Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Haridwar & Rishikesh
We reached Badrinath on the second day after starting from Haridwar.The route is very scenic as it is through the Shivalik range.Clouds & mist play hide & seek .One can watch beautiful sunrises & sunsets.The Alaknanada seems to be following us all along the route.It also is dangerous as a wrong turn means a plunge deep down the valley but thankfully ,our journey was safe. Enroute,we had to stop at some places as it was night .It is advisable & safe to break the journey in the Shivaliks after sunset.
The driver who was a young Punjabi lad with a typical Punjabi accent had been instructed to stop at a lodge which served strict vegetarian fare.The lodge did not serve any food but there was a vegetarian dhaba next door.One or two relatives did not eat for reasons ranging from being unwell to doubts about food handlers.My family, being very orthodox, believes that food must be served by an insider meaning the family.Since this is impossible when one is in a dhaba ,hotel & the like,they fast.Some do compromise & eat.Anyway,I was instructed in Kannada ( hybrid version -with lots of Tamil) about the food, my family wanted. I, in turn, dutifully translated it into Hindi for the waiters.We ate our food with lots of talk about food only. This was because, I had to keep translating almost minute by minute to my relatives ,then to the waiters ,again to my family & so on & so forth. .Dinner over,we retired for the night. My hubby had taken care that the driver & cleaner also had their fill of food.
Next morning, we took bath & after tea,we left.By noon,we stopped at a place where there was this restaurant which served idlis & dosas.Orders were placed for one medu vada & two idlis for a majority.A kid had a sada dosa.The idlis were really delicious -even the sambhhar & chutney.But vadas were a disappointment as the oil used is different.We are used to groundnut oil & in the north ,sarson ka tel is the norm.My family made a face & gulped down the vadas. I have never liked vadas -oil or no oil.
We left the place after being surprised by wholesome South Indian fare at the restaurant. All kudos to the Jat driver .We reached Badrinath but insisted on being taken to our Mutt .We were taken there after a lot of explaining to the driver .He was sure, that we will have to carry a lot of our luggage over some distance as no parking was available nearby but thankfully,it was not so.We freshened up after being allotted rooms.All felt at home, as this was our community hostel.It was beginning to get cold.
We left by early evening to visit the temple having worn our sweaters .It was drizzling &It had become very cold.The temple is a simple structure -wooden & stone.The temple is carpeted as it is quite cold.The guards & attendents wear wooden sandals to keep warm.Badrinath ji is a saligrama which is annointed with chandan .So one can barely see the features as lots of flowers & jewels adorn the Lord.There is a whole entourage of dieties there alongwith Badrinathji.There is Kubera,Nara-Narayana,Lakshmi,Garuda etal.We learnt that we could be with the Lord for an extended period ,if we chanted the Vishnusahsranamnam in a group for which tickets are avaialble.We did that & had a relaxed view.I noticed that a foreigner ( white woman ) was also in the temple.She also was reciting the Vishnusahsranama but there was a difference.We were reciting from the books but she was doing it on her own. She knew it by heart !
The prasad is chana dal & sugar & murmura.,After partaking prasad,we went back to the Mutt. We were served upma which was truly lip smacking. so much so that we actually were left with just enjoying the upma mentally as there was no second helping.The cooks again made it as they realised that some had not not had it even once.Upma is an option for night as my hubby & brothers were to perform shradha the next day of their late father at Badri.So,,the night before they cannot have dinner but can eat upma,poha,fruits,etc. So, we all had decided to partake of upma.
The next day dawned & we were ready to go out. We had decidecd to take bath in the hot water springs ,next door to the temple.We had a refreshing bath in the ladies section as the men went in search of purohita for the shradha .The hot water springs are really amazing.The water temperature was just right for the cold there.But people seem to think that this bounty of nature can be abused.So,some people were shampooing,using soaps & detergents etc thereby polluting the hot water springs.Perhaps the abusers wanted to cleanse themselves of all their sins & hence used soaps,shampoos & detergents.But in the process,they dirtied the place & polluted the water .We are trying to get rid of our sins but by using chemicals we are sinning against nature.How do we absolve ourselves from this greater sin ? Moreover, where will the hot water springs turn to to get rid of all our sins which have been transferred from us to them? I felt, that prayers were needed more for cleaning up the hot water springs rather than anything else !
Men also had thei baths & they started the rituals of shradha -all bare bodies except for a dhoti & a shawl which would keep slipping from the shoulders.The drizzle was continuing.It was chilly & windy. .After the ceremony was over,we had prasad at the Mutt. In the afternoon,we went around to Vyas gufa,Ganesh Gufa at Mana village.Nights were terrible because the temperatiure would dip further & my family was shivering .Getting used to the extreme cold was impossible for them as they have been in Chennai till now.
In the night,dinner was again a nashta item as on the day the shreaddha is performed,the sons are to have only phalhaar ( no rice,dal,etc ).So,the mutt cook prepared avalakki pongal ( avalakki is poha ).The pepper in the dish was so much that whoever had got a cold got rid of it. It also served another purpose.We all ate a little less than we would have had it been less pungent.
We had been told to have a darshan at four -early in the morning when the saligrama of Badrinathji is bereft of all shringar .But the bitter cold prevented us from venturing out so early.My jeth had told us that the saligrama is in padmasana & one can also recognise facial features.
The next day,we left for Haridwar from Badrinath.En route,we stopped at Debvprayag to have a hand dip but only the men ventured to step out of the bus.On some hillocks ,we noticed that many kadipatta bushes were growing.How we wihed to collect them but they would have dried on our return journey home & so we just let the curry leaves. We halted at Rishikesh & went around Laxman Jhoola & Ram jhoola,We then resumed our journey.We reached Haridwar before the Ganga aarti was to begin in the evening.Rishikesh is also highly commercialised with many foreigners thronging the place.
Haridwar ghats where bathing is done are all filthy with rubbish heaps lying all around.Moreover it was rainy season & so everywhere there was muck & wetness which made our walking a really perilous affair.I felt that perhaps these Holy places need more miracles than we need in our lives to set things clean & bright.
Some pandas caught hold of us & looted us by making us promise daan- dharm as they pretended to make us perform some rituals.We managed to free ourselves before they could leave us penniless.But this bitter experience apart,the Ganhga aarti was a sight to behold as the whole banks of the river were lit up by numerous aartis .We watched spell bound.
We left for our Mutt in Haridwar where dinner was getting ready.The priest in charge seemed to be very relaxed.He sang many hymns,bhajans & even asked us to sing some.Our tummies had also begun singing for food but before this got vocal,we were served dinner. After dinner,the Punjabi lad & cleaner bade us goodbye at Haridwar station .We handed him some parting cash for having done an exemplary job in taking us to Badrinath & back safe & sound.