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Where Lord Vishnu’s penance never ends

Article from Times Of India, by Swati Mathur:

Badrinath: Legend has it that Vishnu, protector and keeper of the Universe, is still performing penance at Badrinath. His presence, embodied in a 2.75 foot ‘Shaligram’ stone statue and a Tapt kund – a sulphur spring – flowing from under his feet, are proof he’s here.

Jai Badri Vishal is the one mantra that they chant here. Badri Narayan’s pull is enormous. If Dwarka, Rameshwaram and Jagannath promise devotees dharm, shanti and shuddhi, at Badrinath, one finds Moksha. Badrinath temple high priest Dharmadhikari Bhuvan Uniyal says: “Thousands of years ago, the Gods gathered here each year for an audience with Lord Vishnu. One year, Vishnu didn’t appear. Declaring this as Lord Vishnu’s seat of penance, creator of the Universe, Lord Bramha said Vishnu would continue to be worshiped here. Years later, towards the end of the ‘Dwapar” era, Adi Shankaracharya installed a statue of Badrinath, after he found it in the middle of the Narad Kund, a lake below the Badrinath shrine.”

Several attempts, local priests say, to destroy the Badri Narayan statue have failed. Each time a divine power has saved it. It’s reinstated, each time, after the Gods send out divine messages to Lord Vishnu’s disciples, instructing them where to find the statue.

In many ways, the Badrinath pilgrimage is unique. Vishnu is believed to have descended to earth in the form of saints – Nar and Narayan – to perform penance. In his human avatar, as Nar, he is worshiped between May and November. For the remaining period, Lord Vishnu as Badrinath, takes on his divine form and is worshiped by Narada. A statue of of Lord Vishnu’s friend, Uddhav, is ferried to Pandukeshwar, where it stays till the next Nar puja. There’s also a tradition of appointing the Badrinath high priest. Believed to have been started by Adi Shankaracharya, the task of looking after Badri Vishal’s statue is given to Rawal Namboodri Bramhins from Kerala. These Bramhins even today work as the highest temple priests.

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