After the massive flash floods and landslides hit north India and particularly Kedarnath in 2013, pilgrims were apprehensive about the Char Dham Yatra. But owing to the remarkable reconstruction administered by the government of India, the number of pilgrims witnessed a stupendous increase since 2018.
Char Dham is a set of four pilgrimage sites in India – Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri and Yamunotri. The number of pilgrims visiting the sites in 2018 was recorded at 26 lakh while the figures are equally impressive this year. Till August 25, the count was 28, 04,000 out of which 7,32,000 people registered through photometric registration while 30,000 pilgrims registered online. 26,000 people registered through the mobile application.
Pilgrims Prefer Walkways
After the devastating floods, Kedarnath was in the depths of despair as roads and paths leading to the Uttarakhand town were completely destroyed. However, reconstruction commenced soon after the disaster and due to the swift pace of work, walkways and roads have been restored. Pilgrims hence, opt for walkways over motorways.
Prior to the disaster, the axis on the main entrance was a footpath, less than 10 metres wide. It was destroyed as a result of the floods and got buried in debris along with some of the monuments on this path.
The footpath has now been reconstructed into stairways as 2,660 local stones have been carved and placed on it. A special arrival platform has been developed as well that enables tourists and international pilgrims to view Kedarnath from a distance if they desire to avoid the crowd and discomfort.
Improved Facilities for Pilgrims
The Char Dham Highway, the foundation stone of which was laid down by PM Modi in December 2016, has started taking shape in Kedarnath. There is a visible difference on the way leading to the Uttarakhand town as well as the main monument. Moreover, almost 3000 pilgrims can stand in the temple premises. The confluence of river Saraswati and Mandakini, that was earlier inaccessible, has now been opened and pilgrims can view Kedar Puri from here as well.
The 270 metre long path leading to the main temple has also been broadened to 50 metres. New ghats have been constructed over Mandakini and Saraswati rivers. Changing rooms and seating areas are available at the ghats as well.
Meanwhile, free medical facilities for pilgrims have been arranged at base camps in Kedarnath. The Swami Vivekananda hospital was inaugurated on September 2 by Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat. With 12 beds, the hospital will treat pilgrims for free and also has amenities such as X-ray, ventilator and ICU.
The medical department has set up medical relief points (MRP) and warm rooms on the Gaurikund- Kedarnath walkway. At a stretch of 17kms, nine MRPs and warm rooms have been established and Kedarnath will also get two warm rooms. These rooms will help combat hypothermia (a condition where the rapidly decreasing temperature leads to stressful breathing) among pilgrims.