Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Day 4 - Chopta to Badrinath

There really is not much to do at Chopta. You can sit there & generally do nothing, but I prefer to do that on the beach on a nice sunny day. The clouds were starting to come in & it was cold. So we aid our goodbyes to Beerbal & the others there. They made me promise to send them a card if & when I get married. Sometimes I think that considering the places I visit, I will at least be having an interesting wedding if nothing else!

So we said our goodbyes, paid out money & were on our way. The road from Chopta to Joshimath was narrow, but good & the views were beautiful. We didn’t see any more of the peaks, but the clouds were equally to blame I feel.

As we came closer to Joshimath, where we had originally planned to stay for the night, we found that there was still sufficient light to push on. So we did. Right up to a village 5 km beyond Badrinath called Mana.

Thanks to the Army, accommodation was arranged with the Army at Mana & we settled in by the evening.

As we were well in time, the mess sergeant suggested that we could still make the evening aarti. That sounded nice. If we did the evening aarti today itself, then we could leave tomorrow itself. So we went off to the temple. At the gate, we met another sergeant who took us into the temple complex. Apparently, there are tickets sold for the Aarti. You buy these tickets & then there are aarti “shows” every 20 min when the “hall” is cleared & then the next group is led in. As we crossed the bridge, the sergeant pointed out that the two gates on the bridge were built by the Army. Probably because of that or probably because they have guns, people with the army don’t require to take tickets.

So we went in & as directed by the sergeant (who must have done it many times indeed), sat down in the middle. I quite frankly could not even see god. The idols were so much covered in cloths & flowers & jewelry, that it might s well have been anything. Only my guidebook assured me that underneath somewhere there was a black stone idol in all its splendor. The priests & the pujaris seemed to be well versed in the show too as the efficiently herded the spectators in their proper places & started the Aarti.

As if this was not enough, on pujari pressed a button on the right of the door & drums & cymbals started blaring from the speakers. As I remembered the Aarti at Kedarnath & the temple at Tungnath, I realized that this was not an aarti, it was a bloody rock show.

Road Conditions: The 3 hours of road between Joshimath & Badrinath, is by far the worst patch of Road I came across on the entire trip. What was not decimated by landslides, has been destroyed by men trying to widen the road. Thankfully the whole stretch of road and the temple will be abandoned in a month’s time. So not too many more persons will be inconvenienced by the roads.

Vital Stats. : Probably because of the road conditions, the traffic from Joshimath to Badrinath is controlled by gates at Joshimath. These gates only open for traffic at intervals of about 3 hours. So if you do feel the need to take a break or something on reaching Joshimath, cross the town & get out of the gate. Then take a rest. Getting delayed to the next gate would mean darkness by the time you reach Badrinath. Posted by Picasa

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