Monday, 30th October 2017

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Comeback trail to Kedarnath

Footfall rises as fears of calamity fade

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 10.11.18, 3:12 AM
  • Updated 10.11.18, 9:54 AM
  • 2 mins read
The Kedarnath temple Sourced by The Telegraph

Pilgrim town Kedarnath has drawn more than seven lakh tourists this year, more than one a half times the number who visited in 2017, indicating that fears over the weather and memories of a natural calamity were fading from people’s minds.

Around 4.71 lakh tourists had last year visited the town, home to the shrine to Lord Shiva in Uttarakhand’s Rudraprayag district.

The temple closes on Friday, when all public activity would come to a halt for the idol to be shifted to Omkareshwar temple, the deity’s winter seat in Ukhimath town, 50km south of Kedarnath.

Sources said 3.12 lakh tourists had visited the town in 2013 after the temple had opened in May before a series of cloudbursts and flash floods in June that year claimed more than 5,000 lives, with Kedarnath being the epicentre of the calamity.

The footfall plunged to 40,832 in 2014.

B.D. Singh, chief executive officer of the Badrinath-Kedarnah Temple Committee, said the footfall rose over the next three years, with 1.5 lakh people visiting the town in 2015, three lakh in 2016 and 4.71 lakh in 2017.

“This year, it touched 730,054 till November 8, a clear indication that tourists and pilgrims are regaining their confidence in the temple town in the lap of nature,” Singh said.

People are getting over their fear, said N.P. Jamloki, executive officer of the Kedarnath shrine.

“The people were terrorised after 2013. But gradually they are coming to terms with the uncertainty of the weather. Accurate weather forecasts have also helped them decide when and how they should reach Kedarnath,” Jamloki told The Telegraph over phone.

“It is also because of the facilities started here in the last six years. Earlier, there were no arrangements for stay and food but now everything is there. While earlier there used to be a limited number of helicopters to bring tourists from Phata heliport in Guptkashi (45km from Kedarnath), this year over 10 companies have deployed their helicopters,” Jamloki said.

There are, of course, those who prefer to stick to tradition and ride mules to reach the temple. The god’s journey to the Omkareshwar temple will start after the temple closes at 8.30am on Friday.

The journey will start to music played by the brass band of the army’s Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry regiment. The procession will halt in Rampur for the night and resume the next morning.

The idol would be kept in the Vishwanath temple in Guptkashi on the night of November 10 before it is finally placed in the Omkareshwar temple. It would be taken back to Kedarnath by the end of April next year when the temple reopens.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited the Kedarnath temple on Wednesday. His younger brother Pankaj Modi offered prayers at the temple on Thursday.

A temple source said Pankaj prayed for his brother’s victory in the Lok Sabha elections due next summer.