Satopanth Tal trek – a travelogue describing the ultimate journey to the holy lake and the Swargarohini Staircase to heaven.
First time when I visited the holy dham of Badrinath, I was very much fascinated by this holy place, especially with the unique blend of picturesque nature surcharged with a spiritual energy. If there is any place on this earth completely away from the buzz of our normal lives and suitable for engrossing ourselves into spirituality undisturbed, it is Badrinath.
Strolling through the streets of Badrinath are several audio-visual stalls, which had the Satopanth video on display, running non-stop. Although I had heard about Satopanth and Swargarohini before, this was the first time I had seen Satopanth in a video and was completely flabbergasted by the experiences of the devotees who had taken up this sacred journey to the sacred lake. That day I decided to take up this journey and experience this spiritually surcharged environment.
What is Satopanth Tal trek?
For those of you who do not know what Satopanth Tal is; it is a fresh water lake situated at 4500 mtrs above the sea level. Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma together take a holy dip in this lake on every Ekadashi and that makes it special. Beyond Satopanth lies Swargarohini – the staircase to heavens. This sacred Satopanth Tal Trek from Badrinath till Swargarohini was taken up by the Pandavas before ascending to the heavenly planets.
I was not an experienced and a trained trekker, the Satopanth tal trek seemed very enticing to me not for a hilly adventure of a lifetime but for a spiritual experience that would last for lifetimes. This journey must be experienced rather than read or viewed on a video or a photo. Because words will not be enough to describe the heavenly experience I have had during this sacred voyage.
Many devotees complete the Satopanth Tal Trek in just 3 days. However for beginners I would recommend to take five days for this journey in order to accomplish it without stress and hurry. It is also recommended for one to be well prepared with enough warm clothes, umbrellas, rain coat, food stuff, etc. I would also not recommend devotees to take up the trek single and rather visit with experience trek operators.
Day 01 – Journey to Lakshmivana
Our journey began at Badrinath. In the morning we met our trek guide and got basic orientation about the trek. After that we proceeded to the temple of Lord Badri Vishal, took the blessings from the temple and proceeded towards Mana by vehicles. From Mana we began on foot. Firstly, we had to cross river Alakananda and then reach the Mata Murti Temple – the place where Draupadi breathed last. From Mata Murti Temple we had to pass through the farm lands of natives and then move along the bank of River Alakananda in Anandvan.
Anandvan is a silky land with a lot of greenery and the plantation fields. This forest lies right opposite to the Vasudhara falls – drops of which don’t fall on the sinful people. Anandvan was our lunch spot. Looking at the roaring Vasudhara falls, we had delicious dry fruits and jaggery laddu followed by paratha and sabji.
After sufficient rest, we walked for around 3 kms and finally reached Lakshmivan – our camping site. A hot tomato soup awaited us. Lakshmivana is a plain land right behind the Narayana Parvat. It is the place where Lord Badrinath had performed tapasya and Lakshmidevi protected Him from all the weathers by becoming a Badri Tree. Pleased by Her austerity, Lord Narayana blessed Her that He would be known by Her name i.e, Badrinath.
In this land which lies opposite to the Alkapuri range, one can see the Bhojpatra Trees. The bark of these trees is used for writing. Nakula left his body in this place.
We camped at Lakshmivan after covering the distance of 7 kms. In the night after a delectable dinner, we all retired in our camps, recollecting today’s part of Satopanth Tal trek.
Day 02 – The unforgettable scene at Sahasradhara
The absence of civilization in this area, resulting in absolutely zero noise pollution made us to have the life’s best sleep. We woke up to the blue hued mountains against the golden sky. After our wonderful breakfast of Pongal, sandwiches and kesari halwa, we moved towards Sahasradhara – the place where Sahadeva left his body. Enroute, we had breathtaking view of the Sesha Mountain and the Alkapuri Mountain Range. Alkapuri is the kingdom of Kubera.
Then we took a turn towards the Narayana Parvat. The path was straight now. Ahead of us was the breathtaking view of the Chaukhamba mountain. Relishing the beauty of the snow cladded mountain, we reached the Alakananda Udgama Sthala – the source of River Alakananda which lied across a valley. To The river here is very shallow and peaceful. To get a better view we had to ascend a little more. And that ascend was just enchanting as we could also see the Swargarohini steps – the staircase to heaven.
Now it was time for our lunch. Paratha with sabji, salad, apple and chocolate added to the enjoyment of the moment. After enough rest, we had to descend to reach Sahasradhara – a low marshy plain filled with rear herbs and plants.
Sahasradhara literally means thousand waterfalls and the name best suits this place as glaciers from the Mount Neelakanth melt down to form thousands of waterfalls finally joining the river Alakananda.
We then walked past the waterfalls relishing the picturesque view of the valley and preparing for the final ascend for the day before reaching the Chakra Tirtha our next camping site. On the way, there was a shimmer of snowfall for a few minutes which we rather enjoyed. For me it was the first snowfall of my life. We reached the Chakra Tirtha and were received with hot corn soup. We then had dinner and retired for the day. Today the weather was little colder.
Day 03 – Reaching Satopanth – the destination
After we woke-up, we were amazed and delighted at the golden peaks of the Chaukhamba Mountain. The golden light was slowly descending on our camping site at Chakra Tirtha and then veiled the whole valley in no time. It was our lucky day as the sky was very clear with no chances of rain or snow.
After breakfast, we headed towards our second but last ascend. Compared to previous two days, today’s trek was a bit difficult as it was only morain route till Satopanth. We walked past Mount Shiva and Mount Parvati on one side and Mount Nandaka on the other side of the valley. A river of cloud was continuously hitting the peak of Mount Shiva and was bouncing back. Straight to us was the Chaukhamba mountain with the Swargarohini steps clearly visible.
After almost 3 hours of walk, we finally reached the final ascend to the edge of the crater which holds the sacred water of the Satopanth Tal. The first sight of the turquoise blue and crystal-clear waters of the Satopanth Tal brought so much of happiness to my heart and soul that I just wanted to jump right from that edge to the center of the lake. My heart was jumping in happiness experiencing the pinnacle of satisfaction and achievement.
We then descended to the banks of the lake. Since it was a clear sky and the sun shone bright, it was the approval from the Lord to take a holy dip in the waters of the Satopanth lake. The water was chill that is why we could quickly take only 3 holy dips in the lake.
Then we spent time reading Srimad-Bhagavatam and doing japa. We then had pulao, sweet and chocolate as our lunch. And after photography and videography session, we got ready for the return journey to Chakra Tirtha.
The humble victory of completing the Satopanth Tal Trek successfully was took over our minds.
It took almost two hours for us to return to our camping site. While we were making our final descend to Chakra Tirtha, the view of the entire Satopanth valley was just breathtaking with the full rainbow engulfing the valley. We reached Chakra Tirtha and were received with a piping hot vegetable soup. We then retired for the day recollecting memories of the Satopanth Lake and the Satopanth Tal trek.
Day 04 – Return trek to Lakshmivana
Today we had to start our return trek to Lakshmivana, the first camping site. With spiritual memories, we headed towards Lakshmivana. This time it was much faster to reach the camping site. Crossing the morain, the scintillating waterfalls of Sahasradhara and the Alkapuri range, we finally reached the Lakshmivana where our camps were ready to receive us.
Far in the opposite direction to us was the Vasudhara falls. As we reached early, we collected lot of dry wood from the bed of Alakananda for the camp fire tonight. Around the camp fire we all sang the bhajans and danced. We were so much engrossed that we did not realize how the evening light dimmed and the Sun set.
As the sky was clear today, the night revealed heavens to us. The colorful clouds of the galaxy dividing the sky into two parts, with countless stars shining so bright, with the continuous flow of the shooting stars – the scene was something that I will always miss. I immediately took out my camera not wanting to miss an opportunity, shot the first photograph of the galaxy on my camera.
I just laid down the sky and gazed the stars realizing how beautiful the creation of the Supreme Lord is. How can anyone say that everything came into existence just with a bang. Tonight, we spent a lot of time in discussing the pastimes of Tirumangai Azhwar at Srirangam. In the night after having sumptuous dinner, we retired for the day.
Day 05 – Journey to Badrinath
We woke up to the clear sky again and got ready for our final journey down to Badrinath. After breakfast in just three hours we reached Mana where we were picked-up by a Tempo Traveler and checked-in in our hotel. In the evening we all had a wonderful time by having darshan of Sri Badri Vishal and other holy places nearby. In the night after dinner, we all relished an exchanging feedback session and took rest to begin our journey back to Haridwar the next day.
In total, this journey of Satopanth Tal trek and Swargarohini made me feel that how small we are in front of the creation of the Supreme Lord and truly this creation is nothing but as spark of Lord’s unlimited splendor. The nature increased the wideness of thoughts in my mind and freedom of expression. More than anything I realized how the Supreme Lord has created this universe and made it so perfect and yet we question the existence of God.4