Once there lived a brahmana who felt his time was up. But before dying he wanted to see Lord Badrinatha up in the Himalayas. Thus, he left his village to go on a long pilgrimage up north.
The journey up the mountains was strenuous and would take up all of his remaining strength. The main question was: Would he be able to reach Badrinath in time? From the end of September all throughout March when snow covers the high mountains, the temple priests lock the doors and go down to the valley to wait until the snow melts. But the brahmana was determined to reach the temple before the doors lock. Many pilgrims who passed him advised the old man to make haste as soon the temple would be closed. In great anxiety he pushed on. He was very fragile and the roads were bad, travelling was extremely difficult, and his body was so old. But as he finally arrived he crawled up the steps of the temple with the last bits of his strength.
From the steps of the temple he heard the sounds of bells and the familiar aratika song; but on the last step, the sounds stopped and the priest was standing with a heavy key before him, ready to close the gate.
“Oh no“ – shouted the old brahmana – “Just wait for a few more minutes untill I have offered my homage to the Lord.” But the priest was intent on locking the doors. “God does not have to wait for us, we have to wait for Him. He is not our servant. Come back in half a year.“ “You don’t understand“ – cried the brahmana. Then he grabbed the feet of the priest and pleaded: “I am too old. I will die in a month or so. I have heard that the Lord is bhaktavatsala, a friend to His devotees, and the devotees are like wish-fulfilling trees ready to fulfill the desires of all?! Please, I beg you – let me in! “ “No way!“ – answered the priest. “I am already late. Let me be!” The priest pushed the hands of the brahmana away to free himself.
The brahmana cried bitterly. But when no one heard him and his voice fell on deaf ears he fainted and rolled down the temple steps.
When he woke up, he was alone. Only the night stars looked down on him. No human being was in sight. The old man was desperate. He felt his life had been in vain. With great determination he got up and exclaimed: “Now, where my Lord and His devotees have ignored me, my only shelter is Mother Ganga.”
Calling out loud : “Narayana, Narayana!“ he stumbled towards the wild waters of the river Ganga to end his life there and then. When he had almost reached the banks of the river, he was stopped by a voice: “Hey old man! What do you think you are doing?“
Upon turning around he saw a young man from the village galloping on a horse towards him: “Don’t you know that suicide is sinful? It never brings us to the Lord.“ The young man took the old man’s hands. What a touch – both, delightful and firm.
The brahmana told him his story. He told him about his long and strenuous pilgrimage in the hope of seeing the Lord, how he had overcome all kinds of obstacles, tolerated many hardships, and how, when he was just minutes away from his goal, the priest had kicked him down the temple stairs.
The young man simply smiled. With a wave of his hand he said: “You are old and have become hard of hearing. The temple is open for you . I am live here. Stay with me in a warm cave for the night and I will take you personally for a darshan.“ The old man could not believe his ears.
The young man led him into a warm cave nearby with a dancing fire and chessboard: “Let’s spend the evening playing chess – then the time will go by faster“- he suggested. Although the old brahmana did not know how to play board games, he could not resist the attractive villager and much to his surprise, he always won the game. Finally they went to sleep.
Early the next morning the young villager woke the brahmana up and after they had taken their bath in Brahmakunda, he led him up the stairs. At the top, they found the surprised priest. “Oh good! You are back old man. I was quite worried that you would not be alive“ – the priest remarked. “Come in.”
“Anyway it was only for a night“- answered the brahmana. “No, it has been 6 months since I last saw you! After I closed the temple door half a year ago, I went down to the valley. Today I am re-opening the temple again. You will be amongst the first pilgrims that will see the first aratika ceremony of
The brahmana was shocked. Yet, a sweet realization dawned upon him. Quickly he turned around to look for the young man. When he could not see him next to him he shouted: “Young man, where are you?“ At that moment the conch shells resounded, the bells started ringing and everyone rushed into the temple to participate in the first aratika ceremony. The brahmana stumbled inside and as he looked onto the altar he saw for a few moments how the detiy had turned into the young man who played chess with the brahmana last night. Totally ecstatic, the brahmana understood that it was the Lord Himself who saved him from taking his life. He took him into a warm cave and kept him alive for 180 days and nights. When his eagerness reached the highest point and he longed with all his heart and soul to be with the Lord, the Lord personally arranged to facilitate the union. As the other pilgrims looked on, he went out of the temple and laid down on the topmost step.
Calling out, “Narayana! Have mercy on me!“, he closed his eyes and was immediately taken back to Godhead!