Back to Joshimath- struggle for the elusive room, and the sojourn to Gobindghat
We were brought crashing down the real world from the heavens as the cable car came to a halt at Joshimath. A little sad, but contented, we made our way to the Auli-D hotel we had booked on GoIbibo a month in advance. A little hungry and making plans for the evening, our merry-go-round came to a grinding halt when we learned that either of GoIbibo or the hotel's agent dealing with it, had messed up and given our rooms to someone else- the room we had paid for one month in advance. The hotel didn't have another room available. Plates-full of food brought some conciousness and what followed were some angry phone-calls and arguments. However, we soon realized it was futile, and decided not to spoil our holiday. Luckily for himself and for us, the hotel owner decided to take us around town searching for acceptable hotel rooms. Rooms there were a few, but far from acceptable. That's when he popped if we would mind going to Gobindghat, a further 30 kms to the north enroute Badrinath and Valley of Flowers. We were wandering souls who got excited at the very idea of exploring a new place. So we set off after another bout of persuasion and arguments with our driver.
It was dark by now, and we encountered the most pulse-racing moment just a few kms before our destination. It was a glorious mountain tiger with glistening stripes, sitting bang in the middle of the road, unperturbed, basking in gentle moonlight, aware of its majesty and oblivious to the idiots sitting in the car which had come to a screeching halt. Moments of excited madness passed, and a couple of fumbling hands brought out a camera. By this time, the knucklehead of our driver had operated his upper and dipper headlamp a few times, and the beast had got up swiftly yet reluctantly from its resting spot. It gave a bewildered glance and in one ballet-like move disappeared in the jungles below. The moment had passed.
Hotel Bhagat was small and quaint, with us being the only guests. We settled into two largish rooms, and excitable as we are, jumped with joy hearing the music of the stream behind. It had to be a trek in the morning by the stream.
The racing pulse from the night gone by ebbed a little at seeing the rocky river bed with a narrow stream somewhere. But all wasn't lost. It still was pretty and the heart was still romantic. We decided to go for a morning run. A couple of kms and we were staring at old twin-temples standing peacefully with the quaint village of Pandukeshwar on the one side and steep mountains everywhere eyes could see.
The temples are circa 9th century AD and attributed to the Katyuri dynasty. Older of the two is dedicated to Yogabadri, and the other to Vaasudeva. During winters when the Badrinath dham is closed, many statues and other accompaniments from there are brought to smaller temples in the lower reaches for worshiping, primarily in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Yogabadri temple sees a small silver statue brought from Badrinath. I witnessed the elaborate cleaning, Shringaar (making ready, adornment) and setting up of the gods prior to worshiping. The main Yogabadri statue was first wiped with cloth and then adorned with fine garments, jewelry and garlands. The small statue mentioned above was then carefully cleaned and adorned. Next were a pair of cute little kharaons (traditional footwear) of Uddhavji (Lord Krishna's friend and mentor). Thereafter followed the most interesting part. Eight different back stones (shaligrams) of varying sizes were cleaned with wet cloth, and then wiped with ghee. Fragrant Chandan (Sandalwood paste) was thereafter applied on each as a tilak (forehead mark), and then they were carefully placed around the little statue from badrinath. Upon enquiring with the priest, I got to know that these are considered as what Lord Vishnu aka Badrinath holds in each of his eight hands- the Gada (Mace), Padma (Lotus), Panchajanya Shankha (Conch Shell), Sudarshana Chakra (Discus), Dhanush (Bow), Danda (Club), Vaana (Arrow) and Dhaala (Sheild).
Having opened the spiritual portal at Pandukeshwar, it was time to gorge some more. While on our way back, we stopped over at Joshimath and had quick tours, first at the Narsingh temple, where Prahlad is said to have calmed the furious god who had been wandering post assasinating the demon king Hiranyakashayapa. A black stone idol represents Narsingh, and is intricately adorned with fine cloth and jewelry.
Jyotirmath situated in the middle of the eponymous (but apabharansha/changed to a colloquial pronunciation) Joshimath, brings a calming influence to the chaos of the little town outside. Founded by Adi Shankaracharya sometime between 5th and 8th Centruties (as per the dating of his brief 32 year life by various scholars), Jyotirmath is the northern and one of the four principal maths established by him, the others being Dwarika in the west (Gujarat), Jagannatha Puri in the east (Odisha) and Rameshwaram in the south (Tamil Nadu). These maths form an important part of his Advaita Vendanta school of Hinduism and represent his efforts at giving structure to the free-flowing diverse streams of the ancient religion (Sanatana Dharma), in response to the well-oiled system seen in the then strong Buddhist school. I'll probably write more on this in a separate post.
We were happy, we were satisfied- physically, mentally and spiritually. It was time to get back. A seven hour drive brought us back to Haridwar, where we closed the sojourn sitting by the calming waters of the Ganga at Har-ki-Pauri before boarding the train to Delhi. Till next time..
A few quick facts:
How to reach Auli:
Drive down from Delhi or take a Train to Haridwar before starting the drive further upFrom Haridwar, Joshimath is a 7-8 hours drive. Gobindghat is a further 45 minutes drive from Joshimath. Auli is 25 minutes by ropeway from joshimath, excluding waiting timeRopeway costs Rs 750 return from Joshimath to Auli. The chairlift from Auli to GMVN costs another Rs 300 returnWhere to Stay:
Auli proper has just three hotels, so book well in advance. It's worth staying there. GMVN is a good property considering it's govt owned. Cliff Top is another good option, though slightly on the dearer sideIf unable to find accommodation at Auli, take up a decent place at Joshimath. If interested, the accommodation at Jyotirmath can be a rewarding experience though bare naked and with no frills.