This scared Sikh shrine is situated on the shores of the Hemkund Lake (4320mtrs). It marks the place where Guru Govind Singh, the tenth and last Guru, unified with God after prolonged meditation in his previous birth. The guru’s autobiography which contains a description of the place helped two devout Sikhs, Sant Sohan Singh and Havaldar Mohan singh to rediscover it. According to Hindu mythology, Hemkund or Lokpal as it is also known is where Lakshman had done his penance.
Hemkund is a 15km trek from Govindghat, which is the gateway to the Bhyundar or Lakshman Ganga valley. Govindghat is one of the bus routes to Badrinath. The trek from here to Hemkund takes one through forests of pine and rhododendron where wild roses, ferns and alpine flowers bloom. The surging waters of the Lakshman Ganga are also visible. The last 5km of the trek entails a steep climb from Ghangharia, which is a base for visiting Hemkund.
Hemkund Lake is about 2km in circumference. It’s clear, still waters mirror images of the Saptashringa Peaks (5500mtrs) which surround it. Bits of ice still float on the waters between July and October, the best season to visit Hemkund. The rock strewn shores of the lake are covered with moss and flowers in bloom.
SIGHT SEEING & EXCURSION:
Gurudwara Hemkund Shaib: This imposing star-shaped structure of stone and concrete masonry is one the shores of the lake. An outlet behind the Gurudwara is the source of the Lakshman Ganga.
Temple of Lord Lakshman: A small temple nearby, dedicated to Lord Lakshman.
Ghangharia / Govinddham: 5 Kms. situated in the midst of a pine grove Ghangharia serves as a base for visiting Hemkund Shaib. It is the last human habitation in the valley. A tourist Lodge, log huts, tents and a Gurudwara provide comfortable accommodation.
Govind Ghat: 15 kms.The confluence of the Alaknanda and Bhyundar or Lakshman Ganga. It has an imposing Gurudwara named after Guru Govind Singh.
Valley Of Flowers (3kms From Ghangaria): It is nearly 5 Kms. in length and 2 Kms. in width. This valley has been declared a National Park to regulate camping, cooking, grazing etc. Which spells a danger to the local environment, The best season to visit this valley is during the monsoons in July & August when the countless flowers in bloom present a breathtakingly spectacular sight. This is a unique world of flowers-innocent, delicate and beautiful that appears to smile back at you. In this valley of flowers, one is compelled to marvel at nature’s divine beauty. The valley is also home to a large variety of wildlife.
Kagbhusandi Tal (5230 mts.): This is a small oblong lake with emerald green waters. It is at an altitude of 5230 mts., near Kankul Pass (5230 mts.), and is almost a kilometer in length. Myriad blossoms decorate its banks during the season, the wildest profusion of colors make the trekker forget the hardships and the exhaustion of the trek.
Set in the lap of Hathi Parvat (6730 mts.), the lake can be approached either from Bhyundar village, near Ghangaria, or from Vishnu Prayag. The trek from the former is a little easier in gradient, but is longer. The trek from Bhyundar passes through thick bear-infested, forests and stretches of stinging nettles. The only shelters here are the shepherd huts. This trek also involves walking long distances across glacier moraines and over slippery rocks. Local guides are available at Bhyundar village.
Two huge rocks on a spur of Hathi Parvat are described as a crow (Kaga) and an Eagle (Garuda). The locals believe that the crow is animatedly conversing with Garuda 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. The approach to the lake from Vishnu-Prayag is along ridges and involves steep climbing. Shepherd’s huts are the only shelter in the area.
Badrinath (22kms from Govindghat): Badrinath, one of the’ Four Dhams’, is one of the most celebrated pilgrimage spots of the country and is situated at an elevation of 3,133 mts., guarded on either side by the two mountain ranges known as Nar & Narayan with the towering Neelkanth Peak providing a splendid back-drop. This revered spot was once carpeted with wild berries. Thus the place got the name “Badri van”, meaning “forest of berries”.
Legend dates the temple prior to the Vedic age, though the present temple is believed to have been established by Adi guru Shankaracharya. The temple has been renovated several time due to earlier damages by avalanches and look modern now with a colourful ” Singh Dwara ” or the main entrance gate. The temple has three parts – Garbha Grih ( The Sanctum Sanctorum), Drashan Mandap ( for pujas) and Sabha Mandap ( for devotees to assemble). The temple opens every year in the month of April-May and closes for winters in the third week of November. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the temple of Shri Badrinathji is 5mts. in height, built in the form of a cone with a small cupola of a gilt bull and spire.
Altitude: 4320mtrs. Above sea level
Language: Kumaoni, Garhwali Hindi.
Festivals: Guru Nannak’s birthday, Guru Govind Singh’s Jayanti.
Air: Nearest Airport is Jolly Grant (Dehradun).
Rail: Nearest railhead Haridwar / Rishikesh.
Road: Off the Rishikesh – Badrinath road, 19 kms. from Govindghat (20 Kms. from Joshimath). From Govinghat the distance has to be trekked. Bus services are available to Govinghat. Porters are available at Govindghat and Ghangharia.
Local Transport: Dandies / Ponies.