This article has been extracted from
THE IMPERIAL GAZETTEER OF INDIA , 1908.
OXFORD, AT THE CLARENDON PRESS.
Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts.Many units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.
Peak of the Central Himalayan axis in Garhwal District, United Provinces, reaching to a height of 23,210 feet above the sea. From the glaciers on its sides the Bishanganga, an affluent of the Alaknanda river, and several other tributaries take their rise. On one of its shoulders, at an elevation of 10,400 feet, and on the road from Srinagar to the Mana Pass, stands a shrine of Vishnu, which also bears the name of Badrinath (30 45' N. and 79 30' E.). The original temple is said to have been built by Sankaraeharya ; but several buildings have been swept away by avalanches. The present structure is modern. It is conical in shape, and is surmounted by a small cupola covered with plates of copper and crowned with a gilded ball and spire. Below the shrine a sacred tank stands on the hill-side, supplied from a hot spring by means of a spout in the shape of a dragon's head. Pilgrims of both sexes bathe in the holy pool.
The god is daily provided with dinner, and his comfort is carefully ensured in many other ways. The vessels on which he is served are of gold and silver, and a large staff of servants attend to his wants. The chief priest, known as the Rawal, is always a Brahman of the Namburi class from Southern India. In 1896 a suit was instituted in the civil court and a scheme of management was framed, by which the Raival manages the secular affairs of the temple, subject to the control of the Raja of Tehri State. A large number of villages have been assigned for the maintenance of the temple, with a revenue demand of about Rs. 7,000. The temple is annually closed about November, when the priests remove the treasure to Joshimath for the winter, returning to Badrinath in May. Immense numbers of pilgrims annually visit Badrinath and other shrines in the hills.
Joshimath : Locals believe that the shrine of Badrinath — presently accessed via Joshimath — will become inaccessible in the future, and the worship of Lord Badrinarayan will happen at the Bhavishya Badri temple, situated about 22km away from Joshimath at an altitude of 8,530 feet in Suvai village ahead of Tapovan. The prophecy is mentioned in the ‘Sanath Samhita’, an ancient text, which says that when the arm of the Narasingha idol at Joshimath will fall off and the mountains of Jay and Vijay near Vishnuprayag collapse, making the present shrine of Badrinath inaccessible, the worship of Lord Vishnu as Badrinarayan will begin at Bhavishya Badri.
Incidentally, the arm of the idol of Narasingha, one of the avatars of Vishnu — depicted in a meditative state unlike his usual self — is now ‘as thin as hair’, although it hasn’t fallen off. The area near Vishnuprayag, where the NTPC hydropower project is situated, and the town of Joshimath are in aprecarious state, leading many to wonder whether there may be some truth in the prophecy. TOImet with the head priest of Lord Narasingha temple in Joshimath, Sanjay Prasad Dimri. “Locals feel, maybe, the deity is upset and hence distressing events have started unravelling in the holy town,” he said.
Speaking about the ancient lore, Dimri said, “Narasingha temple was established by Adi Shankaracharya. In this temple, Lord Vishnu is in his calm avatar. The idol is on ‘shaligram’. The idol of Lord Narasingha here has its arm thinning with each passing day; we see itevery day during the lord’s ‘jalabhishek’ in the morning. ” He added: “At Bhavishya Badri, there is another idol of Lord Badrinath, which originated on its own and is growing bigger each passing day. Our mythological books mention that when the left arm of Lord Narasingha thins out, Lord Badrinath would quit his present place and move to Bhavishya Badri as the two mountains — Jay and Vijay — would come together closing the gateway to present-day Badrinath, some 45km from here. Devotees would then start paying their obeisance at Bhavishya Badri. ” Two noted scientists of Uttarakhand — former glaciologist of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, DP Dobhal, and director of Uttarakhand space application centre, MPS Bisht -visited the Bhavishya Badri temple earlier this week.
Taking to a social media platform, Bisht wrote: “The fact on the idol's elevation is actually related to soil creep which is a normal phenomenon in a periglacial zone. This temple is situated in a similar landscape. . . ”
The aarti Pawan Mand Sugandh Sheetal
Written by Fakhruddin Siddiqui (‘Badruddin')?
Badrinath priests say it was a rudraksha-wearing devotee called Badruddin who composed the prayer, but the Uttarakhand govt differs BADRINATH: As the sun goes down and the ringing of bells reaches a crescendo, pilgrims queue up at Badrinath, one of the four revered Char Dham shrines in Uttarakhand. The spectacle of the evening aarti is one to watch, with priests paying obeisance holding bowls of fire and pious chants reverberating in the air. But many of the devotees who line up for darshan this year will have not just a prayer on their lips, but a question too. Who actually wrote the aarti ‘Pawan Mand Sugandh Sheetal’ that they are singing?
Priests and local residents are also in a quandary regarding the identity of the author of the century-old hymn after the BJP-led Uttarakhand government announced last month that a local writer, Dhan Singh Barthwal, had penned the verse. This goes against the popular narrative that Fakhruddin Siddiqui, a postmaster at Nandprayag in Chamoli district, composed the song sometime in the 1860s. Siddiqui, who later people called 'Badruddin', was a devotee of Lord Badri. The state government came to the conclusion that Barthwal was the writer after his great-grandson, Mahendra Singh Barthwal, a school teacher from Rudraprayag, apparently approached the administration with a manuscript with the Badrinath aarti written on it. A carbon dating test was conducted following which chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat declared that the manuscript was from 1881, around the time the aarti had become popular. The government was of the view that since Badruddin’s family was unable to furnish proof that their ancestor had composed the aarti, claims made by Barthwal’s family were true.
However, a book published in 1889 — which contains the Badrinath aarti and lists Badruddin’s uncle as its custodian — is currently kept in a private museum in Almora. Jugal Kishore Pethshali, its owner, said, “Al-Mushtahar Munsi Naseeruddin is mentioned as the custodian of the book which is a translation of Skanda Purana -- a Hindu religious text -- and has Badrinath’s aarti on the last page.” Experts have raised questions over the state government overlooking the presence of the published book and using carbon dating alone to determine the author of the aarti.
AS Maurya, associate professor at the earth sciences department at IIT-Roorkee, cautioned that carbon dating results cannot pinpoint a particular year. “It would be very hard to narrow down on a particular year using carbon dating to determine age. The actual age could vary plus or minus 80 years,” he said. “This means carbon dating cannot be used to conclusively say that Barthwal’s manuscript was written in 1881." Director of Uttarakhand Space Application Centre (USAC) MPS Bisht, who conducted the carbon dating, insisted the test was accurate and showed Barthwal’s manuscript dated back to 1881.
Not everyone is convinced though. Pandit Vinay Krishna Rawat, a priest, added that his grandfather knew Badruddin. "In fact, Badruddin told my grandfather that he'd written the aarti. My grandfather would often talk of how the rudraksha- wearing Muslim man could be seen at the steps of the temple lost in bhakti.” According to folklore, so mesmerised was Badruddin when he saw the shrine that he instantly wrote the words ‘Pawan Mand Sugandh Sheetal’ to pay homage to it.
It’s a story that has been narrated by Deepak Saini several times to his eager customers over numerous cups of chai at his dhaba, one of the many that dot the path to the temple. Just like Saini, owners of neighbouring shops selling puja items have never heard of Barthwal.
“They (the government) is saying that someone called Dhan Singh has written the Badrinath aarti. But ask anybody here and they will tell you that a Muslim devotee has written it. That’s what our forefathers believed and that’s what we believe,” a shopkeeper told TOI.
Priests from Badri-Kedar Temples Committee (BKTC), which manages the shrine, also said general consensus over the years has been that Badruddin is the author.
Badruddin’s descendants, who now live in Dehradun but visit their native town of Nandprayag every year to take part in the Ramleela, are disheartened that they have been “robbed of the family legacy”. Badruddin’s great-grandson, Ayazuddin, said, “He was devoted to Lord Badrinath, which is why the family has continued to keep his faith alive.” Ayazuddin, who plays the part of Meghnad — son of Lankan king Ravana — in the annual Ramleela, and his uncles recite Sanskrit shlokas with ease and light up their houses on Diwali and Eid.
When TOI spoke to Barthwal’s family, they said the manuscript was discovered in a container in 2018 when they were cleaning out their basement. “It was kept along with some other manuscripts. I showed it to a few friends who suggested I take it to the government,” said Mahendra Singh Barthwal. He added, “I am glad that my great-grandfather has finally got due credit. He was a well-travelled man. It is possible that Badruddin heard him recite the aarti somewhere and started singing it.”
1971-2014: opening of temple doors and electoral success
The doors of the Badrinath temple, the legend goes, hold the key to the political fortunes of the royals of Tehri. The two occasions on which the royals lost in elections – in 1971 and 2007 – the temple doors were shut. This time around, the state goes to the polls on April 11; the temple opens on May 10.
Mala Rajya Lakshmi Shah, the wife of maharaja Manujendra Shah, is the sitting Tehri MP from BJP. The seat includes Tehri Garhwal, Uttarkashi and parts of Dehradun.
The Badrinath temple is one of the four shrines that make up the Char Dham Yatra in the Garhwal Himalayas — alongside Gangotri, Yamunotri and Kedarnath. It remains open for around six months in a year, from end-April/early May to October/ November when the Char Dham Yatra is held.
The erstwhile royals are regarded as the custodians of the Badrinath shrine. The head of the family is called ‘Bolanda Badri’ (talking Badrinath) who announces the dates of opening of the shrine every year. Royal family members have contested elections 13 times from the seat and won 11 times. The two instances when they lost was when the temple was closed for winter. In 1971, the elections were held in March and the head of the family, Manvendra Shah, lost. In 2007, when bypolls were held for the seat (on February 21), Manujendra Shah lost.
Bhuvan Chandra Uniyal, dharmadhikari (senior officebearer) of the Badrinath temple, told TOI, “There is no doubt that the royal family has the special blessings of lord Badrinath, which reflects in their political career too.”
“The myth got stronger after the elections of 2007, 2012 and 2014. While Manujendra Shah lost the bypolls in 2007 when the temple was closed, the seat was won by Mala Rajya Lakshmi Shah, his wife, in 2012 when voting was held on October 10, and in 2014 when polls were held on May 7. In 2012 and 2014, the temple was open,” said political analyst Surat Singh Rawat.
“Voting is being held on April 11, 2019 and the portals of the temple are opening on May 10. If Mala Rajya Lakshmi Shah again contests, it will be interesting to see if the myth holds true,” he said.
The Badri Narayan statue
As in 2003
Where Vishnu’s penance never ends
Swati Mathur | TNN 2013/07/03
Badrinath: Legend has it that Vishnu, protector and keeper of the Universe, is still performing penance at Badrinath. His presence, embodied in a 2.75-foot ‘shalikgram’ stone statue and a Tapt kund — a sulphur spring – flowing from under his feet, are proof he’s here.
Jai Badri Vishal is the one mantra they chant here. Badri Narayan’s pull is enormous. If Dwarika, Rameshwaram and Jagannath promise devotees dharm, shanti and shuddhi, at Badrinath, one finds Moksha. Badrinath temple high priest Dharmadhikari Bhuvan Uniyal says: “Thousands of years ago, the Gods gathered here each year for an audience with Vishnu. One year, Vishnu didn’t appear. Declaring this as Vishnu’s seat of penance, creator of the Universe Brahma said Vishnu would continue to be worshipped here. Years later, towards the end of the ‘dwapar’ era, Adi Shankaracharya installed a statue of Badrinath, after he found it in the middle of the Narad Kund, a lake below the Badrinath shrine.”
Several attempts, local priests say, to destroy the Badri Narayan statue have failed. Each time, a divine power has saved it. It’s reinstated, each time, after the Gods send out divine messages to Vishnu’s disciples, instructing them where to find the statue.
In many ways, the Badrinath pilgrimage is unique. Vishnu is believed to have descended to earth in the form of saints – Nar and Narayan – to perform penance. In his human avatar, as Nar, he is worshipped between May and November. For the remaining period, Vishnnu, as Badrinath, takes on his divine form and is worshipped by Narada. A statue of Vishnu’s friend, Uddhav, is ferried to Pandukeshwar, where it stays until the next Nar puja. There’s also a tradition for appointing the Badrinath high priest. Believed to have been started by Adi Shankaracharya, the task of looking after Badri Vishal’s statue is given to Rawal Namboodri Brahmins from Kerala. These Brahmins even today work as the highest temple priests.