The holy shrine of Badrinath is located in Garhwal, along the banks of the legendary Alaknanda River on the mighty Himalayas located at 10,279 ft above the mean sea level. The Nar Parbat Mountain is located opposite to the temple, while the Narayana Parbat is located behind the Neelakanta Peak.
In the main shrine is the 1 m Shaligram (black stone) image of Badrinarayan, which is housed in a gold canopy under a Badri Tree also made of gold. The image is said to hold a Shankha (conch) and a Chakra (wheel) in two of its arms in a lifted posture (which I could not figure out in my many visits) and two arms are rested on its lap in a Yogamudra (Padmasana) posture which I clearly saw. Legend has it, that Badrinath ji is swambhu.
The Tapt Kund, a group of hot sulphur springs just below the temple, are considered to be of medicinal value and many pilgrims bathe in the springs before visiting the temple and praying before the Lord. (Neela bathed here every year we visited). The springs have a year-round temperature of 55 °C (131 °F).
There is no historical record about the temple, but there is a mention of the presiding deity Badrinath in Vedic scriptures, (ca.1750–500 BCE). As per some accounts, the temple was a Buddhist shrine till the 8th century and Adi Shankara converted it to a Hindu temple. A traditional story asserts that Shankara expelled all the Buddhists in the region with the help of the Parmar ruler king Kanak Pal. The architecture of the temple resembles that of a Buddhist Vihara (temple) and the brightly painted facade is typical of Buddhist temples. As per other accounts, it was originally established as a pilgrimage site by Adi Shankaracharya in the 9th century. Hindu followers assert that he discovered the image of Badrinath Ji in the Alaknanda River and initially enshrined it in a cave near the Tapt Kund hot springs.
The Holy Shrine of Badrinath Ji opens on Akhaya Tritiya (early May) and is closed on Diwali, when the Lord’s abode is shifted to Josthimath.
Contributed By: Amitava Mukherjee