If you’re fascinated to geek out on history, myths and legends, travel in India. Cities, villages, lakes, mountains, you call it and yes, we have a tale for it and mind you, these are the most complicated of legends that teach us life experiences through the most wonderful tales.
By far the most spoken about myth in the mainstream media is the legend of Swargarohini. Yes, that constant story of Swarg ki Seedhi or stairway to heaven that emerges on news channels almost every week. Frankly, we didn’t understand the fascination with it unless we took an alternative route to Badrinath on our trek to Valley of flowers. We saw the places up-close and listen in to the stories directly from the people living in Mana, a village from where the trek to Swargarohini and Satopanth Lake starts.
The Tale of Stairway to Heaven
As penned in the Mahaprasthanika Parva, the 17th out of the 18 books of Mahabharata, after the war of Kurukshetra and a long, successful rule, the Pandava brothers and their shared wife Darupadi accepted Sanyas. They abandoned their kingdom and boarded on their last journey of penance. This excursion took them to the lap of the almighty Himalayas and one after the other everyone except for Yudhistir fell to their death for numerous sins they committed during their life cycle. Draupadi fell because of the vice of her partial fondness for Arjuna, Sehdeva died because he was too proud of his wisdom, Nakul’s died next and his vice was his vanity throughout his life cycle, Arjuna’s sin was his pride too and finally Bheema died because of the sin of gluttony.
Yudhistir or Dharmaraj who lasted this treacherous journey was the last one standing. It is adored that he climbed the stairs to heaven with a Dharma, disguised as a dog. The book also says that the Swargarohini Glacier is the only way to reach heaven with the human body.
The Excursion to Satopanth and Swargarohini Glacier
It’s interesting just to watch over the devout locals talk about this journey that Sadhus and other followers take during the months of June to August. The natives call this journey to Satopanth , a journey along the path of Satya Path or the way of Truth. A new play of words that describe this journey is centered on the name Swargarohini which means a path to heaven. It has been considered by religious Hindus that this is the only way to reach heaven with human body.
The Sadhus board on this journey after an elaborate prayer service at the Badrinath temple. 4 kms from Badrinath town, the town of Mana is the last occupied village on this trail. On the way there are numerous stopovers like the Nag-Nagini Temple, Bhrigu Gufa and Mata Moorthi Mandir, a temple devoted to the wife of Dharma. Ahead on the path along the Alaknanda, comes Anandvan, the field of joy aptly name so because of picturesque beauty of the place. Vasudhara Falls is just a short distance away from Anandvan. Amongst the several myths about pitstops on this trail, there’s a fascinating one about Vasudhara. It is thought that the water here does not fall on sinners.
Then comes Lakshmi Van, a place where various birch trees can be found and in the olden days the bark of the tree was used to write manuscripts on. Folklore has it that Nakul died at Lakshmi Van during the journey of Pandavas in this area. Lakshmi Van is also the first pitstop for tourists on this trail.
Not too far away from Lakshmi Van is Sahastra Dhara, the magnificent multiple waterfalls on a granite edge. It is also assumed that another Pandava brother Sehdev died here. The Sadhus often tell about the narrow ridges they must cross after Sahastra Dhara. At the same time the viewpoint around gets more breath-taking. If we geographically set the location on the map, the point of view is that of the back side of Kedarnath. The next pitstop on the trek is Chakrateerth Caves but those who can they do walk ahead of because not too far from there is Satopanth Lake where Bheem fell. In the summer months of the year there are shacks of Sadhus where tourists spend the night. Others find caves or camp on flat grounds. After spending a day at the Lake, they go on ahead to the Swargarohini Glacier via Chandra Kund and Surya Kund. It is assumed that there are seven steps to heaven at this glacier. Though, not more than three are visible at a time due to snow and fog.
Are there any travel agencies organising this trek?
While the most famous treks in the region are Valley of Flowers and Hemkund Sahib but regional trekking outfits around the Garhwal region often arrange treks leading people to Vasudhara Falls, Satopanth and Swargaronini Glacier. Once you arrive at Badrinath you can spot numerous travel operators offering guide and porter services for trek to Satopanth Lake and Swargarohini Glacier.