BADRINATH, “Lord of the Berries”, just 40km from the Tibetan border, is the most popular of Garhwal’s four main pilgrimage temples, and one of Hinduism’s holiest sites. Founded by Shankara in the ninth century, it lies near the source of the Alaknanda, the main tributary of the holy Ganges. Badrinath’s setting is dazzling, deep in a valley beneath the sharp, snowy pyramid of Nilkantha (6596m), but the town itself, sprawled to the south and east beyond the temple, is largely grubby and unattractive. Immediately south of the temple, on the west bank of the Alaknanda, is the old village of Badrinath, its traditional stone buildings and small market seeming like relics from a bygone age.

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