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Pilgrimage to Char-Dham etc - animals, copter, season opened, plastics ban

nabadip - Mon, 25 Apr 2005 11:25:53 +0530
Pilgrimage with a difference

Trekking to set up camp to treat animals carrying pilgrims

By Bindu Shajan Perappadan

NEW DELHI: : When the faithfuls pack their bags to make a pilgrimage to holy Kedarnath this year, a small group here in the Capital would be packing equipments and medicines to undertake a pilgrimage with a difference.

This small group - part of Brooke International working to relieve the suffering of horses, donkeys and mules across the world - would be trekking to set up camp to treat and care for animals carrying pilgrims to their `holy destination'. Come peak pilgrim season and this group consisting of two vets, a dresser and a community facilitator will set up camp to treat and help out animals in distress free of cost.

This year, however, when the pilgrim season begins, the group would have an additional site to cater to at Hemkund Sahib in Uttaranchal. Making their way through the treacherous pilgrim routes of Kedranath and Hemkund, the team would be setting up camp twice a year for 5 to 15 days each, treating the injured and advocating better treatment of animals."What we are dealing with here are animals working at a height of 1,900 feet above sea level, carrying an average weight of over 60 kg for an uphill distance of 14 km each day. Animals are afflicted with wounds, have respiratory problems, are stressed and have painful stomach ailments. Some of them are even lame. We also find plastic bags inside these animals, which is worrying. And though there are local vets, they are often not very approachable and are also expensive. People often also use local remedies and the help available for these animals there is not good enough,'' explained the vet of the Brooke Hospital for Animals (India), Mini Aravindan, who is part of the group that would undertake the pilgrimage. The team on an average treats 1,500 animals at one station and also teach owners of good welfare practices to keep their animals healthy. But their job becomes very hectic once we set up camp. "We have to do a lot of advocacy also to educate the owners,'' explained Dr. Aravindan.
nabadip - Tue, 03 May 2005 19:33:17 +0530
Holy shrine of Kedarnath gets copter services

Pioneer News Service/ New Delhi

Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd is resuming helicopter services to the Holy Shrine of Shree Kedarnath from May 12, 2005. The five-seater Bell 407 helicopter will run in collaboration with Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam and Uttaranchal Government from Augustmuni. The fare would be Rs 8501 per passenger for the round trip (Augustmuni-Kedarnath-Augustmuni) inclusive of priority darshan.

This new service will help devotees, who otherwise were unable to visit the holy shrine due to various constraints such as time, health, age etc. This would also ease the journey of pilgrims and save their precious time. For booking, passengers may contact at Augustmuni Helipad (wef 11 May 05) on the following numbers: 01364- 256825, Monal Resort, Rudraprayag (w.e.f. 11 May 05), 01364 - 233901/2 & PHHL, Delhi Office, 7 Safdarjung Passengers may also contact Garwal Mandal Vikas Nigam Offices at Delhi. Its contact number is 011-23350481/23326620. The contact numbers at Rishikesh are 0135-2435174/1739/2648, at Dehradun, they are 0135-2746817/7898 and at Haridwar, they are 01334 - 224240.

nabadip - Sat, 14 May 2005 11:14:56 +0530

Char Dhams thrown open to public

[ FRIDAY, MAY 13, 2005 01:13:07 PM ]

NEW DELHI: The temples of Badrinath opened today for thousands of devotees during this year’s pilgrimage season. Gangotri and Yamunotri opened on Thursday. Now the last of the char dhaams, Kedarnath, will open on Saturday.

The Uttaranchal Tourism Ministry has pulled all stops to make the yatra comfortable for the pilgrims.

"A preliminary meeting was held in February and another couple of days ago to oversee all arrangement during the yatra period," says M Ramachandran, Additional Chief Secretary, Uttaranchal government.

He adds, "We had a video conference with all the District magistrates. There is an integrated wireless framework in place connecting them, all departments and the Border Roads Organisation with whom most of the roads lie. We have identified 5000 mts of crash barrier facilities to prevent accidents apart from other facilities."

The Uttaranchal government has allotted more than 1 crore rupees for drinking water facilities for the pilgrims and has constructed more than 200 prefabricated toilets through out the yatra route.

All rest houses including the Public Works Department and the Forest Rest Houses have been inspected and renovated if necessary to ensure the stay is pleasant and well coordinated.

"Street light facilities have been taken care so that there are no problems for the pilgrims," says M Ramachandran. He adds, "Since Yamunotri and Kedarnath are two difficult circuits, we have ensured more resources have been deployed in these two places.”

A thousand police personnel and home guards have been posted through out the yatra route. Various check posts have been established to facilitate smooth entry. The authorities have left no stone unturned to ensure absolute safety for the pilgrims. The Uttaranchal administration has set up 16 mobile teams that will act as a helpline and a medical facility as well

The Chardham is undertaken from left to right... or west to east beginning with Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath, in that order. This route follows the Hindu tradition of parikrama or clockwise circumambulation.


Yamunotri is the source of the Yamuna River. It emerges from a frozen lake of ice and glaciers on the Kalinda Parvat Mountain at an altitude of 4421 metres, 1 km beyond the temple. There are several hot springs in front of the temple.

Hanumanchatti is the last road head to reach Yamunotri. From here, it is a 13 km trek up to Yamunotri which is located at an altitude of 3235 metres. The road to Yamunotri diverts from Rishikesh - Gangotri road at Dharasu. Alternatively pilgrims can reach the temple through the Mussorie and Barkot route.


Gangotri is located at an altitude of 3048 metres against the stunning backdrop of the Gharwal Himalayas. The source of the river is 18 km further north at Gaumukh. Gangotri is located at an distance of 99 kms. from Uttarkashi. The temple was constructed by the... Gorkha General Amar Singh Thapa in the 18th century and is situated on the left bank of Bhagirathi River. The temple compound features a ghat where the devout dip in the freezing waters. Buses run right up to Gangotri.


For all Shaivities, the Kedarnath is the holiest. And of all the temples, the Kedarnath is the highest standing at an altitude of 3584 metres on the head of the Mandakini River. The temple is located against the dramatic backdrop of the twin snow covered peaks, Kedardome and Kedarnath. Legends have it that the present temple was built in 8th century by Adi Shankaracharya whose Samadhi is located behind the Kedarnath temple.

The last road head is Gauri Kund via Guptkashi and Soneprayag. Pilgrims will have to undertake a 14km trek from Gaurikund to reach Kedarnath.


The Badrinath temple is situated against the background of Neelkant peak at an altitude of 3133 metres. Badrinath falls on the last leg of chardham yatra. Guarded on either sides by the twin mountains Nar and Narayan, Badrinath is considered to be the holiest for all Vaishnavites and dedicated to Lord Vishnu. Both at Kedarnath and Badrinath, there is a hot water spring. Legend has it that Adi Shankaracharya established the present temple.

The old village of Badrinath is just a short walk south... and has some splendid mountain architecture. Mana, an ancient Buddhist village is located 4kms beyond Badrinath. Devotees of Vishnu also visit the other four Panch Badri temples dotted around Joshimath.


It is the last important town and acts as a gateway to the dham of Badrinath. The yatra yatra buses are organized into convoys for the final 44 km stretch to Badrinath. Joshimath was established by the guru Shankara in the 8th century.

nabadip - Tue, 17 May 2005 12:53:42 +0530
Seers not for keeping Badrinath open all year

Staff Correspondent

DEHRA DUN: The Uttaranchal Government's move to open the Badrinath shrine for "darshan" throughout the year has evoked stiff opposition from religious leaders and priests.

Reacting sharply to the move, Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, Sankaracharya of Jyotir Peeth and Dwarika-Sharda Peeth said on Monday that the very idea of keeping the Badrinath shrine open throughout the year was against the Hindu religious belief and if the Government forced such a decision it will bring untold misery to the entire nation.

The Sankaracharya finds much support from other Hindu religious leaders in Rishikesh and Hardwar and the priests working in the various religious centers in the State. Swami Brahmanand Saraswati of Hardwar felt that the Government's attempts to commercialise the sacred shrines and also put restrictions on them in the name of scientific management was deplorable and would spark off an agitation by the Hindus in the entire country. He hoped the State Government would refrain from playing with religious beliefs and `grabbing' management of temples in the name of reforms.

nabadip - Sun, 05 Jun 2005 18:16:45 +0530
Plastics ban on Amarnath routes

Statesman News Service

JAMMU, June 4. — To save the fragile environment from getting damaged by the influx of over four lakh pilgrims who are all set to throng the cave shrine of Lord Shiva in the mighty Himalayas for the annual Amarnath pilgrimage, the Shri Amarnth Shrine Board (SASB) has decided to ban the use of plastics in the yatra camps and on yatra routes.

The SASB which will also ensure that no trees are cut, is planning to replace open-trench latrines with scientific disposal of excreta and adopting other proper sanitation methods. “Apart from security, I want to ensure that there is no degradation of the environment on account of this yatra,”said Governor Lt-Gen. SK Sinha, who is also the chairman of the SASB. He added that like last year, the SASB will organise a cleaning drive of yatra camps and routes for nearly a week. “We did this last year too. Ghulam Mohiuddin Sofi, minister of forests, and I went over the routes and to the camps to check whether the area had been properly cleaned,” he said.
nabadip - Tue, 28 Jun 2005 23:59:02 +0530

Badrinath leisure camps find pilgrims in GenNext
- By Rajesh Ahuja , Asian Age

Adventurous youths are the latest pilgrims to offer prayers at char dhams — Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamnotri. Camping facility offered by Leisure Hotels is providing the youth a recipe for mixing fun with pilgrimage.

"People these days want to get away from constant phone calls and computer screens. Youngsters want to unwind and be at peace. Such trips are surely the best bet," says 25-year-old Ananya Dasgupta, who works with an advertising agency in New Delhi. Adds another youngster, Nidhi, who also took the trip, "I just wanted to chill out and take a break from my nerve-irking schedules. The spiritual aspect was for my parents, I just wanted to beat the Delhi heat."

Apart from experiencing calmness and serenity, the concept of leisure camps provide the upmarket and affluent strata of society an opportunity to be at ease and "feel at home".

"These leisure camps provide the pilgrims with facilities such as weather-proof accommodations, attached bathrooms and toilets, multi-cuisine dining, hot water bottles, guides, first-aid, ayurvedic massages and a doctor-on-call. This concept is largely wooing youngsters who want to lay back and have a gala time in the peaceful ambience," informs Mr Vibhas Prasad. director, business development, Leisure Hotels.

These camps provide the young crowd to move from a bed-breakfast routine and revel in a much sophisticated and enjoyable experience with other facilities such as bonfires, picnics and treks to nearby locations. "Combining adventure treks in the valley of flowers and Tungnath (near the dhams) with the dham yatra makes the trip a fun-filled experience for the youth. Youngsters want to derive maximum pleasure in whatever they do. So keeping this factor in mind, we also organise picnics at Chopta and bonfires in the night, so that they can unwind after a long day," adds Prasad.

Another notable trend coming up is the response from Non-resident Indians and foreigners who are willing to shell out moolahs to ensure a comfortable and relaxed stay while visiting the char dhams. "Eliciting direct response from the overseas clientele is difficult though, but their interest is evident from the amount of enquiries we are flooded with. Hassle-free logistics is their prime concern, and their ardour to visit the dhams is catching up," adds Prasad. Being a fairly new trend that’s letting the youth have an astounding time at an otherwise spiritual destination, does the trend have a promising future? "Starting from May 23 this year, youth constituted 25 per cent of the pilgrim population that went in for these accommodations. Barely 45 days into this year’s yatra, the trend is definitely going strong. Youth and NRIs form a considerable chunk of visitors flooding the destination," upholds Prasad.

Another youngster shares his experience. "It was an amazing experience, as it included trekking, bonfires and picnics for adventure freaks like us," says Mr Sachin Bhat, a 25-year-old Delhiite.

adiyen - Thu, 30 Jun 2005 09:12:12 +0530
I've been to Badrinath, 20 years ago.

One thing to remember is that it is at one end of a 20 mile valley whose other end is Tibet/China. Developing the area has strategic implications, just as does all the Han-Chinese migrating to Tibet. As always, though, the Indian govt is slow off the mark and less ruthless than its northern neighbour.

When I was in Badri there were soldiers everywhere and I was told I would not see Vyas-gupha or Nara-narayan because I was a foreigner and potential spy. I did my best to impress the soldiers with my bad Hindi and they laughed and waved me thru. Got so intoxicated with lack of oxygen I walked up the valley for 3 hours leaping a like a mountain goat, almost fell into a glacier hole before I realised I had to take it easy. Far out place.

Stayed for a week near Shankaracharya gadi at Jyotir ('Joshi') Math.
nabadip - Fri, 01 Jul 2005 23:30:08 +0530
Highway construction triggers landslides on Badrinath route

Namita Kala / Dehra Dun
The Pioneer, Delhi

Even as the death toll due rose to 11 at Govindghat in the first landslide of this year's monsoon on the Badrinath route, it is not likely to be the last. Although a cloud burst reportedly caused the maiden landslide in the area, the reason for rise in landslides in the area is the six-lane highway currently under construction on the Badrinath route.

According to the latest information available, at least 20 shops and dharamsalas were reduced to rubble and more than 200 vehicles destroyed by Thursday's landslide. The immediate cause of the landslide has been attributed to a flash flood that occur-red because of a cloud burst.

However, this is not the first time a landslide has caused havoc on the Badrinath route. In 2004, two massive landslides caused large scale destruction in June and July in Baldauda and Vishnu Prayag respectively. As many as eight people died in the Baldauda landslide while another 18 lost their lives in Vishnuprayag. Both these places are not far from the current site of destruction.

With an estimated five to seven lakh pilgrims visiting Badrinath every year and another 2.5 to 3 lakh Sikh pilgrims visiting Hemkund Sahib (Govind Ghat is the starting point for the Hemkund trek), the decision to construct a six lane highway for Badrinath was forced by the sheer numbers that were attracted to this area.

However, opting for development has proved costly for the environment. The GREF, which is entrusted with the task of construction, has to use dynamite on the mountains to construct the highway. Large-scale explosions have destablised the mountains around and exposed large amounts of soil which have made large-scale landslides on this route rather predictable.

According to a survey report conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, the Chamoli earthquake in 1999 which measured 6.5 has increased landslide risk in both the Badrinath and Kedarnath regions. According to this report about two dozen more landslide prone areas have come up following the Chamoli quake.

On the Alaknanda route several small towns like Pipalkoti, Kunjan, Malkot, Nandprayag and Gangal have been identified as landslide prone along with Gopeshwar.

With construction on, the ecology of the area is being disturbed and no precautionary measures are being taken. Sources say the problem for the Government is that unlike Kashmir and Himachal where the cutting machines imported from Switzerland were used successfully to cut through the mountains without disturbing them, the cutters in Uttaranchal have failed to work.

According to DFO, Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Mr AK Bannerjee, dynamiting is the only solution. However, he feels the real problem lies in the haphazard manner in which construction is taking place, without any skilled labour doing the dynamiting.

Destablisation of the mountains apart, the road construction is also causing further ecological problems because instead of carting the boulders and soil mass to their designated spots they are being dumped into the Alaknanda river, destroying the vegetation below and causing further instability.