Prayers resume at Kedarnath after 86 days

Dehradun : The bells chimed yet again and shouts of ‘har har Mahadev’ reverberated in the heights of the valley, as token prayers were held this morning, heralding the resumption of worship in the Kedarnath shrine after 86 days, after it was disrupted following the devastating floods of June 16-17.

Though there were heavy rains since early morning here in the state capital of Uttarakhand and there were fears that the choppers may not be able to take off for Kedarnath shrine with the VVIPs for the prayers, but the weather was comparatively  better in the higher reaches allowing the helicopters to take pff and land at Kedarnath. 'Outside help not required to restore Kedarnath temple'

The prayers began with the purification of the shrine, in which sages, including the ‘rawal’ (head priest of Kedarnath shrine) were present. After the purification prayers and rituals a ‘jal abhishek’ was done, where after the prayers were held as per traditional custom at the sanctum sanctorum.

Though the police had cordoned off all pedestrian routes leading to the shrine from the various villages and forest area, as the original pedestrian trek has been washed away and alternate routes are still being surveyed and have yet to be made, to prevent the pilgrims and devotees, but a handul of them from the immediate vicinity could be seen on the occasion.

But the VVIP prayers, which chief minister Vijay Bahuguna was adamant to hold today, Sept 11, were not without their share of controversies. Initially the ‘rawal’ was neither informed nor arrangements made for his presence at the prayers, but after he issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon that any prayers without him would invite the wrath of the Gods on the state and the nation, he was hurriedly airlifted to Kedarnath yesterday itself.

And then it was not only the state BJP leaders who voiced their protest against the prayers, but even Congress Lok Sabha member from Pauri, Satpal Maharaj, a preacher in his own right, said that the ‘mahurat’ day and timing was not appropriate for prayers at Kedarnath.

He told scribes that he had even informed the chief minister that the ‘mahurat’ for the prayers was not right and the resumption of the prayers should be held on the first day of ‘navratra’, which even other religious heads and pundits agreed to, but Vijay Bahuguna made it categorically clear that the date had been decided by the Temple Committee and as such he would stick to the schedule.

Former chief minister and senior BJP leader Maj Gen (retd) B C Khanduri said that though he had nothing against the prayers at Kedarnath, but the need of the hour right now was the rehabilitation and reconstruction work in the state, which was being done at a snail’s pace and cause of misery to a major chunk of the population living in the flood hit areas.

However, the chief minister said that the issue of the prayers should not be made political and they had been held as per the date announced by the Temple Committee, in which senior religious heads were present. “I or for that matter the government had nothing to do in the matter”, he claimed.

He said that a meeting would be held on Sept 30 wherein it would be decided when the pilgrims, devotees and local population would be allowed to visit the shrine. “They had been stopped today as the route is yet to be made and the present pedestrian routes are not without their share of risks, which could endanger lives”, he added.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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