Whit Baba to Badrinath
is a distinct qualitative difference between Bhagavan Baba and all
the other spiritual leaders one can think of. Baba himself was
once asked about this, and he replied, “I have descended from the
level of God to the level of man in order to uplift man. Others
are humans trying to raise themselves up to the level of god.”
Despite this emphatic declaration, in the olden days, devotees
often used to request Baba to take them on a pilgrimage to holy
places. And the embodiment of compassion that He is, Swami often
yielded to such prayers.
such historic visit was to the holy shrine of Badrinath, nestling
in the majestic Himalayas, the abode of Lord Shiva, the home of
sages, and the destination of pilgrims through the ages.
We turn to the account left by revered Kasturi, of that trip.
visit to Badrinath was first mooted by Baba in 1958 at a
Bhajan session held on the sands of
the Chitravathi river. He then said that He would take devotees to
the place where He was doing Tapas
[penance]. We were wonder-struck because that was the first time
we had ever heard of Tapas associated
His Earthly Career…. I was a bit confused…..
became a certainty in 1961, and plans were ready; devotees who
would accompany Baba had also been selected. Baba greeted them in
Madras on 7th June, and sent them by train to Delhi. He announced
then that He would fly to Delhi the following day and be there to
personally receive the party on arrival.
The train reached
Delhi about six hours late, but Baba was there, shedding comfort
and consolation with His smile and motherly-attention.
On the following
day, the party left for Hardwar, where they were joined by Dr.
B.Ramakrishna Rao, Governor of Uttar Pradesh. He too planned to
visit Badrinath in the company of Bhagavan Baba.
Sunday, 11th June, on the lovely little lawn behind the Dam Koti
Bungalow, Hardwar, tucked in between the Ganga Canal on one side
and the Ganga river on the other, Baba addressed in the stillness
of the night, the group of devotees He has gathered together for
the Badrinath Yatra. He said,
“Tomorrow we are leaving for Badri, a place consecrated by the
Tapas of eminent sages and saints and of Sri Narayana Himself. You
are all very fortunate indeed, for you are proceeding with the
Manifested Form to the Unmanifested Form! There is a holy aura, a
spiritual vibration, that pervades such sacred places and even
Divinity acquires a new glory, as it were, when it is seen in the
background of that aura. So, be ever alert to make the best of the
rare chance that you have won by the accumalation of merit through
many births. Be friendly, helpful and loving to all; repeat always
the Name of the Lord; never loose courage or joy”. He disclosed
was called Badarikashram, and that Lord Narayana was supposed to
be doing Tapas here.
I began to see
light, and the doubt that assailed me on the Chitravathi sands
three years ago about ‘Sri Sathya Sai and
Tapas’ melted away in a blaze of joy!
Baba then described
to the group, the Shrine at Badrinath, how the Narayana idol
appears often as a Lingam, sometimes as the Buddha and sometimes
as Sakthi. He also gave details of the various subsidiary idols
that are worshipped there. He spoke of the five Lingas brought by
Sankaracharya from Kailasa and installed at Badri, Puri, Sringeri,
Dwaraka and Chidambaram; of the Four Vedas which he revived by
appropriate ritual, the Rig at Puri, the Yajur at Sringeri, the
Sama at Dwaraka and the Atharvana at Badri. He put everyone into
the pilgrim mood of expectancy and elevation, of Love, brotherhood
members of the party had assembled at Madras on 7th June at the
Yathiraja Kalyana Mantapam, Alwerpet and had reached Delhi on the
9th; there, they were joined by others from as far as Calcutta and
Bombay and Lucknow. They had all arrived at Hardwar on 10th and
proceeded to Rishikesh to see the holy spots there and to visit
institutions like Swarga Ashram and Githa Bhavan and Paramartha
Nikethan. On the 11th, they had witnessed the Evening Harathi to
Ganga Matha at the Brahma Kund, a ceremony which was sanctified
that day by the Presence of Baba at the sacred place, with H.E.
Rao, the Governor of Uttar Pradesh. Their Excellencies performed
Harathi to Baba himself there, as a preliminary to their own Badri
Yathra, along with the Bhakthas chosen by Baba.
to Badrinath, a distance of nearly 182 miles, every inch of the
ground is saturated with history, myth and legend, all woven
around the heroic endeavour of Tapas, whether by gods or men.
Hardwar itself is the scene of Daksha Yagna and of the penance of
the Seven Sages. At Rishikesh, Lakshmana performed Tapas. There is
a Vyasaghat a few miles away where Vyasa did penance and at
the meeting place of the Alakananda and Bhagirathi rivers ( and
what a marvellous Tapas it was, that of Bhagiratha which induced
the heavenly Ganga to descend on Earth!) Sankaracharya did penance
and installed a Siva – Parvathi Lingam! At Bilva – keda nearby,
Arjuna went through rigorous asceticism to acquire from Siva the
weapons for the up – holding of Dharma. At Srinagar, Sri Rama is
said to have engaged in penance to realise Himself in the Siva
Form! At Karna – Prayag where the Mandakini coming from Kedarnath
joins the Alakananda, Karna prayed for years and years to get a
vision of Surya. At Rudra Prayag, Narada did Tapas in order to
become the Singer of Divine Glory and he won from Siva the Veena
that plays upon; Nandaprayag, 33 miles away, is associated with
the hermitage of Sage Kanva immortalised by Kalidasa.
Rajarajeswari herself is said to have engaged in Tapas on the
Saranyavathi river bank to acquire Siva as Her Lord; while, on the
banks of the Virahi Ganga, Siva is described as having done
penance to win Dakshayini back as His consort! At Bhavishya Badari
on the way, Agasthya performed Tapas. At Joshimath, (elevation
6100 ft) Narada by His Tapas succeeded in getting possession of
the Ashtakshari manthra which is the key to salvation; Markandeya
performed austere penance here and Sankaracharya established a
Mutt to revive and foster the Sanathana Dharma.
Math we have Pandukeswar, reminiscent of the Tapas of Pandu, Sesha
– Dhara reminding us of the fact that the thousand tongued Sesha
too was a Muni so that he might realise the Lord and Hanuman
Chatti where Hanuman proved His superior prowess to the second of
the Pandava Brothers; finally at Badrinath itself ensconced
between the Nara and the Narayana
at the foot of the snow diademmed Nilakanta Peak (the Queen of
the Himalayas, 21640 ft high) the Puranas declare Narasimha came
to shed His ferocity and Narada, Agni and Indra did penance. King
Visala by His Tapas there won the distinction of Badri being Badri
Visal; King Ghantakarna by his austerity there won the honour
being the watchman of the Lord. Uddhava is doing Tapas there even
today by the special command of Sri Krishna. And the Lord Himself
is depicted as in Tapomudra, in keeping with the elevating and
inspiring mood of the entire Himalayan area for miles around and
is worshipped by Gods for half the year and by men during the
The Ganga from
Hardwar to Devaprayag and the Alakananda from there onwards for
over 138 miles keep inseparable company with the pilgrim, now
coming up near the road in a surging swelling stream, now gliding
deep down the yawing canyon, murmuring along a silver thread. At
first, the roar of the waters is frightening but gradually the
river becomes a friend and companion and the thunder of its waves
is distinguished as but the recital of the Name of the Lord or of
Om, His verbal symbol. O! What shall be said of the high voiced
the multimillionaire heiress of Kubera’s wealth, gaudily tripping
the rocks, from Alakapuri, his capital? And what of the tiny
tributaries: the milk white Ksheeraganga. Neelaganga, the blue,
Ghrithaganga the oily, Kanchanaganga the golden, Keerthiganga the
famed, Rishiganga the ascetic, Virahiganga the forlorn! Consider
all the hot springs at Badri which the God of Fire spouts forth in
obedience to a command by Narayana Himself in order to rid Agni of
the sin of being an Omnivorous Glutton.
What again shall be
said of the magnificent ‘manorama’ of snow capped peaks and
glaciers, enormous cliff’s enervating gradients escarpments and
precipices, cascades and springs, and the multicoloured flower
carpets that are spread by nature in every little vale? Indeed,
every step of that road is a stride towards God!
To be lead by Baba
along this Holy road is indeed a unique piece of good fortune and
when one looks back on the much talked of calamities that lurk
round every curve, the landslides and the land slips, the
unheralded breaches and blockades, the bitter cold, and the
pouring rain, the strain and the exhaustion, one feels specially
blessed because Baba’s Abhaya Hastha was present always to stem
the fall, to prop up the slip, to ward off the rain, to warm up
the air, to inspire the drooping and refresh the tired.
caravan of cars, jeeps, buses and trucks left Hardwar on Monday,
12th June at 8AM and reached Devaprayag at noon. The bath at the
confluence was a refreshing and exhilarating experience. Srinagar,
the ancient capital of the Kings of Garhwal, was reached in the
afternoon and we halted there for the night. The people of
Srinagar organised a programme of Pahari and Tibetan dances
depicting the simple hilarity of the hardy tribesmen and Baba,
Their Excellencies and all of us appreciated their earnestness and
sincerity. On the 13th, the party left at Sunrise for Joshimath,
86 miles off, taking breakfast on the way at Rudraprayag, bathing
at the junction of the Mandakini and Alakananda at Nandaprayag and
taking lunch at Pippalkoti at about 3PM. The night was spent at
the sacred Joshi math.
beckoning us from just beyond 18 miles! ……. Eighteen miles along a
narrow five foot ‘road’ of
rubble and stone, trodden into smoothness by million of pious
feet; of sudden climbs and steep declines; of ‘Danger from Falling
Stones’ announced on boards enroute! The rapture of ravine, cliff
and snow ever before the eye, the cheer of the torrent ever in the
ear! Broad glaciers bravely descending down the mountains into the
river bed itself and even mischievously lying across the pilgrim
path! Streams of pilgrims from every corner of this country
crossing each other with a gleam in the face when the password,
Jai Badri Visaal, is uttered! Pilgrims resolutely pulling
themselves along on foot, or pathetically perched on ponies
trotting on the perilous edge of the precipices! Long lines of
men, mules horses, yaks and goats loaded with beds and bundles,
boxes, baskets and bags belonging to the pilgrims and silk and
sandalwood, scents and sweets, flour, flowers and fruits for the
shops at Badri Town!
All these give the
Sacred Road a sublime sathsang atmosphere wherein the Lord is
experienced as a constant and comforting Companion!
the 14th morning, conveyances were booked, the mules and horses
were loaded, and the party started off in high spirits, to Lam
Bagar eleven miles away, where it was decided to halt for the
night. Baba and a large number of devotees walked the entire
length of the road. Oh! How can I adequately describe the
tenderness with which He encouraged everyone along that arduous
road, advising one person to get into a dandi, another to ride a
horse, a third to check the pace, a fourth to rest awhile, keeping
everybody’s enthusiasm in good trim by a timely quip or joke or
pleasantry, or sometimes even by means of the Divinely created
Bagar, it was an exhausting climb and the devotees succeeded in
persuading Baba to ride a horse; but, to their great
disappointment, He resumed His walk within a few moments.
Badrinath was reached in the late afternoon on the 15th , and the
party occupied the Gujarathi Dharmasala, very close to the temple.
On the 16th, Baba
gave Darsan and blessings to a large number of officers and
citizens and members of the Temple Committee and He attended the
evening Arathi, in company with their Excellencies. Later, Baba
inaugurated the X – ray unit at the Badrinath General Hospital.
The first ‘patient’ to be screened was the doctor himself; he
declared joyfully, “Babaji! You are seated in my heart!” Baba said
, “The X – ray can’t reveal it; but, it is a fact, Doctor, I know
it”. A supreme moment indeed, in the history of that hospital and
the life of that doctor!
17th June was a Day
of Days, a Day that will be enshrined in the memory of everyone in
the party, for years and years. In pursuance of His Mission of
re-infusing spiritual efficacy in all Holy Places where men
congregate for acquiring peace and joy, a Mission which took Him
recently to Ayodhya, Kasi and Prayag, Baba that day re
–invigorated Narayana worship at Badrinath, by means of a unique
cermony, whose significance is beyond our tiny understanding!
During the morning
Abhishekam to the idol of Badrinarayana, while Baba was inside the
temple facing the shrine, about 8.15AM, Baba mysteriously
materialised a four armed Narayana icon with Sankha, Chakra, Gada
and Padma, about 12 inches , perhaps sublimating in that form the
Divine Essence of the Narayana Tejas before Him. He also created a
charming thousand petalled ‘gold’ Lotus, and before the wonder of
the people around Him could express itself in an awe striken gasp,
He waved His hand before the Shrine and, lo, there was a
Jyothirlinga in His palm, which He placed on the shining Lotus.
Baba came away to the Dharmasala with the devotees and the large
number of officers and citizens of Badrinath. Their Excellencies
also soon joined the gathering.
‘silver’ Abhisheka Vessel full of holy water from Gangothri itself
(as He announced), Baba Himself performed Abhisheka to that
translucent Nethra Lingam. He had graciously taken the Linga round
to everyone and made all to wonder at its quit effulgence and at a
clearly visible Eye that was somehow incorporated in it. Devotees
recited Sri Rudram, Purushasuktham and Narayana Suktham, while
Baba was pouring the sacred water on the Lingam. Then, Baba
created 108 miniature Bilva leaves or rather replicas of that holy
leaf, in ‘gold’; they fell in a lightning shower from His Palm on
to a silver plate. He again waved His Hand and this time, O
Blessed moment, 108 actual ‘thumme’ flowers fresh with even the
touch of the morning dew, fell from that Divine Palm! With these,
Baba directed Dr.B.Ramakrishna Rao, presumably on behalf of all
assembled to do Puja to the Linga, the Ashtottara Puja, as
mentioned in the Sastras. After Puja, Baba collected the Abhisheka
Ganga and gave a share of it to each one, Himself pouring it into
the mouth with His own merciful Hand.
Needless to say, the
Lingam, one of the Five, which according to Baba, Sankaracharya
brought from Kailasa, and which he installed in a sacred spot in
the shrine to vivify the Badarikasram returned to the place from
which Baba had drawn it for this epoch making ritual of re
invigoration. The Lotus and the Icon, He granted to the devotees;
the Bilva leaves of ‘gold’ He gave to members of the party, as
mementoes of the Momentous Day, for being duly worshipped by them.
About 12.30PM, the
same day, Baba condescended to come to Brahmakapal, where the
devotees had arrived to offer oblations to the pitris
(forefathers). He advised everyone to pray for their ancestors and
departed relations, in a spirit of faith and sincerity. Every
member of the party had a rare good fortune of paying off the debt
to the departed in the immediate presence of the Lord Himself!
Then Baba went down
to the Alakananda and took from the surging torrent a glass of
water, but, lo! The glass held also a lump of Vibhuthi with the
mark of Pranava on it and the til essential for ancestral rites!
He poured the water on to the palms of the devotees who were
handicapped by disqualifications form partaking in the Pinda
Pradan, asking them to offer that water instead! Surely, the manes
of all who shared in that day’s Brahmakapal ceremony are thrice
In the evening at
6PM., the Badrinath Temple Committee accorded a welcome to Baba at
a formal ceremony at the Temple premises, which His Excellency
Dr.B.Ramakrishna Rao also attended. About 3000 thousand pilgrims
and citizens attended and the precincts were packed to capacity.
Baba spoke of the five Lingas brought by Sankaracharya and of the
sanctity of Badri. He asked everyone to decide for himself where
real happiness lay and rigorously to pursue the path to win that
happiness. He emphasised that Prema is the very essence of
Bhakthi, the light with which the Lord (who is Premaswarupa) can
be seen and realised and understood. He asked the citizens of
Badri to appreciate the ordeals, trails, tribulations and expenses
undergone by the pilgrims, the illnesses and accidents which they
had braved, and the faith which heartened them from the first step
to the last. He advised that they should learn from the pilgrims a
part of their faith in Badri Narayana and treat the pilgrims with
greater kindness and brotherliness. Dr.B.Ramakrishna Rao
translated Baba’s Telugu speech into Hindi.
The Secretary who
thanked Baba said that the announcement, regarding the 5 Lingams,
and Badri being repository of one of them will thrill everyone and
will instill greater faith in Badri in the hearts of every Hindu.
In the night Baba
arranged for the feeding, on a truly lavish scale, of all the
mendicants around the Temple of Badrinath and He distributed a
blanket each (or its equivalent in money) to more than five
hundred peple. No wonder they all joined in the chorus of
thanksgiving and cheered “Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba Ji Ki Jai”.
On the 18th, about
9AM, Baba and the devotees left Badri and, reached Lam Bagar for
lunch, halting for sometime on the way to bless the organisers of
a Yajna named Sri Rama Krathu. The next day, Joshi Math was
reached and the return journey by bus and car was undertaken from
there on Tuesday, 20th.
It is worth noting
that Baba walked back the distance from Badrinath to Joshi Math
and on the second day, he was among the earliest to reach the
destination, ascending the steep heights of the Vishnu Prayag
Joshi Math mountain road, without the least sign of tiredness.
Baba had said during
the forward trek that the rains shall not come until the party was
back in Rishikesh and true to His command, the rains held back,
until the ‘caravan’ was within 20 miles of Rishikesh when the
party got the first drops of drizzle!
It must be mentioned
that while nearing Rishikesh, Baba miraculously anticipated, by a
few minutes, a landslide which came down across the road causing
even a slip, but only after all members of the party had safely
come across the doomed spot. A party of more than a hundred
devotees, mostly old and not quite sturdy could go through all the
tossing and twisting in the buses and all the tramping and
climbing of the hills, in strange climes and with strange foods
and come back hale and hearty, as per schedule, only through the
Ever present Grace of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
We were all back in
Hardwar on Wednesday 21st June and we left on 22nd for Dehra Dun,
from where we had to entrain for Delhi. Baba encouraged all the
devotees to collect Gangajal from Brahmakund so that they could
take it to their homes. He had a kind word and an encouraging
smile for everyone. He came to every bus when the party was on the
point of leaving. He blessed everyone and commanded them to share
their joy with others and to life thereafter everyday of their
lives as real pilgrims towards the seat of Narayana. With our eyes
full of tears of joy, we sat in the bus, unable to speak, for when
the heart is full, the tongue is silent.
Baba left for Naini
Tal from Hardwar; He spent three days there with Their
Excellencies, but they were, inevitably busy days full of
interviews with a large number of high officers and dignitaries,
who had come for Baba’s Darsan. Baba also visited the ‘Githa
Sathsang’ established by Swami Vidyanandaji. A welcome address in
Hindi was presented to Him at the Sathsang. He addressed the
members on the need for practicing the path of Sadhana laid down
in the Githa.
In the discourse
Baba said, “Mere scholarship is just a burden, without putting
what is studied into action. It is only that part of it which is
put into practice, felt and experienced that becomes one’s
undisputed possession”. Baba pointed out, “The Githa was
propounded to every one who is afflicted with the delusion and
ignorance. Arjuna was just a representative of struggling mankind,
at the crossroad of conflicting duties, without the Light
necessary for discovering the right path”. “In the 18th Discourse,
Krishna asks Arjuna, “Has all these been heard by you, with one –
pointed attention ? Has the delusion caused by ignorance of the
Reality been destroyed?” This shows that the purpose of the Githa
is to destroy Moha, or Delusion, which is the result of
misunderstanding the unreal as real, the transitory as the
permanent, the source of sorrow as the source of joy” Baba
concluded. He said that the Githa was a Universal textbook of
Spiritual Science which could be studied and practised by people
of all climes and creeds. The only qualification needed was a
yearning for the higher ideals and an earnestness to discover the
source of lasting joy.
Baba returned to
Delhi on the 26th and emplaned for Madras on the 27th. He reached
Madras just in time to meet the members of the party who arrived
by train from Delhi the same evening, and to send them with His
Blessing to their respective homes.
Puttaparthi at noon on 3rd July and the Bhakthas there welcomed
Him with great Joy. On the 4th, Baba gave the devotees a graphic
description of the journey and an inspiring account of the Three
Eventful Days at Badri. He wanted that everyone should draw
inspiration from the devotion and faith of thousands of old,
decrepit and poor pilgrims who brave the dangers and disasters of
the road every year, just to get a glimpse of the Lord in the
Badri Narayana Form. He said that those who visit Holy Places must
prove in their daily lives that the holiness has entered their
hearts and changed their habits and thoughts for the better. He
said that Sankaracharya installed the Narayana idol at Badrinath,
and every one must install the Name of Narayana in the Shrine of
the heart. Then, He gave every one the Theertha of Gangothri with
which He had performed the Abhisheka at Badri as well as the
prasad of Badri itself.
That was the
blissful consummation of the Badri Yatra for all.
With the Manifested,
we proceeded to the Unmanifested! At every step among the
Himalayas we experienced the Prema of the Lord whose was with us!
At every turn, His Grace guarded and guided us.
May He be our Guard,
our Guide and our God forever!
E-Magazine March 1, 2004