Chardham in the lap of the majestic Garhwal Himalayas is an important pilgrimage destination for Hindus. But the hilly terrain and unpredictable weather conditions make the route quite difficult and risky. To know how safe is Chardham, read the article below.
Chardham, the holy abode of four major Hindu deities is of great religious significance for any pious Hindu. It’s located in the picturesque Garhwal region of Uttarakhand surrounded by Himalaya’s lofty peaks. The Chardham yatra consists in an organized tour to four sites dhams; i.e. Yamuntori, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. This small circuit tour of Uttarakhand Chardham is opposed to bigger, long spanned tour of India Chardhams. Hence its referred to as the Chota Chardham Yatra.
The call of divinity pulls the many pious souls to Chardham from far and wide but the route of course is difficult enough. Since all the four Dham are perched at an high altitude amidst mighty snow covered peaks of the Himalayas with deep valleys and roaring rivers around, concern of safety definitely does arise. Each moment your tenacity and endurance is put to test as you undertake the rigorous Yatra, traversing through the risky rugged terrain.
Devotees with soaring piety in the hearts still head on despite all difficulties and risks pertaining to the yatra route. Yatra dates for 2015 are yet to be declared whereas Badrinath yatra will commence on the April 26 on the Akshaya Tritiya day.
Question Over Safety:-
Flash floods, 2013 that occurred in the month of June in Uttarakhand has been considered as one of worst natural calamities till date. It resulted in thousands of casualties. Raging torrents washed away ‘life’ at the wink of an eye.
Gushes of swirling torrents also washed away streets, houses, small hilly mounds and the scene was that of a perfect Deluge where everything seemed to topple down like a ‘house of cards’. Uttarakhand in the form of Flash Floods had witnessed a very horrifying incident indeed. Entire state was horror-struck by this natural calamity. In the Chardham area, of all the four Dhams Kedarnath was most affected. It witnessed destruction of entire infrastructure except temple of main deity and a few buildings over here and there. First cloudburst drastically affected Mandakini valley on midnight of June 16, thereby causing damage to life and property. This was followed by heavy rain and landslides. Resultant flood seemed to change the total topography of major parts of Uttarakhand. Though Kedarnath temple remained intact devotees who had gone there for a Darshan were preyed by this horrifying natural disaster. Countless pilgrims lost their lives, others got severely wounded; many were estranged from their group and stranded for hours and days without food and water. A lot of rescue operations were conducted along with providing relief programs. However the loss that occurred was irreparable.
In spite of all the destruction and loss of life, several devotees braved their fear and did visit Chardham in 2014. But the number of devotees definitely showed a decline because people were still under the horror cast by 2013 Flash floods. This sense of insecurity will only be reduced with time and the pains of loss too will be healed with time. However if people see reforms work progressing rapidly they will soon regain their lost courage and confidence and will step out for Chardham with the same enthusiasm again. Actually people have developed fear and anxiety over period of time. Fear psychosis will only get brushed aside when more number of tourists visiting these areas spread word of reassurance.
Many distant areas of Uttarakhand are still in wrecks. Tragedy continues to haunt. Tourism sector is reviving slowly. Villages have not been rehabilitated. In most of the villages, students still study in open. Facilities provided at base camp are not up to the mark. These aspects need to be paid increased attention.
What Reform Programs have been undertaken
Words of Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Mr. Harish Rawat seem quite promising regarding the setting up of proper infrastructure for disaster management and reforms of existing ones. According to him state has built a three-tier protection system that is capable of controlling the floods of higher intensity than that which occurred in 2013. He also said that they have arranged certain basic facilities like five base camps, certain shelters to spend night, ghats, 48 way side amenities etc; also they have built helipads at holy sites.
Hotels are made tax free for duration of one year so that they can provide food and accommodation at reasonable prices for pilgrims. A special team of mountaineers and police are working hand-in-hand to assist pilgrims especially on the Kedarnath route. Private helicopter services are also enabled for Kedarnath route. Biometric registrations are set up on number of Chardham routes as well as at state entry points.
It wasn’t an easy task for workers to clean and rebuild path after such a deadly flash flood attack. Kedarnath Shrine has been announced to be freshly reconstructed. Road from Gaurikund to Kedarnath is under construction and is expected to be completed before 2015 Chardham yatra. Care is taken that route remains suitable for all visitors ensuring maximum safety and security. Efficient officers are handling this project. State assures , total safety and facilities. Registration is made compulsory for the pilgrims visiting Chardham to ensure safety. Slopes earlier were too steep. To suit devotees of all ages, slopes are made gentle along route from Gaurikund to Kedarnath. Central Government had announced package of several millions to Uttarakhand which has been utilized wisely in carrying out reforms and building safety-related infrastructure for the Yatris.
It is duty of State Government to look into the safety of the Chardham visitors. At the same time visitors before departure should gather enough information regarding geography, environment and climate of the region and carry emergency gear with them. Also, during time of emergency, a physically and mentally strong person can cope up very well and others just give up. Thus, tourists need to work on their endurance and stamina and should bring with them safety gears which will come in handy in case of any mishaps or natural disaster.
Roads are tricky due to hilly terrain and thus vehicle rides seem dangerous. Gangotri and Badrinath are approachable by vehicles whereas Yamunotri and Kedarnath require trekking. Rainy season may make trekking difficult and trials may get slippery posing danger to life. Trip should be well planned and peak season should be selected whereas monsoons should be avoided if you want to be safe on your Chardham Yatra.
To sum up, Safety of pilgrims should be the prime concern of State Government, Chardham being an important pilgrimage destination. Timely relief and timely hospitalization can save lives when a calamity strikes. The Government should take all necessary steps in this direction. Making their disaster management wing stronger is an important requisite. Nature out there is truly unpredictable and such life-damaging floods can repeat again. But to cope up with all that Uttarakhand Government needs to well-equipped with the necessary infrastructure.