Badrīnāth - A Temple at the Periphery of Cultures


Hans Jürgen David

  • Betreuung: Martin Gaenszle

Hidden deep in the Garhwal Himalayas lies one of the most important temples of Viṣṇu. According to mythology, the shrine had its beginning in the golden age of Hindu cosmology and is considered since then as one of the four dwelling places of Viṣṇu (car dham).

The aim of the thesis is, apart from giving a general description of this pilgrimage center, to show how the temple was formed and given identity throughout history. Badrinath was not  only influenced by its location close to the Tibetan border and by its surrounding inhabitants (Bhotiyas) who were trading with the former capital of the Guge empire, Tholing, but also by the British, in which's jurisdiction the temple came to be after the year 1815. Yet, the main influences on the temple came from within India itself. Of all the saints and philosophers that are said to have made their way to Badrinath Adi Sankaracarya had the deepest impact. It is said that it was him who defeated and expelled the Buddhists inthe area and recovered the idol of Viṣṇu from the river below. Furthermore the thesis explains the different cultural transfers that happened in and around Badrinath throughout history. In this respect, it is especially important to look into the rich lore of narratives that retell the events often in a different light, contrasting the orthodox explanations.