UTTARANCHAL PILGRIMAGE : AUG 10-17, 2009 - Land of Gods
We were fortunate to have darshan of Sri Kedarnath (at 3,581 meter ASL), Badri Vishal (at 3,133 meter ASL) and few other important temples/deities during our visit to Uttaranchal State (Land of Gods) in India during Aug 10-17, 2009. The Uttaranchal Shivalik Range of Mountains are Madhya Himalayas (Center of Himalayas) where most of the importants Godly events took place. Therefore visiting such place is the highest achievement of Sanathana Dharmees / Hindus. One should not miss this opportunity in life. Can you imagine one get a chance to visit such holy place where Gods and Goddess sat, stood and lived (sthoola roopa) and living (sookshma roopa)in yuga after yuga (Era)!, where our mortal body also get an opportunity to visit the same place and enjoy that divine energy!!! My God, please call me near you!
I just returned home from Mylapore Karpagambal-Kapaleeswarar temple after attending the evening pooja and pulling the golden chariot arranged by one of my disciple Sri Ramkrishnan. The cell phone rings...and Sri Subramaniam was on the line inviting me to be in Srinagar to visit holy places. I could not say No because i was also planning a group visit to these places for the past 1 year. Moreover quite often i have been seeing Lord Siva and Parvathy's marriage ceremony during my meditation. So, i concluded that this is a God's invitation and let me not say NO to it. Within an hour took decision after discussion with family members to proceed and booked the ticket for next day flight.
So, for this trip I was accompanied by my father-in-law (Sri H Janardhanan Iyer) and brother-in-law from Srinagar onwards (Sri. A.S. Subramiam). We flew from Chennai on the 10th Aug evening and reached New Delhi/Noida at night and stayed in Noida Aarya Samaj with the curtsy of Sri. Thapliyalji; a retired Sanskrit Professor known to my brother-in-law. First i thought this trip is going to be like another Holy Mount Kailash we had in Aug 07. However, after completion of the trip, i have realized that it was totally different at the same time highly peaceful. I missed our satsang devotees and their prayers during prayan. This is the 2nd time God inviting me to his abode during my annual vacation. Any way after reaching Noida we met Sri. Thapliyalji who was compassionately waiting on the road side of his house to receive and board us at Aarya Samaj at night 11:30 pm. Next day morning we had a delicious break fast from Sri. Thapliyalji's house where his children Mahesh and Kusum also joined us. Their hospitality has to be praised and appreciated. After breakfast (11/8/09) at 9:00 am our Tata Indica rolled onto NH58 towards Haridwar & Srinagar. During our entire trip we would have crossed almost 450+ mountains.
We have seen some of the important Prayags (confluence of rivers), especially the 5 important Prayags such as Rudra Prayag (Mandakini + Alakananda), Deva Prayag (Bhaghirathi + Alakananda makes Holy Ganga from here onwards), Nanda Prayag (Alakananda + Mandakini), Vishnu Prayag (Alakananda + Rishi / Dhauli Ganga), Karna Prayag (Alakananda + Pindar). Having said that there are 9 important revers joins in Haridwar to become Holy Ganga River. In Haridwar, Hari ka poudi - Ghat, to my knowledge i think the river flows at a speed of not less than 50 to 60 KM ground speed and chillness of the water is as good as ice water even at peak noon. To be frank, once you get an opportunity to bath/dip in this holy river; our sins would be washed away without any doubt. Please note while dip you have to hold on to a chain or barricade adjacent to steps; otherwise you are gone inside the river for ever. I am sure one will not dare to move beyond 2nd step in this river. This place is packed with people especially the day we visited was on a Sravan Sankranthi. All auspicious days were automatically coincided without any pre-plan because i believe that this trip was entirely planned by God himself so it was perfect in every level.
Every where we could travel by car and little bit walking. Whereas Kedarnath has to be climbed 14 KM from Gaurikund. Straight climbing from approximately 7500 feet to 11000 feet by crossing almost 70 forested mountains. There were few mud slides here and there. While returning we had to stop the vehicle for 40 minutes due to mud slide for the road block. Some of the mountains are between 800 to 1300 meters height from ground. Some areas were thick forest. Innumerable water streams coming out of surrounded mountains to join the holy rivers. What a spectacular views...unexplainable. Utharkand is really a Jewel of Bharat/India. Only God can preserve its beauty for the future generations.
I would like to narrate the journey experiences on a day to day basis:
10/8/09 (Monday) - Chennai to New Delhi by Air - Stayed at Noida Arya Samaj.
11/8/09 (Tuesday) - Noida to Rishikesh via Haridwar. Then Rishikesh to Srinagar. At Rishikesh (gate way to the Himalayas, Vishnu appeared for Raibhya Rishi, Lord Rama did penance to kill Ravana). We had our first Holy Ganga snan/bath here. We offered Argyam to Devathas. First we crossed Ram Jula then reached Lakshman Jula where we parked our car and crossed the Lakshman Jula by walk to reach bathing Ghat. Had wonderful snan followed by Siva temple visit; climbing almost 250 feet. In the mean time the Sun decided to set for the day therefore we had to rush to catch up Srinagar control gate which will be closed at 7:30 pm. Please note the road gate will be closed and no vehicles allowed to cross the check post. Therefore the driver will hurry you to move quickly although you have millions of things and places to be visited in Rishikesh. It is really dangerous to travel during night due to lack of street light and narrow road to add sudden mud slide especially during rainy season.
12/8/09 (Wednesday) - Srinagar to Sonprayag via Kamleshar, Dari Devi, Koteswar, Agasthya Muni, Thrijugi Narayan and night halt at Sonprayag. Dari Devi temple is quite popular where Pandavas especially Panchali performed prayers and Aadi Sankaracharya installed a Sri Chakram. The deity/durga here is swayambu (self born) and embedded to a big rock piece on the bank of River Alakananda. We got down to the river and washed our feet to offer Argyam. Believe it or not the moment i touched the water and my feet and hand became numb in seconds. After than we reached Koteswar during lunch time. Koteswar is undoubtedly important because this is the only place where Alaknanda makes turn towards north and return to south; therefore this point is also known as Utharmukhi. From the name of Koteswar you may get some clue...which is nothing but one crore swayambu siva lingas existed in and around the cave. The main deity is a spatikalinga of Siva. One needs to bend down to touch the Siva linga and the whole rock piece is full of Sivalingas. Some time you may even stab on some of the Siva lingas while entering the cave...can't help it. Once in a year the Holy Alaknanda river will rise upto the cave and give a holy bath to Lord Koteswar. The river may raise upto 10 to 16 feet from where it normally flow. The water current over here is unexplainable, even the world's most powerful speed boats won't be able to sail against the flow of water...so you can imagine the rest. This auspicious place was also chosen by Bhajan Guru Sri Haridasgiri from Chennai to do his penance (almost 18 months) and finally had his samadi in this Uttarmukhi sthal. You can see his Samdhi on the river bank itself. We had Holy bath in this point after that darshan of Koteswar followed by Ashram lunch. Imagine the taste of food prepared by holymen! It was a prasadam. As further guided by the swamiji Sri Mehanthji i had requested and agreed with him to help us in our next Holy trip to be planned in Aug 2010. To help us he sent his representative Sri Vasishtji who is also the personal assistant of Joshimut Sankaracharya to accompany and show us everything possible within our limited scheduled time. Therefore here onwards Sri Vasishtji also with us until return to Rudraprayag on 15th Aug. Sri Vasishtji can speak Sanskrit also he visited South India Kancheepuram mutt.
On the way to Sonprayag, we visited Agasthyamuni which Agasthyamuni's temporary ashram while returning from Himalays to South India, then killed Vathapi and Vilvalan demons. This is the place one must see adjacent to a big mountain. We reached Sonprayag by around 5:45 pm. After having evening tea while having conversation with Pradeepji, he mentioned one of the most important place called Thrijugi Narayan temple..do you know what is this place! my ever dreaming holy place 'Lord Siva and Parvathy's married place'. Lord Narayan being her brother gave sister Parvathy to Lord Siva accompanied by millions of Devas including Himavan and Menaka Devi. I was thrilled the moment i heard about it this. For the past 2 weeks (prior to our trip) this place and siva parvathy swayamvarm was keep appearing during my meditation. But i never thought that God has already prepared my visa to visit this place. This was a jackpot for me. We had to drive another 35KM upwards on the mountain road without any street light. Somehow we reached by 7:15 pm accompanied by rain God Varuna. We did perform a special pooja in the swayamvara mandapa then visited the adjacent Thrijugi Narayan temple. The purpose of my life is fullfilled here. We came down to Sonprayag and stayed that night at Mandakini Lodge.
13/8/09 (Thursday) - Sonprayag to Kedarnath via Gaurikund, Rambada, Hanuman Chetti and stayed at Kedarnath. From Sonprayag to Gaurikund we went by car and that was the last stop. From here everyone should walk for minimum 6 hours+ to cover 14 KM distance. Some pilgrims would use Ghoda/Mule or Dholi carried by 4 men. Up and down including one night stay would cost around Rs 1600/- per Ghoda/person. Even from Gaurikund pilgrims should walk about 200 meter upward to catch hold of ghoda which is quite tough elders; therefore if any aged people planning to visit Kedarnath one should be mentally and physically prepared to walk to get into the Ghoda parking place. We left exactly at 6:15 am and reached around 2:20 pm crossing approximately 70+ mountains. It is really a journey to heaven. One can experience fog covered road, some time rain and chill breeze etc. Often steps are quite steep. Do not forget to hold a stick for your help especially to protect you from Ghoda. Everyone will walk on the same and the only road. After completing first 7 KM pilgrims can have their snacks at Rambada; after this junction the next popular place is Hanumanchetti. There is one cave here, where Hanuman and Garuda had their shelter for some time. Do not miss this cave for a visit and take the blessings of Sri Ram family including Veera Hanuman. From this place we can start hearing the temple bell and songs played through loud speaker of the temple. In another half a kilometer we will reach infront of the temple by crossing Holy River Mandakini (her starting point is Kedarnath). Mr. Subramaniam had already arranged a VIP accommodation for us to spend one day in Kedarnath. After refreshing we immediately went inside the temple sanctum sanctorom where one can see Pancha Pandavas's idols and the main deity is swayambu Lord Kedarnath (Siva). On his right side Lakshmi Narayan and left side Godess Durga Devi. We had a wonderful darsan of Lord and touched the Swayambu Lingam (self born); devotees were performing the ablution (abhishekam) for Lord at that time. Usually at 3:00 pm they stop abhishekam, since that day was very special (Janmastami day) therefore some extra poojas were performed till 3:30 pm because of that we got an opportunity to see the nirvana Siva Linga before decorations (sringaram roopam). We came back to room and re-entered the temple at 6:00 pm to be seated infront of Sri Kovil. Permission was granted to us to chant Sri Lalitha Sahasranamam loudly. I didn't even thought of such muhurtham (auspicious time) will come in my life. If God wants something he will get it done. The number of chantings i might have done in this life is innumerable therefore God wants me to please him by chanting this time too. I prayed for everyones welfare and spiritual knowledge especially thought of our Friday satsang devotees. I have not forgotten to offer (manasa / in mind) prostrations to my parents who gave me this birth to do such good deeds in this life. It is a small temple. This temple was built by Pandavaas and during Sri Aadi Sankaracharya's time he visited this place and conducted pooja and organized worship procedure by appointing chief priest. Temple's right behind we can see Sri Aadi Sankaracharya's Samadhi Sthal. Also we can see his Brahma Dhandam held by his right hand posture embedded into a covering wall. This indicates that he was doing his last penance here and merged with Lord Kedarnath. So no entry for casual people from here onwards to the mountain. The story tell us that Sri Aadisankarcharya during his last days, he use to sit there for meditation and one day a Rishabha descended from the Holy mountain and Aadi Sankara took the form of Lord Siva and ascended to Maha Kailasam (we all know Sri Adi Sankara was an incarnation of Lord Siva himself). At a later stage devotees built a small Samadhi temple near by and installed a Siva Linga and Aadi Sankara. There are few other deities including Dharma Palaka's temple. The temple authorities also made arrangements for the devotees who wish to touch / take bath in holy river Mandakini (quite fearful). Arathi took place exactly at 7:30 pm till 8:30 pm. This one hour is the most auspicious time in life for the deserving devotees. The chief priest has 4 assistant priests and they will arrive at 7:00 pm to make all arrangements and chant few hymn / manthras. At the time of Aarathi all the 16 upcharaas were offered to God by singing holy manthras including chanting Purusha sooktham in Sama veda style. After the Aarathi, there was a special pooja for Lakshmi Narayan since the day is a Janmashtami day. The swayambu Siva Linga has 3 main forms within viz Siva, Parvathy and Ganesa. The Idol is a big size almost like a bull lying down. According to mythology this is the hump portion of Lord Siva where Pandavas could hold on to Lord Siva.
The Mythology Story: According to legends, the Pandavas came here to pray to Lord Siva after great battle of Kurukshetra to atone for killing their own near and dear ones in the war. It is said that Lord Siva kept eluding the Pandavas and sought refuge at Kedarnath in the form of a bull. On being pursued, he plunged into the ground, with his hump exposed on the earth. Legends has it that his arms surfaced at Tungnath, his face at Rudranath, belly at Madmaheshwar, his locks and head at Kalpeshwar. These spots where he reappeared form the Panch Kedar. The present Kedarnath temple is said to have been resurrected by Adi Guru Shankaracharya.
14/8/09 (Friday) - Kedarnath to Joshimutt via Guptakasi, Ookhimutt, Chopta, Mandal, Gopeswar, Pipelkoti and stayed at Joshimutt. Early morning got up to have darsan then we left around 7:15 am to reach Gaurikund at 1:30 pm. Here there is one hot spring (Thaptha Kund) where i washed my feet then visited the Gauri temple to offer prayer. On our way back we saw Kuber Cave. According to mythology Pandavas were sought financial help from Kuber in this place. The cave is so deep and fearful. The learned men says that no one ever entered inside the cave nor returned live those who made attempt. Through and through Holy River Mandakini will accompany us with her flowing sound till we reach Rudra Prayag. Please note some time you will have to forget about food because eating food from these places are not safe especially the cooked food because of hygienic condition for NRIs. By evening we reached Guptakasi, the rain kept us always wet and fresh. This is the place where Goddess Parvathy helped Pandavas to see Lord Siva. Infact the Swayambu Siva Lingam (small) here is almost like Kasi Viswanath. Lord Siva disappeared and went into the secret form (Gupta Roop) that is why it is called Gupta Kasi. The mythology story is that - after the Kurukshethra war Pandavaas decided to ascend to heaven by seeking the pardon of Lord Siva for killing relatives and Gurus, whereas Lord Siva refused to give them darsan since they accumulated lots of sin. Yet, Pandavaas did not change their wish and continue to pray. Finally Sri Narada Maharshi appeared and asked them to redirect their prayers to Goddess Parvathy who is highly compationate towards human kind. Accordingly they did and Goddess Parvathy appeared and heard their wish. She said i will sit here and start my prayers whereby Lord Siva will appear infront of me. That is what exactly happened but Siva was very adamant for not to bless Pandavas so Goddess Parvathy conjoined him as Ardha Nareeswari Swaroop (half Siva and Parvathy) and blessed Pandavaas. There is one Theertha Kund infront of the temple representing holy rivers Ganga & Yamuna and the pilgrims should carry a jug of water from here for the ablution of God's idol. Then we moved to Ookhimutt where Doli of Lord Kedarnath stays for 6 months during the winter season (Next day from Diwali Oct/Nov till Apr). Another importance of this place is that Usha (daughter of Bhanasura the son of Bali) and Anirudh (Grand son of Lord Krishna) got married and lived in this place (Agnigarh built by Bhanasura to protect Usha from men) and we can see the marriage mandapam within Agnigarh (actually kind of a jail to put Usha under the lock and key). Anirudh was abducted from Dwaraka by Chitralekha the assitant of Usha and daughter of Khumbanda (minister of Bhanasura). Infact Krishna visited this place to war with Bhanasura. To protect Bhanasura Lord Siva appeared being his devotee, along with his army. In fact there was a big war between these Gods along with Bhanasura. Finally Krishna defeated everyone and got re-united Anirudh and Usha; later took them to Dwaraka. On the way to Joshimath (Jyothirmadam - Aadi Sankaracharya's one among four important Dham). Reached Joshimutt late night (with special permission to cross the checkpost...usually civilians are not allowed after 8 pm). Had asram dinner cooked by Brahmachari, please don't forget the person who is accompanying with us Sri Vasishtji is the personal assistant of the existing Holliness Jyothishpeethadheeshwar Jagadguru Shankaracharya Swamy Madhavasram Ji Maharaj - the Joshimutt Sankarachaya. Had good sleep and got up early morning to proceed to Badhinath. Visited Bala Thripura Sundari temple inside Joshimutt and opposite road Sri Narasimhamurthy temple (padma padaa's upasana murthy came forward as per his request to rescue Aadi Sanakar from tribal and religious cults). Since the main Sankaracharya went to New Delhi for observing Chathurmasyam we could not meet him however met second incharge of the Mutt and had conversations with him. Please note this day is Aug 15th India's Independance day. Most of the prime areas of this place is controlled by military services; parades from school children's and military personnel were performed which was trying to block our way/road. Some how we managed to over come the crowd and proceed to Badrinath by 11:30 am. After reaching Badri, we had Thaptha Kund bath, really an unforgettable snan, then entered inside Badri Vishal temple. Had blissful darshan of Badri Vishal, Nara Narayan, Kuber Murthy. Vishnu in a sitting position along with Lakshmi Devi. The temple located adjacent / under neath of Narayan Parvath and face Naran Parvath. In this Badrikasram Narayan (Krishna) and Naran (Arjuna) is living to protect Rishis and good ones. Between these 2 holy mountain Alaknanda is flowing in high force. On the river bank for about 3 KM walk away we can reach Vyasa Cave and Ganesh Cave where Maharshi Veda Vyasa lived and narrated the Mahabharatham story to Lord Ganesh to write down the entire story. We visited this auspicious cave and sat down for few minutes. Now few idols were installed their as their representation. One pracheena (oldest from Sathya Yuga period) vigrah/idol of Sri Veda Vyasa accompanied by a big statue presented by one of the satsang devotees of Chennai in 1964. Along with Veda Vyasa one his right side Vishnu vigrah and left side his son Sukhan and Vallabacharyar who visited this cave in 1564 AD and personnaly met Sri Veda Vyasa; for that rememberance the cave authorities installed his Prathima here. Many other caves and temples and in and around to visit. Due to time limit and rain (almost touched 0 degree) we could not make any attempt further. Behind Vyasa cave Holy River Saraswathy is calmly flowing underground due to Vyasa's curse. According to Purana she will re-emerge at the end of Kali Yuga as a sapa moksham. From this place all Pandavaas ascended to heaven by dropping their mundaine body one after the other with an exception to Yudhishtir. One more important place to visit is Vally of Flowers almost 5 KM circumverance, the belief is that Lord Vishnu is lying down in this place and it is difficult to withstand the effects of fragrance, almost 5,000 varities of flowers exists in this natural divine garden. People may even faint as they go close to the valley. I heard about Nanavanam of Devalok (part of Amaravathy celestial city of Indradev) which i remembered when i heard the valley of flowers. As you know the devalok is very close to this place to ascend. Unfortunately we could not visit this place due to time limits.
15/8/09 (Saturday) - Joshimutt to Badrinath to Srinagar via Vishnuprayag, Hanuman Ghat (Where Hanuman and Bheeman met each other) Guru Gobindghat, Karna Prayag, Nanda Prayag and Rudra Prayag, Srikot finally reached Srinagar. Had excellent bath in Naradh Thaptha Kund and Surya Kund (Natural hot spring at 55 degree celcious) sarrounded by Holy River Alakananda, then entered the shrine of Badri Vishal. After darshan visited Vyasa cave, Ganesh cave at Badri/Mana the last village of India. Near by we can also reach Dharma Sila (Where Dharna Rajan / Ydhishtira and his wife). Beyond which no civilian are allowed to go due to India/China border. While returning to Srinagar again had a brief meeting with Sri Swami Mehanthji the head of Keteshwar Ashram at Rudra Prayag. Originally Sri Badrinathji's divine presence was traced by Aadi Sankaracharya (8th Centuary AD) and later Garhwal rulers built the current temple.
16/8/09 (Sunday) - Srinagar to Haridwar to Deradun. Morning after break fast left for Haridwar. One of the busiest day. By noon we could reach Thriveni Sangam to have holy bath where we could also perform Pithru Tharpan and Devatha Tharpan while seated on the bank of Holy Ganga. After that rushed to Haridwar Hari Ki Podi to have another bath and to participate in the Ganga Arathi at 7:20 pm. We had wonderful bath in the Holy Ganga and offered Argyam for all devathas and pithrus. Two Pithru Tharpanam in a day is not allowed therefore we did not perform the sankalpam (resolution) in detail as prescribed by the sasthras. After the Holy Ganga Aarathi we left for Deradun where we are supposed to stay that night. What a traffic, the way traffic control department works in that city is pathetic. Considering India's growth story - we are far away from the realities. I feel really shame to narrate this much about the traffic. Some how we reached Deradun at 11:00 pm and stayed that night. We carried a bottle of Holy Ganga water for our families and friends.
17/8/09 (Monday) - Deradun to New Delhi. Morning after early breakfast left for New Delhi Palam Air port. What a driving pleasure. Our driver Mr. Gopal (Nepali) was really great in his profession. He did a good job to some how reach us in the airport exactly on time. Although we were suppose to go to Mr. Thapliyal's house and personally thank them for the help they extended to us, unfortunately due to short time we had to thank them through phone. The aircraft was on time to leave at 06:45 pm to Chennai.
This trip was short, sweet and highly memorable. Grace of God everything went off in our favor and we feel we are highly fortunate to have such an unexpected darshan of holy places in this kind.
I would like to make special thanks to my wife Lakshmi, son Arun, brother-in-law Sri Subramaniam and his wife Kala, Noida Sri Thapliyalji, Keteshar Swamiji Sri Mehanthji, Koteshwar Sri Vasishtji, Kedarnath Sri Guduji, Sonprayag/Ookhimutt Sri Pradeepji, Deradun Sri Thapliyalji, Driver Gopalji and all our immediate family members for their full support and well wish.
All our family members were eagerly waiting for our return to share the experiences with them; which i did in the following 2 days. As usual in our Dubai Friday Sri Lalitha Sahasranam pooja on the 28th Aug 09 i could narrate the entire episode during the discourse time.
There are 5 Kedars: Kedarnath, Madhya Maheswar, Kalpeswar, Tunganath and Rudranath
There are 5 Badris: Aadi Badri, Bridha Badri, Bhavishya Badri, Yogadhyan badri, Badrinath
Om Parasakthi Matha Ki Jai.... Pranam Mathe!
Kailashi/Kedari/Badri - R V Venkiteswaran (Venky)
Note: With the grace of God, our Dubai SLSN Parasakthi Family will be planning a 12 days tour to visit these places including Naimisarayam, Gangothri, Yamunothri and few other auspicious places during Aug 01-14, 2010 (Proposed). If this supplication is accepted by the God then we will proceed. There is no commercial interest attached to this hence entries are only through nomination by our satsang devotees.