All of us must have learned about destinations name ending with the word Prayag (meaning convergence) while going to Uttarakhand. But did it ever happen to you that there are only five such places in Uttarakhand, namely Vishnuprayag, Nandaprayag, Karnaprayag, Rudraprayag and Devprayag (in the descending flow sequence of their existence), these all together are called Panch Prayag?
Prayag in Hindu religion means the holy convergence of two or more rivers, where followers take a bath before entering the temple. And after Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh, Panch Prayag in Uttarakhand is the most sacred for the Hindus. Disciples think that taking a dip here cleanse a person’s mind, body and soul and bring him/her closer to the moksha or incarnation.
Five rivers of the Panch Prayag: The Panch Prayag destinations follow the way formed by the Alaknanda river, evolving from Himalaya’s Satopanth glacier. First, Alaknanda meets Dhauliganga river at Vishnuprayag; move on to Nandaprayag to meet Nandakini river then goes to Karnaprayag to join Pindar river. It connects with Nandakini river at Rudraprayag and meets the last and the final Bhagirathi river at Devprayag. All Together, they become one and form River Ganges that additional flows down to the plains. Fascinating right?
The five prayagas
Vishnuprayag: Situated some 35 km downstream from Badrinath, Vishnuprayag is the initial place where River Alaknanda joins Dhauliganga (also known as Dhauli locally). Likewise having an enormous religious significance, Vishnuprayag is also famous for trekking and hiking. In fact, the place is known for some very popular treks including the Valley of Flowers, Kagbhusandi Lake and Hemkund Lake to name a few.
Nandaprayag: Next in the line is Nandaprayag, where Alaknanda meets River Nandakini. Legend has it that here a king called as Nanda once performed yagnya or fire sacrifice ceremony here to make the gods pleased and seek their miracles. There is one more popular story that says that the convergence originates its name from the foster father of Lord Krishna, Nanda.
Karnaprayag: Alaknanda then meets River Pindar at Karnaprayag, beginning from Pindar Glacier from the Nanda Devi Mountain range. Karnaprayag has a massive religious significance and agreeing to the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, Karna practised penance here. Also, this is the same spot where his father, the Sun God, supported him with indestructible gear, such as kavacha (armour) and kundala (earrings).
Rudraprayag: So, this one must be the most overheard of names in among all five destinations. River Alaknanda meets Mandakini here. Now, this convergence is called after Lord Shiva as he played tandav (dance of destruction) dance here in his ferocious (rudra) form. Not only this, as per one famous mythical tale, Shiva also played his Rudra Veena here. The two legendary temples dedicated to Lord Shiva called Rudranath and Goddess Chamunda.
Devprayag: Devprayag is the final place of holy convergence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi, which is extremely sacred. River Bhagirathi tides here from one of the glaciers at Gangotri and this is also the first convergence you meet on the way to Badrinath. For the Hindu pilgrims, Devprayag is the holy access to four most revered places in Uttarakhand. Also known as Chardham, these are Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.