India Dreaming
Accounts of previous tours to India by Sundaram



Part Two: Badri & Beyond


On our way back to the YSS Ashram at Dwarahat after our pilgrimage to the cave of Mahavatar Babaji, some of us walked up the several hundred steps to the Vaishnavo Devi Temple on the hill overlooking the town of Dwarahat. It is a beautiful temple with thousands of bells which have been hung everywhere as devotional offerings. It is the tradition in this part of the Himalayas that when a devotee prays in a temple and that prayer is answered one brings a bell as an offering of gratitude. So many answered prayers lead to so many, many bells!. One highlight of this excursion, however, was a visit to the small hut of an elderly swami who lived in a hut behind the temple. He invited us inside where he had a dhuni (fire) pit, gave us prasad and blessed us. He was a very sweet and blessed soul.


Our next pilgrimage location was the holy shrine of Badrinarayan (Badrinath) at an elecvation of 10,500 feet in the high Himalayas. Due to a road closer we had to go around thru Karnaprayag, reaching Pipalkoti (near Joshimath) after a 10-hour bus ride thru the beautiful terraced hills, going up & up & up! On a few occasions we would look out the window of our bus yet couldn't see the road at all -- just a straight drop of several thousand feet. ("To be fit for self-realization man must be fearless!") After spending the night in a hotel at Pipalkoti we continued the next morning to Badrinath, checking into the Narayan Palace Hotel. (A "palace" it wasn't -- an Indian hotel, it was!) Badrinath, one of the Char Dhams, (“Four Temples”) is one of the holiest of all pilgrimage destinations for Hindus. (The other three are Kedarnath, Gangotri & Jamunotri). The murti (deity) at the Badrinath Temple is a form of Narayana (Vishnu). It is of great interest to SRF/YSS devotees since Paramahansa Yogananda meantions it as being the vicinity in which Mahavatar Babaji still dwells. ("The Northern Himalayan crags near Badrinarayan are still blessed by the living presence of Babajai..." , Autobiography of a Yogi). There is a great historical connection between Babaji & the Badrinarayan Temple. In fact, the murti in the temple itself, when unadorned , looks like Babaji, seated in lotus posture with long flowing hair. It is the only Vishnu / Krishna temple we know of where the Lord is depicted in such a form, which is more akin to Shiva Mahadev than to Vishnu. It is said that in the higher ages, the Lord Himself was visable in the temple. When the ages descended & man could no longer see the Lord, his image had to be installed there.


As wonderful as visiting the holy temple was, perhaps the greatest spiritual treasure for us lay a few kilometers past Badrinath near the small mountain village of Mana.. It is there, on a rocky hillside, that one may find two very ancient caves: Ganesh Gufa & Vyas Gufa ("gufa" means "cave"). Vyas Gufa is the cave in which the great rishi Vyasa was living when he wrote the Mahabharata, " Ganesh Gufa is where Lord Ganesha was residing when he penned that transcendental work with his own tusk which he broke off just for that purpose, thus becoming know as "Ekadanta," literally, "He with one tooth." Ganesha wrote while Vyasa dictated one of the greatest spiritual epics of the world which includes within it, of course, the reknowned Srimad Bhagavad Gita. We meditated for some time in Vyas Gufa, especially, & the feeling of the Divine presence was truly remarkable.


On our way back down the trail, in the misty rain, we encountered a little dog that was very cute & also very wet. We wanted to buy some cookies for it at a nearby tea stall & as we were doing so a few local men advised us that we must go to one other amazing place while we were there which was just a few hundred meters down a side trail. The attraction was Bhima's Bridge, and the source of the Saraswati River! It seems that when the Pandava brothers were there, Draupadi wanted to cross the Saraswati River, so Bhima, the "strong-man" of the five, lifted a huge rock & laid it across the canyon just for her to walk over. That rock is still there, they say, after 5000 years! Just beyond it is the source of the Saraswati, which was just indescribably powerful -- like standing, if you can image, a few feet above Niagra Falls! Shivani (Hilary) & I stood out on a point just above the roaring river as it literally burst from the mountain side, with nothing more than 2-feet between us & death literally! The power of the river went right through us. This was a totally unexpected & very stunning highlight of our trip & it came about as a direct result of our group's combined sympathetic feelings for a little wet dog!



Part 3: Tungnath