Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Story of Shri Badrinath

Lord Narayana lives in Vaikuntha or Paramapadam with his consort Lakshmi. In Vaikuntha, there is an ocean of milk called ksheer sagar, and in it is Sesha Nag, the thousand headed snake. Lord Vishnu reclines on Sesha naga and Lakshmiji sits near his feet and massages his feet. (If he does not move around much he would not need the massage, but the fact that his feet are being massaged could mean that at times not captured on film, he has been constantly on the move, looking after the well being of everyone on earth and comes back tired.) Narada and Saraswati are often seen along side, waiting upon the lord and Lakshmi. It is said that Narada did not like this life style that Lord Narayana was living, and he thought that this luxurious lifestyle would give the wrong idea to his devotees. Narada expressed his feelings to Lord Narayana. Hearing his concern Lord Narayana decided to do something about it. He decided to give up all these luxuries and live the life of an ascetic. He knew that Laxmi would not let him do it, so he sent her out with the Nag Kanyas and slipped out to Kedarkhand in the himalayas to do meditation. Once at Kedarkhand he surveyed the land and liked the area near Badrinath (at that time this place was not called Badrinath), it had grand mountain chains all around, the river Alaknanda flowing by, beautiful trees and fragrant flowers and a hot water spring.
There was one problem though, Lord Shiva and Parvati were already settled in Badrinath. (Even today there is a temple of Lord Aadi Kedareshwara next to Badrinath temple. I feel that this whole area was dominated by the Shaivities in the early days. Later on other people moved in and they built their own temples to their own gods.) Vishnu could have moved to some other place, but who can walk away from a challenge, especially when you are all powerful. The top gods don’t fight each other but use trickery and mischief to get their way.

Lord Vishnu took the form of a small baby and arrived at the door step of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva and Parvati were about to go to Tapt Kund to take their daily bath. In those days there were no private baths and even the gods had to use the public baths. When they opened the door they found this little baby crying at their doorstep. Parvati, being mother first and goddess second took pity on the child and gave him a big hug and picked him up. Lord Shiva, being the usual male, said ‘don’t pick the boy up, his parents will take care of him. This is the way of the world, someone is happy and someone is sad, you don’t need to worry about it’. Wrong move, you know all too well what happens when a man says something like that to his wife, especially who is independent, her determination becomes even stronger. She did not want to abandon the child there. She pleaded with Shiva, saying ‘You provide shelter to everyone, don’t you feel love for this little child, look he is so cute (what if he had not been cute, would they have shown him no sympathy,) let’s not leave him in the cold.” Lord Shiva, ofcourse was aware of the whole game and knew he was being tricked, and he said so - “This boy is not an ordinary boy, if you show him love and affection, he will take everything you have. Let’s not worry about this and move on. It is getting late for our bath.” But this made Parvati’s decision even firmer, she said, “I will not leave this child outside, no matter what happens”. (There is a very good story by Munshi Premchand named ‘Baba Bharati’ - if you get a chance read it and see what the connection is).
Lord Shiva, knew what was happening, he smiled and thought that what ever was to happen cannot be prevented. He told Parvati - “You are firm in your decision, you are the owner of your wish, and you will repent for your actions.” However, all this fell on deaf years and Parvati, took the child inside and put him to bed in her room. Now, at peace for having done the right, she went with Shiva to Tapt kund for her bath.

When they were gone, Lord Narayana locked the door from inside. When Shiva and Parvati returned they found that they had been locked out. They called a lock smith to break the door open, no they did no such thing, Lord Shiva smiled at Parvati, and said to her, “The child you took inside is Lord Narayana, you got tricked by his guile and now we have to leave this place to him and go somewhere else.” This place they went to was Kedarnath, across the valley on the west. (There is another competing story about how Shiva came to be at Kedarnath, that involves Bhima, one of the pandavas, and the bull.)

Lord Narayana set up camp at Badrinath, and started doing meditation there. In due time Narad arrived there and found him meditating. He asked the Lord, why Lord Narayan, Trilokinath, lord of the three worlds, creator, and sustainer of all creation was meditating and who was he meditating on. Then the Lord answered that the soul was essence of this universe, and that he was meditating on his own self. Hearing this Narad was very happy and decided to stay there with Lord Narayana. This is why Narad is known as the supreme devotee of this region, and his statue is next to the Shalgram Shila in the temple.

In the meantime, Laxmi came back from her sojourn with the Nag Kanyas’ and found that Lord Narayana was gone, the Shesh Shaiya was empty. She looked for him all over and finally found him in deep meditation at Kedarkhand (at that time this place was not called Badrinath). He was sitting there out in the open under the elements - rain, sun, wind. She was very sad at this and without waking him up or shouting at him for leaving home without leaving a note, she transformed herself into a badri tree to provide the Lord with protection from the nature. This is how this place came to be known as Badrivan or Badri kshetra, and the Lord is known as Badrinath.

Laxmi started to pray to the Lord to come out of his meditation, and take care of the world. The Lord listened to her prayer and agreed to do so under two conditions

1. Badrinath valley will be designated as a place of meditation and will be kept free from worldly affairs
2. The Lord will be prayed to by both gods and humans. Humans will pray to him in the shringarik form and the gods will pray to him in his meditative form. (In the temple, Laxmi is to the left of the Lord, she is a Vamangi). Accordingly, for six months the Lord is prayed to by humans and for the next six months by the gods.

A wife is also called a Vamangi in sanskrit. Our heart is on the left (vam) side, and when we get married we dedicate that side to our wife, and she becomes a man’s Vamangi. A wife always sits on the left side for all day to day activities but for any offerings, puja etc. she sits on the right side.

The priest at Badrinath, cannot be married. If he does marry, he will have to leave his post. The chief priest, also called a Rawal, happens to be a Namboodri brahman from Kerala, this tradition was started by Shri Shankaracharya. It was probably done to keep a pulse on Badrinath, the farthest of the Shankaracharya outposts, and probably with no capable resident brahmins. This tradition continues to this day!


  1. That was well written, enjoy your blogs.
    Keep on writing.................

  2. Awesome.. Beautifully written

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