The Kedarnath temple after the June disaster
Sept. 5: Police have found 64 bodies around some hills leading to the Kedarnath shrine over the past two days, two-and-a-half months after the mid-June flash floods claimed hundreds of lives.
“These bodies have been virtually reduced to bare bones,” R.S. Meena, inspector-general of police, Dehradun, told reporters in the Uttarakhand capital today.
“They seem to be of those devotees who climbed the hilly terrain fearing they could drown but might have perished in extreme cold.”
Meena, deputy inspector-general of police G.S. Martolia and Uttarakhand DGP Satyavrat Bansal had been on a two-day visit to Kedarnath valley to supervise arrangements for resuming regular worship at the hill shrine from September 11.
The IG said 44 of the 64 bodies were found near Gomkhura hills, about one-and-a-half kilometres from the temple, while 13 were found at low ridges of the Kedarghati region, around 1km from the shrine. Seven bodies were found by small hill roads leading towards Jungleghati.
Twelve of the bodies found appeared to be that of women, the police said.
A team of 33 police officers, led by the Rudraprayag SP, are still clearing the outskirts of the temple area. Improvement in weather has helped the team.
Meena said the bodies were cremated at Rambada after collecting DNA samples as “there was no way to identify them”.
The total number of dead now stands at 884, while over 5,000 missing have been declared “presumed dead” by the state government.
Meena said the approaching date of resumption of prayers at the shrine, situated at a height of over 11,000ft, was the main reason the police had to launch the drive.
DGP Bansal, who supervised the clean-up, said the drive would continue for some more days and for this purpose a police base camp had been set up at Panchgudi, around 2km from the temple.
He added that no pilgrims would be allowed during the September 11 prayers at the shrine. Chief minister Vijay Bahuguna, who is expected to visit the hill shrine on September 30, will decide when pilgrims will be allowed back.
For now, police check-posts on the way to the temple from Rudraprayag have been increased to prevent pilgrims from visiting.
Although bridges and roads between Rudraprayag and the temple are being built at breakneck speed, the road between Gaurikund and Kedarnath is yet to be restored, officials said.
B.D. Singh, the chief executive officer of the Kedarnath-Badrinath Temple Management Committee, told The Telegraph over the phone that 24 priests and Vedic chanters would perform the ritual for purifying the temple from the early morning of September 11 before “Nimith Shiva puja” is resumed later in the day.
Singh said that during his visit to the shrine last month, he and members of the temple committee had supervised the cleaning of the shrine from where 50 trucks of debris were removed.
“The purification ritual was necessary as devotees died inside the temple compound. The Vedic shlokas will be chanted for five hours by two dozen priests to purify the complex,” he said.
The 24 priests and members of the temple committee will reach Kedarnath on September 8. It is believed that September 11 being Naag Panchami will be auspicious for resuming prayers.
A dozen prefabricated structures, resistant to wind and snowfall, have been set up to accommodate the priests, who will continue to stay at Kedargathi to carry on regular worship.