The narrow stretches of alternating rough, uneven, and paved roads pass between deep, breath-taking gorges on one side and gigantic breathtaking snow-covered cliffs on the other. The fluffy cottony clouds coming down from the mountain peaks, through the windows of the bus, kissing the faces of the passengers as welcoming them, and the serpentine sparkling clean rivers passing between the roots of the same mountains.
The sun playing peek-a-boo with the clouds, blinking and laughing from behind them as if teasing the rain drops. The dazzling white sheet of snow spread far and wide, which shines like a pearl when the rays of the sun fall on them.
Every now and then waterfalls emerge out of the rocks eagerly waiting to declare their ownership on those unpaved roads and saying, look this is our world.
How clean, how beautiful, how magnificent!
Look at these priceless views of nature, how innocent, how playful!
Amongst those ice-cold springs, emerge some hot springs of boiling water in such nail-biting cold weather.
On one hand is the clean fresh breath of air that reaches deep inside the mind, making the heart swell, and on the other side the chilling cold winds that make even the bones tremble.
Overall, it’s nothing less than a special sacred feeling of the purity of nature. And these natural elements are not far away, from us but right here in our motherland.
This pleasant encounter with nature is experienced by one and all while traveling to Badri Dham situated in Uttarkashi hills.
And once felt, this gratifying, ethereal experience can never be erased from our memory.
It is rightly said that sometimes a journey is more beautiful than the destination itself, and so is this inaccessible picturesque journey, full of rare natural beauty till Badri Vishal.
And after experiencing this myself while visiting Badri Vishal, some special memories were etched in my heart forever, which made this journeyâ€¦â€¦.
An unforgettable journey of my life.
It is another matter that it is still difficult for me to decide whether the memories of the destination here are more arresting for me or the journey.
Moreover, I had been on this journey when the mountains had not been exploited yet and humans had not even started playing with the beauty of nature.
Those were the days when the villages looked like villages and the rivers and streams had the freedom to flow freely and we had seen them as free-flowing waters and not in the form of pools.
When there were no luxurious modern resorts amidst the snowy mountains, there used to be beautiful small hotels and motels.
When the tree trunks instead of acting as black and yellow signboards flaunted their beauty. When the rocks on the way were not converted into the advertisement panels of hotels.
Well, when the journey is so heavenly and especially in the company of ones loved ones then such journeys become even more enjoyable and the same thing happened with me.
This is about thirty-five years ago, when, like every child, I was preparing to go to my maternal grandmother’s house for summer vacations and suddenly my father, who was then working in the railways, was asked to attend a three days training at the railways training institute, Haridwar.
Now the issue was how would my paternal grandmother stay alone in the house. It was then my maternal grandmother asked my father to bring her along and my father said that it would be fine and in return, he would take my granny back with him.
Thus we mother, daughter, and my dear grandmother set out for Delhi. Two days later, Papa also reached Delhi but with a surprise. Along with him, he had also got tickets booked for Haridwar for us all.
Making his training period an enjoyable time for us too, because separately it used to be very difficult for my father to find time out, so he thought that he would undertake his training and we would go sightseeing the places nearby in the evening. This way he too would enjoy with us.
For three days, we traveled a lot around Haridwar and Rishikesh. During the day we would visit countless temples, go to the banks of the Ganges and spend hours around Lakshman jhula.
His training ended on Thursday and he had a return train from Delhi to Ahmedabad on Sunday evening. So we still had three more days which had earlier been planned to spend in Delhi, but suddenly my mother out of nowhere expressed her desire to visit Badri Vishal.
Even today I remember that moment when Papa had expressed his inability saying that he has to join his office back on Monday at any cost. Also according to the local guides there, the weather in Uttarkashi was highly unpredictable. In a moment sun that brightly shone would give way to clouds followed by heavy rains. Also due to sudden landslides, the roads could be closed at any time.
And then there was always a possibility of traffic jams stretching for hours at any time.
So in such a short time, it was difficult to say that we could return to Haridwar back within two days, i.e. by Saturday night, but my mother was adamant about visiting the place saying that our whole family was together and no one knew when this opportunity will come again.
She assured Papa that day as if she was speaking on behalf of Badrinath that no matter what happens, there will face no hindrance and they will be definitely able to catch the train to Delhi on Saturday night or Sunday morning so that Papa’s train to Ahmedabad is not be missed.
Papa couldn’t do anything else except agree and we all set out on this beautiful journey. He booked bus tickets without wasting much time. During those times there weren’t many modes of travel like taxis etc. and people depended on public transport.
And the next day early in the morning started â€¦â€¦â€¦.
Our unforgettable journeyâ€¦â€¦â€¦..
As usual, my father and I were sitting on the seat meant for two people, and my mother, grandmother, and granny were sitting busy in their chatting their talk on the seat meant for three people.
The happiness on my Granny’s face was visible. After all, the woman who had devoted her whole life towards the betterment of her only son, how much happiness those moments must be provided to her.
And Nani used to be very happy with her favorite son-in-law anyway and I with Papa, so what else was needed.
Now in such a situation when one is with one’s loved ones, even a painful journey becomes worth enjoying, then this was a journey already ethereal and heavenly.
The bus left Rishikesh early in the morning and after a few hours came the first main stop – Rudraprayag.
It is the confluence of the Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers.
By now the weather had started to take a turn and the sun, wearing the veil of clouds, was now increasing the coolness in the atmosphere. At the same time, a few drops of rain were also making their presence felt on our cheeks.
The bus driver took a halt there for lunch. And we thought of using the time by walking around a bit after having quickly finished our food.
The panoramic view of the confluence of Alaknanda and Mandakini is like the meeting of two supreme civilizations, where both are complete and strong in themselves yet complement each other.
After taking rest for some time, the driver signaled all the passengers to be seated on the bus and the onward journey started.
The bus driver was proceeding very cautiously on those heart-wrenching steep roads. A single mistake and deep gorges below stood ready to swallow everything. On the other hand, the hide and seek of the clouds with the sun increased a bit and while rejoicing in their victory, the proud clouds took the form of heavy rain, which made this journey even more exciting.
The ice-cold water entering through the windows now wanted to make us feel it, perhaps.
Due to heavy rain, the bus was moving even slower, due to which it reached Joshimath around late evening and the driver said that here onwards it wasn’t possible to go further than this, in this weather. There, arrangements were made for the passengers to stay in an inn nearby.
We were also given a room.
The hot lentils cooked on the stove, along with the rotis, seemed so delicious as if it was God’s prasad. Thundering clouds and heavily pouring rain outside increased the severity of the cold in the room inside.
And once again an argument between my mother and father broke out.
“I said that these people are saying not to take a risk. The weather can be bad here at any time. Now tomorrow morning we will be back from here. Will come again for darshan some other timeâ€, Papa told mother.
“Okay. First, let’s see what does tomorrow morning’s sun brings. If the weather is not good, then we will go back and if God wills then we will have darshanâ€, my mother replied as if ruled by some unknown faith.
After dinner, Papa talked to the innkeepers and somehow arranged four additional blankets. We lay two blankets on the ground. On one side lay down my granny, my father beside her then me in between, and my mother with me and grandmother on the other side. And a layer of four to five blankets on all of us.
We all slept hugging each other avoiding the bitterly cold conditions.
It was the exertion of the journey of the aura of the place, I cannot judge but we had such a sound sleep that night in spite of the chilling weather.
As dawn broke, we were woken up by the light coming in through the cracks of the windows. That bright ray was indicating a golden morning after the heavy rains that lasted all night.
Opening the window we looked out at the sun smilingly coming out from among the clouds, saying,
“Enough of this game now. Let’s let life move on.”
Just then someone knocked on the door. He was the bus driver
“The weather has cleared we’ll leave for Badrinath in half an hour. You all get ready soon.”
Our enthusiasm knew no bounds. The rains that were creating havoc in the night had all subsided giving way to a calm, relaxed atmosphere as if nothing had happened.
The journey ahead begunâ€¦â€¦..
To say, it was just a journey of about fifty kilometers but the steep climb didn’t let any vehicle take-up speed. After moving at a constant near zero speed for about three hours, we reached Badrinath.
Papa asked the driver of the same bus about the first return bus because he had to catch the next morning’s train to Delhi in any case.
The driver suggested that he leave the luggage with him, just take a pair of clothes and after having darshan, walk around the nearby market and come back, because after three hours the same bus will return so we could easily reach Haridwar by late night.
We did the same. Keeping a pair of cloth bags in the bag, we walked towards the temple.
There we first took a bath in the Tapt Kund, put on clean clothes, then started our walk towards the temple.
Snow-covered mountains all around. ‘Neelkanth Parvat‘ shining from behind like a unique crown adorning Badri Vishal. Simultaneously, the icy milky Alakhnanda was establishing its supremacy.
And on both sides of the narrow road, were small, shops, where prasad, flower garlands, pictures of God, and other items were being sold.
In some shops, photographers were requesting travelers to get their photos clicked.
Yes, it wasn’t the era of mobiles and these local photographers enjoyed importance in those days.
After all, any traveler who goes this far will definitely want to get some of his photographs clicked on the temple premises and also capture these heavenly picturesque views.
After buying Prasad, flowers, etc. from the market, we reached the temple after walking a journey of about half a kilometer.
Badri Dham temple complex does not require any words to express its grandeur.
That colorful temple courtyard standing amidst the silvery mountains looks like the Almighty’s abode itself.
Climbing up a few steps, we reached inside the temple. Due to not much crowd, the darshan was very good, after praying before the Badrinath, the Akhand Jyot, and circumambulating the temple, we spent some relaxing moments there and then came out after crossing the door not wanting to do it.
We also called a photographer from the crowd of photographers.
Outside the temple, we got some family photographs clicked and then once bowing down to God, walked towards the bus stand.
On the way, while having breakfast of hot pakoras in the same market and buying colorful necklaces and rings marked with Badrinath’s picture, etc., we sat on the banks of Alaknanda for some time.
The rays of the sun falling on the water made it appear like thousands of diamonds and jewels shining together in the water.
Capturing this beautiful scene in our eyes, we went back to the bus stand from where our return to Haridwar started.
Late at night, we reached Haridwar, and the next day we reached Delhi in the evening by the morning train to Delhi.
Then Papa left for Ahmedabad with Dadi and we stayed for a few more days at my Nani’s house to spend the holidays.
Due to paucity of time, we could not see many beautiful places there, but it was a pleasure that we did not have to return halfway without having darshan.
Also, the fun that was in the journey. The fun that was with them and the joy of being able to imprison those feelings forever in our memory completed our journey and took the form of some unforgettable memories in my heart for my lifetime.
This journey whether considered incomplete or complete, was one of the best because the time that passes by never comes back.
It has been said that â€œWhatever you want to do tomorrow, do it today and now for just a moment can change lives, and then maybe those moments may never arrive.
It’s just the same thing.
When and who is not there or not there, no one knows. That is why not live every moment of life and make it unforgettable.
It’s just these are the memories that remain, the rest of it all just vanishes in the blink of an eye like a gust of wind.
Some sour and some sweet