The scattered administrative town of Joshimath clings to the side of a deep valley 250km northeast of Rishikesh, with tantalizing glimpses of the snow-capped peaks high above and the prospect, far below, of the road disappearing into a sunless canyon at Vishnu Prayag, the confluence with the Dhauli Ganga. Few of the pilgrims who pass through en route to Badrinath linger, but Joshimath has close links with Adi Shankara, the ninth-century reformer who attained enlightenment here beneath a mulberry tree before going on to establish Jyotiramath, one of the four centres of Hinduism (dhams) at the four cardinal points. The town itself consists of a long drawn-out Upper Bazaar, and, around 1km from the main market, a Lower Bazaar that holds the colourful Narsingh, Navadurga, Vasudev and Gauri Shankar temples. A 4km cable car links the town to the slopes of Auli, one of India’s better ski resorts, attracting visitors throughout the year for its views of the High Himalayas.

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