Unprecedented rush of pilgrims during ‘Chardham yatra’ witnessed as the portal of the Badrinath shrine opened in Uttarakhand
Mussoorie, May 8
The portals of Badrinath, the last remaining shrine in the series of ‘Chardham’ opened on Sunday,today amid the chanting of Vedic hymns and tunes of an Army band for the devotees. The three other shrines namely Yamnotri, Gangotri and Kedarnath opened on May 3 and May 6,respectivelty thus ushering in the annual ‘Chardham yatra’ revered by the Hindus around the globe.
The record turnout on the first few days of the ‘Chardham yatra’ has baffled all the pundits this year. The unprecedented rush witnessed this year has not been seen in the past 33 years, said Santosh Tiwari a temple priest from Kedarnath.
The heavy rush of pilgrims treading on foot from Gauri Kund to Kedarnath yesterday was never seen before with only heads visible from far off, said one of the locals Jeet Singh.
The district administration Rudraprayag had to halt the yatra at Agastya Muni for some time as the rush at Gauri Kund overgrew its carrying capacity.
The administration had issued an order of capping the number of pilgrims to all the four shrines, but it was taken back by the Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami due to the opposition from the business community which was of the view that any such cap will affect their livelihood adversely. A total of 26,000 are reportedly visited Kedarnath shrine, which also witnessed natural disaster resulting in more than 5000 deaths in June 2013.
The ‘Chardham Yatra’ had remained shut or restricted for past years due to the Covid pandemic which led to most of the pilgrims staying away but with the easing away of the Covid protocol the pilgrims have returned and that too in large numbers, said Prakash Rangarh, senior journalist from Uttarkashi.
Vimal Sharma a pilgrim from Gurugram Haryana said,” We have got the opportunity after a wait of two years to visit the shrine of our revered Lord Kedarnath and so without missing the opportunity the whole family is here on Chardham yatra.”
Some tourists fearing the return of the Covid pandemic in summers did not want to miss the opportunity and were here for yatra before the covid restrictions are imposed again.
More than a dozen elderly pilgrims have lost their lives while on their way to Gangotri, Yamnotri and Kedarnath Shrines. So far around 10 elderly pilgrims have lost their lives due to cardiac arrest in Gangotri and Yamnotri while more than five pilgrims have lost their lives on the way to Kedarnath.
Several elderly who fell sick were escorted to the hospital through helicopter service in Kedarnath, said District Disaster Management Authority officer Nandan Singh Rajwar.
The state administration has been put to a test with this unprecedented rush and is in a catch 22 situation on implementing the capping of pilgrim rush to the shrines in new future as the situation could out of hand resulting in fatality if the crowd management is not ensured said experts.
More than 23000 pilgrims reached Kedarnath on 6 May and the number since the opening of the shrine was reaching 20000 pilgrims each day since.
The number of the pilgrims who have registered for the Chardham yatra is touching 9 lakhs since the opening of the portal of the shrines and is likely to rise in the coming days as the schools shut down for summer vacations.
There had been traffic jams on the “Chardham Yatra’ route with the opening of the Badrinath shrine, today.