Thursday, November 12, 2009

Badrinath Dham......a legend, a journey : Part 2

Outside, it was almost freezing, & the rumbling of the Alaknanda river, added to the dip in the temperature, & yet I felt so nice & energetic. The sky was lit with millions of stars, as if welcoming us to the heavenly abode, the dark mountains in the backdrop looked like sentinels, guarding the mankind.
After the Pujas, we met the Head Priest of the temple, a young, simple yet peaceful & content looking man in his late 20s maybe or at best in his early 30s. He is called the Raawal. It’s a Title given to the Head Priest as a reverence. He is traditionally a Nambudiri Brahmin from South India & has to be a Bramhachari. This tradition was started by Adi Shankaracharya, who also came from South India. The Rawaal enquired about us & our background. He would speak very little & had a beautiful smile lit up on his face. He asked us retire for the night & also told us to meet him again the next day after the morning Pujas.

We were hungry & ate like crazy at a restaurant nearby. Each preparation was fresh & hot and tasted simply yummm. We just hogged & hogged. The walk back to the Guest House was again in lost in thoughts……..amazingly, a lot of events from the past were sweeping my mind, as if a movie was on an action replay mode. Too many thoughts to handle, too many past events kept surfacing, but strangely, the mind seemed to be in peace, as if just observing the chain of events in dispassion. Naturally, I tried to engage myself in explanation, but the mind seemed least interested in doing so.
We went to sleep early as the morning Puja was scheduled at 5.00am. Everyone seemed to be engrossed in their own thoughts.

We woke up at 3.30am & quickly managed to take a shower, thanks to the hot water from the Tapt Kund. Getting ready as soon as we could, we almost dashed to the shrine for the morning Pujas. The place was almost full with devotees & but we somehow got to sit with a clear view of the shrine. The next couple of hours just went by in a trance, as the main priest performed the rituals amidst the chanting of the Mantras & the ringing of the temple bells. Sitting on the floor, I was transported to a world of celestial bliss. It felt divine & heavenly……even after the whole rituals were over, I did not feel like leaving the place. I was simply transfixed. The shrine, which is also called called the Garbha Griha(inner sanctum), houses idols of Badri Narayan, Kuber, Narad,Uddhav, Nar, Narayan, Laxmi, Garuda, Adi Shankar, & Sri Ramanujam. The idol of Badri Narayan is made of black stone, with conch shell(shankh) in one hand & chakra in another,(both the hands raised), & the other two arms are resting on the lap in a Yog Mudra position. This idol is believed to be only one of its kind.
Later, we went round the temple & then huddled around a Havan Kund ( a place where fire is lit & offerings are made to the Divine). With every Mantra, we were offering ghee & Yagya Samagri ( various offerings, as per rituals) to the fire. It was an amazing experience. The whole thing took a little more than an hour. After this we met up with the Raawal. He gave us his blessings & Prasad and wished us a safe journey back. For some strange reason, he asked quite a bit about me & then told me to come again, whenever I wanted to. It was as if he was reading my mind on what was happening to me the previous night.

We started our journey back around 10.00am. It had started to snow on the mountains & we were told that the winters had arrived. The temple would now close for six months & open again in April. As the majestic Badrinath Dham started to recede through the rearview mirrors of the vehicle, the longing to return started to increase.......return to meditate, to internalise, to go deep within........maybe some day in future.

to be continued..........