Harish Jharia

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02 July 2013

Kedarnath Temple - a victim of human encroachment and abuse

Have you ever wondered what was the government doing when thousands of pilgrims died at Kedarnath Shrine? What was the real reason for the abrupt devastation of the villages and carnage of human lives? Here are the answers for your questions on this natural disaster failure of government, in this article.   

             The devastated Kedarnath shrine

- Harish Jharia

The Kedarnath Temple is located at a height of 3,583 m (11,755 ft), situated at 223 km from Rishikesh and is believed to be constructed on the shores of Mandakini River, a tributary of Ganges. Mandakini River has since changed its course and currently the temple is practically standing in the middle of the riverbed. The riverbed is situated at the bottom of huge valley with high mountains and a glacier at its sides. It received mammoth amount of water and silt as a result of prolonged heavy rains and melting of glacier snow, flowing along the huge mountain slopes.  

            Kedarnath temple 150 years back

Because of the above mentioned geographical conditions in the valley, the river might be flowing 6 to 10 foot deep in the rainy seasons. That might be the reason that the architects and builders of Kedarnath temple constructed it at a 15 to 20 foot high solid platform from the riverbed level. The plinth height of the temple is clearly visible in the photograph taken approximately 50 years back somewhere around 1950-60.  

        Kedarnath temple 50 years back

Kedarnath temple is an impressive stone structure constructed at some unknown period.  Some schools of thoughts believe that the structure was constructed in the 8th Century AD, when Adi Shankara visited this place. Some other scholars think that the Kedarnath temple was built by the Pandavas in Mahabharata period. 

               Kedarnath temple before floods 

Whosoever might have built the temple, but it is sure that it was definitely built exclusively for religious purpose. It was not built for tourism and with commercial motives.

              Kedarnath temple after floods 

Let us list out the ways Uttarakhand people, its governments and the governments of the erstwhile Uttar Pradesh of which Uttarakhand was a part, kept exploiting the Hindu religious shrine that ended up in the recent disaster and human massacre:
  1. The Kedarnath shrine was left unattended and left free-for-all to buy land around the temple and construct various structures, making the shrine a crowded place.
  2. All types of commercial activities were permitted in the structures constructed around the temple making it a market place. 
  3. No free space was left around the temple and the buildings were constructed in close proximity of the temple, thereby, reducing the dominance of the highest seat of Hindu religion. 
  4. The roads leading to the Kedarnath shrine were unprotected as there was no proper reinforcement provided at the edges and along the slopes down to the deep valleys. 
  5. Even sufficient margins were not left between the road and the deadly edges of valleys for safety against falling of commuting vehicles and damages to the road due to landslides at the edges. 
  6. The houses, shops, hotels and dharmshalas of Kedarnath town were built right at the edges of the river banks and that of the valleys making them vulnerable to devastation due to floods and landslides.  
  7. No stone or concrete structures were built around Kedarnath temple that could have diverted the flow of water, stones, pebbles and rubbles away from the temple structure. 
  8. The height of the base platform (15’ to 20’), on which the temple was built, had not been maintained through the last known 150 years. Resultantly, tons of silt was allowed to deposit on the earth / riverbed elevating its height almost equal to the base platform of Kedarnath temple. 

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