Dehradun: Though it may be too early to predict the success of the char dham yatra this season, but if the turnout on the opening day of the Kedarnath shrine on Friday is any indication, it may eventually meet the expectations of the government officials and the yatra stakeholders.
Despite the meteorological department having predicted rain and snow at Kedarnath located at a height of over 11,750 ft, but the fact that almost 7050 pilgrims paid their obeisance on the opening day of the doors after remaining closed for almost six months during the winters, at the shrine, considered to be one of the 12 ‘jyotirlingas’ in the country is an indication that there is tremendous response to the yatra this season.
What is more encouraging is the fact that the people seem to have overcome the tragedy that struck the region in the form of a Himalayan Tsunami in June 2013, which left thousands dead and missing. In fact it was because of this that the char dham yatra last year was an almost complete write off, with just a wee percentage of pilgrims coming to pay their obeisance at the shrine.
The economy of the region, which is almost dependent upon the yatra, particularly the stakeholders, was badly hit. It was because of this that the Uttarakhand government led by chief minister Harish Rawat was all out to ensure that the confidence of the pilgrims is restores and the yatra returns to its glory filled days with lakhs undertaking the pilgrimage every year.
A slew of confidence building measures were undertaken by the state government, besides ensuring that all safety measures were in place for the pilgrims and the roads and trekking routes were made as safe as possible. The chief minister initially tried to rope in President Pranab Mukherjee and Bollywood mega star Amitabh Bachan to visit the shrine on the opening day to send the message across the length and breadth of the country that it was safe to undertake the yatra this season.
However, when his efforts to get the two failed, he somehow managed to convince the Gandhi scion and vice president of the Congress, Rahul Gandhi to come for the opening of the shrine. Not only did Rahul Gandhi oblige but he also did the over 15 kms trek along the yatra route from Gauri Kund to Kedarnath, and have it a green chit, which has left no doubts in the minds of the people that the yatra is safe this year.
What was also more interesting is that the turnout at the opening day of the Kedarnath shrine was a mixed bag, which indicates that confidence is restored cutting across the country. There were people of all ages and from different parts of the country, who stood in a queue from 5-30 a m on-wards waiting for the doors of the shrine to open, which eventually opened at 8-50 a m.
Rahul Gandhi and his entourage which included Congress leaders Ambika Soni and Jatin Prasad, besides Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat were among-st the first to enter the portals of the shrine. Uttarakhand governor K K Paul and his wife were also among-st the pilgrims who visited the shrine on the first day of its opening.