29 May, Sunday:
It was seven thirty in the evening by the time we reached Badrinath. The road was completely fine, until we crossed Joshimath, and Mr Dusty decided to attack us. We had to close the windows and suffer the dingy air conditioner till we reached our destination. The temperature outside was no better than Kedarnath. The moment we stepped out of the car, our first words were ‘Oh God!’
We quickly went to our lodge, where we booked two rooms, one for women and the other for men. While dinner was being prepared, Mum and I snuggled under the covers for warmth and had a small nap before going to the dining room. Eating the same meal over and over again was bland for my taste buds but I wasn’t in the mood of any other cravings either. I didn’t even feel hungry and had to eat only for the sake of putting something in my empty stomach.
Just standing out of our rooms was freezing. My Mum tried talking to my brother out in the entrance, where there was proper reception, but quickly cut the call to skitter back and dive under the covers. I think Badrinath was a couple of degrees colder than Kedarnath. The height of the mountain was more as well. We had initially planned to go for darshan, because the temple was said to be open till 11 p.m but the weather made us think twice and also made us surrender to the fatigue we felt. The lights were off by 9:30 and all seven of us were completely out by ten.
30 May, Monday:
A wonderful seven hour sleep re-charged us to a hundred percent and I briskly got up to bathe and put on a new dress (a flowery navy blue and white top with navy blue leggings) I had saved especially for Lord Vishnu. The previous night, everyone was talking about finishing the darshan as soon as we came so we could start down to Haridwar early, and I was dejected I won’t be able to wear my new dress for the Badrinath Temple. I was so pleased when the darshan was changed to morning 😀
Just like in Yamunotri, there were two Hot Springs but Mum and I decided to pass it off like before 😀 We were down at the Hot Springs for an hour till everyone else bathed and changed their clothes. Since I was holding the dry garments for Aunty, I accompanied her to the women’s side and had I not escaped to a place on a nearby ledge to stand on, I would have definitely been pushed into the pool 😀 So many women! And the place was splashing wet.
We got out of there soon and after everyone was ready, we climbed up the steps to the temple and saw there was a line extending from the small balcony where the grand entrance was located. All right, let’s go stand, we decided.
But we couldn’t see the end of the line.
We stared in some horror as it went on.
And … on …
It was only 7:20 a.m but it felt like we had arrived in mid-morning. It seemed people were standing here since 4:00 a.m. Uncle and Aunty already warned us about it and had suggested we get up at three but as much as it was appealing, we knew we wouldn’t be able to wake up without having a headache, hence we slept in.
The line went for a kilometre and a half (I’m serious) and it came to a temporary end at this open space, with the green hills on one side and the Alaknanda River on the other. We hadn’t had any breakfast so Grandpa headed to a nearby stall to get some food. Maggi Noodles was stewing in the pan and he eagerly called out to me to ask if I wanted some, but I automatically shook my head. I wasn’t ready to find out what noodles made in small stalls could do to my recovering tummy 😀 So I instead had some butter biscuits and almond milk to fill myself.
More and more people arrived to add themselves to the back of the line, the line which hardly moved an inch. We were so worried about how long this was going to take. What if we were here till afternoon and we’ll only reach Haridwar next morning by travelling the entire night?
Another sleepless night because of travel?
For an entire forty-five minutes, we stood in the same spot. But when we got rid of the anxiety of the delay and the journey to Haridwar, it was actually wonderful to stand in that place. The mountains on both sides, towering upto their glorious height and accessorised by the misty clouds at their tips. The valley had smooth curves, courtesy of the river and the position of the mystical mountains.
I wished so bad my brother was with me because he doesn’t think twice about exploring and would have taken me safely to where I was itching to go and see. There was a sandy pathway near us that led to the small hill by the side, but since I was a girl, Mum advised me not to go far up there. Plus, I didn’t want to venture out of her sight either. So I climbed up as much as I dared myself to and peeked overhead, to natural scenic sights.
I carefully took myself down and after a few minutes, a few officers from the temple came along the pathway towards us. They were checking to see there were no mishaps and Grandpa decided to ask them how long it will take for darshan. One kind officer stopped to answer that question. His words made our hearts swell.
Darshan had been put on halt for everyone because there had been a Pooja and even the people who came at 4:00 a.m were still waiting to worship Lord Vishnu. We had arrived at the right time and he promised us we will be able to view Him very well. We thanked him and soon enough, the line began to move. It took another hour to reach the prahar but since we kept moving and not being forced to halt anywhere, we didn’t even notice the time. Finally we reached the balcony we saw first and I tried to ring the huge bell at the grand entrance, but I couldn’t reach it. Garuda was seated to the right beside the doors and on entering the prahar, I saw Goddess Lakshmi on the other side, Lord Ram on our side, and there was Lord Hanuman seated perpendicular to Lakshmi so he was facing Lord Vishnu’s direction.
The inside was filled with people. Everyone was driving each other mad by trying to give their offerings to the Lord to the pandit who was standing above, so we had to duck under them to get a proper view. My vision was spoilt by people who didn’t care there were other souls and kept getting in the way, but I tuned everything out to the best of my abilities and concentrated on the bedecked deity. I only had five seconds of a clear darshan and I could survive to stand in the crazy crowd if only I had a body made of steel. So after drinking in the sight of my Lord as much as I could, I had to escape out.
And I wasn’t entirely satisfied.
And He knew that 😀
My mother’s eyes caught sight of a handful of people climbing up some steps to look at something through a large opening in the wall of the temple. She quickly grabbed my hand to take me over there and when we went up, it was to see Lord Vishnu twinkling back at us, in full view without any disturbance from anyone. From there, we could also see the dheepam (Holy Light), which was very sacred. The banister had a railing so Mum and I stood in the corner. The people beside us started to have some deep discussion with the pandit who was sitting on the window ledge and they took all the time they wanted, which gave us a huge advantage of viewing Lord Vishnu till our hearts were full.
I could stand staring at Him all day.
The beauty was, no crowd was coming up here. Everyone was so intent on being inside the prahar, giving their offerings and quickly worshipping the other deities so they could leave, that there were only a few people up here.
Mum and I climbed up to the banister thrice and all three times, we viewed the Lord as much as we wanted. The first time, it was just her and me; the second time, we alerted everyone else and took them up too; the third time, both of us couldn’t get enough of Him and rushed up for one more time 😀
It was an amazing darshan ❤
The pandit gave us a lot of the prasadam and feeling completely purified and elated by Lord Vishnu, we climbed back down and couldn’t thank Him enough for the blessing.
We happily went to worship the other deities – Goddess Lakshmi, Lord Hanuman, Lord Ram and Shree Krishna – and after folding our hands to the wondrous temple once more, we went out and collected our footwear. A guy with a camera came tottering behind us asking if we would like to be photographed in front of the temple and so we agreed at once. He gave us three copies, one for us, one for my grandparents and one for Uncle and Aunty. As we steadily made our way across the bridge to go back to our lodge, Mum and I kept turning back and looking at the Badrinath temple, praying we come back with Dad and my brother to see Him again.
We had our brunch at a nearby restaurant and after purchasing some gifts for the rest of our family members and wallpapers of Char Dham to give to everyone, we headed back to our rooms to pack everything, load it back in the car, and after we visited and got blessings from a Babuji (who was in Badrinath at that time) Uncle knew, we were off back. We waved at Badrinath, hoping to come back soon, and down we went.
It was 2:00 a.m by the time we reached Haridwar and once we reached our room, we fell on the beds into an exhausted sleep.
But before I slept, two tears came out of my eyes 🙂
I was staring up at the ceiling in the dark, visiting all the memories we had up at the Himalayas, and now that we were back on land in the midst of the technological world and a place where people tell a hundred lies to hide one lie, I felt like I had left a part of myself up there. I felt so different. I didn’t want the Char Dham Yatra to end. The darshans … the scenery … all the rooms we stayed in … the cold vicinities … even the travels … I missed everything terribly.
Mum was feeling the same way. Of course, she didn’t cry like I did, but her heart mirrored my own. She didn’t see me crying, thankfully, and I had to quickly wipe my tears onto the blanket before I bawled 😀 I couldn’t bear being away from that pure and divine place. Even now, as I type this all out, there is a dull weight in my stomach.
31 May, Tuesday:
The next morning, we went to bathe in the River Ganga, which is the process to finish the Yatra successfully. After changing into fresh clothes and having breakfast, we spent the day shopping. The Himalays saw me shivering from the cold; Haridwar saw me sweating with the heat 😀 God, what anger did the sun have there? We were sweltering as we walked through the cobbled streets of the shopping centre. It was quite a long day and I was waiting for the night to come.
We saw the Ganga Aarthi at six p.m. and once it was over, we hurried for a quick dinner, after which we packed our stuff again and got back into the car to drive to New Delhi. Our flight was scheduled at six a.m. and it will take five hours to get to Indira Gandhi Airport.
1 June, Wednesday:
We reached there by 2 a.m. and I couldn’t sleep again, so I was staring around until we checked in our luggage. All of us freshened ourselves up before going up to our gate. At the checking area, my mother and I were separated from my grandparents and uncle. We accidentally kept our bottle of water from the Ganga in our hand luggage instead of packing it in the main one, so the customs guy took it out and said it wasn’t allowed, because no more than 100 ml of liquids is permitted in the flight. This bottle was one litre.
My heart sank and my stomach rolled in nausea when he said that. Oh no, he wasn’t going to take it away from us!
Don’t you dare! were the words in my head and Mum and I were so anxious.
He moved away from us to take care of the other bags and I called out to him, ‘Excuse me, sir!’ While that was what I said aloud, my mind was going, ‘You get back here, mister, and give me that bottle back!’
He bluntly looked over his shoulder and I think something showed in my face, because he stared at me, and then quickly came over. My mother and I explained to him that it was only the water from the Ganges and he said, ‘Okay, drink it.’
I automatically fought a smile and Mum and I took huge gulps each to prove it. He then gave us the permission to take it and we thanked him and put the holy bottle back into my backpack before meeting with my grandparents. They had undergone the same scenario with their Ganga bottle 😀
The flight took off at the right time and I slept through the entire journey, waking up only to eat the delicious breakfast supplied. At Chennai, we had five hours to kill, so while my grandparents and Uncle went out to have some traditional South-Indian lunch, Mum, as promised, took me upstairs to get me lunch at KFC. She had a pizza from Pizza Hut and all five of us sat beside our gate until the announcement. There was suddenly a change of gate, so we had rush to it, and together with all the passengers boarding for Madurai, we climbed onto the aircraft and reached the airport at 4:45 p.m. Dad was waiting for us and while Mum and I got into our car, my grandparents and my uncle got into their car to drive back to my hometown.
The Char Dham Yatra was finished successfully.
It was everything magnified.
I’m so grateful for having the lucky chance to go on this holy trip and attain a new meaning to life. My dear friends and readers, if you think of going on this yatra or a chance leaps at you from nowhere, never back down from it and refuse it. Please don’t. These holy seats are to be worshipped at least once in our lifetime and believe me when I say your soul will find peace, a calmness whose source cannot be anything better. Problems at home? Problems at work? Feeling alone? Feeling restless?
This completely destroys all negative thoughts ❤
Thank you to each and every person who took the time to read through these long reminisces of the yatra 🙂
May the Gods bless you always.
Jai Maa Yamuna ❤
Jai Maa Ganga ❤
Jai Kedarnath ❤
Jai Badrinath ❤
Jai Shree Krishna ❤