Into the Unknown
Whether it is the footprints of Lord Rama at Ram Kunda or the meditation site where both King Dasharatha and his son sat in deep obeisance to the cosmic deity, the 300 manuscripts stored in the Nakshatra Vedh Shala Observatory or the magical restoration of the city after the 1803 earthquake; this town is a bundle of surprises. Devprayag is the last Prayag or the Holy Sangam (confluence) of the Alaknanda River with the Bhagirathi, resulting in that mother of all rivers- the Ganges .
Ever since I heard stories about my grandma’s trip to Rishikesh & Devprayag, I knew I had to visit these places. But like so many desires, this one too never saw the light of day; until recently in November 2018.
A little town that can be effortlessly covered on foot, Devprayag is a nagar panchayat in the Tehri Garhwal District of Uttarakhand. What it lacks in size, it very well makes up for in punch. Devprayag is enclosed and shielded on three sides by the mighty Dashrath Panchal Parvat, Giddhanchal Parvat and Narsinghancal Parvat.
Prologue: A Road Trip with a View
After a comfortable stay at Rishikesh, I indulged in a road trip to the holy city of Devprayag. From vast stretches of the holy Ganga to small stargazing settlements and uninterrupted landscapes, this 3 hour road trip was a photographer's delight.
Chapter 1: Peace Out
The peaceful lanes of Devprayag were quite different from the crowded town of Rishikesh; Travelling through these hushed and squeezed lanes, I arrived at my first stop, the Prayag/Sangam (confluence). The visual in front of me was as pure & mesmerizing as the pictures of grandma’s visit here, almost three decades back (yes, she did manage to preserve a few photos of her trip). At this spick & span location, the Alaknanda calmly flowed on the left while the rigorous Bhagirathi coursed from the right, before they finally converged into one - a spectacle to behold.
It was amazing to see the blue waters of Alaknanda merge with the green waters of Bhagirathi to finally give birth to the prestigious Ganga in hues of emerald. The sounds of waves hitting the shore, the songs of birds, the endless green envelopes of nature and the gentle breeze drifted me to an altogether different universe. Oh! What a divine & overwhelming experience!
Chapter 2: Seeking Blessings
Soaked in the pleasant air of Devprayag and the holy water of the Sangam, I proceeded to seek the blessings of Lord Rama (also known as Raghunath) at the Raghunathji Temple. After climbing about a 100-120 steps, I arrived at this pilgrimage site, just in time to be a part of the evening aarti. Believed to be 10,000 years old, the temple was built in Buddhist & South Indian architectural styles and was lit up with diyas & lanterns, as if it was Diwali.
Chapter 3: The Pandas & Prashadis
At dinnertime, I luckily got a chance to savour prashadi (a devotional offering made to the almighty, typically consisting of sweets that is later shared among devotees) with the local pandas (holy priests). While narrating the myths & mythologies of Devprayag, the pandas also told me that all of them (including the pandas of Badrinath) hailed from Devprayag and their knowledge of Sanskrit was passed onto them as a family inheritance. Lost in deep conversation, it was Singori (an Indian sweet made with thickened milk) that again shifted my focus from dialogue back to food. Wrapped in maalu leaf, this lip-smacking, local sweet was delicious & I ended up gobbling down three in a span of just one (minute)! Heavy calorie intake for a day, but totally worth it!
Chapter 4: A Peek into the World of Astrology
The next day at Devprayag began on a scholarly note! The entrance gates of the Dak Bungalow (public works department) lead me to the observatory of Nakshatra Vedhshala, established in 1946 by late Acharya Shri Pt. Chakradhar Joshi (an Indian scholar in astronomy & astrology). Mr. Prabhakar Joshi (son of Chakradhar Joshi) welcomed me at the venue with some tea and snacks and then escorted me up a flight of stairs to the main observatory. I was led into a room where Acharya Chakradhar Joshi used to work. Decorated with paintings collected from all over India, the observatory was a trove of rare manuscripts, granths & yantras (a telescope from England with Carl Zeiss lens, another one from Germany to watch the moon and stars, and solar viewing glasses from Brazil to witness the eclipse).
I left the place with a contented heart and a deeper knowledge about astrology (all thanks to Mr. Prabhakar Joshi).
Two days in a small town seemed like plenty during my arrival here, but the scenic and divine offerings of Devprayag proved me wrong. At the time of leaving, it was difficult to say goodbye to a place where my heart found solace and my mind relieved anxiety, where peace was surreal and living was simple. Looking forward to sharing fond memories of the trip with my grandchildren!