Prayag in Sanskrit means ‘confluence’. Prayaga means ‘a place of sacrifice’
this post was originally drafted for thealternate.in and was published here: http://thealternative.in/travel/a-journey-to-devprayag/. This is also the third and last part of my travel notes on the Devprayag trip.
He said, “We often see people flowing down the river,trying hard to take the last few breaths of their life. Some do it by their own will, some get swept away by Mother Ganga’s will”. Bhatti ji, our self appointed guide at Devprayag told me this with no emotions on his face! I tried imagining how someone would willingly walk into the ferocious waters at the prayag, and it was not a pleasant thought. For Bhatti, the straight face & the filmy dialogue means livelihood.
Devprayag is one of the five holy confluences (prayags) as per religious scriptures. As per Bhatti ji, this is the most important of all prayags; where rivers Bhagirathi, Alaknanda & the mythological river Saraswati (flowing underground) meet to form Ganga. So important that some choose this as the prayaga (as the place of sacrifice) and head to the next world. There are two caves at the meeting point of the river – Suryagupha & Chandragupha, which were covered by the mighty rivers when we visited Devprayag.
pic: the prayag (point of confluence)
Bhagirathi originates from Gangotri (meaning: origin of Ganga; which is an irony considering Ganga starts from Devprayag) & Alaknanda comes from Badrinath, both are sacred destinations for Hindu’s across globe.
Devprayag, is a small town with barely any parking space & very few hotels. As per Bhatti ji, this place is holier than Haridwar but lack of infrastructure made it less of a tourist attraction. I could hear disappointment in his voice but i was happy, for it was why this place is more peaceful & beautiful. Pilgrims heading to Badrinath or Hemkund Sahib stop here for resting & a holy dip as a bonus.
A small suspended bridge connects the prayag to the river bank where the highway (more like a lane) is situated. You have to walk few hundred meters downhill, in a narrow lane through a market, to reach the prayag. There is also Raghunath ji temple which is open till 12:30 PM for visitors.
pic: the suspended bridge to the prayag
Alaknanda was more ferocious & loud than Bhagirathi. I was surprised when Bhatti ji said that people raft for two days from Srinagar (in Uttarakhand) to Shivpuri (a town downstream near Rishikesh) on the sediment laden Alaknanda. The force of Alaknanda’s murky waters made me wonder whether she would let anyone complete this course at all!
pic: (below left) Alaknanda, (below right) Bhagirathi
pic: (above) Ganga starts from Devprayag
My reason to visit Devprayag was not religious but out of love for Bhagirathi. This is my first step to trace her path back to Gaumukh (Gangotri). Its an awe to watch hercarve through the great mountains with an arrogance that i have never seen in any other river. Once a mighty river, today she is being tied up & tamed at Tehri under the Tehri Hydro Power Project, drowning the town of Old Tehri.
pic: the guides & priests next to the supposed foot imprint of Lord Ram
Standing at the point were two (or three) mighty rivers met, we strained to hear our guide against theroar of the rivers’ flow, all i could do was bow to nature. No wonder Lord Ram chose this place to serve penance for killing King Ravana. Devprayag subtly reminds us that nature is beyond man’s power, with patience as its greatest virtue.
An advise: There are many guides & Hindu priests who approach you as helpful locals and later impose upon you as a guide. Beware of them and save yourself from their exorbitant fees. In case you need one, ask for his charges upfront (Rs.50 for a guide is reasonable in my opinion).
How to reach: At 295 kms from Delhi, Devprayag can be easily accessed by road or by train till Haridwar & then by horrible local transport. If by car, start early morning to avoid the truck traffic in Delhi-Meerut road. You have Bikanerwala or McDonalds & thousands of ‘dhabas’ to have breakfast near Meerut. A quick stop at Haridwar & a night at Rishikesh is recommended. From Rishikesh, Devprayag is 73 kms uphill and will take 3 hours by car. Start early to avoid pilgrim traffic to Badrinath or Hemkund. Avoid rainy season if you are not fond of landslides!
pics (clockwise from left): Manu checking the depth of a new stream on the road created by landslides & rain; enroute Devprayag, Ganga from some 1000 meters above MSL; mist covered bridge at Malakundi