Char dham yatra begins, but enthusiasm missing

Dehra Dun : Faith moves mountains, and the unflinching faith of the devotees in the four sacred shrines of Uttarakhand – Badrinath, Kedarnath, Yamnotri and Gangotri – was much in evidence as the char dham yatra started today. As many as 309 pilgrims left for the yatra from Rishikesh and Haridwar, and there was word that some, albeit very few, beating the odds had already reached to stops short of the four dhams, so that they could make it when the doors of the shrines open to the devotees.

Char Dham Yatra Destinations
Char Dham Yatra Destinations

Though there is much to be desired on the route to the four major shrines and the roads are not without their share of hazards, the efforts made by the Uttarakhand government in advertising the yatra had its impact. The first batch of pilgrims who left for the yatra included men and women from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and even Kolkata. Chants of ‘har har mahadev’ and ‘bol badri vishal ki jai’ rent the air as the pilgrims boarded the buses.

Though time will tell the hazards that the pilgrims had to face, but of reports reaching the state headquarters are to be believed the havoc wrought by the June 16-17 flash floods in the Kedarnath Valley and the torrential rains in other places with the rivers in spate causing damage to the roads, is still very much visible. Despite the efforts that of late were pumped in by the Border Roads Organization (BRO) and the state PWD, the region still wears a ravaged look.

This is perhaps the reason that there is not much enthusiasm amongst the ‘dandi’ (palanquin) carriers and mule owners, as they feel that the yatra will be but a trickle of what it is known to be. Normally thousands of pilgrims converge to Rishikesh for the yatra and the numbers just keep increasing as the days pass, but this year there has been a complete lack of enthusiasm, not only from pilgrims from outside, but even from Uttarakhand itself.

Even as officials here admitted that the work was at a slow pace and it was further hampered by inclement weather, they hastened to add that the speed is picking up and as the weather has cleared it will further pick up in the coming few days, which will make it that much safer and easier for the pilgrims. Extra man power has been put in by both the BRO and the state PWD to further quicken the pace of work.

However, the stakeholders remain skeptical about the yatra season this year and most of them are only hoping against hope that it picks up and they are able to make ends meet this season. Most of them claim that the economy of the region which was shattered by the flash floods and torrential rains lat year, will take a further beating if the yatra does not pick up in the coming days, adding that the state government had done precious little in restoring the confidence of the pilgrims all over the country.

Most of the hoteliers en route said that normally the pilgrims start arriving days before the doors of the shrines are opened to the public, but at most of the places short of the shrines, where these pilgrims normally camp before going for the opening, wear a desolate look. The hustle and bustle to get to the shrines on the day they open is evidently missing and the lack of enthusiasm that is normally there is not to be seen.

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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