Lord Vishnu is worshipped at Panch Badri in different forms. These temples, namely Vishal Badri(Badrinath), Yogdhan Badri, Bhavishya Badri, Vridha Badri, and Adi Badri are considered the abode of the Lord Vishnu and attract devotees of Lord Vishnu from all parts of the country. The abode of Vishnu in the Alaknanda river valley, starting from Satopanth about 24 kilometers above Badrinath extending up to Nandprayag in the south, is particularly known as the Badri kshetra in which all the Badri temple are located. In Badri kshetra- the region starting from Sato Panth about 24 kilometers above Badrinath extending to Nandprayag in the south, lord Badrinath is worshipped at five different places and under five different names.
The main shrines of Badrinath is well connected by roads and air but is closed during the winter season due to snow conditions, from October-November to April-may depending on the astrological dates fixed by the temple committee; the Raj Purohit( Royal priest) decides the auspicious day for opening the temple kapat(doors) on Vasant Panchami day at the end of April/early May while the closing day is Vijayadashmi day in October/November.
Badrinath is the northern Dham of the four sacred Dhams(pilgrimage centers) called Char Dham. Though the Badrinath temple is believed to date to the Vedic period, the current structure was built in the 8th century by AD by Adi Shankaracharya. The other three dams are Rameshwaram in the south, Dwarka in the west, and Jagannath puri in the east; all these four temples are dedicated to god Vishnu. Badrinath is also the part of Chota Char Dham, four sacred temples in Uttarakhand.
The layout of the temple has three enclosures namely, the Garbhagriha( Sanctum sanctorum), the darshan mandap( worship hall) and sabha mandap(conference hall). The sanctum holds the central image of Badri Narayan (Vishnu), which is made in black stone and 1 meter in height. The four-armed Vishnu holds the shank(conch) and Sudarshan chakra(discus) in two arms in a raised posture and the other two arms rest on the lap in yoga mudra(meditative pose). The image od Adi Shankara, Swami Vedanta Desikan and Ramnujacharya are also worshipped here.
The Aadi Badri the first complex among the Sapta Badri temples is an ancient shrine dedicated to Vishnu and is one among a chain of 16 small shrines located in the hill ranges 17 kilometers, beyond Karna Prayag.
According to tradition, Adi Shankara is attributed as a builder of all the temples. Adi Shankara is believed to have sanctioned these temples in order to spread Hinduism to every remote part of the country.
Aadi Badri, also known as Helisera according to revenue record, is a tiny temple complex enclosed within a space of 14 meters. The height of the temple varies from 2-6 meters. The chief temple is dedicated to god Vishnu, which is built over a raised platform, with a small enclosure in a pyramidal form.
Adi Badri is located 3 kilometers from Chandpur fort or Garhi located on the hilltop, which was built by the Parmar kings of Garhwal. Adi Badri is an hour’s drive from Karnapryag and closes to Chulakot on the way to Ranikhet. On shifting of Badrinath to Bhavishya Badri, Adi Badri will be called the YogDhyan Badri.
Vridha Badri or buddha Badri- an austere shrine, is located in the Animation village 7km, from Joshimath on the Rishikesh-Joshimath-Badrinath road. The Vridha Badri legends say that Vishnu appeared in the form of a Vridha or old man before sage Narada who performed penance here. Thus, the idol installed at this temple is in the form of an old man. According to legend, the image of Badrinath was craved by the divine craftsman Vishwakarma and worshipped here. At the advent of kali yuga, Vishnu chose to remove himself from this place, later Adi Shankaracharya found the partly damaged image in Narad-Kund pond and established it at the central Badrinath was worshipped here by Adi Shankaracharya, before his enshrinement at the Badrinath temple. The temple is open throughout the year. Brahmins from south India serve as chief priests in the temple.
Bhavishya Badri, also spelled as Bhabisya - badri, is located in a village called subchain at a distance of 17 kilometers from Joshimath, beyond Tapovan and approach is through dense forest, only by trekking. It is situated on an ancient pilgrimage route to Mount Kailash and Manasarovar, along the Dhauli Ganges river. It is situated on the way from Tapovan to Lata in the Niti valley.
Bhavishya Badri is connected by a motorable road to the soldier, 19 kilometers from Joshimath, beyond which 6 kilometers trek is undertaken to reach the shrine.
According to the legend of Bhavishya Badri (literally ’Badri of the future”), when the evil transcends the world, the mountain of Nara and Narayan would block up the route to Badrinath and the sacred shrine would become inaccessible. The present world will be destroyed and a new one established. Then, Badrinath will appear at the Bhavishya Badri temple and be worshipped here, instead of the Badrinath shrine. The shrine of Narasingh at Joshimath is closely associated with the legend of Bhavishya Badri. Currently, the Bhavishya Badri has an image of Narasimha, the lion-faced incarnation and one of ten avatars of Vishnu.
Yogadhyan Badri, also called yoga Badri, is located at Pandukeshwar at the elevation of 1829 meters, close to Govind ghat and is as ancient as the main Badrinath temple. Pandukeshwar is located en route from Govind ghat to Hanuman Chatti, 9 kilometers away from Hanuman Chatti. Legends have it that King Pandu, father of five Pandavas- the hero of Hindu epic Mahabharat, meditate here to god Vishnu to cleanse him of the sin of killing of two mating deer, who were ascetics in their previous lives. The Pandavas were also born here and Pandu died and attained salvation here. Pandu is believed to have installed the bronze image of Vishnu in the Yogadhyan Badri shrine. The image is in a meditative posture and thus the image is called Yogadhyan Badri.
Yogadhyan Badri is also considered the winter abode for the Utsav-murti(festival-image) of Badrinath when the temple of Badrinath is closed. Hence, it is religiously ordained that a pilgrimage will not be complete without offering prayers at this place.
Bhatts (priests) from south India serve as chief priests in the temple.