Badrinath temple, the sight of it made my heart beating fast. If you had asked me 4 years ago if I would visit this holy land, I would have looked at you in shock and said, Me? In Badrinath? Travelling all the way up there? No way, am not that crazy!
And here I was. 4 years and so many journeys. It’s destiny.
Bhim wanted to change his sacred thread this time. He told me the entire ritual. He would take a dip in the natural hot springs called Tapt Kund that was separated for men and women. Get his thread from his ‘Matha’ and get one more blessed at the temple and wear it. But he felt it was best we went to the temple first for Darshan, the crowd seemed to be increasing.
What happened next was a miracle, pure miracle. When I think about it now, I feel am I imagining it? Right when we walked in, there was no crowd, we were zapped. Where were the people that were thronging towards the deity? We stood in front of him closing our eyes. It’s exactly where we were destined to be. It felt right, it felt divine and none of the security guards pushed us out.
Bhim told me to wait there and got a ticket for an Aarti. Usually the priests would let only one person per ticket. But they let us both in and made us sit in front of the shrine. I was dazed. How did this happen? Here we were, sitting in front of him, eyes closed and in a trance as the priest chanted a chapter from the Bhagavad Gita. He smeared Sandalwood on our forehead.
Lord Badrinarayana in Shaligram( black stone) in Padmasana posture with Kubera( god of wealth) sage Narada, Uddhava, Nar and Narayana. To sit there listening to Bhagavad Gita still gives me shivers in my spine when I think of it. He made it possible for us. We were there for a good half an hour. What else did we require? He made sure the entire journey was about him.
We had planned to trek to Hemkund Sahib, valley of flowers in this trip but No, this was all about him. Dhyana, only him. We opened our eyes still in a trance and bowed to him and got out. I was numbed by the entire experience.
Bhim had to do the ritual of changing the sacred thread. He would be back in 45 minutes. I sat in front of the dome, in the temple premises with other devotees. After the Darshan I could see people relaxed eating ‘Prasadam’( holy offering) and some were chanting Vishnu Sahasranama facing the main dome.
It was a beautiful clear sunny afternoon with the Himalayas looming large in the background. How was it possible for Adi Sankaracharya in those times? It was truly divine intervention.
I basked in the sun enjoying every moment of the atmosphere. Devotees from all parts of the country. There were young and older people but mostly the elderly fulfilling their life long wish to come here.
Right at that time I heard it. A group of elderly South Indian women beautifully singing songs in praises of the lord and Sankaracharya. It just pulled me in and without realising it, I joined them. I clapped with them, closed my eyes and what can I say? The devotion of the women with their voices. I struggle to find words for it now.
Almost an hour went by being with them. Anytime I feel disoriented I close my eyes and am back there in the temple. They were from Kerala, from my father’s hometown Kannur. My eyes welled up. Yesterday was my father’s anniversary and our plan was to be in Badrinath on that day but fate had other plans and here I was, sitting in midst of all this. 💕
After sometime Bhim came out bright with the symbol of Narayana on his forehead and we went back to get his blessings again. He was wearing the new sacred thread. Instead of using the hot springs, he took a dip in the cold water. Again we breezed through and were in front of the shrine. Standing next to Bhim, closing my eyes, I heard him chanting the entire Vishnu Sahasranama and singing a beautiful song. It was a divine moment and it was so meant to be.
We got out of the dome and sat for some time eating Prasadam. Bhim and I were beaming, this was beyond anything we imagined. How blessed we were and I mean in the most humble way possible. If not for our love of Himalayas and our faith in the supreme being, we wouldn’t have experienced it.
Our hearts were full. Bhim asked if we should stay till 5.30 pm? He purchased a ticket to do an evening Puja in my name. Should we wait till then and leave? We both felt we didn’t need to stay back. They would anyway do the puja for me in the evening.
The darshan timing was about to close and the Prasadam( holy offering) from the god was starting, we stood in line, had the holy offering and made our way out of the temple with one last look at it.
The crowds were now super packed inside the dome. Long queues and they were not allowing people to stay beyond a few minutes.
We walked to Anantha Mutt( Matha) and had a hearty traditional South Indian meal. A lot of gratitude I felt for that. Bhim changed back to his trekking pants and gear. It was time to head back.
To be continued..