Dehradun : Faith and devotion to the Gods keeps the pilgrims coming to the four famous shrines of Uttarakhand – Yamnotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath.
But it is an irony, that the annual pilgrimage to these four known religious shrines in this small mountain state, considered important by Hindus the world over, is marred not only by inconveniences but no arrangements worth the name by the state government.
Officials here admit, albeit off the record, that years of neglect despite Uttarakhand getting statehood in 2000 is the reason that the pilgrimage to the ‘chaar dhams’ (as they are popularly known), which could turn the economy of this small mountain state around and make it surplus, is why pilgrims are reluctant to undertake it.
“It is sheer faith and belief, which makes them undergo the sufferings and travails of the pilgrimage”, they added.
They said that all work for the benefit and convenience of the pilgrims is only shown on papers whereas at ground reality nothing transpires and the conditions remain appalling.
“This was proved this year when the chief secretary undertook a surprise inspection and found that nothing worth the name had been done. He expressed shock and disbelief at the prevailing conditions just a day before the pilgrimage officially began on May 13”, they added.
While Yamnotri and Gangotri shrines opened on May 13, the Kedarnath shrine opened only today morning and the Badrinath shrine is to open up tomorrow (May 16).
A number of important dignitaries and industrialists are likely to be present when the doors of the Badrinath shrine, dedicated to Lord Vishnu are thrown open for public tomorrow morning. Most of them will be reaching the temple tomorrow itself by chopper.
The Yamnotri shrine is said to relieve a person of the domestic squabbles of life. Yamuna is said to be the daughter of Sun and sister of Shani Dev and Yamraj.
According to the scriptures, he who visits the temple becomes free of the troubles that normally are associated with Shani and also loses fear of death. The doors of the Yamnotri shrine, located at a height of 3185 metres open on Akshay Tritya.
The Gangotri temple, located at a height of 3042 metres is said to be situated at the place where Bhagirath meditated to get the river down so that his ancestors could be freed of a curse and is where the river came down to earth from heaven.
It is said that a visit to the shrine and a dip in the river condones all the sins that one may have committed. However, Gaumukh, the source of the Ganga is located some distance away.
Situated at a height of 3581 metres, the Kedarnath shrine is said to be the 11th of the 12 Jyotarlingas and the place where Lord Shiva disguised himself as a buffalo and created a mirage of a buffalo herd to avoid the Pandava brothers.
It was while he was going underground that Bhim caught the back of the buffalo to stop him. The shiva linga here is in the form of the rear of a buffalo, while the front is said to have emerged in Nepal. It is also believed that Adi Guru Shankarcharya also went to heaven from here.
Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the Badrinath shrine is at a height of 3133 metres and it is believed that the Lord is in continued prayer at the temple. An interesting feature of the temple is that the chief priest of the temple, also called the ‘Rawal’ is only from South India and it is he who will anoint the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal.
Though the princely system has gone, but till the last ‘raj tilak’, the Maharaja was anointed by the ‘Rawal’ and likewise the ‘Rawal’ is given the head gear by the Maharaja of Tehri, only after which he becomes the chief priest of the Badrinath temple.
Despite the ordeal that the pilgrims have to undergo, courtesy the Uttarakhand government that has done precious little for their convenience or comfort, lakhs of people undertake the pilgrimage not only from the length and breadth of the country, but Hindus from various corners make it a point to visit these temples once in their life time.
It is sheer faith, dedication and hope that brings the pilgrims year after year and they only wish the state government will wake up some day and make their trip more comfortable and less enduring.