Updated: Sep 18, 2019
As I joyfully recollect the memories of Uttarakhand, the purity of all the confluences that we visited appeared no less attractive than the snow-capped mountains and the whispering meadows. In my opinion, it will be unfair not state that all the Pancha Prayags are as relaxing as any other hamlets on earth. In addition to that, you have one or the other mythological stories which are connected to each of them just to keep the interest of pilgrims and travelers alive. Karnaprayag has also seen the great Swami Vivekananda meditate in its pristine surroundings along with his Guru bhai Guru Turianand ji and Akharananda ji, for eighteen days.
They can't be termed as Offbeat destinations, all of them are well-known places in Garhwal Himalayas. Surprisingly they do not find much mention in travel stories/articles I came across in recent times. They might have a dominant presence in printed form which unfortunately I do not have much access. So let me try to decode them one after another.
Instead of rewriting the information available on the internet I will try to focus more on my experience on capturing these photogenic confluences.
Let me start with Karna Prayag the third one you come across while ascending the mountains.
Karnaprayag is named after Karna the battle hero from Mahabharatha. There is a popular belief that Karna meditated here to please the Sun God who was actually his father and was granted a impregnable armor. Some legends say this is the place where Lord Krishna buried Karna after his tragic death.
Just like under-rated epic hero Karna, this confluence continues its subdued presence in the lap of mountains. Until and unless someone has interest and inquisitiveness to explore, it will keep itself a secret from the travelers and passers-by.
There is one Karna Temple next to the banks of Alakananda. The best view of the temple is from the cantilever bridge right on top of the Alakananda river.
The temple appeared to be built recently and honestly speaking I couldn't relate it to mythological ages. However, the view of river Pindari and its sharp bent through the mountains was something that kept me interested.
At all the Prayags there is a mandatory temple next to the confluence. It serves as home to sanyasis and pujaris, apart from being the epicenter of worship. Karnaprayag is no exception to this rule. The neatly maintained temple-ghats are a treat to watch from the distance.
Nook and corner of the Prayag Temple
With no crowd at all, except at the time of evening arati one can always walk down the stairs and sit next to the rapidly flowing river water. The babbling rivers from both the end will surely make you forget most of your negative emotions. In addition to shrines, idols, and temple, Karnaprayag has an arrangement of performing the last rites as well. Two separate structures next to each other have an arrangement of lighting a pyre.
Arrangements of funeral at Karna Prayag
The best view of the temple is from the balcony of Hotel Krishna Palace where we stayed and dined. Food was vegetarian with a lot of north Indian variety, the taste was great too. The illuminated temple and the free-flowing river is a treat to watch in the evening as well. The hotel is itself a delight to watch in the warmth of glowing lights at evening.
Tariff of the hotel was quite reasonable considering the view from the place. The hanging balcony of the hotel room provides a picture-perfect view of the Prayag and the temple. The rooms were quite big to accommodate all four of us.
Sri Krishna Palace
The cantilever bridge as mentioned earlier is ideally located to capture the confluence and wide angle view of the river valley. The staircase from the temple will take you right up to the river bed. I tried to capture a few unique patterns formed by the innumerable rocks spread across.
Captures from the river bed
Uma Devi temple and Uma Palace sweet shop are the other two mandatory stopovers in this place. Located next to each other both are popular in their own ways.
Uma Devi who is treated as the daughter of the Himalayas prayed here for Lord Shiva, consequently Lord Shiva appeared in the form of Shrine. There is a deity of the Goddess as well, however, the doors were closed when I visited.
Uma Devi Temple
The sweet shop offers a variety of delicacies mostly made of buffalo milk. Price is also reasonable. So one can afford to relinquish the stock of food items which may come handy anytime in the long journeys though the mountains .
Uma Palace Sweet Shop
Next morning we started early for Auli but not before a brief introduction with Sri Mehant Maheswar Giri the chief pujari of the temple and another Sanyasi, Sri Bir Sing Negi in their cozy 'Akhara'.
To my delight, I was greeted with a cup of tea. As I spent some time trying to learn more about the place I was informed that all of them are linked to 'Juna Akhara Ashram'f at Haridwar. There is no specific time frame for how long they will stay in the same place, they are independent to make their own choice for the place of meditation and worship. They thrive on donations made by local people and travelers.
Sanyasi Akhara at Karna Prayag.
Karna Prayag is usually accessed from Haridwar. The local Tata Sumos stop right in front of the hotel. They charge around Rs 400 per head, Rs 4000 for the full car and reach in five to six hours, with a single stoppage at Tildhara for lunch. I was told by some locals that you can get Tata Sumo for almost every single important and popular places of Uttarakhand including Nainital and Ranikhet.
There are buses as well from Haridwar to Karna Prayag with ticket cost being Rs 340 per head. However, it takes more time of around eight to nine hours as compared to a car.