A manmade disaster: “It was a temple. Now it is not even a home,” reports Naina.
Standing at a height of 11,760 feet and surrounded by majestic snow-capped peaks, the holy town of Badri Kedarnath was a picture of devastation after torrential rains in the eastern Himalayas breached a glacier, flooded mountain rivers and triggered scores of landslides on June 16, 2013. Many local residents, tourists to this very picturesque region, and Hindu pilgrims to Kedarnath and Badrinath – are dead or missing. A massive rescue operation is under way to reach survivors in the flood-hit Indian state of Uttarakhand, where at least 150 people have died. More than 50,000 people are stranded after the floods swept away buildings.
The horrific disaster, described by some as a ‘Himalayan tsunami’, was triggered by excessively heavy rainfall of more than 220mm in a region home to the headwaters of the river Ganges. The major cause of the devastation of Kedarnath town was the breaking of the Kedar Dome, a glacier-like body that caused a rupture of the Charbari lake reservoir less than 6km from the shrine. Locals said a huge rock as high as the temple broke away from the Kedar Dome and got stuck some distance behind the shrine.
The Kedarnath Temple, the most remote of the four Char Dham sites in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand is one of the holy Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva, visited by Hindu pilgrims from across the world; surprisingly, it was only partly damaged amid the overall death and destruction.
The temple is not directly accessible by road and has to be reached by a 14 kilometres uphill trek from Gaurikund. The temple is believed to have been built by Pandavas and revived by Adi Sankaracharya; it is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas, the holiest Hindu shrines of Shiva. The Pandavas were supposed to have pleased Shiva by doing penance in Kedarnath. Due to usually extreme weather conditions, the temple is open only between the end of April to November every year. Lord Shiva is worshipped as Kedarnath, the ‘Lord of Kedar Khand’, the historical name of the region.
The Asian Age reports, “What we have on our hands in the Garhwal Himalayas in Uttarakhand is a manmade disaster of unforgivable magnitude, and not death and devastation caused by nature’s fury, which appears to be a lesser factor when the overall situation is considered. And behind the unmitigated failure are politicians – cutting across party lines – who come to the aid of sand-mining, stone-quarrying, forest-cutting, and construction mafias by bending or breaking rules, or bringing about rules and regulations that strike at the ecological balance of a sensitive region in order to line their pockets. More than 200 hydroelectric projects on the Mandakini and the Alaknanda, the small tributaries of the Ganga before it enters Haridwar, have been sanctioned.”
Osho speaks about this temple:
In India, for centuries people have traveled on foot to Badri Kedarnath. The Himalaya is so virgin, so pure, so unpolluted by man and his stupidities. And there was a suggestion that because so many people go – and it is dangerous, the footpath is narrow and many have died and never returned – it would be better to make a road.
Now the road has been made. People don’t go on foot, they travel by bus. At each stop, there is a restaurant, tea shops, vendors of all kinds of things. They have destroyed the beauty. Now Badri Kedarnath is no more the same sacred place it used to be. Because it is not the place that is sacred. It is the heart full of love – so full of love that it is even ready to die – that makes the place a sacred place.
Now going in a bus, with all the facilities available by the side of the road… one beautiful phenomenon has been corrupted. And the people who have corrupted it think they are serving God because now more people can go there. Now Badri Kedarnath is always crowded. These are not the right people. Their only qualification is that they can afford a ticket for the bus. But the people who used to go on foot were given a farewell by the whole town, because there was not much possibility of their returning. The path was dangerous, the height was dangerous, but they had heard some call, and they were ready to sacrifice their lives for it. They were brave people.
Then, in the silence and eternal peace of the Himalayan peaks, Badri Kedarnath was a totally different phenomenon. It was a temple. Now it is not even a home. It is just a house surrounded by all kinds of business people, shops. Whatever you want you can get. It has become a bazaar. Now only idiots go there, or tourists, which means the same. It used to be a spiritual pilgrimage because of its risk, because you had to put yourself aside – all your fears of death, you had to drop.
Osho, The Messiah, Vol 1, Ch 16
Text by Naina for Osho News