Men in villages of Devli Bhanigram and Lamgondi have traditionally worked as teerth purohits at the Kedarnath shrine for centuries. But the mid-June calamity at Kedarnath has made many of them think of changing their profession.
Priest Sohan Lal Tiwari’s son, who survived the tragedy, has taken up another job. (Vinay Santosh Kumar/HT Photo)
Area residents said they are psychologically shattered and the scars would take a long time to heal. Many members of the affected families did not come out of their homes for several months, said Raj Narayan Vajpayee of Devli village. The villages are inhabited by Awasthis, Sharmas, Tiwaris, Postis and Vajpayees, all Brahmins who came to Uttarakhand hills centuries ago and integrated themselves into the new identity of Garhwalis.
The ancestors of the villagers started working as teerth purohits at the Kedarnath shrine during the reign of Tehri king Sudarshan Shah in the 16th century. Since then, the men in these villages have worked as priests having yajmans (people who visit the shrine) from all over India.
But after the tragedy, many want to shun this profession. Furthermore people do not want their children to be priests at Kedarnath as they feel that calamity might strike again in the fragile ecosystem.
Vipin Tiwari, who used to run a shop at Kedarnath, said he does not want to work there anymore after his father Narendra Kumar Tiwari was swept away in the floods last June. He is opening a shop in his own village now.
Ramesh Chandra Vajpayee, whose son Sanjay Kumar Vajpayee, 32, died in the tragedy said he does not want his children to work as teerth purohits.
Chandra Prakash Shukla also echoes the same sentiments. “There are other jobs to look forward to and our children are qualified to work elsewhere,” he said.
The son of Sohan Lal Tiwari, who survived the tragedy, has already taken up a job in a private company in Dehradun saying that he would not go to Kedarnath for purohit-related work, as images of the tragedy haunt him to this day.