The source of the Alaknanda lies in the ranges above the temple town of Badrinath. The river emerges from between the twin peaks of Nar and Narayan. It is believed that the 8th century religious reformer, Sri Adi Shankaracharya was visited by Lord Vishnu at the banks of the Alaknanda.

Upon Lord Vishnu’s request, Shankaracharya is said to have retrieved a stone idol of the god and mounted it in the Badrinarayan temple. The stretch of the Alaknanda River that flows through this centre of pilgrimage is also known as the Vishnu Ganga. The other major tributaries of the Ganga are Dhauli Ganga, Rishi Ganga, Bal Ganga, Bhilangana, Mandakini, Pindar and Mandakini.