Badrinath temple , sometimes called Badrinarayan temple, is situated along the Alaknanda river, in the hill town of Badrinath in Uttarakhand state in India. It is widely considered to be one of the holiest Hindu temples, and is dedicated to god Vishnu. The temple and town are one of the four Char Dham and Chota Char Dham pilgrimage sites. It is also one of the 108 Divya Desams, holy shrines for Vaishnavites. The temple is open only six months every year (between the end of April and the beginning of November), due to extreme weather conditions in the Himalayan region. Several murtis are worshipped in the temple. The most important is a one meter tall statue of Vishnu as Lord Badrinarayan, made of black Saligram stone.
The statue is considered by many Hindus to be one of eight swayam vyakta kshetras, or self-manifested statues of Vishnu.
The murti depicts Vishnu sitting in meditative posture, rather than His far more typical reclining pose. In November each year, when the town of Badrinath is closed, the image is moved to nearby Jyotirmath.
The temple is approximately 50 ft (15 metres) tall with a small cupola on top, covered with a gold gilt roof. The facade is built of stone, with arched windows. A broad stairway leads up to a tall arched gateway, which is the main entrance. The architecture resembles a Buddhist vihara (temple), with the brightly painted facade also more typical of Buddhism temples. Just inside is the mandapa, a large pillared hall that leads to the garbha grha, or main shrine area. The walls and pillars of the mandapa are covered with intricate carvings.
The main shrine area houses the black stone image of Lord Badrinarayan, sitting under a gold canopy, under a Badri Tree. There are fifteen more murtis around the temple that are also worshipped. These include murtis of Nara & Narayana, Narasimha (the fourth incarnation of Vishnu), Lakshmi, Narada, Ganesha, Uddhava, Kubera, Garuda (the vehicle of Lord Narayan), and Navadurga. Hard sugar candy, Tulsi, and dry fruits are the typical prasad offered at Badrinath temple.
The Tapt Kund hot sulphur springs just below the temple are considered to be medicinal—many pilgrims consider it a requirement to bathe in the springs before visiting the temple. The springs have a year-round temperature of 45°C.
Although Badrinath is located in the far north of India, the head priest, or Rawal, is traditionally a Nambudiri Brahmin from the far south of India in Kerala. This tradition was begun by Adi Shankara, who was a great Indian philosopher from Southern India. The Rawal is assisted by the Garhwali Dimri Pundits belonging to the Village Dimmer. Badrinath is one of the few temples in North India that follow the ancient Tantra-Vidhi of Shrauta tradition more common in South India. Devotees of all faiths and all schools of thought of Hinduism visit the place. Many religious heads of various Muths, such as Jeeyar Mutt (Andhra mutt), Sringeri, Kanchi, Udupi Pejavar and Manthralayam Sri Raghavendra Swamy Muths have their branches/guest houses.
The Rawal (chief priest) is selected by erstwhile rulers of Garhwal and Travancore. The Rawal has been accorded high holiness status by Garwhal Rifles and also the state governments of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. He is also held in high esteem by the Royals of Nepal. For six months in a year (during march to pre November), he performs his duties as a temple priest. Thereafter, he either stays in Joshimutt or goes back to his ancestral village in Kerala. The current Rawal is Shri V. Keshavan Namboothiri. The duties of the Rawal starts at 4 A.M every day, with the Abhishekam. The Rawal should not cross the river till Vamana Dwadasi and must be a Brahmachari.
Badrinath was originally established as a pilgrimage site by Adi Shankara in the ninth century. Shankara discovered the image of Badrinarayan in the Alaknanda River and enshrined it in a cave near the Tapt Kund hot springs. In the sixteenth century, the King of Garhwal moved the murti to the present temple.
The temple has undergone several major renovations, due to age and damage by avalanche. In the 17th century, the temple was expanded by the Kings of Garhwal. After significant damage in the great 1803 Himalayan earthquake, it was rebuilt by the King of Jaipur. It is one of the five Punyakshethras (Holy places) where the Hindus offer Shradddhakarmas (oblations) to their 42 line of ancestors (Both from mother’s and father’s side) (Other four are Kashi (Varanasi), Gaya, Prayaga (Allahabad) and Rameswaram). It is believed that once the Shraddha Karma is performed here, the descendants need not perform the yearly ritual.