Close To My Heart - An Uttarakhand diary

Seenawil

Member
Badrinath:

The next day at 8am we started our journey to Badrinath. We could see a lot of monks on the way to Badrinath. Most of them were walking barefooted and some of them had Polythene covers/clothes covering their feet. I could also see a heartening sight of pilgrims traveling in Buses & other vehicles distributing food & Umbrellas to the monks. We crossed the roads to Valley of Flowers & Hemkunt Sahib. We encountered some Water crossings on the road since there were some small waterfalls flowing across the road. And due to that at some places the Army personnel enforced one way traffic to avoid any traffic jams but yet we were stuck at several places in minor jams. We used those forced breaks constructively to click as many pictures as we could. We also took a lot of photos at Rudraprayag the confluence of Alakananda & Mandakini Rivers.

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Badrinath which is also known as Dev bhoomi is at an altitude of 11200ft in the Garhwal Himalayas. Legend has it that Lord Vishnu came to the area, called ‘Badri Van’, or the berry garden, to meditate after Narad rebuked the Lord for being immersed in worldly pleasures. The main deity worshipped in the temple is a one meter tall statue of Vishnu as Lord Badrinarayan, made of black stone. According to legend Shankara discovered a black stone image of Lord Badrinarayan made of Saligram stone in the Alaknanda River. He originally enshrined it in a cave near the Tapt Kund hot springs. In the sixteenth century, the King of Garhwal moved the murti to the present temple.

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Taking a break.

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The snow-covered Himalayan Mountains surrounding Badrinath was a magnificent sight. It never bored me and I still feel that I couldn’t get enough of it. There were lot of varied sights in front of the temple. Some were begging, few hotels were distributing free food, some people were taking a bath in the Alakananda River in front of the temple and there were lot of roadside hawkers too.

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The Bus was providing them some shade.

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Badrinath Temple.

We kept our helmets safely in a nearby Tea shop and were sipping Tea outside and that’s when I came across a sight which shook my mind. There were lot of people, some below 18 and few were very aged and a lot of them looked frail but they had one thing in common – They were all carrying more healthier & well-built people seated in a Basket on their backs and were climbing the steep paths over there. I spotted one youth talking casually on his mobile cosily seated in a basket and was being carried over. I couldn’t somehow digest that and my gaze first fell on that guy’s face who was carrying that youth and then to his legs which was bearing all the weight. Captain read my mind and told me don’t you worry – They are Sherpas and it is their livelihood. That certainly gave me a different perspective but still I lost all the happiness that I had till that moment. I just asked myself why are they coming to see the Bhagawan? If they come like this will the Lord be happy & bless them? Why is the Govt not seeing this? Aren’t they also humans? The questions were many but unfortunately none of them had answers and suddenly my thoughts were broken.

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A monk who had swelling on his leg with some puss oozing out came near me. He had wound his leg with some plastic sheet & a piece of cloth. He asked me whether I could buy Chappals for him. I was helpless & failed to respond since the money that I had in my Jeans pocket would not suffice for that and my purse was far away in the Car. Seeing my predicament Captain pulled out Rs.200/- from his pocket and handed it over to me. I thanked his wonderful gesture and took Akash along to a nearby shop and got a pair of footwear for the hapless monk. And that act made me feel happy and certainly I got a spring in my step.


Mana the last Indian village before the Tibetan/Chinese border is just 3km from Badrinath. The 538km long NH-58 which starts from Ghaziabad, UP ends in Mana. And another 24km journey from Mana village will take you to the Mana Pass at an altitude of 18192ft which is the actual border between India & Tibet/China. I really wished to go there but we were short on time and most of our team members opted not to go there so sadly my wish was not fulfilled.

We returned to Joshimath via Auli and unfortunately due to minor landslides we were stuck on the road for few hours. We could only continue our journey after the ever reliable B.R.O (Border Roads Organisation) which is part of the Army cleared the roads and made it motorable again.

We also took a short photo break to click pictures at Devaprayag - the confluence of Bhagirathi & Alakananda Rivers to form the holy Ganga River.

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Devaprayag.
 
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Seenawil

Member
Auli:

This lovely hill station was just 12kms away from Joshimath. According to some experts Auli is probably one of the best Skiing resorts in the World. Roads & pathways lined with Coniferous & Oak trees and surrounded by spectacular snow-capped Himalayan peaks make Auli a dreamy destination.

We were booked at a picturesque hut. It had a neatly manicured lawn, beautiful garden and stylishly designed chairs for us to relax. We put those chairs to good use while chatting away to glory admiring the beautiful sights all around. And behind us there were the snow-capped Haathi Parbat, Thrishul Parbat etc. The resort manager warned us from venturing out in the night since there have been attacks by wild animals in the past.

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Taking a break.

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Waiting for BRO to clear the road after an unexpected landslide.

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Beautiful vistas all around.

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The winding roads.

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Seenawil

Member
Next day morning I spotted a house on the mountainside a little away above our huts. I was curious to know more and reached there by climbing few steep inclines & steps. I probably went there at a wrong time. The family was upset since some wild animals had destroyed their crops. I spotted total of 3 huts there in that area. All of them were made of Grass & Mud. And there were some resorts too but not many of them. I was told that during the winter season these families shift to Joshimath and return when it is over. The couple staying there told me that they have 2 daughters and both of them were married & settled. They were leaving a peaceful & contented life and they were courteous enough to show me a Rock which resembled a Snake.

Off all the places we had been Auli was the most beautiful, serene & less crowded one. By 9am we rode the Cable Car to reach some height. At 4km long this Cable Car was the longest in Asia. I felt that Auli is a hidden Gem not known to many people. Maybe I’m wrong and we were probably there at the least crowded time. The ride on the Cable Car gave us some splendid sights and I will never forget them. Once we reached the top there were lot of options for the tourists like Adventure trips, Telescopes, Horse riding and many more. And from there we could also get to see the glorious Nanda Devi peak, and at 25643ft it is the 2nd highest mountain in the country after Kanchenjunga. I was told that it is not as up close to reach there. It takes minimum of 15-20 days trekking to reach there it seems.

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Loved this road.

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A view of our Huts from the top.

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What better setting for a Morning Tea?

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Cable Car station.

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Cable Cars in motion.

We returned to the resort and spent some time chatting in the beautiful lawn. Captain was complaining that he could not go to Namaaz on that Friday. I was quick to pounce on him and remarked that his real fault is not praying on the bed in the morning while waking up and in the night before sleep. Herbert & Carol had a question too – How many more days should we stay Vegetarian? And I never let such a Golden chance go waste and complained about missing Non-Veg food and that really worked and our wish was soon granted. Captain ordered to get 3 Halal Chicken from Joshimath and poor Akash had a task at hand now and the resort owners too showed some consideration towards us. So finally after many days we had Chicken dishes on our table and everyone were happy. Since the Char Dham yatra was in progress only Vegetarian food was available everywhere. We left Auli the next day and proceeded to Srinagar and from Srinagar we moved to Haridwar.
 

hensil

Guru
Your log has begun like a novel. Nice pictures also.
I am very eager to read your complete log as I'm traveling to Uttrakhand on 20th September 2013 for a week.
Henry
 

Seenawil

Member
Haridwar:

It is the place where the Holy River Ganga flows to the plains of North India after originating at Gomukh, part of the Gangothri glacier and coursing 253kms through mountains, valleys & ridges before hitting the flatlands.

This is what Wikipedia has to say about how Haridwar got its name.

The name of the town has two spellings: Hardwar and Haridwar. Both of these names have their own connotation. In Sanskrit, Har means "Lord Shiva" and dwar means "gate" or "gateway". Hence, Hardwar stands for "Gateway to Lord Shiva". Hardwar has been a typical place to start a pilgrim's journey in order to reach Mount Kailash, the eternal abode of Lord Shiva, Kedarnath, the northermost Jyotirlinga and one of the sites of the smaller Char Dham pilgrimage circuit and Gaumukh, the source of River Ganga. Har-ki-Paudi or footsteps of Lord Shiva is considered the most sacred site in Hardwar.

On the other hand, Hari means "Lord Vishnu". So, Haridwar stands for "Gateway to Lord Vishnu". In order to reach Badrinath, one of the four Char Dhams, with a temple of Lord Vishnu, Haridwar is a typical place to start a pilgrim's journey. Therefore, the name Haridwar.

Haridwar is also known as the home of Devi Sati and the palace of her father Daksha. In ancient times, the town was also referred to as Gangadwára (गंगाद्वार), the place where the Ganges descends to the plains.

Once in every 12 years Haridwar plays host to the largest pilgrimage on Earth – The Kumbh Mela. It is held every third year at one of the four places by rotation: Haridwar, Allahabad (Prayaga), Nashik and Ujjain. Thus the Kumbh Mela is held at each of these four places every twelfth year. Ardha ("Half") Kumbh Mela is held at only two places, Haridwar and Allahabad, every sixth year. The rivers at these four places are: the Ganges (Ganga) at Haridwar, the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganges and the Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati at Allahabad, the Godawari at Nashik, and the Shipra at Ujjain.

We started our 126kms long journey to Haridwar from Srinagar by 7am. While we were having breakfast en-route I spotted few tents on the banks of Ganga. Upon enquiry I was told that these were put up for NCC Cadets from schools who were participating in a 10 day rowing camp. And these children reminded me of my 2nd son Tom’s experiences that he shared with me while attending similar camps as part of the NCC Naval wing. Observing the tents I was concerned and had some queries about their safety. I asked why they are pitching the tents so close to the river. What if the water level rises in the night? Will that not put these children in danger? The shopkeeper calmly replied – Madamji the authorities & people over here know when the water levels in the River rise and they would take adequate precautions accordingly.

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On the way to Haridwar.

Our journey continued and the roads kept disappearing. I was wondering how bad would be the condition of these roads during monsoons and pat came Captains reply – Every year they suffer a lot of losses when it comes to roads but they would repair it. He said that normally it takes 3 months to get the roads back in shape. On the way we saw a lot of Sikh pilgrims on their way to Hemkunt Sahib and most of them were youngsters on motorbikes.

We reached Haridwar by 3pm, got fresh and went to the temple by 5pm. I could see the statue of Shiva overseeing a sprightly flowing Ganga. There were thousands of pilgrims who were taking a Holy bath in the River on the steps on either side of it. Some playful youth were seen jumping in to the river and then after a short Swim they would hold on to the chains hanging from the bridge across. The pilgrims were also busy getting ready for the famed Ganga Arati which was to begin at 7pm. The Temple trustees were busy running around with receipt books for booking a variety of Poojas and offerings. By 6pm all the steps on either sides of the Ganga were washed clean and the pilgrims and Pujaris started thronging the steps with Flowers & Lamps of all colours. The pilgrims were seated like obedient school kids and the bells started ringing and the chants followed and it was the start of the renowned Ganga Arati.

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Our team at Haridwar.

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People snapping the Ganga Arati on mobile cams.
 

kdacharya

Super User
seena,
you story has touched my heart and I am deeply moved.
Kudos to you for persuing your dream. Excellent narration and nice pics to boot.
 
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Seenawil

Member
Your log has begun like a novel. Nice pictures also.
I am very eager to read your complete log as I'm traveling to Uttrakhand on 20th September 2013 for a week.
Henry
Thank You Hensil. Hope you have a wonderful trip to UK.

seena,
you story has touch my heart and I am deeply moved.
Kudos to you for persuing your dream. Excellent narration and nice pics to boot.
Nice to hear that you found my T-log to be touching. I too can't express the joy that I had when I went on this trip and that special moment that I got by God's grace.

Life is all about dreams. And I was lucky that God helped me pursue it.

And the credit for the pics go to my Micromax Phone Cam :)
 
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