The Badrinath and Kedarnath Temples are among the most important pilgrimage destination in North India for Hindus. On 9th November 2018 the Kedarnath temple closed with the usual religouus ceremonies after witnessing a record turnout of 732241 pilgrims in 2018. The corresponding figure for Badrinath on 9 Novenber is 1023753, which is also a record in itself.
Almost every year the records for pilgrim visits is being broken for these two shrines in the Uttarakhand Himalayas. Against such record breaking scenarios, it is natural to wonder, who is looking after or managing the affairs of there two temples. We are here to give you the answer in this article.
In our article “The Story of Badrinath” we wrote about how Badrinath valley was already famous as a pilgrimage place during the times when the Puranas were written. There are numerous references to Badrinath in the Puranas as Badrikashram, the abode of Lord Vishnu.
In Padma Purana (2.5.1) Lord Siva tells sage Narad that altogether there were one lakh and twenty-five thousand mountains and Badrikashram was supreme among them as the abode of Lord Nara-Narayan. Narayan–the origin of all creations and the eternal Purusha who is worshipped by people during the full period of Uttarayan. Since Badrikashram is covered with snow during the period of Dakshinayan, Narayan is not worshipper during these six months. All the deities dwell at Badrikasharam. The sages live in their hermitages at Badrikasharam. River Alaknanda flows at Badrikasharam. Anybody taking a dip in the holy water of Alaknanda becomes liberated from his sins.
Again in Skand Purana(4.2.21) Lord Siva reminds his son Kartikeya that Badrinath, the dwelling place of lord Vishnu, is considered to be the supreme place of pilgrimage and even its remembrance is capable of giving salvation. Virtues attained by the performance of various deeds (tapa, yoga, samadhi), appear to be insignificant as compared to virtues attained by going on a pilgrimage to Badrikashram.
Need for a temple administration Act
Considering this popularity, it is no surprise that the British felt it necessary to set up a regulatory system for the administration and maintenance of an increasingly popular religious destination. It appears that during that period the Badrinath Temple was under a kind of dual administration: the administration of the Rawal, the spiritual head of the temole , as well as that of the Maharaja of Tehri, in whose torritory the temle is located. In fact the Maharaja of tehri is considered to be the physical embodiment of Lord Badrinath and locally known as the Bolta Badri , ie the the Badri who speaks. It was natural under such circumstances for there to be friction between the Rawal and the Maharaja. So in 1939 the Sri Badrinath Temple Act was introduced by the then British India Government. The rationale for this Act is described thus in the Statement of Objects and Reasons :
“The Badrinath Temple which is one of the foremost sacred places of Hindu pilgrimage in India is situated in the Garhwal district on the heights of the Himalayas. Under the scheme of 1899 at present in force its management is in the hands of the Rawal, while the Tehri Durbar is invested with
certain supervisory power. The defective nature of the scheme has been the source of constant friction between the Rawal and the Tehri Durbar. As a result, supervisions of the temple has suffered, its income has been squandered and the convenience of the pilgrims has been neglected. The unsatisfactory condition of the temple which has existed for a long time was specially brought to the notice of Government by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Committee in 1928. Since then public agitation has been continually pressing for reform in its management. The Bill who is now introduced seeks to remove the chief defects of the present scheme. It restricts the Rawal to his priestly duties and places the secular of management. The bill which is now introduced seeds to remove the chief defects of the present scheme. It restricts the Rawal to his priestly duties and places the secular of management of the temple in the hands of a small Committee which would be partly nominated. It preserves at the same time the traditional control of the Tehri Durbar ; while adequate powers have been served for Government to guard against mismanagement by the Commitee. [Vide Gazette, 1939, Part VII-A,p.17]. “
The full text of the Act of is available here; The Badri-Kedar Temples Act . Over the years many amendments were made to the Act in 1941, 1942, 1948, 1950, 1963, 1964, 1984, 1989, 1990, 1991, and 2002. But the most important amendment by far to this Act was was the 1964 amendment when the Kedarnath Temple was also included in the ambit of the Act.