Our last day was a drive to the furthermost village of India which is the last village before the territory of China starts. This was the village of Manna. Manna is at the Indo-China border, a small village of shopkeepers selling knick-knacks and swollen clothes. Manna has half-baked stone and brick houses with mountain people selling their wares to prospective pilgrims. After a quick stroll, we headed for the holy Vishnu Temple of Badrinath. It is part of the Chaar Dhaam Yatra that I had made three years back to do prayers for my father. I stayed here for a week chatting to sadhus taking a dip in the garam kindh and enjoying the huge laddoos that were given as prasadam for Rs 250 a box. Each box contained two huge laddoos.
Badrinath is a colourful temple. I went in to do the parikrama of the Vishnu idol that is placed in the coral tomb of the mandir. There are video cameras all over the place with workers sitting on computers printing bills for prasadam. On the side are pandits offering prayers for the bereaved and the wanting. I was smeared chandan on my forehead as I offered prayers and rang the bell at the entrance of the temple door. The security is tight and there are guards and police everywhere. One has to go through a metal detector to enter the compound. There are people performing bhajans and wise sages giving discourses as the pilgrims offer prayers, prasadams and flowers to the Lord Vishnu Idol. One can keep one’s footwear outside the temple in the many stands as people collect footwear as part of the seva that they are performing. This is all done to humble you down and to eradicate the ego within you. Seva is a huge part of the spiritual process in Badrinath. I also bought a few bottles of Charna Mrit which were yellow in colour but was odourless.
After my ritual of taking pictures, I crossed the bridge to move to the opposite side of the temple where the eateries and shops reside. On the footpath sat the sadhus begging and asking for alms. One of them called Languri Baba recognised me. He was the same baba that I sat with for days in a stretch to smoke ganja. He waved at me from his usual spot on the footpath. It was a neat corner with white tiles, symbols and pictures of Shiva littering the quaint corner. The sadhu was delighted to see me and gave me a smile as he said “I recognised you from afar but did not want to disturb you as you were with other people. Welcome back to Badrinath. You are one person who one can rarely forget.” I was pleased with this attention and slowly slipped into the quaint corner which had a few more sadhus huddled up together enjoying a smoke. They offered me a chill and a dry cloth. I duly took a few drags to pass the thing to others and soon we were all smiling to each other. After exchanging pleasantries, I gave them Rs 400 as a tip and moved on. Now I was hungry with all the smoke and decided to treat myself and a few others in my group to some hot tea, veg pakodas and hot kachoris. The others in the group were in a hurry. So we had to move to our vehicle and head for the Joshimath hotel before night dawned on us. This was the last night of the Valley of Flowers trip. Luckily for me, we had Airtel connection at Joshimath in the night and I got busy uploading all the great photographs that I had taken.