Two of the holiest spots of India which are often visited together are Badrinath and Kedarnath. Both are located in the Himalayas. The temple at Badrinath is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Mountains Nar and Narayan stands guard on either side while the majestic Neelkanth peak forms the backdrop. Badrinath is one of the four holy places (char dham) of Hinduism and depicts a statue of a meditating Lord Vishnu.
Kedarnath is a shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the twelve jyotirlingas in the country. The temple is situated on a plateau surrounded by majestic snow covered peaks. Beautiful carvings adorn the temple walls which are thought to be 1000 years old.
Location : State/District
Badrinath is located in the Chamoli district and Kedarnath is located in the Rudraprayag district of the state of Uttarakhand in northern India.The latitude of Badrinath is 30° 44' 0" N and its longitude is 79° 29' 0" E. The latitude of Kedarnath is 30° 44' 0" N and its longitude is 79° 4' 0" E.
Both Kedarnath and Badrinath are famous Hindu pilgrim sites of India. Each form a part of a separate circuit. Badrinath is a part of the four holy cities or char dham while Kedarnath is one of the five kedars or panch kedar and one of twelve shrines of Lord Shiva or jyotirlingas.
Both Kedarnath and Badrinath attract pilgrims of all ages across different class of society in India. They are essentially family tourist spots. In addition, a number of holy men and scholars also visit these places. Both the temples are located amidst breathtaking natural beauty and Kedarnath can only be accessed by foot or on horseback. Hence, adventure seeking nature loving young tourists as well as those who are seeking a glimpse of the culture of India also flock to these two sites.
Badrinath is located at an altitude of 3133 mts. It is so cold that the temple closes in winter while summers are cool and pleasant. The best time to visit this shrine is from April to November especially in the summer months. Kedarnath is located even higher at an altitude of 3584 mts. This temple too closes in winter. So, the best time to visit Kedarnath is during the summer months.
Indian citizens do not require any special permits in order to travel to Badrinath and Kedarnath. Foreign citizens must carry a valid passport with an Indian visa. There are stringent rules regarding the entrance of non Hindus in the temples and these should be observed.
Places to Visit
The temple of Badrinath established by Adi Shankaracharya in the 9th century on the bank of the Alakananda River is the most important sight in Badrinath. They are decorated beautifully with bright colors. Thousands of devotees visit this shrine every year.
A hot water spring located near the temple is regarded as holy and is known as Tapt kund. Devotees take a holy dip into this spring before worshipping at the shrine. Another hot water spring located nearby which is regarded as holy is the Narad Kund. Brahma Kapal is a flat surface on the bank of the river. It is a sacred spot where Hindus perform the last rites of their ancestors.
There are five holy stones known as Panch Shila from which five streams called Panch dhara emerge. These are another important sight in Badrinath.
The temple of Lord Shiva is the main attraction in Kedarnath. This huge temple is more than a 1000 years old and is build of large evenly cut stone slabs. Beautiful carvings are noticed on the wall while a large statue of the bull Nandi is present in front of all the gates of the temple.
The Samadhi of Adi Shankaracharya is located just beyond the temple of Kedarnath. Pilgrims pay homage here.
The Bhairav Nath temple is located to the south of the main temple. Lord Bhairav Nath is said to guard the temple of Kedarnath when it is shut down during the long winter months.
There are several big and small lakes in Kedarnath. These include Ratus Kund, Shiv Kund, Rudhir kund etc.
Perhaps the most attractive sight in both Badrinath and Kedarnath is the beautiful vista of snow covered peaks that surround these pilgrim spots. While thousands of devotees go to worship at the shrine, a large number of tourists are also attracted by the breathtaking scenery of the area.
A dip in the holy lakes or hot water springs followed y worship at the temples are the most common activities that are carried out at Badrinath and Kedarnath. It is also a common practice to perform the last rites of one’s ancestors at Badrinath.
Those who are entranced by nature and love the beauty of the Himalayas will get plenty of opportunities to indulge in photography.
Short treks to nearby tourist spots are another common activity at these two pilgrim spots.
The area around Badrinath and Kedarnath are teeming with legend and mythology and this has resulted in a number of small spots which can be visited from Badrinath and Kedarnath. Triyuginarayan is one such spot located 25 kms from Kedarnath. It is the venue of the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati and an eternal flame that bore witness to the ceremony still burns today.
Vishwanath ji and Ardhanariswar temples located at Gupt Kashi, 49 kms away from Kedarnath is another beautiful spot. Local treks to the beautiful Deoria taal and Chandrashila are highly popular. Another temple is Agastyamuni where sage Agastya is said to have meditated for many years.
Similar beautiful spots are also scattered around Badrinath. Charanpaduka is located 3 kms away and is a beautiful flower covered valley where a flat rock bears the footprint of Lord Vishnu. Mata Murti temple is also located 3 kms away and is dedicated to the mother of Badrinath.
The Mana village inhabited by the Bhotias is one of the last villages of India. The Vasudhara falls lie 6 kms away from it and the water falls from 400 feet.
Located 60 kms from Badrinath, Auli is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Himalayas. It is famous for skiing. It is also connected to Joshimath by the highest and longest cable car of Asia. Finally treks to Satnopath, Valley of flowers and Hemkund Sahib offer some of the best views in the world.
Food and Accommodation
Liquor and non vegetarian food are prohibited both at Badrinath and Kedarnath. Simple yet wholesome north Indian foods are available in small eateries. The Saket restaurant and Pavan Hansh restaurant at Gauri kund are quite good while the best food is available at the temple canteen. River point, Nav Durga are other restautaurants in Badrinath.
Earlier there were only a few ashrams where one could stay in Badrinath and Kedarnath. However, there are quite a few good quality budget hotels in these spots.
Safety and Security
Touts may try to take unfair advantage of tourists when negotiating for a hotel room or a pony to ride. Apart from this, security is quite good. However, the road is quite tough and should only be attempted by physically fit persons.