The Puranas chronicle the history of the Chardham (the four mosr sacred centres of Hindu pilgrimage) and the Four Yugas (eras). According to them Badarinarayan belongs to the Satyug, Rameshwaram to the Tretayug, Dwarkadhish to the Dwaparyug and Jagannath to the Kalyug.
Badarikashram has been known by different names in different times:
In the Satyug it was called the Muktiprada because in this era Lord Narayan himself resided in the Badarivan (the forest of Badari Trees), his devotees could see him whenever they wished to.
In the Tretayug Lord Narayan was only visible to those who had acquired the vision after great sadhana (penance) and those who were yogamukt. Since Lord Narayan could only be seen by the few, who had meditated, the place came to be known as Yogasiddhit.
In the Dwaparyug the region became widely known. His fame spread far and wide, as a result large number of people visited Lord Narayan and so the place came to be known as Vishala, which means very large.
Badari trees grew in abundance in this region, Hence this place came to be known as Badarikashram.
Heen Yaan, Maha Yaan, Bad
The Heenyaan did not believe in idolatry. On the other hand the Mahayaanis were idol worshippers. The road to the Tibet based Kailash Mansarovar passed through Badarikashram in those days. The people of the Mahayaan sect looked upon Lord Badarinath as another form of Buddha and paid their obeisance to him with reverence and faith. But the Heenyaan who were not idol worshippers started disturbing the peace of the Badarikashram. The situation worsened to the extent that the devotees found it difficult to protect the Lord’s idols. They came to the conclusion that since the earth is never seedless it will produce another great soul at some time. They put the idols of Lord Narayan back in the Naradkund. The mahayaana sect fled from the Badari region to other places.
Wherever the ascetics of the Badari lived also came to be known as the Panch Badari. As a result the actual location of Badari became doubtful. When the divine bodied saadhakas (ascetics) could not see the idols of Lord Narayan in the Naradkund they were so much depressed thet they expressed their sorrow to Lord Shiva. They lamented that one could not achieve darshan of the lord even at the Badarikashram and wondered at the cause. Lord Shiva meditated on this question and then told them what was revealed to him. He said that the trouble was not only in Badarikashram but in entire Bharat (India). The people of Bharat (India) had forgotten the ways of the Vedas. To re-establish Vedic thought and to revive the lost significance of the pilgrimage centres he said he would have to take birth as a mortal. After reassuring them he asked them to leave.
"Vipra bhairav datsya gehe gatva sa ve shiva
Tatputro bhumiloke shankronama: vishruta"
Thus Lord Shiv took birth in Southern Kerala in a village called Kaladi in the family of a Brahmin named Bhairavdatta.
When Adi Shankaracharya was 11 years old he and his fellow disciples arrived at Badarikashram. When he reached early in the morning there the fresh and divine breeze of Sushmaand Gandhmadan mountain moved him greatly and he spontaneously started reciting the Ashtapadi. After a few days he started looking for the divine idols of Badarinath along the southern part of the Alaknanda river. As he delved along the left bank of the river he felt certain that the Naradkund also known as the Narayankund was between the Naradshila and the Varahshila. With this belief he dived into the pond and found an idol. On bringing it out of the water and closely inspecting it he felt that it did not have any distinctive features to indicate it was a divine idol.
He put it back into the water and again dived into the Narayankund and again found an idol but did not find anything distinctive about it. He dived the third time and again found an idol and just when he was about to put it back into the water a voice harkened him, which said
"I am Badarinath and have been consecrated by Brahma once before."
The voice asked him to give his divine idol its rightful place.
Thus about 2500 years ago Badarinath was consecrated and worshipped by Adi Shankaracharya. The rituals and procedure of worship as laid out by Adi Shankaracharya is being practised at Badarinath till today. Srimad Bhagvad Gita has explained the significance of the temple and glory of Lord Shri Badarinarayan.