Badrinath and Kedarnath Dham
Badrinath Dham is one of the oldest of Hindu places of worship. On the right bank of the river Alaknanda lies the sacred shrine perched at an altitude of 3133 m above sea level, guarded on either side by the two mountain peaks Nar & Narain with the towering Neelkanth peak providing a splendid back-drop. Also known as the Vishal Badri, the largest among the five Badris, it is revered by all as the apt tribute to Lord Vishnu. he revered spot was once carpeted with wild berries which gave it the name 'Badri Van' meaning 'forest of berries.' Built by Adi Shankaracharaya, the philosopher-saint of the 8th century, the temple has been renovated several times due to damage by avalanches and restored in the 19th century by the royal houses of Scindia & Holkar. The main entrance gate is colourful & imposing popularly known as Singhdwar. References to Sri Badrinath have been made in the Vedas & perhaps it was a popular shrine during the Vedic age also. The Skand Purana gives an accvount of the Adiguru consecrating the idol of Lord Badri Vishal in the temple after recovering it from Narad Kund, in a pursuance of a divine call from heaven.
The pilgrims are cleansed body & soul and with having achieved purity in that sense, pilgrims to Sri Kedarnath becomes most rewarding. It is also customary to worship Lord Shiva with water of Ganga, which pilgrims going from Gangotri as well take some there to Kedarnath. Kedarnath is the seat of Lord Shiva. It is one of the twelve "Jyotirlingas" of Lord Shiva. Lying at an altitude of 3584 m at the head of river Mandakini, the shrine of Kedarnath is amongst the holiest pilgrimage for the Hindus. It is no wonder that Adi Guru Shankaracharya - a great scholar & saint, chose to enshrine Lord Shiva in this land, where the unholy becomes oly and the holy becomes holier. It is the place where Lord Shiva absolved Pandavas from the sin of killing their own cousins Kauravas in the battle of Kurukshetra. The origin of the revered temple can be found in the great epic Mahabharat.