Badrinath was re-established as a major pilgrimage site by Adi Shankara in the 7th century. In earlier days, pilgrims used to walk hundreds of miles to visit Badrinath temple.
The temple has been repeatedly destroyed by earthquakes and avalanches. As late as the First World War, the town consisted only of the 20-odd huts used by the temple's staff, but the site drew thousands each year and up to 50,000 on its duodecennial festivals (every twelve years). In recent years its popularity has increased still more, with an estimated 600,000 pilgrims visiting during the 2006 season,compared to 90,676 in 1961. The temple in Badrinath is also a sacred pilgrimage site for Vaishnavites. Badrinath is also gateway to several mountaineering expeditions headed to mountains like Nilkantha.
The Badrinath temple is the main attraction in the town. According to legend Shankar discovered a black stone image of Lord Badrinarayan made of Saligram stone in the Alaknanda River. He originally enshrined it in a cave near the Tapt Kund hot springs. In the sixteenth century, the King of Garhwal moved the murti to the present temple. The temple is approximately 50 ft (15 m) tall with a small cupola on top, covered with a gold gilt roof. The facade is built of stone, with arched windows. A broad stairway leads up to a tall arched gateway, which is the main entrance. The architecture resembles a Buddhist vihara (temple), with the brightly painted facade also more typical of Buddhist temples. Just inside is the mandapa, a large pillared hall that leads to the garbha grha, or main shrine area. The walls and pillars of the mandapa are covered with intricate carving.