Badrinath is a picturesque town situated on the bank of the river Alaknanda in Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. Located at an elevation of 3133 meters,this is a place where divinity meets with the tranquillity of nature. Situated between Nar and Narayan peaks, the pious land of Vishnu is most celebrated stop in the pilgrimage tour of Garhwal Himalayas. It is a charismatic abode of Lord Vishnu and is one of the holiest of the holy shrines of Chota Char Dham and Char Dham pilgrimage in India. Badrinath is a land of myriad legends, each one adding to the glory of this place. Along with these legends, the snowy mountain peaks, the incredible landscapes create the perfect background to facilitate a spiritual connection.
The name of the Badrinath tirtha originates from the local word “Badri” which is a type of a wild berry. It is said that when Lord Vishnu sat in penance in these mountains, his consort Goddess Laxmi took the form of a berry tree and shaded him from the scorching Sun. It is not only the dwelling place of the Lord Himself but also home to countless pilgrims, saints and sages, who meditate here since ages in search of enlightenment.
Ancient text Skanda Purana hold this abode at a very high admiration, stating - "there are many spots of pilgrimage in the heaven, earth and the world, but there has been none equal to Badri, nor there shall be”. According to it, the Badrinathji often called as Badri Vishal, was re-established by Adi Shri Shankaracharya to revive the lost prestige of Hinduism and to unite nation in one bond. He visited the Garhwal Himalayas in 8th century CE and found the Shaligram idol of Lord Badri immersed in the waters of Alaknanda and installed it in a cave near the Tapt Kund. It was in the 16th century that a Garhwal King (either Mahipat Shah or Prithvi Shah) got a temple erected to house the statue of the God. The present structure is the result of plenty of restorations the temple has undergone due to damages caused by avalanches and earthquakes. Lord Vishnu is worshipped in a black stone idol sitting in a meditative pose surrounded by the idols of other gods like Nar, Narayana, Narad, Ganesha, Garud and Kuber. In the winter season, the idol of Lord Badri is shifted to Yogadhyan Badri in Pandukeshwar (Chamoli district).
According to myths, Badrinath is a land richly infused with sacred accounts of tales of Hindu scriptures. Be it the puranic story of the Pandav brothers, along with their wife Draupadi, went past on their last pilgrimage by ascending the slopes of the peak called Swargarohini or the ‘Ascent to Heaven’,and according to Vamana Purana, the sages Nara and Narayana (fifth avatar of Lord Vishnu) performed penances here. The visit by Lord Krishna and other great sages like Kapil Muni, Gautam, Kashyap have performed penance here, Bhakta Narad attained salvation, medieval religious scholars like Adi Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Sri Madhavacharya, Sri Nityananda have come here for learning and quiet contemplation and so many still continue to do even today.
Another legend states that, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were once performing tapasya in Badrinath. It was then Lord Vishnu came in disguise as a small boy and disrupted them, by crying loudly. On hearing that Goddesses Parvati asked him the reason behind his mournful behaviour, to which he replied that he wanted to meditate in Badrinath. Shiva and Parvati, on discovering Lord Narayan in disguise, left Badrinath and moved to Kedarnath.
King of Garhwal is the guardian of the temple of Badrinathji and is known as 'Bolanda Badri' (living incarnation of Lord Vishnu). The flag of Garhwal was known as Badrinathji Ki Pataka or Garuda Dhwaj. It was in use since pre-1803 as a symbol of Garhwal State and continued to be used from 1803 to 1949 as the symbol of princely state of Garhwal.Sugar balls and dry leaves are the common prasad provided to the devotees. From May 2006, the practise of offering Panchamrit Prasad, prepared locally and packed in local bamboo baskets, was started to promote and boost local products and providing people with employment. Around 3 km from Badrinath is the village of Mana, which is one of the last villages before the boundary of India ends and that of Tibet begins. The peak of Neelkanth stands strong spreading its mighty aura for all pilgrims and travellers coming to the region.