travelers? I asked. Uday shrugged off saying like any others they are also traveling. Husband said “as it is weekend may be there are going to Govind Ghat or Hemkund Sahib, which is a pious place for Sikhs”. But I was not convinced, there should be something else which is significant, otherwise, every motor that travels in the opposite direction need not belong to a Sikh traveler. Before I opened my mouth to probe further, both men quietened me saying that the problem now was to search for a suitable place to stay that night as we were running behind schedule and it was getting dark every minute. We crossed many small cities, looking out for suitable place to stay. Though we found some, a majority of the accommodations did not fulfill our basic requirements, finally, we found one at Nagrasu. Though this suitable accommodation did not provide us food facility it was reasonably clean and safe. Since a majority of travelers reach their pre-booked accommodation on time, it is rather difficult to search for suitable accommodation at the last moment. Since we had cancelled our pre-booked accommodation, we were in search of a new one. Yes, cancellation did cause little disturbance, but we were doubly content and happy about the experiences we had at each of the stops. We had food in the nearby dhabha. Saw many families of Sikh tourists, in the nearby lodging facility, it should be some important day! We could hear ‘Kirtan’ played on the loudspeaker. ‘Is there a Gurudwara nearby’?…. no one answered my question. Body was so tired that mind had no energy to make further enquiries. A Gurudwara without ‘langar’- the kitchen is unimaginable. My heart craved for food from the ‘langar’ as our tired bodies slipped into a deep sleep. ‘O’ traveler please remember The ‘panch prayags’- the confluence spots where river Alkananda meets other rivers at five different places, are nothing but hidden treasures of the Himalayas. Least a traveler can do is take a small nature walk. If you are blessed with time, do not hesitate to visit the small hamlets in and around, to understand local culture and interact with people to understand their customs. The most enchanting thing to do in these five places is to meditate and have a hearty interaction with your soul. Prayags are perfect places to meditate, as these unspoiled places basking with energetic surroundings, provide rich air, water, and sky that will not cleanse just your body but also your heart and soul. O Himalaya, I salute you again and again. Dr. Nandini Lakshmikantha
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