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10 kilometres from Nandprayag, 152 kilometres from Rishikesh
Altitude: 995 Feet
Metres - 3264
Chamoli is a yet another important trijunction on the route to Badrinath. Chamoli was originally a chatti, a stopover en route Badrinath and Kedarnath, from where mule tracks led to these destinations. The river Alaknanda had to be crossed by a precarious rope bridge. All this changed when the British built the road from Rishikesh to Chamoli chatti, which was later extended to Pipalkoti.
The high road from Kedarnath (via Kund, Ukhimath and Gopeshwar) meets the Rudraprayag-Badrinath road at Chamoli. Though Chamoli is largely a brief stopover, many government offices and agencies are located here.
The historic Chamoli is mentioned in the Taleshwar Copper Plate Grant, one of the plates left behind by the ancient Katyuri kings, who ruled Kumaon from the time of the Gupta dynasty (3rd century AD) till the 14th century, when the Chand kings rose to power. The plate reveals that the ancient capital of Brahmpura had one of its administrative centres at Chamoli.
H.G. Walton says in British Garhwal: A Gazetteer (Vol xxxvi, 1910) that Chamoli became the headquarters of the deputy collector in charge of the northern sub-divisions in 1889 and that his court house and residence was located on a spur above the chatti. He further records that the original bazaar was located on the right bank of the river but was washed away by the Gohna floods (1894). The new bazaar was built on the left bank. According to him, the chatti was earlier known by the name of Lalsanga, meaning red bridge, as the earlier wooden bridge had been painted red. A new bridge, with a span of 233 feet, was also built after the Gohna flood.
Until 1960, Chamoli was a mere tehsil of district Pauri Garhwal. Thereafter it was made a separate district. Considering the vulnerable location of the township, and particularly after the 1970 Belakuchi floods, the district headquarters was shifted to Gopeshwar (10 kilometers away, across and high above the river).
This temple, located in Chamoli near the Block Development office, is dedicated to the gram (village) devta of Chamoli. It is said that Chamoli is named after the devta, and that his idol emerged from the ground centuries ago at this spot. The temple building, according to its pujari Anand Singh, was constructed by one Y.S. Bhandari, Chamoli's Sub Divisional Magistrate, in 1946-47. The hexagonal temple building is a strange contrast to the ancient idol inside, built as it is in the British style.
Located 8 kilometres north of Chamoli, at an altitude of 610 metres, Birahi is the place where the Birahi Ganga joins the Alaknanda. An artificial lake has been created here by blocking the Birahi Ganga. Originally, this lake was larger than Naini Lake but has shrunk over the years to about 100 by 130 metres. However, it is worth a visit, especially for the view - the reflection of the Nanda Ghunti peaks on the crystal clear waters. The lake is also an angler's delight -it abounds in trout. A Forest Guest House is conveniently located here.
17 kilometres from Chamoli, 169 kilometres from Rishikesh
Altitude: 1260 feet
Metres - 4,133
H.G. Walton writes in British Garhwal A Gazetteer (1910) that Pipalkoti was a halting place with dharamshalas on the route from Haridwar to Badrinath. The town became even more significant as the road was built to it by 1952-53, and it became the central place to send supplies up to the towns beyond. The road was extended to Joshimath seven years after this, until then Pipalkoti was a busy place catering to travellers and traders.
This town, located on the left bank of the Alaknanda, still maintains this tradition. It has a large number of hotels, guest houses and paying guest accommodation. For those who may not be able to make it to Joshimath early enough or who depart from Badrinath very late, it offers a good stopover - both food and accommodation are available; and one might want to pick up a ringal cane handicraft piece as well from here at the Himalayan Bamboo Souvenir Shop.
The area around Pipalkoti, especially the village of Tangani 11 kilometres away, is well known for its craftsmanship of ringal furniture and handicrafts. The Rudiya community of this area has been traditionally working with bamboo, using the locally available bamboo species, called ringal.
About 6 kilometres away is Garud Ganga, a tributary of the Alaknanda. On the banks is located a small and ancient temple dedicated to Garudji. It is believed that it was here that Garud meditated with the desire to become Lord Vishnu's carrier. Another legend says that Lord Badri left his mount here by mistake on the way to Badrivan. Garud decided to live here and feed on his favourite diet - snakes. It is locally believed that pebbles from this river are an antidote to snake poisoning and they are collected and kept at home to fend off snakes as well as scorpions. Another 6 kilometres ahead is Patal Ganga, which was one of the worst victims of the Belakuchi floods in 1970.
Altitude: 1990 feet
Metres - 6,527
Joshimath is the place where Adi Shankracharya, the 8th century religious reformer, attained enlightenment, and it is here that he set up the first ever Math or centre of learning before establishing the Badrinath shrine and three more Maths in different corners of the country. The town is also the seat of the Badrinath shrine in the winter months, and it is worshipped at the beautiful and ancient Narsingh Temple here. Its proximity to Badrinath, Auli and Niti Valley makes Joshimath an important tourist destination - and the combination of spiritualism and adventure that it offers visitors makes it an exciting place at any time of the year.
12 kilometres from Joshimathi, 195 kilometres from Rishikesh
Altitude: 4,500 feet
Metres - 1,327
From Joshimath, there is a sharp, continuous descent till Vishnuprayag where one crosses the Alaknanda. Vishuprayag, 10 kilometres by road and mere 3 kilometres by foot track from Joshimath, is the first confluence on Alaknanda where it is met by river Dhauli Ganga. It is situated within the Joshimath municipal area. A ancient temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, overlooks the confluence. Narad Muni is believed to have worshipped Lord Vishnu here. The temple is associated with Narad Muni's defiance of Lord Brahma. As a worshipper of Vishnu, he defied Brahma, incurred his wrath and curse. It led to Narad's birth in human form and construction of the Vishnu temple.
There are steps reaching down to the river and a dharamshala where sadhus and other foot travellers take shelter. Obviously, Vishnuprayag must have seen much better days when the pilgrimage was done on foot. Today, barely anyone in vehicles stops here.
Set at the base of Hathi Parvat (5,230 metres above sea level) near Kankul pass, the lake can be approached either from Bhiundhar village, near Ghangria, or from Vishnuprayag. The former trek is longer but easier.
This small oblong lake is almost a kilometre in length and its clear emerald green waters are truly worth admiring. During the summer, its banks are bedecked with a profusion of flowers of all possible hues.
Two huge rocks on a spur of Hathi Parvat are described as a crow (Kaga) and Garud. It is believed that the crow is animatedly conversing with Garud on the affairs of the universe. Another version has it that a learned Brahmin of Ayodhya once incurred the wrath of the sage Lomas who lived here and was changed into the form of crow by the sage.